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A Family Affair
Directed by: Florence Keith-Roach
Country: United Kingdom
Synopsis: When Annabelle wakes up alone in a stranger's bedroom on her 30th birthday, she thinks the day cannot get any worse. But then Bernard walks in and he is not the man of her dreams.
Is this story based on personal experience?
Ha, yes and no. No, I have never woken up naked with an 83 year old man (though never say never) but yes, I have felt confusion and shame around many of my sexual experiences. I wanted to explore the nuance around these dynamics, especially in a post Me Too world. But I also wanted to tell a story about hope and the times in my life when I have had chance encounters that have altered and lifted my frame of mind. I think these encounters should still be cherished.
John Standing is a wonderful. How did you come to work with him and how was it?
It was hard to find the right actor to play a role like Bernard, as he needed to inhabit many contradictions, simultaneously charming and unnerving an audience. I was put in touch with John through a friend who has worked with him. I was, of course, aware of his incredible body of work, so when he said yes to being involved, I was amazed, excited and a bit nervous to be directing and acting with such a legend. But he could not have been more enthusiastic or more generous with his time. He wanted to rehearse, which is a huge gift for a director, so we met up every day for a week, going through the script, coming up with ideas and generally bonding. This was invaluable as by the time we were on set we were totally comfortable and trusting of each other. I was directing scenes in which we were both in, which some actors can find discombobulating, but John is not only a pro, but a deeply artistic and experimental person who loves trying new things.
A Family Affair is a romantic comedy. What are your thoughts about the romcom genre and was it a challenge to work within this genre in terms of a short film?
Rom coms have shaped a lot of my narrative around romance and sex and brought me enormous pleasure growing up. However going back to them, I can't help but critique some of the more conventional politics touted in a lot of them. So it was a fun challenge to create something that left the audience with a really positive and less expected message that deliberately challenged expectations. It was important to tell a hopeful story for women today, but also one that was about opening oneself up to unexpected experiences, be that in terms of age, sexuality or gender. I wanted to make a film that examined darker areas of love and lust, the nuances of sexual dynamics, as well as the insidious pressures placed on women entering their 30s. To convey all this, as well as a sex positive story about hope, in 13 mins was a brilliant undertaking.
What are the editing or post production challenges for a comedy?
I was worried that I would need an editor who was really experienced in comedy to ensure we got all the beats. But I have always been interested in creating a form of comedy that is not really about the laugh out loud moments but which is closer to drama and the hilarity found in heartbreak. This is a film about memory and perspective with a distinct hazy and expressionistic style. Therefore, I got some great advice from a friend who said go with an editor who understood the style and cinematic ambitions of the film, knowing that the comedy would come from my understanding (as writer and director) of its rhythm. I worked with an incredible editor, who has a beautiful sensitive experimental style. We worked incredibly hard to merge an artistic, ponderous, visually exciting world with the comedy beats to create a quite novel tone.
A Family Affair is hilarious. But do you worry it won't be funny while you're making it?
Always, the film became quite serious as we were shooting. We focused entirely on the emotional truth and sad undertones present in all the characters. This film is a meeting of two people who feel out of place in a world lacking in tenderness. By shooting it like a drama, we stopped trying to be funny and allowed that to be something that we trusted was there in the script and the characters. But it was for others to discover, not for us to impose.