Interview with Filmmaker Lara Heller (SYNTH)

SYNTH was the winner of BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY at the February 2021 FANTASY/SCI-FI Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

SYNTH was inspired by true events – Hanson Robotics in Hong Kong created a robot called Sophia. Sophia the A.I. is based on Audrey Hepburn’s face and is the first robot to have citizenship in the world. I can’t think of many films that explore a world where A.I. rights could be on par with human rights. SYNTH runs with that idea! That is kind of what is being suggested when one gives an A.I. citizenship. Sophia was granted with the rights, privileges, and duties of a citizen.

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

I’ve wanted to do an AI story for a number of years. And then I read about Sophia which ultimately inspired me to make this. It took time to build up our team. We were in production during spring and editing was completed within the year.

We were delighted to have Ryan C Coleman come on board to write the script. His work on The Walking Dead and his unique style was a natural fit for SYNTH. At the end of the day, filmmaking is a team sport and we got to the finish line because of the wonderful group of filmmakers attached to this.

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

Forward-looking, Disruptive

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

One obstacle that we had to overcome was to figure out how to create a future world that gave us the feeling this can happen in our lifetime. Self-learning AI is still very new to us. Two generations ago it was hard to imagine what having a computer in your pocket would be like. In other words, a smart phone. We only fully understand, now that we are going through it. We’re still figuring out our relationship with cell phones. How often should I use it. What’s too much. Is it affecting social interaction? Is it improving connectivity? Am I more or less creative? Now when it comes to our relationship with AI right now- film can be a launchpad for conversation. And we hope SYNTH has achieved that. SYNTH allows for the possibility of more discussion which is always a good thing.

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

It was wonderful to hear everyone’s thoughts on SYNTH. We are happy to hear that the twists and turns of the script and what was left unsaid was ultimately a springboard for conversation. The audience is so intelligent, and they pick up on such subtleties. I really appreciate that when I watch a movie and have to put the pieces together myself. It’s so much more rewarding to formulate one’s own opinions rather than being spoon-fed. I’ve found that style of storytelling pops into my mind well after I’ve left the theatre. There’s nothing more exciting than feedback that says we want to see more!

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you first realize that you wanted to make movies?

I’ve loved making movies since I was 9 years old and I made a film with my friends at the European School of Luxembourg. We worked on the script, scouted locations and cast our friends in the different roles. It was such fun! Moviemaking had no clear route from A to B. Something about that was very exciting and it taught me so many different skill sets. When everything finally came together, we were left with a beautiful memory that we could revisit again and again. I thought as a kid, what an amazing way to leave a legacy! Whether that’s your friends being able to revisit a happy moment frozen in time or on a larger scale, an audience being able to revisit a movie.

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

Any Nancy Meyers movie…Something’s Gotta Give, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap. They are feel good movies that I can watch again and again.

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

I think it’s a great platform. Filmfreeway helps you familiarize yourself with the different festivals, it’s intuitive to use and there’s a good team on standby.

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

Anything Simon & Garfunkel or Don Mclean related is on constant replay at home. I love Miss American Pie!

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

Excited to share that my latest film, The Obscure Life of The Grand Duke of Corsica, is due for release this year. Daniel Graham directed it and we shot in Malta. It was wonderful working with Timothy Spall and the movie is beautifully shot. We have also just released Stardust which is about David Bowie’s life. And on the development side, we are fleshing SYNTH out into a series.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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