Serena Chloe Gardner talks to us about her new short film project Summer, adapting the short from a feature idea, crowdfunding the project on Greenlit, and how watching short films as part of the Exit 6 selection panel has helped her with her own work.
Hello Serena, thank you for talking to us today. You’re right in the middle preparing your new short film Summer - tell us what it’s all about.
Summer is the story about a girl trying to come to terms with the loss of her brother. While constantly living in a state of the past and suffering from nightmares she tries to overcome her grief by throwing a house party. Realising this isn't going to be an easy fix, her friendships come to the rescue.
What is it about this story that compels you to tell it?
Ultimately the essence of the story is about losing someone in your youth, how devastating that can actually be and how important friendships are in your late teens / early twenties. I lost my brother to depression when I was young and the impact of that was just devastating. I experienced a lot of trauma from that. You never get over losing someone you're really close to but you learn to go on.
I wanted to make this film to highlight the growing numbers of young male suicides in this country (worryingly the biggest cause of death for men between 18-45) and also what it's like for those left behind. I never blame the person who did it but do feel that there is something deeply wrong in society as a whole if people are feeling this way and that needs to change.
There is a feature version of the film for which you have already written the script. How have you found the process of writing a version for the short?
Initially I was part of the Directors UK mentoring scheme 'Inspire' and placed with Fizz & Ginger Films who mentored me while developing my first script Six Weeks of Summer and then of course the pandemic happened.
It was actually a blessing because it meant that I've had a lot more time (than the 1 year allotted) to develop the script, (which was recently a semi-finalist in the first Raindance Script Competition). Writing the short was like opening a letter found within a journal, a snippet of a life that I get to explore and use some material I already had written but not used in the feature.
Can you tell us about the team involved with the project?
Yes, we have the excellent Nasreen Cullen re-joining us as Producer on the short, (who we worked previously with on Blackout for Film London) and joining us again as DoP is Jason Weidner who also shot Blackout. This time we are joined in the cast by Em Bristow who is this fabulous artist, model and performer we found last year who just embodies the character of Summer perfectly. Em has that raw talent waiting to punch it's way out.
We also have Hugo Hamlet joining the cast as Summer's brother Steven. Hugo can do everything, trained as a performer in Paris, he's appeared in Cirque du Soleil and also creates music as a solo artist under the Berlin label Guesstimate. I absolutely cannot wait to start working with everyone!
You’re currently crowdfunding the short project on Greenlit. What’s your experience of crowdfunding and why did you choose Greenlit for your campaign?
Yes we are, it's going well so far. Crowdfunding is never easy but I love doing it because it connects you not only to those who have supported you before but also giving you the opportunity to connect with a new audience that may not be familiar with your work and then they're with you for the whole journey. So, it's definitely worth all the hard work you put into it. I have made so many new friends from my crowdfunders.
I chose Greenlit after meeting Pete Storey at Exit 6 Film Festival. I really liked his ethos of really trying to help filmmakers reach their goals. Unlike various other platforms, Greenlit is literally with you every step of the way. If you're worried about how something is going you can email them and they'll arrange a call with you to work through any hiccups, share best practices etc. They send out your campaign to their contacts and share it all over their socials. It really feels like they care about each and every project they take on and really do their best to make it work for you.
I think... that less is more. Definitely this. When I first started making shorts I would write 20 or so pages and then really struggle to strip them down but in reality this is far too long. Most festivals don't take anything much over 10 minutes these days because of their scheduling and realistically a short theme probably doesn't need that much time. If it does, then it either needs to be frickin' amazing or it needs to be a feature if you have that much to tell. So often a filmmaker will shove in as much as they can without giving the film time to breathe. I'm not there yet but I am working on it.
As well as being a filmmaker, you’re also on the Exit 6 selection panel. Does seeing so many other pieces of work help you with your own in any way?
Oh god yes! Even if I wasn't on an excellent film panel, I would say to any filmmaker out there, watch as much work as you can from your peers, learn from it and then go create. I have definitely opened my eyes to other genres, styles I was not that familiar with, why things do and don't work. Best education in filmmaking I've had. Everyone should do this.
You’re now based up in Scotland and plugging into the filmmaker scene there, having moved up from London. What’s that transition been like for you?
Weirdly... perfect. You have a fear when you live in London, especially as a creative, that you'll drop off the planet if you ever leave but I can tell you from experience, you won't. If anything you live better for one and because your quality of life goes up you have more time and money in your pocket to create. There are so many creatives living up here and the film industry is just booming so I'd say to anyone, if something just isn't working for you, change it.
What advice would you give anyone considering launching their own crowdfund campaign?
Plan your campaign well in advance and I mean that. Create all your posts for the whole month and then just adapt them on a daily basis. don't struggle for content because a content-less campaign is a boring one.
Also get inventive, is there a theme around your film that you can tap into? Social movement, charity, music etc. Can you tailor your rewards to be cost effective? (so you can actually make your film without spending all of it on postage), can you make them fun? Think about all this stuff ahead of time so that when it launches you can actually have fun with it rather than panicking that you don't have anything new to say today. Above all, do.
You can follow Serena on Twitter: @SerenaChloe
Watch Blackout and Chasing the Vein now at Genera Films