Director Sarah Falkiner & Lead Actor/Producer Senyah Haynes (WHITE FEMALE)

WHITE FEMALE, 10min., USA, Drama
Directed by Sarah Falkiner
“Two childhood friends realize their lifelong connection was much more fragile than either imagined.”

“White Female”

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Sarah (director, co-writer, co-producer, Shell-Bell voice)
My good friend, Senyah Haynes, was sharing with me the story of a difficult phone call she had with a childhood friend. The childhood friend’s indignation and borderline hysteria at Senyah’s honest feelings was perfect conflict for a short film. We decided to produce and write it together.

Being a white female, I have done work on my own white fragility and am a big fan of the book. Too often white people don’t understand or recognize the privilege that we walk around with daily. I felt this film would give us an opportunity to show, not tell, the ignorance and privileged space many white people inhabit and how quickly white fragility can be triggered. Leanna’s difficult conversation with a friend on the phone, her only counsel being her inner-selves, further illuminates the challenges that black people have as they try to deal with white people.

Senyah (co-writer, co-producer, “Leanna” lead actress)
As an artist, I have always processed pain through art. The working title of this film for quite a while was “30 Years”- that was the amount of time I had been in a relationship with the person Shell Bell was based on. That is where my focus was- mourning a deeply meaningful loss. However, the reason I was mourning, the reason for the loss, the wildly differing perspectives between people who historically and socially have often not been able to truly connect, and the often one-sided nature of that, was a much bigger tragedy to mourn, and I welcomed the opportunity to shine some light on the issue. “White Fragility” is the kind and benevolent explanation of a phenomenon by which many white people continue to inflict trauma on Black and other people of color- even those they truly love. Even those whom they lavish gifts and affection on; even those they say they admire. Other explanations of this particular phenomenon are much more sinister, so it is my genuine hope that tackling “soft” racism from this platform may be a bridge to true connection.

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

Our initial conversation was around February 2021. I was involved in another project, so I let the idea sit in my mind until June 2021, when we wrote the script. Preproduction began in August of 2021 and we shot the short over two days in October. The film was completed in March of 2022.

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

Sarah: Wake Up

Senyah: About Time

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

Sarah: Two weeks after we shot this, I learned my mother had cancer. My life halted for 3 months. I couldn’t even look at the footage. In January, my mom encouraged me to get back on it. I spent 2 days immersed in the footage and put together a timeline for the editor, Chandler Rawlings and he delivered with the finished product in March.

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

Sarah: Loved it! The wide range of responses is fascinating to me, especially with the global audience that reviewed the film. As a filmmaker, I want to be an agent of change and “White Female” winning best film is a true honor. I hope this film can create more discourse and a visual explanation as to why being “colorblind” is a disservice to black people and the cruel racial trauma they have endured.

Senyah: I was thrilled by the feedback and I enjoyed the reactions immensely-all of them. The difference in commentary along racial lines was very predictable to me and indicative of what I experience and witness in real life. Many viewers find it relatable because they see themselves; some will feel vindicated and others indicted, with little gray in between. But I welcome all angles- and appreciate how much people share about themselves by sharing what they think.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

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

Sarah: In 2018, I made a huge life change by ending a long relationship. Realizing I needed to make new friends, I attended a Meet Up for filmmakers and the bug bit. So far, I have made 10 short films and cannot stop.

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

Sarah: It is a tie between “Dogtooth” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”

Senyah: “Birth of a Nation”… the original

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

Sarah: As a self-proclaimed “Agent of Change” I would love more opportunities to have discourse with viewers and opportunities to meet more people that are like minded in a structured type of way. I often think about how film screenings can be more interactive and promote a change that lasts longer than when one is sitting in a movie seat. Oh, yeah, and financing. Any help with that would elevate my game. My films usually have budgets under 2k.

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

Sarah: It is easy to use as far as submitting and spending money. Sometimes, FilmFreeway feels like the wild west with the amount of festivals and how some aren’t all they promote themselves to be. I try to be choosy about what I submit to. I am most interested in hearing feedback and being reviewed.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Green Curry with tofu

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

I am currently finishing production on a short film, “Washed Up”, Logline: “Two comedians in their twilight years unexpectedly reunite amidst dirty dishes after taking very different life journeys.”


By matthewtoffolo

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

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