Interview with Filmmaker Jessica O’Sullivan (SISTER IN ARMS)

SISTER IN ARMS played to rave reviews at the July 2018 Female Feedback Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Jessica O’Sullivan: I love female centric films and I love seeing women in roles that you don’t normally see them in and seeing how things play out. I also love conflict within a plot and seeing someone who is trying to make the right decision.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

– My producer asked to take the idea that I had for a feature length film and change it to short form and with a Pakistan backdrop (based on a video we saw of the female anti-terrorist force in Pakistan) in May 2017, we went to Pakistan in August, filmed in September and the final final editing was completed by mid-December 2017.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

– Poignantly shocking.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

– We had such a small budget. I had put aside £5k for it. Which is a lot of money for me. It meant that we could only shoot for 3 days. There were a lot of unknown factors and we were shooting in a tiny village about 3 hours drive from Karachi. We were a long way from anywhere and had to travel over early in the morning and late in the evening. Things inevitably go wrong and they did on this film including the camera breaking down and the actresses over heating. Strangely enough being a women in a tiny village 3 hours outside of Karachi was not one of them. The cast was predominately female as was the 1st AD, the Producer and myself. Perhaps there was strength in our numbers but also the Producer was incredibly strong. In summary the biggest obstacles were money and time. Which probably are the most common obstacles for any film.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

– The positive feedback was great and I was delighted that the film affected people. I was surprised with some of the interpretations but could understand how an audience could read into things once it was pointed out. Those comments have perhaps been the most informative and constructive and have made me realize how more carefully I need to construct situations and scenes in the future. Both in terms of writing and directing. This is in relation to whether the male Captain had a hand in the ambush and what has been seen as overtly feminine banter between the troops.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

– This short is taken from a feature length script I wrote for a screenwriting module at film school early last year. The feature length film is based on two sisters who join the YPJ, which is a female army in Northern Syria. I came across articles and photographs of these women and girls in an area called Rojava in Syria who were part of a very effective (yet under funded) ground army who are protecting a self-governing area which puts huge emphasis on female participating on all government levels (40% of all boards have to be women). They have been effective in keeping back ISIS, the BAATh regime and several fractions within the rebel army. Yet I had heard nothing about them in this conflict until I came across these articles when I was looking to come up with 3 basic ideas one evening to pitch in class the next day. I just thought it was so interesting. In an area where women are seen as victims and are sadly incredibly oppressed that this is actually happening. The feature length however focuses on the rivalry and complicated relationship between the two sisters. Their relationship to each other and their own individual journeys is the story.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

– Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

– I find it quite useful. It’s is great to be able to do all of the major work once in terms of filling out forms and uploading all the media packages. I also like how the platform looks.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Pink Floyd, I wish you were here.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

– I want to make another short within the next few months. A supernatural thriller with its roots in Irish mythology and a mother trying to protect her children.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every single month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 3 times a month. Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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