Interview with Writer/Producer Sarah Audet-Belzile (BLANK SPACE)

BLANK SPACE, 5min., Canada, Experimental
Directed by Elias Djemil-Matassov
Sounds. Bright lights. Demands to meet. Fast-paced everyday life. What happens when we press pause and allow ourselves to explore the space inside our creative minds? A blank space where all possibilities exist.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?
The idea for the film started to form in my head during the pandemic; I was just about to finish my studies in contemporary dance, and I had always thought I would be more the type of person to dance for other choreographers, as I did not feel I was ready to choreograph myself. But the pandemic rolled around, I had a forced period of rest as everything was on pause, and this allowed my creative mind the time it needed to overflow with ideas. I was feeling an itch to create myself, to choreograph. This first sparked the idea: society moves at such a fast pace nowadays and we rarely ever give ourselves the time and space to let our intuition and creative minds talk.
Also, when life moves so fast, I often have a feeling, at the end of a particularly busy day, that I would like to be in a completely empty, dark space, devoid of neon lights, harsh and loud sounds, annoying textures, just to let my brain relax and breathe, without having to filter all this external information.
The two ideas merged together and I talked about it with Elias, whom I already knew, and his enthusiasm about it is what motivated me to go forward with the idea and create what would be the first project I would put together as a professional dancer: Blank Space.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From the time the idea was elaborated in my head, to the finished product, it took me roughly a year and maybe one or two months.

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

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Since it was the first project I asked a grant for (which I got, from Première Ovation Danse, many thanks to them for supporting the project), there were first some challenges in writing the grant application, establishing the budget with realistic expectations, and unknown elements that I did not foresee would cost me more than anticipated. That led me to delaying some steps in the realization of the film, since I had to raise the extra money myself for some of the steps like the production of the trailer.
I would also say that not knowing anything about how to make a film was a big learning experience, and I have to thank Elias for guiding me through the steps and giving me his best advice from the start to the submission to film festivals !

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I was moved by what everyone had to say, from their comments about the ideas and the dancing, to the cinematography. I wanted to make a film that could resonate with people. The elements they highlighted, like musicality, the movement being an interesting vector to convey the message while being an extension of the music, and the ideas about using stop motion with long exposure photography were all important things to me when I created the film with Elias. Also, since I was the choreographer and dancer myself, I was happy to know that my dancing could move people and make them feel what I was trying to say with my body. I am beyond grateful to have gotten the feedback and having my film win an award at the first film festival I enter is a blessing! Words cannot express my gratitude enough.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I actually did not have an initial goal to make films, but my background in visual arts and my interest for photography kind of led me there accidentally when they collided with my desire to choreograph a solo for myself. Elias had posted on Facebook saying he had some time available during the season, so I wrote him about my project and it was the start of a filmmaking adventure!

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Very uncommon choices here but it would have to be a tie between Wall-E (I am such a geek for animation movies and that one has this special thing I love about Wall-E expressing so much without even talking more than a few words) and Jig, a documentary about the 40th World Irish Dance Championships. I practice competitive Irish dancing myself and have watched that film over and over and over during the first years when I started competing more seriously, dreaming of being at such a high level.

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 have to say, since it is my first experience submitting a film to a film festival, I do not have a lot to say about how to make the experience even better. I am delighted to have been a part of the festival, and for my film to have won an award for Best Cinematography feels almost surreal!

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
The platform is really accessible, with quite intuitive navigation. Everything is clearly written, you can add categories where needed to suit the needs of the film and different collaborators, and it is easy to submit a project to a festival, even for a first-timer like myself!

10. What is your favorite meal?
Cassoulet, beef carpaccio, or sushi!

11. What is next for you? A new film?
The next steps for me are more about dancing in projects with other people, choreographing, and drawing inspiration for another project, that would be multidisciplinary. I also dream of dancing for the production of an animated movie, being a model with all the captors for movement analysis, that would be really cool! Maybe another film will also get out of my head one day, but that is not in the close future for now.

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By matthewtoffolo

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

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