Runyararo Mapfumo talks to us about the making of her short film Masterpiece which screened at Exit 6 Film Festival, hitting the festival circuit with her new short Dawn in the Dark, and the importance of indie filmmakers sharing their experiences.
Hello Runyararo, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Your short film Masterpiece, which you wrote and directed, was previously selected for Exit 6, can you tell us about the film and how it came about?
Thanks for inviting me to talk about my work. It feels like such a long time ago Masterpiece was on the festival circuit and we were very excited to screen at Exit 6.
In short, the film is about a group of young men that try to interpret their friend's art so they can save face and show support. It’s a combination of conversations that I’ve had with my friends and conversations that I’ve overheard.
Ultimately it’s a look at young black British guys that I know in life but don’t often see onscreen.
What was the biggest challenge you faced making the film, and what was the most rewarding aspect of it?
The biggest challenge was the lack of finances - because it was self funded. This meant that we could only shoot for one day and do post between pay cheques. But in response to this, the crew really had to stick together and the cast were full of great and positive energy.
Our limitations spurred us on as a unit and to lead a team that way with my producer, Grace Bridger was really rewarding.
Is there anything in particular that you learned on the making of the film that you’ve taken into your subsequent work?
To know exactly what I want but keep every line of communication open with the cast and crew. We were all trying to make the film better from moment to moment, there was such an absence of ego on our team and across the board - I’m always striving to work with people like that.
What was response from the festival circuit and what was your best experience visiting festivals with the film?
It performed really well at festivals and we had a great time attending, watching other work and meeting other filmmakers. It’s always exciting to feel like part of a larger community after spending a lot of time on your own work.
You’re now on the circuit with new short Dawn in the Dark, can you tell us about this film and its festival journey so far?
Dawn in the Dark is about 8 year old Dawn and her young Uncle Nate in the wake of a family crisis. The film explores the moments before grief and how that can affect the inner life and dynamic of a family. We witness two young people who are thrown into a situation they aren’t equipped for.
It premiered at BFI London Film Festival 2019 which is one of my favourite festivals and we’re in the process of submitting to other festivals which is always exciting.
You recently screened the film at New Voices and took part in a Q&A. How valuable is it for other filmmakers to attend such events, and important for filmmakers to share their experiences with others?
It was, and is, valuable for me to be amongst other filmmakers and hear about their process of filmmaking and honing their craft. It’s how I’ve met a lot of my peers and become familiar with other work.
The best festivals I’ve been to, you feel like you’re part of a community. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable walking into a space filled with people you don’t know but it can be worth it when you meet new friends and potential collaborators.
What are some of the experiences you’ve had sourcing funding for your projects, and what advice would you offer anyone else currently looking to fund their own short projects?
When I was starting out and before I had external funding, I would write according to my resources. So I would write something that would take a couple of days to shoot, on minimal locations with very few actors. It worked really well for me.
But also make sure you are passionate about the stories. Keep that ambitious short in your back pocket because you will be asked what else you’d like to make.
You’ve directed both narrative and documentary work, how do you find switching between the two?
It’s more similar than you would think. In both situations I aim to be as prepared as possible but stay flexible for changes and improvements.
In almost every case - fiction or documentary - there are unexpected obstacles and changes that you have to work around creatively.
For me it’s always about staying focused on the story and themes.
What new projects have you got lined up?
I have some long form projects that I’m developing at the moment. Still early days but I’m really excited about them.
You can follow Runyararo on Twitter: @Runyararo_M