Lisa Aschan has made quite a stir on the festival circuit with her directorial debut She Monkeys and it is released into UK cinemas this week.
I caught up with the filmmaker to talk about the new movie, casting inexperienced talent as well as the reaction that the movie has received so far.
- She Monkeys is about to be released into UK cinemas so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?
I would say that it’s a modern Western about power and sex.
- This is a coming of age drama which also looks at teenage rivalry you penned the movie as well as directed so where did the idea for the movie come from?
It started with a pile on my desk and the inspiration came from the chid actress Shirley Temple and Western movie Once Upon A Time In The West by Sergio Leone as well as the French novel Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, which is philosophical pornography.
So those things were there from the beginning and then we worked from there, me and my co-writer Josefine Adolfsson.
- I was reading that the movie had very much been influenced by the Western genre so I was wondering what elements of this genre you found so interesting?
I really enjoy the constant battles and the duals; I think that every scene in She Monkeys is a dual between the characters. I was interested in exploring the power play between these two girls and the world that they live in.
But also I wanted to see in what way people use sex in these sorts of power plays and how they go from controlling to being controlled. So that is what I was mainly interested in.
- She Monkeys marks your directorial debut so how did you find the transition from shorts to feature film?
I think it’s the same thing pretty much, it’s like running a hundred meters or a marathon; you run but you run in a different way.
- The movie stars a very young and very inexperienced cast so can you tell me a bit about the casting process?
Around eight hundred girls applied for the role but I saw about a hundred.
The three that got the leads I just fell in love with them the first time around but then, of course it was a long process because they had to be good at acting as well as being able to perform the sport that is quite challenging; you have to stand on one leg on a galloping horse.
I found out after a while that these two girls, who were my favourites, actually lied during the process and they didn’t even know how to ride a horse so that was interesting.
But they went through a very hard core training process before filming so they managed. It was good that they lied because if they hadn’t have lied I wouldn’t have found them so I guess it worked out.
- Mathilda Paradeiser very much carries this movie as a girl who juggling her adolescence as well as being almost like the stand in mother for her younger sister so what did you see in her during the casting that you though would be perfect of Emma?
I think she is very good at… I think that all actors have to be very good at lying, if they are good at lying then that are good actors; if they are so good at lying then you actually believe in what they do and what the say.
And I think that that is what Mathilda was good at doing, and so was the little sister (laughs).
- The movie is the first film for the three girls so how much of challenge did you find their inexperience or was inexperience actually a plus point?
They were all acted very professionally and I treated them like professional actors during the whole process. So that was really not a problem at all. - You shot the movie in just six weeks so what were the major challenges when you were making the film?
Because we were doing so many stunts in the vaulting scenes I knew that they usually had an ambulance waiting outside during actual competitions but we didn’t have that so I knew if one of the girls fell and broke something that we didn’t have any back up.
I held my breath during those scenes but other wise is was pretty straight forward.
- The movie has been doing so well on the festival circuit so how have you personally been finding the response to the movie?
I am very pleased because people think very differently about the film and no one walks away without an opinion and everyone seems touched by it in some way.
Everyone has an opinion about what they movie is about and everyone seems to love it or hate it and I am very happy about that.
- You have worked in movies, shorts, theatre and TV now so do you intend to stay with film or is moving between different mediums something that you really enjoy?
I enjoy moving between the mediums yes as I think every story has it’s form and it’s medium so I like that. Now I have tried all these different forms of directing and I think that that is a big freedom for me.
- Finally what's next for you?
Right now I am working on my new feature film and it is a horror film.
She Monkeys is released into cinemas 18th May
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw