Directed by Alana de Freitas | Interview by Christina Perry
Nancy tells the story about a young man coming out to his parents for the first time from the perspective of the father. Was there a personal event you would be open to sharing that happened in your life that led to the inspiration behind this film?
Often we see this story told from the perspective of the child coming out to their parents and how they deal with their parents' responses. I wanted to show this story from the other side, and I was particularly interested in the father/son dynamic. I'm obviously not anybody's son, but I see the relationship between my brother and my father, and I know my dad would struggle if my brother were to come out. And the point isn't to point the finger and say 'Ian is a bad guy who finds his way'. We are all on our own journey of learning and understanding, and some of us take longer to get there than others; and often that is purely because of the lack of experiences that force you to open your eyes. My dad came from a very religious family, and he is genuinely someone who loves all people, but he's really never had to deal with something like that in his personal life, and it would be a shock - and that's okay. Sometimes we aren't expecting things and they catch us off guard. We are all guilty of not having the perfect response to every situation. At the core of this is familial love, and my hope would be that people come away from this and remember that, whatever we are dealing with in our family dynamics, underneath it all is love, and we should always let that bring us back together.
You capture the emotional journey of Ian the father, in such an honest way. What was this process like as you and the actor worked together to tell Ian's story?
Michael Yavnieli, the actor who plays Ian is so intelligent and I've worked with him before, so there was already an established level of trust there. We talked about my vision for Ian what I wanted communicate with the role and then I really just let him interpret that in the way that he saw fit. From those initial conversations, we were both on the same page. We both know 'this guy'. Ian is not a bad guy, he's just not that woke. We get to see him process his emotions and remember his priorities.
There is a wonderful intimacy in the way Nancy is shot that allows the audience to take in each characters journey effortlessly. As this is your directorial debut, what were some films that you looked to in order to create this specific feel?
When I was planning this out with my DP, Will Carnahan, some of the films we used for reference were Blue Valentine, Destroyer, Ben is Back, Lady Bird, Mystic River - My preference is always for the image and the performance to emanate realism. Performance is the central focus for me, and having the visual capture and elevate that - that's the aim.
You list yourself as a writer and producer in film. What was the experience in your life that eventually tipped you into directing film?
I had been wanting to direct for a while. I knew I'd be completely comfortable with directing actors, but I was insecure about my technical knowledge. I'm lucky that I have a very supportive network who encouraged me to just do it. I realized that I didn't need to wait for anybody's permission. Having a very open line of communication with my DP was key. So long as I could get across what I wanted, he was great at giving me options on how to create it.
I had previously written and produced projects, and I think when you are so close to the material, there is a strong urge to step into the director role so that you can really shape it into your vision. Sometimes it can be hard watching someone else shape your baby, but other times, they can show you dimensions of it that you hadn't seen. Anyway, I loved the experience and can't wait to direct again!
Within your cover letter you talk about your past Producing credit I'm Not Here moving forward to become a feature. At the Chain NYC Film Festival many of our filmmakers are new in the business or just starting out. What advice would you give to new filmmakers looking to continue the life of their short film to become a feature?
Surround yourself with people who push you. It's that old line: 'if you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room'. I had previously written and produced a feature 'Before the Dawn', and honestly, it was only naïveté that set me down that path. I think if I'd known how much work and money it would be - it really was a situation of: I didn't even know what I didn't know. I probably would have been scared off. But it was a great experience. A huge learning curve. I learnt a lot about what not to do. It was my film school!
After shooting 'Before the Dawn', I produced a short film 'I'm Not Here', which my good friend and producing partner, Matt McGee wrote and directed. The short got such a positive response, and I think Matt always saw it as a feature, so that feedback validated that instinct, and he went away and wrote the feature.
My advice would be to not let what you don't know scare you off. You'll work it out, just like you learnt to walk. Network. Get a mentor. Create a community that supports you and will give you advice. And always pay it back!