Interview with Filmmaker Kelli Neal (I’M A GIRL)

1. What motivated you to make this film?

My team and I were initially drawn to this story because of its familiarity. The writer based the character off her own life, and I found it compelling how an experience that feels so isolating can also be so unifying. I’m a woman who grew up in a household with brothers and a father where it was absolutely embarrassing to talk about “that time of the month.” Periods have been stigmatized since the beginning of humanity, so the conversations around this incredibly vulnerable change that young female bodied people go through are hushed and almost shameful. My team and I wanted to explore the consequences of embracing one’s womanhood within a nuclear family structure.

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

As this was a student film, we made it over the course of a semester – so about 4 months, from January until April.

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

Growing up.

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

As students, we had a strict budget and time restraints. Honestly though, being inexperienced was our biggest obstacle. This was my directorial debut, and we all had a lot to learn, but the whole team took the film very seriously. I’m so grateful for the effort and energy that the cast and crew brought, and I’m very proud of not only our end result, but how fun the process was along the way.

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

It felt incredibly affirming to see the audience members articulate some of the nuances regarding the film that have been living in my head for the last several months. To hear other women relate to the story the way I do was encouraging, but it also spoke volumes how other members of the audience who don’t identify with the main character still found the film relatable. It is a special feeling to deeply believe in something you made and then watch others believe in it as well.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

Growing up, I would play video games with my older brothers, but I was more interested in the overarching story of the game than the game itself. I was a big book kid and big TV kid, and I did a lot of community theater, but there were a few movies that I hyper fixated on the most. Somewhere along the way, I discovered that there were people who made these movies that meant so much to me. My affinity for filmmaking really came about when I realized I didn’t have to just make movies that were big and grand, but that small stories about the quiet moments in life are sometimes just as special and compelling.

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

Probably one of the movies in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I rewatch them every November.

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

The feedback received from this festival was really wonderful and a major encouragement. The audience members pointed out strong areas in our film that we can take with us into future projects. Also, the opportunity to make connections and meet other industry professions is an element of the festival experience that is always very beneficial.

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

FilmFreeway is the best resource we found when submitting to festivals. Nothing else compared to its ease of use and huge selection of credible festivals. No other website offered as much and we will use FilmFreeway again for future submissions.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I probably have to go for something Italian. I love a pesto gnocchi, cacio e pepe, or a classic chicken parmesan.

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

I’m currently working on my next short film, titled “A Collection of Meet Cutes and Break Ups.” I’m a loyal fan of the Rom-com genre, and I think there is a lot to be explored when you isolate the beginnings and endings of relationships and don’t get to see the rest of the picture.

By matthewtoffolo

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

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