Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (WHALES)

WHALES played to rave reviews at the September 2018 Female FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nora Jaenicke: I wrote the screenplay for the feature version of Whales, the short film, over ten years ago. The idea didn’t let me go, so I decided to make a short film version in order to find the funding for the feature. It is a story that feels very close to me for various reasons. I like films that deal with family issues and psychological thrillers. In writing Whales I wanted to blend these elements into a cohesive story and build a lot of tension into it. I have also always wanted to make a film back home where I grew up in Italy and with Whales it was my goal to develop dimensional characters with interesting inner lives and construct realistic and extremely tense relationships between them. The gorgeous setting of the Italian island stands in great contrast with the dark themes that the story tackles.

Separated by the passing of time and different upbringings, the two sisters unexpectedly find their lives linked back together by the forces of remembrance and forgiveness. How do we forgive and forget, are the main themes that the audience is left with at the end. Is it actually possible to forgive?

Margot and Louise also mark two complementary behaviours, two destinies that start from the sensitive core of family ignorance, while they are censured by the inability to communicate, but also by the somewhat social and religious taboos of the need not to disturb the gruesome and commemorative silence of their mother’s recent death.

The film is a journey into their past, not necessarily a new beginning. Perhaps the realisation that the past can’t be changed and that the most one can do in the present, is to decide, for oneself, whether forgiving or forgetting is even possible.

Each one of the film’s characters has his own version of the truth. The colliding of all these truths is what I find the most fascinating.
The fact that each one of these family members, has a completely different perspective upon what happened.

Although there is (almost) never any visible sex or violence, I wanted the film to feel extreme, as well dressed, well behaved people try to colonize one another with a tenacity that borders on the savage.

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

I was able to make this film thanks to my amazing Producer Darren Cole, who helped raise the initial funds and a very small team. Out on the island it was only me, the Director of Photography, a dear friend who helped assist the production, the actors and the Sound Mixer. We spent two weeks at a very generous friend’s house on the gorgeous Island of Elba in Italy and we shot the film in less than a week. The first week we were busy with organising everything, from the location scouting to rehearsing with the actors.

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

Forgetting and Forgiving.

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

The obstacles were a creative challenge that ended up enriching the experience while allowing me to come up with resourceful ideas. Hunger makes the good cook, is my motto…

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

I found it very refreshing and interesting. Some of the comments I never heard before. All in all it was an honor to hear that my film triggered such an interesting discussion.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I wrote the feature version of this short over ten years ago, and I always had a fascination with psychological dramas that border into thrillers. I like character driven films and strong women with interesting inner lives. I have a sister myself so in a way Whales is also a homage to sisterhood.

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

Volver by Almodovar, Thelma and Louise by Ridley Scott, Lolita by Adrian Lyne.

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

I like filmfreeway. Lots of fun festivals out there. The site is very easy to navigate.

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

Maybe “Baby Can I hold you” by Tracy Chapman. But this was in pre spotify times, when there wasn’t such a vast amount of music out there and at ones fingertip.

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

The feature version of Whales which I am developing with my Producers Kim Muenster and Darren Cole.

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Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (BETWEEN SECONDS)

Nora Jaenicke’s short film BETWEEN SECONDS played to rave reviews at the November 2017 FEMALE FEEDBACK Film Festival. It was the winner of BEST MUSIC at the festival.

 What motivated you to make this film?

I had an idea for an animation, years ago, while in film school, and it was about two people struggling over the hand of a clock. One wanted to move it forward the other wanted to regain lost time from the past and go back in time, so to say, so I thought it made for an interesting concept. The idea of these people being somewhat °off sync° with the world and their inner sense of timing. When I decided to make a film later on, I reached back to my story folder on my desktop and decided to give this one a go. In order for it to be an actual narrative film, I had to create backstories for each character and develop their inner worlds. If I had more time and money, I would have made a feature. I find it a very interesting topic.

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

I had the initial idea in 2007, then I put it aside and got back to it in 2015. It took me a year to find the money to make it. Principal Photography started in 2016 and the film is currently at the end of its festival rounds. It won 33 awards. Very exciting! I never thought it would end up being this successful in the indie film festival scene.

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

Time and Creativity

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

Finding the money, and putting together cast and crew. Finding the right people to create with is almost as hard as finding a partner to start a family with. Many things need to fit. There has to be the right chemistry. And the crew becomes like its own living being. It works as its own ecosystem.

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

I was intrigued. I am always interested in hearing the thoughts the film triggers in the audience. I wish I were there.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Like I said above, I thought of this image of the people fighting over the hand of a clock. Perhaps Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin planted the seed in my mind and I went from there. Aren’t we all striving for that °decisive moment° that °peak moment°. And what danger that we might get so caught up in the perfect composition, setting the perfect scene, waiting and hoping for the perfect moment, that we miss it entirely.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Lolita by Adrian Lyne, Thelma and Louise, Rainman. These are the first 3 films that come to mind.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Love it!

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

mmm tricky one. I hear so much music on a daily basis. I listen to it as I write, mostly soundtracks by Hanns Zimmer, to imagine my scenes and get into their atmosphere better. He is my favorite film composer.

What is next for you? A new film?

Whales. A Drama about two sisters who reconnect, after years of being separated. A homage to sisterhood. A Drama about a familys secluded world and the impact that secrets can have on our lives.

 

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