Interview with Filmmaker Hannah de Groot (TIME AT WOODPINE)

TIME AT WOODPINE played to rave reviews at the April 2020 Female Film Festival.

A Film Freeway Preferred Festival:

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Hannah de Groot: I really leaned into the collaborative process, with my cast and crew motivating me with their fresh perspectives, creativity, and hard work whenever I felt discouraged. Because this was my senior thesis, I knew that this film would be seen as the culmination of my college career, and that the opportunity to make it was a fleeting privilege and a gift.

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

1 year

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

Girlhood Together

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

I have lupus, a disease which can be unpredictable and debilitating at times. Balancing my health with the rigors of helming a film project wasn’t easy. I had to learn how to adapt, communicate my needs, push through adversity, and know my limits. There’s an image of “Director” people have in their heads: a man with boundless energy and a loud voice, who barely sleeps or eats, working day in and day out for his film at 150%. I had to let go of that image because that wasn’t ever going to be me. I was a young chronically ill woman who spoke softly but self-assuredly, made sure there was always fruit and veggies at crafty, worked through most of pre-production lying in bed, and needed a really strong support system in place to complete this film. But I did it! And compared to lupus, filmmaking hiccups really didn’t seem so bad.

A few weeks before filming began, right before we started building our boarding school set on the sound stage, I got a call that my production designer had been in a bad car accident. She was in the hospital and in a neck brace, and would not be able to do the heavy lifting for our set build as planned. I wasn’t angry nor was I phased. My lupus had given me the empathy, resilience, and problem solving ability to deal with the Murphy’s law of filmmaking: “What can go wrong, will go wrong.” It took many late nights on the sound stage with the crew, a few tears shed, and the construction expertise of our family members. But even after the accident that could have derailed production, my production designer and I were still able to build the bedroom set of our dreams and bring our boarding school vision to life!

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

I got emotional hearing firsthand how people resonated with my film. I thought back to when I was first developing Time at Woodpine in school, sending my script to the thesis committee over and over and facing a lot of rejection. I was so worried that nobody would ever “get” it. I want to go back and tell that girl everything will work out! I also really appreciate the specificity and thoughtfulness of the critiques. Thank you all so much for taking the time to give feedback and put this together even during the COVID-19 pandemic. I will definitely forever cherish this feedback and recommend this film festival to my fellow filmmakers.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I knew I wanted my thesis to draw from my years at Phillip’s Academy Andover, a boarding school in Massachusetts, which were transformative for me. I also knew I wanted to make a film that explored how Big World Events effect people, and girls in particular, when they’re coming of age. And how those events have the ability to bring us closer together. I had observed that phenomenon with Osama bin Laden’s death, President Obama’s inauguration, the 2009 Recession, Swine Flu, and the Arab Spring during my own teenage years at Andover. But I also wanted some distance between me and the characters. So I decided to make my film a period piece and set it at a fictional all girls’ boarding school in 2001 with 9/11, a day that starkly changed a generation, as the event.

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

The Social Network

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

I love how we can submit to many festivals around the world with the click of a button. FilmFreeway makes you feel like anything can happen with that click. But it can also feel a bit like you’re applying to colleges without a college counselor or shooting in the dark. When on a budget, it’s especially important to submit thoughtfully and I wish we had a little more guidance on which festivals would be good fits for our films before hitting send.

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

All These Things I’ve Done by the Killers

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

I took a short break from filmmaking to focus on my health as I underwent chemotherapy treatment for my lupus. But I’m eager to return to it when I can! Currently I am working on a novelization of Time at Woodpine and hope to expand the story into a full length film or television series one day.



By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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