Interview with Filmmaker Teele Dunkley (METRES APART)

METRES APART played to rave reviews at the April 2022 Toronto Female Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I started developing the script for this film in the first big lockdown that the UK had. All my creative work had previously been cancelled and I wanted to create a short film that would reflect the experience of what people went through and also be really possible to make in terms of the production size. There were quite a few restrictions still in place for film sets in the summer and autumn 2020 so we also tried to make a film where we were able to be outside and keep our characters a bit of a distance away from each other. This is why this story works so well for us in many different ways.

One of the themes that was not talked about enough during the first lockdown, was how families with separated parents were having to sometimes stay away from each other. Especially if, let’s say, one parent had a medical reason to have to be really careful not to catch the COVID 19 virus, children then had to choose spending time with one parent over another to keep them safe. I saw some families going through something like this and how hard it was for the children. I also often think that there is not enough said about teenagers who are affected by families that break up. Sometimes there is an assumption that they are not little anymore, so they should be fine. Whereas often it could hit them even harder than smaller kids as they are going through a delicate time themselves. My parents broke up when I was 18 and my parents explained to me a lot why this was happening, because I made sure I asked them lots of questions, but they never had the same conversations with my younger teenage brothers, so it was hard for them to understand and forgive. I think they just did not know how to talk to them about it openly and then this breakdown in communications happens.

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

It took about 6 months, I guess. I started thinking about the ideas at the end of summer 2020, we filmed in October 2020 and started sending the film to festivals in February 2021.

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

Family drama

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

Someone cutting trees a little distance away from where we filmed! The sound was a challenge on the day and we could not do anything about it really, besides laughing and trying to film takes in between the tree cutting noise. I had to edit around it in some areas of the film where the sound started mid takes.

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

It was absolutely wonderful to see people talk about our little film in such a positive way and to hear that they liked parts of it that matter to us a lot too. After the last few years, feeling like you are connecting with people, even if it via video recordings, does feel pretty special.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I was between the age of 9 and 11, I used to watch this programme on Estonian TV that was showing behind the scenes of film making. The programme was on very late in the evening and I remember everyone in the house being in bed and my parents allowing me to still watch it, I just loved the magic and the creativity of it all. Following that, I used to love taking photos and filming clips on the home video camera when I was a young teenager. But I never realised I could actually do film directing as a career until I was about 16 or 17 and my best friend who was older than me, started looking into options on what to study at university. She read out a course description of film studies and a lightbulb in my head went off – I knew instantly I had found my calling and it felt like all my whole has been a preparing for this role: I studied music and played instruments, I danced, I made and designed clothes, I did photography, I loved art and anything creative, I filmed with my home camera, I loved science and nature, I loved to travel, I spoke different languages, was good with people of all sort of ages and backgrounds and was fascinated by different stories they told about their lives, I was good at writing stories and I loved watching films and had always been interested in how they were made. And most importantly I did not know how to give any of this up and choose between all my interests for one career. Making films meant I was able to combine it all into one job, how amazing is that?! I guess at the time in Estonia there were no media studies or film courses in the normal education before university, it just never occured to me this could actually be something I could do until then.

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

Probably an Estonian musical film Nukitsamees, made in 1981. We used to watch it a lot as a family and everyone in Estonia knows the songs from the film.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think you are doing an amazing job with promoting the filmmakers and sharing the content. Not many festivals do that so well. Making short films is all about putting your passion, time and money into something you hope will be seen and help you make connections.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

I like the platform a lot, it makes it easy and clear to see the info about the festivals and when we may hear back from them. I also love the pop up congratulations when you are accepted into a festival.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I loved salads along with new potatoes, I think it comes from growing up on a farm in Estonia and the joy of having fresh tomatoes and salad leaves and veg to pick from the fields in the summer. It all just tastes so amazing when you grow it yourself.

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

I am in the process of finishing editing a pretty big scale short film called Losing Us that I directed. When Metres Apart was made with 11 people (crew and cast) then Losing Us crew and cast numbers are around 100 and it is over 20 minutes long with lots of various locations and complicated plot about two teenage siblings who become refugees, get cought in human trafficking and lose their parents in the process. We are hoping to finish all the post production by summer 2022 and start sending it to festivals. I am also working on a comedy short film pre-production and developing various feature film scripts.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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