Interview with ASFF 2013 Filmmaker Fran Petersson

ASFF 2014 is currently open for submissions. An established and dynamic player on the UK film festival circuit, the event is a celebration of independent film from across the world, and an outlet for championing and supporting short filmmaking. Filmmakers are invited to submit films in the following genres: advertising, animation, artists’ film, comedy, documentary, drama, experimental, fashion, music video and thriller. In Laura Jean: Mechanical Friends, reality meets fairy tale as the film follows a young woman into a make believe world of dark fear and great joy that she may never want to leave. We talk to the director Fran Petersson about the film:

ASFF:Where did the original inspiration for Mechanical Friends come from?
FP: Laura Jean, the singer, is inspired by David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive. Laura herself has an almost ethereal Marilyn Monroe look with the ability to be both sexy and innocent at the same time and I wanted to blend all of those elements with the song’s lyrics, which describe alienation within a relationship and the belief that things will get better and that there’s more to life. I relate to anything that examines the beauty in grief and sadness and dark subjects, so I wrote Laura as the Alice to my Wonderland of lost loves and kindling hopes, exploring her realm as queen and captive at the same time.

 A: What do you think the benefits of short film are over feature length?
 Budget, budget, budget! I personally love long stories, so writing for shorts is something I’ve had to practice as I think in feature length! But watching shorts has given me a real respect for the genre. If you can encapsulate your talent into a 5-20 film, you can of course do it over a longer time frame and a bigger budget when you get it. That’s the theory at least! For me, currently working on my first 20 minute short, I’ve enjoyed writing complex characters without simplifying their needs or making a pastiche of them. I never worry about confusing my audience or iCamming Livejasmin models, I trust in their sense of what I’m trying to relate, on whatever level they get it.

ASFF: How was it to be involved in ASFF?
Honestly? Amazing. ASFF is an incredible asset to York and the UK and showcases the best of our short film industry and future talent. It was wonderful to be nominated in the music video category and be impressed by every single other film in my category, that doesn’t normally happen! It’s important to showcase mainstream offerings as well as artistically out there work, and ASFF does both. Getting to explore all of  York by watching films all over the city, in locations you can’t normally access, is like catnip for people like me too. I’ll definitely be returning to the cinema at Thirteen Thirty One in future, and have already been back to Barley Hall.

 ASFF: For filmmakers starting out, what advice would you give?
 Don’t be put off by online forums for filmmaking. They can be really counter productive in that there’s a lot of opposing opinions and sponsored information for products you probably can’t afford starting out. Take it with a pinch of salt and don’t let it stop you making the films you want to make. Let go of your pride and enlist all of your friends and family to help make your first film. Give yourself a goal, a festival or competition etc. that you want to enter and go for it! The only person you have to impress is yourself – it’s your vision you’re trying to film, not anyone else’s, so ignore well meaning critics and make films that impress yourself!

ASFF: Which directors have inspired you?
 I veer sharply between big commercial directors and fiercely independent directors. I love Steven Spielberg and I’ll fight anyone who knocks Jurassic Park. Ridley Scott’s historical pieces are also big inspirations, especially Gladiator and a film he produced called, Tristan & Isolde, which is a perfect, often overlooked little English film that more people should watch. I grew up obsessed with Kubrick, especially A Clockwork Orange and latterly, Lars Von Trier whose Dogville is a work of genius and I think about it a lot when I’m worried about how my work will be received. I love Gilliam for his pluck as a film maker, for saying no to the man, but I love Spielberg for wooing the man and making him dance to his tune, so I take from both ends of the scale I guess!

ASFF: What do you have planned for the future?
 Making more films. I’ve been writing almost non-stop for the past 6 months and am starting to trim the fat and hone the gems from that now. I’m making my first narrative short film, which will feature what I believe will be the best fight scene ever seen in a short. I’m planning to spend some time in LA and see what the industry’s like first hand over there. I’ll be getting a bit more hands on with the talent in the UK as well and actively seeking out the best young DP’s, actors and crew I can get my hands on. We’re already underway with that so watch this space.