Emanuel and the Truth About Fishes screened as part of the official selection at London’s Sundance Film Festival and we caught up with the Director, Francesca Gregorini, and spoke to her about the film and her process of both writing and directing this movie.
What made you want to tell this story?
To be perfectly honest the movie i did before this was called Tenner Hall where we discovered and cast Rooney Mara and the impetus was to write a job for both her and myself. Little did we know she was going to be plenty booked! It took a little while to write and a long, long time to finance, about 3 years so by that point she was no longer of an age to play Emanuel. In getting into it as a writer you end up exercising some demons on a page.
Did you always plan to utilise surrealism in this film?
I think so I was a songwriter before I was screenwriter so I fancy myself as a tad of a poet so I think that sorta comes out on my work. I’m a very visual, aesthetic person and I think the screen is a big canvas and it should be used more than to just tell things more than just they are. I find the subtext of what is going on is often the most interesting part of the conversation and i think cinema allows you to put into images what you are feeling and what is really going on so i give myself the permission to do that.
Having both written and directed the film what challenges came with doing both?
Being a bit of a control freak its fantastic cause no one is going to mess up your shit! I really do love it, I’m now open to directing someone else’s work though i don’t think i’d hand over one of my scripts to someone else as writing is such a personal quest and because i’m a director I know what i want it to look like. So i’d be more open to directing someone else’s work than but I love being a writer director but one of the fallbacks is not getting to set as much as you’d like.
You had some underwater scenes, what challenges came with filming these?
It was a real bugger, it’s great as a writer you just write it and then you hire yourself as the director and you’re like, “what the hell? How am i gonna pull this off?” but we did do it, we built Chloe’s room in a parking to in Long Beach and sunk it in a tank and of course the crane wasn’t big enough! It was very challenging and Kaya wasn’t well so she couldn’t go down as deep as she did on rehearsal so every possible difficulty arises on set. Everyday you go home and think that’s great i got through today it can’t get any tougher and then it does but you do walk of set feeling more confident thinking, I can do this!
There’s quite a contrast in the scenes of beauty and tension, what did you have in mind to create this?
I think it’s really built into the characters I wanted the love story of Claude and Emanuel to be really pure. That’s kinda how I cast Anuerin I kinda thought would I let him date my daughter? And the answer and i was like yes i bloody well would! I know they get in trouble but i’d be ok with that because he’s just the loveliest guy. Frances did a lovely job with Janice because she’s a tricky character she’s kinda misguided and get things wrong but she really wants to connect so you love her by the end because you realise she’s just a person trying to find her way.
Being a female writer and director this story is about women, is this important to you?
It’s vitally important to me, as a director it’s all I really want to do, is female driven stories because there’s not nearly enough of them. I think female directors are like 4% it’s really importante for young girls and women to see themselves reflected in the movies. Me growing up going to the movies I had to identify with men in the stories because they were the only ones doing things which is absurd we’re 50% of the population half the movies should be about us. It’s a battle, it’s a battle to even finance those movies and it’s the legacy we leave behind and it’s going to be a very skewed perception. Even with female characters they are largely written and directed by men so there is still a sense of that, that comes over. Hopefully I will get an opportunity as will other women to write and make more movies about women, made by women and written by women.
When dealing with actors with different levels of experience what techniques do you employ?
I think some directors have their directing style and I think my style is really whatever each individual needs. That doesn’t necessarily mean the younger one need more, Kaya was a teen when she made this movie and had the attitude of a teen which i think is great so she wanted to be left alone unless she needed guidance whereas Jessie Biel who hadn’t navigated these waters, she really wanted to sit down and take and get to the heart of this character and her journey. It’s really dependant on each actor and my job is to be sensitive to that. Alfred and Janice really didn’t need a lot of directing, they could act their way out a paper bag.
And what’s next for you?
I’m looking at a bunch of different scripts which as i said i’m open to directing gigs now. I’m honing in on 2 scripts, one of which shoots in Britain for half the time, i actually tried to set up Emanuel here as I grew up for a few years in the UK so i have a great kinship here and i’d definitely love to come back and shoot something here.