Farewell to Summer
In this surreal short, a cast of talented and dynamic women meet every summer to indulge in fecund passionfruits. Featuring an original score by Lurch & Chief, designs by Sister Studios, and a cast of nine inspiring girls of various creative backgrounds, we speak to the filmmakers Caitlin Shannon and Gianna Mazzeo about their inspiration and the task of shooting on Super 16mm stock.
How did this collaboration with Sister Studios come about?
Caitlin Shannon: Alice and Emma are both close friends of my own (biological) sisters and mine. So, I’ve known them for a while. I had spoken a lot about wanting to get into film as I’d just returned from interning for 3 months in Copenhagen with a film and production company. We met over coffee, spoke about a few ideas, and they were keen to have a film for SISTER and give the opportunity to make it.
Gianna and I knew each other from cinema studies at uni. I rang her a few days after meeting the girls, as the idea of shooting something on my own, let alone on film, for the first time was daunting. She knew how to hold a camera and also realistic achieve what ever crazy idea I had when it came to shots.
Was it difficult coming up with a concept that suited both Sister Studios and your own personal style?
CS: Ha! SISTER is pretty much my own personal style. So, no.
They have created their identity by referencing legendary women and stills primarily from the 60s/70s, an era that I look back to particularly in cinema, with directors like Tati, Godard and Agnes Varda. I definitely had Jacques Tati in mind when I was creating the set.
When I began thinking of concepts I really wanted to do something that reflected the story behind SISTER. I wanted to show a bunch of creative and interesting women, ones that we aspire to and relate to. Not just for their physical attributes. I think that is important, because a truly beautiful person has a story. You can always see this in someone’s eyes without even knowing them.
Gianna Mazzeo: Not at all, both of us were already very familiar with the label and love their designs. We think it's very important to value a brand's identity while also finding space to leave your own signature on the project, but in this case we were able to incorporate both with ease. The lovely ladies at SISTER also gave us full creative license on the concept and execution of the film and we feel as though we were able to capture the quirky, playful and feminine aesthetic of the label.
Are you both used to working with film as a medium?
CS: Gianna has done some incredible digital work for Thursday, Sunday, Intent Journal and some music video work with Triple RRR. My first real experience was in Copenhagen working on a short for Henrik Vibskov. I think the real push for me too was after Copenhagen, in Berlin. I picked up an old Geneva 8 film camera from the 20s at a market and straight after went to go hunt down some double 8 film. I have wanted to do something special on it ever since. Hopefully soon.
GM: After majoring in cinema studies at RMIT and dabbling in documentary and drama production, I was pretty certain that I wanted to explore storytelling through the moving image.
I hadn't really considered working with analogue film this early in my career because the thought of it was fairly daunting. We used a back up digital camera on the shoot day just to be safe, but weren't completely happy with the high resolution, crisp image - it really didn't suit the aesthetic we were going for.
Caitie and I both lost a lot of sleep in the days leading up to our film being processed, scanned and sent back to us, but thankfully we were really happy with the results. Although it's super easy to make mistakes with framing and exposure with a film camera, we unexpectedly really enjoyed all the little imperfections that were achieved on the day. We only had 5 minutes worth of film to work with, so we had to be really careful about what we chose to shoot. In turn, we only ended up doing one take of each shot, meaning that there were a lot of little errors in staging. But we feel that it really added to the whole concept of the shoot. Most of the beautiful ladies we worked with weren't models and the clothing is made for a really broad variety of women with different body types. So the fact that the natural action in each shot wasn't super glossy and staged turned out to work really well with the concept.
Why Super 16mm? Which stock did you shoot on?
GM: We initially were going to use 8mm film, however we decided to shoot on super 16mm upon the advice of some friends because we hoped to paint on the film after the shoot. It's literally a bigger frame to paint on, so it would make it a lot easier to see what we were drawing with a teeny tiny nail. Caitie spent many meticulous hours painting away and the paint of the film just took over frame, so we decided to use to use digitally animate the juiciness.
CS: That was great to have a go at though; you have to draw the same thing frame by frame for a very long time. I nearly went crazy because it is so tiny! One dot of paint scanned to a big blob of paint over beautiful Ruby’s face. Not ideal. Though I would love to have another go and do something a little more animated next time.
For the film, we were able to get our hands on 150ft roll of Kodak Vision 3 250D. Which was ideal for 34-degree sunny day we had. It had the perfect amount of grain creating the Kodachrome slide aesthetic we were after. I also think I was so adamant about shooting film because the process intrigued me. The medium requires a lot of time and patience. You really have to pay attention to every detail. Especially because it doesn't come cheap. Digital is so convenient and accessible that it makes sense why we choose it over film so often. But there is something in film that you really can't get anyway else.
Did you find the process of shooting film more difficult than digital?
CS: Of course, it was both our first times working with film and a Bolex camera. Digital can give you anything you want, though when I look at Super 16mm or 35mm or 70mm, whatever, that’s a whole other void you enter. Its beautiful and very hard to match no matter the tools you have.
GM: Initially, the task seemed extremely daunting. I had never even laid a finger on a film camera before. Malcolm at Camerquip in South Melbourne was a huge legend and gave me a crash course in loading a magazine and operating the Bolex camera. Half way through the shoot, we had to load a new roll of film into the camera and it was pretty terrifying so I made Caitlin come into a dark room with me for moral support and hand holding.
Another aspect of shooting on film that was quite problematic was the luminance of the viewfinder. It was an extremely sunny day, so after looking at the sun-drenched backyard, my eyes would have a lot of trouble adjusting to the darkness of the viewfinder, making it really difficult to frame shots.