Interview with Filmmaker Sarah Schuessler (LIT)

LIT was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the June 2020 ROMANCE Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Sarah Schuessler: As an older sister, I’ve been directing my younger sister, Thia (Lit’s lead) our whole lives. Our parents have the home movies to prove this. I’ve designed the costumes for most of her short films in our adulthood and have given plenty of notes in editing/scripts over the years. I think there are a lot of costume designers who are secret, or not-so-secret, directors, so I told her I really wanted the chance to officially direct her in something where we got to dig into a little scene work.

We had a rare, free Sunday last summer where our whole crew was available. “We” being a real family affair: Thia would star, edit, write, produce; our cousin, Marisa would light and shoot it; my boyfriend, Ben, would record sound on set and compose the music; his brother, Dave, would be the boom operator and sound mixer; his girlfriend, Kacie, would be the swing and help make this all happen. Our last ingredient was Thia’s counterpart, Al, a long-time friend and frequent collaborator who I’m glad is not related to the family, given the romantic content.

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

I think we wrote and shot it in August and were finished with it the day before New Year’s Eve. (Four months, where we worked on it in between other jobs).

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

Friend chemistry

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

I think just being at the mercy of our family/crew’s schedules, asking them to work for free, and crossing our fingers that we’d be able to do all that before New Year’s Eve when we wanted to share it with friends and family. I hope I have the chance to pay them handsomely for their work in the future, instead of just begging for the best they can give me in between their other jobs.

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

Honestly, I cried a little! It was really moving to experience people connecting with our work, and giving such specific and thoughtful feedback.

I’m additionally impressed and thankful you’ve been able to carry out your festival during the pandemic. It’s been inspiring to see how much the world has turned to film for comfort, escapism, and entertainment. And to participate in a small part of that, connected through a virtual film festival, felt hopeful.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

Thia wrote a screenplay years ago, that we’d more recently adapted into a series, about a woman looking to lose her “second virginity” after years in a long term relationship. We pulled one small set of scenes from that idea and sort of adapted it into a stand alone film. We decided to set it on New Year’s Eve so that we’d have the chance to break out the twinkle lights. I kept referring to it as Scenes for Young Actors, which was a compilation book I grew up with full of great scenes from famous plays. It was basically just the fun/charming/exciting/romantic/dramatic bits to get to roll around in as a performer. I wanted an opportunity to work with Al and Thia on a similar playground.

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

Probably Clueless over many years, and then more recently, Call Me By Your Name. I find both of these movies to be visual feasts, excellent soundtracks, and romantic and soothing in their own ways.

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

I appreciate that it’s straightforward and self-explanatory. It’s efficient to have all of your projects/info in the same place and easily accessible to every fest you submit.

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

I’ve Been Loving You Too Long by Otis Redding. It’s an excellent, moody, slow-dance-around-the-kitchen kind of tune that I’ve played while making many meals.

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

I have a beautiful hand-me-down bridal gown from a previous costume job, so Thia and I are trying to cook up a Corona virus wedding story (which I realize sounds like a Mad Lib).


By matthewtoffolo

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

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