Interview with Filmmaker Suzanne Phillips (MOTHERLOVE)

MOTHERLOVE played to rave reviews at the September 2020 Documentary Short Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

A couple of things. I’d just interviewed parents who are part of FFLAG friends and family of LGBTQ+ children to make some short films to go on their website and social media. Their responses got me reflecting on my own experience with my parents growing up gay, Catholic school, surrounded by the general homophobia of the time and deciding never to come out to them specifically. So actually I hadn’t allowed them to go on the journey that these parents went on. I had one male interviewee so I decided to make it about the mothers journey.

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

I didn’t have any footage so the idea didn’t fully take shape until I had a conversation with a cameraman driving home from another shoot. We got talking about different personal projects and when I told him about MotherLove he offered the photos he’s taken at different Pride events.

Once I had the photos I made about 10 versions over 6 months. I kept coming back to it, I couldn’t leave it alone. One had movement on the photos which I realised got in the way of listening to the voices. Another had the scene from Torch Song Trilogy where he tells his mother he will not tolerate anything but support and love for her, I didn’t think I could clear it. It went through no live action, so many different versions.

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

Mother love

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

I think having the self confidence in the story. I didn’t set out to make it, it wouldn’t leave me but I wasn’t sure about the combination of the story and the photos. I was lucky I had an editor who was willing to just pick it up whenever he had down time. Once I simplified it and believed in the power of the still images and the journey the mothers voices were taking us through and then put in the live action, I believed in it.
But is it a gay film?

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

Uplifting, inspiring, I was moved by their reaction. It was a brilliant experience because as a filmmaker you work in the dark until you can hear the connection with the audience. It was fantastic to hear the positiveness and kindness and it gave me hope. Especially at the moment when we’re currently in lockdown.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

I couldn’t get the mothers voices out of my head so in the end I cut and pasted them into a script and thought – what is this about. I did another version and then got photos from my friend and time with an editor and just went through it and through it. Until I understood what it was I wanted to say. I think an angrier version would be – ‘you know what if you’re going to have children then fucking well love them however they turn out’ but that’s a long title.

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

A film I go back to is Bound. I love the style and the relationships.

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

It’s simple enough once you’ve uploaded everything. It’s just expensive to keep sending out the film to many festivals. So I learnt I need a budget

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

Kate Bush The Kick Inside

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

I’m working with a wonderful writer Crystal Jeans to make a film based on her book The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise. It’s really about that moment in your life when you realise you can’t rely on the adults around you, the only person you can rely on is yourself.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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