I'm Monique, your friendly neighborhood, Australian Lord of the Rings expert! I fell in love with film at the ripe old age of six, the first time I saw the Fellowship of the Ring title treatment on screen. Since then, I've been infatuated with the way films make you feel and understand emotions; it's a way of bridging the gaps between communities that we may never see, experience or understand. It's incredibly human, and yet, otherworldly.
I had always wanted to be in film, and originally leaned towards animation. I was an avid drawer and loved the endless possibilities animation offered you. I studied it for four years in Sydney before beginning a career in television and freelancing at the same time. Television showed me that you could have endless possibilities without animation, and I was sold. I loved the instant gratification you got from filming live-action; as soon as you pressed record on a camera, the image was there; the whole story was in this machine in front of you, begging to be pieced together and told. I've been so lucky to work on some amazing productions through my job in television, and the people I surrounded myself with gave me the support and encouragement I needed to create my own art.
A Letter was filmed and edited within 24 hours during the Australian COVID-19 Lockdown this year. I was lucky enough to be living with my partner, Charles, who is extremely supportive of all of my creative ventures. During one of our once-daily-allowed walks, we were discussing what we could shoot with minimal time and gear. Even better, what could make people laugh? What could make us laugh? We chatted about how lucky we were to even have access to technology and the internet to make something whilst stuck indoors, and the idea came to us from there. What if that was all taken away? Australian internet has always been terrible, but it's hilarious how dramatic we can all be when it cuts out entirely. We had previously made a short film, You're It, that ended with a message encouraging people not to take life so seriously when there was so much fun to be had, so we felt this was a natural successor.
I feel like we're all pretty guilty of sweating the small stuff, and in times like the present, we should make the most of what joy and silliness we can. We created You're It before the Australian 2020 COVID-19 lockdown when tensions were running high. Shot with no budget one Sunday, we wanted to make a 1-minute short that would make people smile when the world seemed so chaotic. I had just listened to a podcast talking about Robert Rodriguez's creative process and how he works within what he's got available to make a film; so, what did I have available? I had a beautiful park that had patches or forest, I had a partner who did a bunch of TVC and model work, and a little cousin that loved playing hide and seek. Hide and seek? Perfect. Let's make a fake horror that felt ridiculously dramatic then have it dissolve into something entirely innocent.
It was the first film I'd ever directed and even though it was a simple execution, it made people smile... and that meant the world to me.
A Letter was shot and edited within 24 hours. It was just Charles, a cupboard, a bunch of candles, and myself. I never used to enjoy being in front of the camera because it meant not being able to control the shot, but this was a great learning curve in letting things go and realising that just because a shot wasn't aesthetically perfect, didn't mean the film wasn't successful. The opening scene where Charles is writing by candlelight was actually shot in my garage where there's a motion-activated light. We had to wrap it in handtowels to temporarily blind it whilst we filmed, but somehow the sucker knew we were in there and would come to life in the middle of a take. We got there eventually.
So, this film was the first narrative I ever directed. I think the fact I was a newbie made me more inclined to try unconventional methods of filmmaking that weren't necessarily 'correct'. For instance, there's a shot where we follow our protagonist as he runs- it's a profile dolly track that spans a few moments before he dramatically trips over nothing (my favourite horror trope!). Obviously, I didn't have a dolly. We did have a wheelchair that belonged to my partner's Nana, though. I sat in the wheelchair with my camera on a gimbal and had one of the crew push me through the forest. We recorded our process and made a short clip of it that you can view here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B-YnSOKhFLh/
I honestly didn't think people would like it as much as they did. It was shot in 24 hours, after all! But, it made people laugh. I had messages from my friends and family saying they'd watched it twice and it made them crack up. Their reactions are what gave me the courage to submit it to a festival. Maybe you didn't need to shoot a Nolan-worthy film on an Alexa to submit something? Maybe you could just tell a story to give people a chuckle. We made one more film in the 'Don't Take Life Too Seriously' anthology of short films before deciding we should try something new. You can watch the last one here- it's under 1min long: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH3NQRz0haw
I was so nervous putting this out there as it was my first microfilm. I shouldn't have been! People thought it was charming and it had a lot of engagement when it was posted. People loved the message behind it, and more importantly, it acted as a lesson for myself. Whenever I felt like I was overreacting in a situation, I immediately thought of our main character running through the woods in a panic.
I just directed a comedic short film based on Edgar Wright's style of visual storytelling that's now in post-production. The film's entire narrative is drawn from Wright's love of crash zooms, whip pans, and whip tilts to show the passage of time passing; the difference is, our protagonist is entirely aware they're going through these 'get-ready' action montages and doesn't know how to stop it. It's definitely the most ambitious (and longest!) film I've made so far and I'm already quite proud of how it's shaping up! I had an amazing crew that spent the entire 2 days of shooting quoting Hot Fuzz. I'm planning on entering the script into a few festivals before we wrap post-prod- so watch this space!