Interview with Sophie Hexter and Poppy Walker: the making of Drummer Girl
Drummer Girl is part of a suite of films in this year’s SEED: Regional Shorts - a Create NSW and ABC Regional initiative to unearth filmmaking talent and content creators from regional NSW. CREATE NSW sat down with Sophie Hexter and Poppy Walker to hear about their short film.
Drummer Girl follows the story of musician Renee Kelly and in her pursuing to achieve her dream of playing in a band. Why did you think Renee Kelly’s story would work well for a short?
Poppy: We first came across Renee’s story a few years ago, and we knew instantly we wanted to tell her story in a short-film format. An exceptionally gifted, humble and determined musician who’s been playing the drums since age three, Renee is also profoundly blind, with no access to image or light.
Sophie: We are interested in profiling underrepresented individuals with extraordinary skills and talents. who have overcome adversity to allow their talents to shine.
Renne is also the narrator of the film. Can you tell us how that came about?
Sophie: We are passionate about our subjects telling their own story without the use of additional informers. This is Renee’s story and who better than to narrate it.
Poppy: She felt just the same way, and we recorded her story through a series of interviews.
One of the stylistic choices used throughout the film is colour contrast, which highly impacts on the message coming from the documentary. How do you think colour contrast impacts on a film?
Sophie: All of our work is highly-stylised, in that we are consciously creating images that serve the overall emotional and narrative arc of the story. A film is a story told principally in pictures, and the role of the director is to conceive and execute an overall vision, which works not only to serve the story but elevate the form.
What overall effect did you hope this would have on a documentary?
Poppy: We wanted the audience to feel a real intimacy with Renee and for her music to be heard. We wanted her story to be told and to convey a feeling of her experience of the world and her place within it.
Sophie: We hope the reach we are receiving with this film will help Renee in her musical career.
What do you hope the audience will take away from this film?
Sophie: Be creative. Be inspired. Never give up.
What made you apply to the SEED: Regional Shorts initiative?
Sophie: Developing practitioners usually have limited resources when it comes to accessing funding streams for short films.
Poppy: This was a rare and valuable opportunity for regional practitioners. We were excited about the opportunity to tell a local story, and to have the support of Create NSW and the ABC.
As filmmakers you often explore ideas around social justice and look at marginalised groups. Do you think it is important to focus on these groups and tell their stories?
Sophie: Personally, this was a not conscious or direct choice, but interestingly it circles back to a feature film I first started developing about five years ago, which focuses on a marginalised individual who not only survives but thrives against the greatest odds. Now, when I look over our slate, I’m struck by the parallels that exist between the work I have been making and the ideas that drove me to the form in the first place.
Poppy: As a collaborative medium film enables us to work with individuals who want to tell their story – so their stories are really told by all of us in the filmmaking team. It’s socially and culturally important to create a space for untold stories. Art reflects our human experience, and by being inclusive, we can endeavour to have a much richer understanding of one another.
You can watch Drummer Girl now on ABC iview: https://iview.abc.net.au/programs/seed/RA1808H001S00