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Interview with director Giulia Gandini

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

Home Stream is a short documentary shot on iPhone by Lily, a woman experiencing homelessness herself. When we started the project, I mainly had experience directing fiction rather than documentary. I like feeling in control on set, so I tend to over-prepare. But I soon learnt that documentary filmmaking is full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. To make Home Stream I had to learn to be adaptable, constantly re-shaping the narrative and emotional arc of the story my team and I wanted to tell. For
example, I was expecting Lily’s story to predominantly focus on her experience living on the streets of London, but as soon as we started filming I realized her love life was very important to her – and it needed to be pivotal in the narrative. So I got rid of my plans and pre concepts to truly let the story flow naturally.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

One of the biggest challenges my team and I encountered in this project was how to shoot the film in practical terms. I (naively) thought we were just going to provide our contributor with the iPhone, collect it after 3/4 days of independent filming, back up the footage and give the iPhone back to the contributor for her to keep. That soon turned out to not be feasible for a variety of reasons. To name a few: since our contributor was sleeping rough at the time, keeping the iPhone on herself over night might be dangerous; she didn’t have a way to charge the iPhone throughout the day and keep on filming; she expressed the desire to not be alone while filming to receive guidance and feedback on how to film with the device; it was too risky to not back up the footage as soon as the filming day was over. So we had to
find a middle way. Lily and I met up several times before the filming started to craft the story together, decide what she wanted to express and where while making sure we would end up with a cohesive, emotionally resonant film. My co-producer Hannah and I then created a plan for Lily to shoot the
content within 4 days. We were always present when Lily was filming, but we gave her the right amount of freedom and support for her to tell her story how she wanted. I’m very proud of the final result, so it definitely worked!

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Choosing to shoot on iPhone with a vertical aspect ration (9×16) was definitely one of the most risky decisions I took. I really wanted the film to feel raw, rough and digital, close to the visual language you see everyday on social media – so shooting with a smartphone in 9×16 absolutely made sense to me from a creative perspective. But obviously majority of film content out there is not shot this way. So when I was pitching the project I sometimes encountered resistance and doubts about the format. It’s
important to listen to other people’s opinion, but it’s also important to listen to your gut feeling. I’m really glad I stuck with my creative vision and it paid off.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Lily is obviously the star of the film. We met by chance, on an afternoon in London when my co-producer Hannah Siden and I were looking for contributors for the documentary. The collaboration with Lily was
very much based on trust: I could trust her to tell her story genuinely, her own way. She could trust me with her experiences, knowing I was there to support her and give importance and respect to her story. I met my co-producer Hannah in a completely different context actually: she was one of the actors in a small theater sketch I directed. I told her about the project at a pub just before the show, without thinking much of it: she absolutely loved it. We clearly had a shared commitment to the idea and vision
of the film. I already knew editor Colm McElligott from our time at MET Film School: his sensitivity towards storytelling and ability to craft emotional pieces stayed with me, so it was natural for me to bring him on-board. I think what made the difference in terms of keeping the relationships with my collaborators strong in this project was to show that I was 100% invested in the film, no matter how unusual and experimental it was. And obviously surrounding myself with a team of talented, passionate

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

A bit of a simplistic statement, but I believe that if you create content you would genuinely watch there’ll be other people out there wanting the same. If the story, characters and emotions resonate with you, move you, are true to who you are not only as a filmmaker but as a human being then there’s no reason to worry about what audiences want. Because you’re probably telling a story that many other people will recognize as theirs and feel touched by. The point of making films for me is not to please audiences: it’s
to take the audience on a journey with me.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Without film festivals my directing career would be very different. It’s thanks to the film circuit that I directed my first TV show this year and I found commercial representation in the UK. Networking at film festivals and having your work screened, promoted, talked about can sometimes be intimidating, but it’s ultimately rewarding if you make the most of it.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

…I think my documentary’s style says it all!