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7th July 2021
Through A Lens Darkly
Title of film: Lead Balloon short film
Director: Lisette Donkersloot
Let’s be honest: whether for the sweaty thrill of Kate Winslet’s hand sliding down the steamy window of a cab, or ogling Leo DiCaprio in all his baby-faced glory, most of us have watched Titanic on repeat. For Caviar director Lisette Donkersloot, childhood viewings of James Cameron’s disaster movie instilled a taste for drama and downward spiral storylines – evident in her impeccably styled music videos for Mr Probz and Yellow Claw, and, most recently, her dystopian short Lead Balloons. The self-confessed ‘introvert on the outside, extrovert on the inside’ tells 1.4 why images speak louder than words, and her plans to make a ‘metaphorical’ porn film.

We Need More Flowers

 

You started out studying Art Direction & styling before segueing into directing – what triggered the decision to switch? 

To me it doesn’t feel like I switched. During my studies, I realised film was the medium I wanted to pursue, so I just executed most of my assignments with the medium of film. Since art direction and styling actually is an important part of filmmaking (at least to me), it was pretty doable and taught me a lot about what I liked/didn’t like.

 

What are some of the earliest films which made an impact on you? And where do you find inspiration more generally?

I remember being obsessed with Titanic when I was 8 years old (and way too young to watch it). I had pertussis [whooping cough] which had me stay at home for at least two weeks. And I watched Titanic every single day during my recovery. I was infinitely impressed. Maybe that’s where I acquired my taste for a little drama and downward spiral storylines.

Novo Amor, I Feel Better

 

You describe yourself as an ‘introvert on the outside, an extrovert on the inside’ – how does that duality reflect itself in your directing aesthetic and approach?                                  

There’s just always so much going on in my head. Big thoughts and strong emotions I often find very hard to put in words, but which I can express in visuals, in my (personal) work. To me, imagery does speak louder than words and is able to show the inexplicable when done right. That’s a paradox in itself that I feel very drawn to.

 

Your work is characterised by highly stylised set pieces, intricate staging and compelling visuals – take the literal knives in the back and the disembodied heart in a butcher’s cabinet in Novo Amor’s I Feel Better video, about a painful break-up. What does the creative process look like for you? Are you a big forward planner, or do you tend to go with the flow during the shoot?                                                                                                                          

I’d say I am a very big forward planner and I like to be as granular as possible during prep, because that actually allows me the headspace during the shoot to go with the flow more if necessary, to steer off on the day and improvise a little when things don’t feel right anymore. Because when I know I have done so much thinking and planning up front, I feel confident to follow my instincts on the day when I want to change it up or try something extra.  The Novo Amor video was actually a perfect example of a shoot where, let’s say, 65% of the things we shot was meticulously thought out and the rest came on the day – or at least was not scripted. Especially with music videos I’d like to plan in an hour for improv. Just running around and shooting whatever comes to mind.

Lead Balloons

 

A lot of your work, such as your videos for Mr Probz and Yellow Claw, seems to centre around toxic relationships, and the dark secrets that lie under the surface – is this a theme you have deliberately set out to explore, or is it something more subconscious?

Definitely subconscious. I myself actually never looked at it that way, but I guess your ideas often, yet unknowingly tend to come from a place you know.

 

In your latest short film, Lead Balloons, you offer the viewer a glimpse into a dystopian future, where suicide feels like the only escape. It’s unremittingly grim, and yet it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the screen, even though you know the outcome is hopeless.  Tell us a bit about what sparked the idea, and how you developed it into a short film.

Initially, this was supposed to be a music video for a track called ‘Lead Balloons’. Unfortunately, the track never came out, but the project had become very dear to me so I needed to get the footage out in some way. Many years, sweat, and tears later I’ve finally managed to release it independently as a short film. But the title of the song, ‘Lead Balloons’, and visualising that literally to me felt like a symbol for hopelessness. So that was my only keyword when writing. And from there on the ideas and associations came automatically.

 

We Need More Flowers

 

What themes or concepts are you keen to explore in future projects, whether personal or commercial?

I truly hate the word, but I do feel drawn to ‘taboo’ subjects. Things or subjects that could be described by others as dark, perverse or provocative, but in which I find utter beauty and intrigue. I actually have been playing with the idea for quite some time now to one day make a highly stylised porn that also works on a metaphorical level. That’s still very much in the conceptual phase though.

 

Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline for the next few months? 

I am mainly very excited to be working again. The next few months are looking fully booked with finishing up two music videos and prepping/shooting two commercials, which I am just very happy with and grateful for.

 

Interview by Selena Schleh

@lisettedonkersloot

@caviar.tv // EU

Lisette Donkersloot website
CAVIAR website
Credits

Lead Balloon

Director: Lisette Donkersloot

Director of Photography: Stephan Polman

Producer: Tim Koomen

Production Company: Hazazah

 

Novo Amor, I Feel Better

Director : Lisette Donkersloot
Executive Producer : Daniella Manca
Executive Producer : Eva Van Riet
Video Commissioner : Jocelyn Gabriel
Line Producer : Werner De Coninck
Production Assistant : Arne Scheerlinck
Production Assistant : Lukas Deruddere
DOP : Maxim Desmet
Steadicam operator: Charly Vandedrinck
Focus Puller : Nathan Lederman
Gaffer : Arnaud Hock
Key Grip : Tim Roels
Art Director : Najib Braeckenier
Stylist : Adrien Gras
Additional Wardrobe: Yu Lun Wong
Make Up Artist : Laura Noben
SFX on set : Roos Voorsluis

Editor: Emiel Kuninga > Emiel Nuninga
Compositing/Sfx : Kris Janssens
Grade : Erik van den Heuvel @ De Grot
Sound Mix : Menno Van Riet

 

Dr Martens, Stand For Nothing

Director Lisette Donkersloot
Executive Producer Jeroen Van Den Idsert
Producer Marty Keizer
Production Manager Stephanie Drontmann
1st Assistant Director Farah Abdi
D.O.P. Tibor Dingelstad
Focus Puller Alex Hollay
Assistant Camera / Data Nick Parree
Gaffer Rene Dingelstad
Hair & Make-Up Faisa Sontdiomedjo
Styling Ramona Marroquin Hawley
Art Director Jan Jasper Van Oord
Production Assistant Justin Krul
Production Assistant Vera De Bode
Production Assistant Jimmy Groeveveld
Production Assistant Julian Patinama
Stunt Coordinator Simon Van Lammeren

Producent Hazazah Film & Photography
Editor Brian Ent @ Kapsalon
Post Production Storm Post Production
Grader Bart Verraast, Remi Lindenhovius
Sound Design Niels Den Otter @ Audentity
Music Jamie Xx – Gosh