‘Two Ladies & A Hill’ dir. Federico Forcolini

Two dear friends rejoice in the finer offerings of the great outdoors.

Writer-Director: Federico Forcolini
DOP: Ben Spence
Key Cast: Doreen Matnle, Christine Ozanne

Presented in association with Encounters Short Film & Animation Festival 2013

C8: Where did the idea for ‘Two Ladies & A Hill’ come from?

FF: The springboard for the idea was the theme of “Race against the clock,” set by a film competition I wished to enter.

I then searched through a folder where I keep all my screenplay ideas and found one I had originally written for a test commercial. Using this as a starting point I played around with the context and lead characters until I discovered a premise I thought both surprising and entertaining.

As always budget constraints also limited the scope of my ideas. In this case to ones featuring few actors, free and easily accessible locations and shootable in a day.

C8: How did you work with Doreen Mantle and Christine Ozanne, who play Hillary and Elizabeth, to achieve the right performances?

FF: In writing the script I developed an extremely clear idea of the two characters, allowing me to be very specific when it came to casting.

Focusing on making the dialogue and actions as succinct as possible meant the essence of the characters became very apparent. Both Doreen and Christine understood them immediately and brought them to life in a flash.

I met them both the evening before the shoot and we had less than half a dozen read throughs before it was note perfect.  Naturally having very good professional actors makes a world of difference, it saves the production a lot of energy and time - we averaged a 3:1 shooting ratio, crucial for a one day shoot.

C8: What has the reaction to the film been like?

FF: Most people have really enjoyed it, they warm to the two characters and the uplifting joie de vivre message. Doreen Mantle’s character in particular has really tickled viewers, which is interesting as that’s the one I most identify with.

C8: The film has had a great run on the festival circuit. Why do you think ‘Two Ladies & A Hill’ has been so successful?

FF: When I write I enjoy subverting expectations and stereotypes. I think an audience responds well to this, and it therefore works as a great hook for getting your message across whilst entertaining and making them laugh.

I also believe films that genuinely make you laugh tend to stay with you for longer.

C8: You directed and produced the film. Do you have any advice for emerging filmmakers trying to do the same? Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

FF: Directing whilst also Producing is far from ideal. It’s impossible for you to give both roles 100%, and they often pull you in different directions, adding to stress. Tackling both roles is just another one of those compromises many of us filmmakers deal with on the way up.

Key to remember is that preparation is your friend, cover all bases again and again for all conceivable eventualities, before the actual shoot date. I was meticulous in my planning and preparation so come the shoot I was able to primarily focus on directing.

Come the shoot day(s) make sure to have enough hands on deck, but don’t over do it so that you end up with runners hanging about getting bored.

C8: You also edited the film. Did you find any of the scenes particularly difficult to cut or is there anything you didn’t include?

FF: What tends to happen is that I start a shoot with a meticulously prepared shotlist or storyboard, then as we start running out of time I begin acting on instinct, either combining or eliminating shots altogether.

In this case we were losing light quickly and the cast was getting tired so I simplified the final setups to a bare minimum - not ideal but enough to tell the story. We ended up shooting only about 70% of what I’d planned. This however made for a very streamlined edit, with practically no surplus material and in some cases very little choice in takes.

The only big issue in the edit was working around the soundman’s faulty equipment, which had made one of the two radio mic tracks unusable. Something I only became painfully aware of whilst watching the rushes.

C8: If you did the whole process again, is there anything you would do differently?

FF: Have an AD and a runner with his/her own car. Tried to do too much myself in attempt to save money on crew expenses - at times it got too tight for the small crew.

C8: If you could give young filmmakers a piece of advice what would it be?

FF: Read as much as you can about story and screenwriting. It is all about the story. Don’t even consider starting on the production process until you feel you’ve totally nailed your script - which includes getting honest feedback from people whose work/opinions you value.

Put a decent part of your budget aside to secure good actors and to cater for their on-set needs.

Make sure all key crew members have a clear idea of your vision and have had a chance to voice any doubts, concerns or contributions before the shoot commences. On the shoot day(s) everyone must be reading from the same page, the day(s) will likely throw enough surprises your way without the crew adding to them.

C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?

FF: To be a good listener and genuinely open to other people’s creative contributions, and possessing the ability to shelve your creative pride in exchange for putting the best interest of the story first.

To be flexible whilst managing to remain true to your vision.

C8: What’s next for you? Any plans for future projects?

FF: Keep writing what I hope will be entertaining and interesting stories and keep collaborating with interesting and talented people.

Crucially I plan to actually get paid to make a film - a nirvana like state of affairs I’m sure many reading this also aspire to.