Interview with ASFF 2013 Best of Fest and Best Drama Winner Manjinder Virk

Manjinder Virk’s Out of Darkness picked up the prize for Best Drama and Best of Fest at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) Award Ceremony on Sunday 10 November. A raw and emotive depiction of the impact of death told through an outstanding cast, the drama touched audiences across the festival weekend. Out of Darkness was selected from 300 outstanding short films to claim the Best of Fest title and fought off particularly fierce competition in the Drama category. Fresh from her success, Virk chats to us here about her ASFF experience and award winning film.

ASFF: Out of Darkness won Best Drama as well as Best of Fest at this year’s festival. What do these awards mean to you?
MV: To be recognised for Out of Darkness is a huge compliment as it’s such a personal project. Everyone involved worked really hard for no money but with real passion. Having seen a number of the 300 films screened I feel proud to have been selected amongst such talent.

ASFF: The subject matter of Out of Darkness is very personal and emotive. Can you tell us a little more about your inspiration?
MV: Without being morbid, we will all experience/have experienced death and know that it is part of life, but I am fascinated with what happens not only when you witness death (on a regular basis) but what happens to the soul, or the essence of someone, when you pass away. Even more specifically how does a child deal with and understand death. Some of the story is very personal and I wanted to find a way to communicate it so it became more universal, a story that could hopefully relate to everyone.

ASFF: The story is told through a range of individuals, who each deliver very personal performances. Talk us through the casting process.
MV: It was very clear to me to that I wanted a range of actors to deliver the monologue. I had imagined most of the actors in my head and how they would look against each other. I love the different quality they all have, and most of all, their honesty which I think connects the film. I knew all the actors either through working with them or knowing their work.

ASFF: As the writer, director and star of the film, which of your roles did you enjoy the most?
MV: I enjoyed all the roles but directing on this was the most fulfilling. Working intimately with such different actors on a one to one level was something I found very rewarding. The edit was also great because of the possibility that we could go almost anywhere, even though I had strong ideas about certain aspects of the film, I allowed myself to be more experimental with some parts of the film – but always firmly asking – does this serve the film or am I being fancy? It had to serve the film.

ASFF: What made you decide to enter ASFF earlier in the year?
MV: I read the Aesthetica Magazine and always find the artist and photographers featured really interesting. I had picked up a brochure for the festival last year and I liked the range of films on show and it being specifically a short film festival in York. I also liked the thought of screening in venues that are not cinemas, when I started in theatre I performed a lot of site specific work and it still interests me.

ASFF: Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers hoping to break into the industry?
MV: I think it’s important to find your own voice and vision. Work with as many people as you can, gain experience and make your own work. If it is something you want a career in, you have to think long term, try not to get disheartened if you get rejections and things don’t go your way – find ways to get round problems and stay focused.

1. Out of Darkness, Manjinder Virk, (Mango Films), UK, 2013