Slater Jewell-Kemker’s STILL Premiers at TIFF ‘14
Slater Jewell-Kemker’s STILL is a heart stopping short thriller starring Emily Piggford as Sadie and Giacomo Gianniotti as her boyfriend Jake. They’re lost in the woods in deep winter and the sun is setting fast. He repeatedly hits her but she accepts their dangerous relationship. He falls through the ice and drowns but moments later Sadie finds him alive and dry and repeating a scene they lived through moments before – with another version of her. STILL is visually mature and skilfully executed, a “love story” about the hope of change and redemption. Jewell-Kemker is an award winning graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s intensive Short Dramatic Film Program and Directors’ Lab and has lead workshops all around the world, and she’s just 22. She made her first film at age five and has pursued her art with a singular passion. STILL makes its premiere at TIFF in its Short Cuts Canada programme.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW TRAILER!
Slater, your film shows an incredible sophistication. What makes it so?
I was born to parents involved in film and media and when I grew up it was just a part of how I looked at the world. A family friend had started on the internet when it was new and bizarre and she wanted to create something online and positive and creative for her kids. She was my hero, for coming up with a way to create films and art about things in the world that truly matter, things that have a deeper meaning. A celebrity is someone who inspires you. From a young age I had openness about creating and expressing myself. I did my first interview at five with an artist who let me film his art. I have always looked to express myself and purge the darkness out of myself. I wanted to be a homeschooler to focus on things I was passionate about. I was supported by my parents who moved from Los Angeles to escape the superficiality of it, the inevitable carrot there if you were in media. Living on a farm gives me a sense of connectedness to myself help me not to be afraid to be alone with myself and to dig deeper.
Your visual style is distinctive and bold; you use a lot of close-ups, why?
Something that I love with filmmaking is the ability to create an environment and space so that a character can simply exist and move from moment to moment. Everything I do with characters, the visuals and the story embraces that sense of quietness, and lends itself well with the camera pushing the audience back a tiny bit to see what’s going on. It’s lost in a series of close-ups. With close-ups there isn’t anything you can do, you’re helpless. I remember for me a huge turning point was watching Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love. I was in such a state of rapt awe seeing that you are allowed to do this – embrace music and light and colour and space in such a way that it has just as much meaning and depth a story in closeup. In order to watch it you had to really take a step into that world sensory experience. Everything I knew about film and what I wanted to do with film completely changed at that point. It’s not just pointing a camera, there is so much that can be said with nothing. Maggie Chung’s character has just realised she’s just missed the boat and can’t go with Tony Leung to Hong Kong , and she’s sitting in a room in front of this mirror quietly and after this heartbreaking long shot a little bit tighter. You don’t see her crying, just the remnant of a tear. It’s all you need! You can see at the seams and tears close-ups – a camera can read your mind. You don’t have to do much to convey an emotion.
STILL has elements of fantasy and dreams and desire and fear and a rainbow of emotions. What were its origins?
In the Canadian Film Centre Directors’ Lab each of us was directing a feature film and mine dealt with a lot of the same things, violence as beautiful and dreamlike, the idea of happiness being from your own perspective, stripping world down to two people but reflecting what a lot of us feel. It takes place over a year and reflects seasons and is rooted in a space and time, and I couldn’t figure it out in ten minutes, but I knew I wanted those elements. I wanted it to be bleak and isolated in a snowy landscape which is like where I live. It is a huge character in the film. I wanted to explore why when we fall in love we give so much of ourselves away and give our power away. It’s not healthy but you think it’s better to be with somebody than be alone. Alone in the snow and woods, really and to have that kind of character wrapped up in someone else. It’s a love story between two broken people and taking them and their brokenness and reliance and making it into something beautiful so it wasn’t just about a victim and abuser. It was about going to the very centre of what love is and it is destructive but it’s the only option. It’s an illusion.
You’re twenty two. How do you know all this?
I remember the CFC lawyers sitting me down and saying they needed to know if I had ever been in an abusive relationship and could the person trace us and sue us. No I hadn’t. I’d been in shitty relationships but I tend to imagine if I was in a situation and had lived differently and been a different person and what I would do channelling the darkness out of me and blowing it all out of proportion and seeing what would happen. A release. I do spent a lot of time walking and dreaming and walking in the trees.
AUDIENCE DATE TIME VENUE FORMAT
Press & Industry 1 09/09/14 4:30PM Scotiabank 5 (Scotiabank Theatre) DCP (D-Cinema)
Public 1 09/10/14 9:30PM Cinema 2 (TIFF Bell Lightbox) DCP (D-Cinema)
Public 2 09/11/14 9:15AM Cinema 4 – Paul & Leah Atkinson
Family Cinema (TIFF Bell Lightbox) DCP