Please tell us the elevator version of your background and how you came to direct your first short film, F Word?
I grew up surrounded by the arts so it was always a natural form of expression and communication for me, whether it was writing, illustration, music, photography or film making. In high school I also excelled as an athlete, so when I went to University, I began a high level of training in volleyball which led me to playing in the London 2012 Olympics. During this time, the arts took a back seat as I was both physically and mentally invested in the world of sport. However, I never fully gave up on creativity, as it was through the arts that I found my voice.
After graduating from college, I played professionally in Turkey and Puerto Rico, and after an injury, I decided it was time to pursue the creative drive within me. I decided to put the money I had made playing sports, into my artistic career to invest in my passion. This specific story, F Word, is in part autobiographical, but also shared by many of my friends. It speaks to those who have lost, misplaced, or are missing a person who has been part of their life story. When writing this short, I wanted to reach audiences and empower individuals to make sense of the circumstances they were given, that are somewhat out of their control.
What was the creative process of making your film —what experiences did you draw on to write the narrative and how did you evolve the script into visuals?
I started initially by writing the script and finding an actress that would be open to adapt the text to fit her language and interpretation. I drew from both personal experiences and the experiences of many of my friends to create an authentic voice-over which speaks to many of the youth today. The actress, Savanna, and I worked together to make each line of text resonate and embody the theme of the film. To be honest, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure how to make a film, but I had done a lot of research and knew what I wanted from the visuals and the sound, and managed to get a great team together who challenged me in every discipline of the production. I drew a storyboard and wrote the shot list— and with the DP, Mario Gonsalves, we revised and revised until we came up with every shot of the film. Together with the rest of the team we collaborated to create the finished product.
There’s some beautiful framing and lighting – did you study filming or have you learnt by observing?
I haven’t really studied film making. I feel like a lot of what I have created is a mixture of both observation and my studies as a student of Psychology. Ever since I can remember I have been fascinated by human behaviour, and our interactions with each other which are influenced by our parents, society, and what’s innate within us. I’ve always expressed the beauty and ugliness within life through painting, drawing, photographing, and more recently filming. I also come from a family of artists, so it’s not exactly surprising that I am interested in the arts as well.
What were the main challenges of directing the film and how did you resolve them?
The greatest challenges I came across were honestly quite basic—money. I hate to say it, but we didn’t really have a budget. I put in the money for everything, but also had to reach out to many people for help. I am really grateful that I had such a dedicated and committed team to help realize this film, because without them none of this could have been created. Each person contributed because they believed in both myself and the message of the film, which is why I believe this story is strong because it has a team of talented, passionate creatives behind it.
What would be your dream directing job?
Probably directing my first feature film!
List a few inspirations that have connected with you recently:
I recently watched Ivan’s Childhood and Nostalgia by Andrei Tarkovsky— both very inspiring.
I love going to museums, I recently saw a photography exhibition called Passages by Bruno Barbey in Paris (incredible!)
Taking hikes and walking through cities gives me a lot of inspiration, seeing nature and the industrial world, and lastly, just walking around London and observing the people around me… there’s nothing more inspiring than actually seeing the world instead of sitting on our phones ignoring the people and places we pass everyday.
Writer, Director & Executive Producer: Savanah Leaf
Starring: Savanna Small
Producer: Adele Barach
Director of Photography: Mario Gonsalves
Art Director: Emma Barkham
Editor: Mark Keady / TVC Soho
Sound Designer/Foley Artist: Ben Chick
Re-recordist Mixer: Sophia Hardman
Color Producer: Dan Kreeger/ The Mill
Colourist: Oisin O’Driscoll / The Mill
1st Assistant Director: Joanna Blyth
Camera Assistant: John Janssens
And a special thank you to
Flying Wish Paper: Julie Lambie
ProCam: Andy Joseph
Biscuit Filmworks: Orlando Wood
The Mill: Jarrad Vladich
Water Mill-London: Bertie Miller & Dave Waters