Interview with Anya Beyersdorf: How The Light Gets In
On Tuesday 13 June, Sydney Film Festival will present the 2016 Fellowship winning short films at Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship Gala Screening. This will be the world premiere screening of the first films produced under the auspices of the $200,000 Fellowship. The Fellowship recipients include NSW practitioner Anya Beyersdorf, who we spoke with ahead of her film's premiere.
How did you start out in the industry?
I actually started out with a journalism degree – but decided that wasn’t for me pretty quickly and fell in to acting, I loved being a actress, I really feel like that's where I learned the most – getting to learn how the film machine works, and how story works, from the inside, is a really interesting place to start learning from. Especially working with really independent and unique writer/directors like Natasha Pincus and Tony Rogers – I learned a lot from those two about story and style.
Can you tell us how you made your application for the Lexus Australia Short Film Fellowship stand out?
Ha ha! A glowing woman is pretty standout! I think what they liked about it was that the idea was totally crazy ambitious, very different and unique. I’ve not come across another film like it. I was all about taking big risks, and I think that is probably what made How The Light Gets In stand out for the application. They probably thought I was crazy!
Has the fellowship helped you develop as a filmmaker?
It’s been an amazing experience. It is my first funded film, and my first with a fully professional crew, so having that experience to work with amazing and very experienced industry people like Warwick Field ACS my cinematographer and a full post team including Definition Films and Heckler doing our VFX, which the film totally hinges on when you have a woman emanating light from under her skin, was incredible. So I have learned a lot and made a film I was very passionate about making, and which I am now very proud of.
For future applicants to the fellowship, what advice would you have?
Make the film that you can’t make without the money. I had a few different scripts I was going to put in for it, but decided to put in How The Light Gets In as there was just no way in hell it was ever going to get made without very generous funding. This film exists only because of the fellowship – otherwise it would never have been made. Go big! Make the crazy film!
How does it feel for you to have your film premiere at a red carpet premiere at the Sydney Film Festival?
It is so exciting! Sydney Film Festival is one of my favourite festivals in the world and I am beyond honoured to be screening.
How The Light Gets in tells the story of a single mother who lives on the fringes of society with her daughters who wakes one night with a problem - a light shining within the stars at her fingertips and spreads quickly - the glow taking over her life as it takes over her body. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?
The film is about the fact that life is short and death is inevitable and all we have are the moments of joy in between. Obviously the film is really influenced by Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem – he sadly passed away during post so it feels even more timely now – especially "Ring the bells that still can ring” bit. When everything is gone, when everything is shot and we are at death’s door, we still have light moments and enjoy those seconds. We managed to get the rights to the song for the film so it is really special to me.
What did you most enjoy about making the film?
Working with my little actresses Grace and Summer Wimpey – they thought I was totally crazy for most of the time, and they still do – but they just turned in such beautiful performances and were so cute. They’ve never acted before and I’m new to directing so we learned a lot from each other. Also my editor Christine Cheung had hours of fun watching them in the edit when they didn’t know the camera was on – they will grow up to be comediennes for sure!
Can you tell us about some of the unique challenges in the films production, and how did you overcome them?
Casting the character of Nan! We had already been shooting for three of five days and we still hadn’t found the right woman to match the energy of our lead actress and the little family. We scoured Australia, tried street casting, got so much help from lovely casting agents but it was so, so tough. I nearly gave myself a stomach ulcer as we were filming the scenes on Sunday, then Saturday morning before going to set I discovered incredible NZ actress/singer Whirimako Black online – my amazing producer Nicole Coventry and production manager Grace Taylor were standing in a freezing marquee until 1am organising flights and everything else – I actually cried when I walked in to her accommodation the next morning on the day of the shoot – I was so happy to see her and so grateful she had flown all the way from NZ to be with us. And she is incredible – it was worth the wait and stress – it was always supposed to be her. She brought so much to the film.
Can you tell us about anything you are working on at the moment?
I’m focusing on screenwriting for the next year – I’ve been working on a really interesting feature script with director Sean Kruck and Nash Edgerton from Blue Tongue and Jan Chapman producing, and a new short/feature project with Aquarius Films. I’ve also been writing a co-production feature project with America, which I’m really enjoying.