SxSW 2020 Interview – FACE TO FACE TIME director Izzy Shill

“It’s a 5 minute sex comedy about a video chat that goes terribly wrong. It’s so awkward that you want to kill yourself.” Director Izzy Shill on FACE TO FACE TIME which screens at the 2020 edition of SxSW in the short films section. 

Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW

Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?

Yes I will be attending SXSW. Super excited about it! I’ve never been to Austin so I cannot wait. The last time I was in Texas I had my first kiss. Hopefully SXSW will be a good palate cleanser. 

How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?

I first heard about SXSW when I made a short a few years ago. My friend who directed it went to AFI and was much more up on all the festivals than me. I was acting at the time and was really segregated to auditions and acting class. I was not plugged into the indie scene at all. 

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

I wrote this about four years ago and tried to get it made seriously and half-heartedly for ages. I did not have the confidence to direct so I had a bunch of other people attached to make it happen. Ultimately I realized that I just needed to do it all myself, which is what ended up happening in terms of logistics and financing. For years people told me the budget would have to be $10,000. But I had written a project specifically to be easy to make. It is 2 people, 2 rooms, 1 day. Why on earth would it have to cost that much? Ultimately I pulled together an amazing team of people who MOSTLY worked for free for me. I’m incredibly grateful to all of them, especially my DP, the amazing Adam Coleman, who was integral to the process of pushing it to the finish line. 

Who are some of your main creative inspirations?

My terrifying dating experiences. This specifically has never happened to me. It is more of a “What if?”. But I have experienced this level of discomfort many MANY times in my years of singledom. I felt like inflicting it on other people.

How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?

We shot this on an Article Amira with Schneider Xenon 25mm lenses and used an Eye Direct, which is a mirror box that attaches to the end of the lens. People use them in infomercials and corporate tutorials. Essentially an actor can look directly into the lens and see the other actor who is standing right next to the camera. This is a very intimate conversation that depends entirely on reacting to small movements. It was crucial to me that the actors be able to look each other in the eyes. Feel so lucky that someone created the technology! 

After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?

I do not have another festival lined up just yet. I am waiting to hear back from a bunch of places. I just submitted to Cannes. I would love to play there to the fancy French to see how they reacted. I feel like this project, unlike a lot of comedies, has the potential to travel well. Thematically it is a universal experience: trying to connect with someone and be seen. Plus the dialogue is very simple. 

What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

That is a great question. I think people would go see blocks of shorts if they were linked thematically. If an audience member felt confident that they could feel consumed for a solid period of time and walk away with an experience, message, or topic that was thoroughly explored by different filmmakers, I think he/ she/ they would happily dedicate their time and funds.

If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker or creator, what would you suggest to get their start?

Read plays. And make friends! Both of these have helped me immensely. I am trained as an actor and have studied storytelling and theater for about a decade. Intimately understanding the dialogue of characters penned by the great playwrights has enabled me to write in several different styles and genres. I can hear different kinds of voices in my head and choose why that style would best serve the story. Often I think about an idea and think “Oh you know what? That reminds me so much of Harold Pinter…”, for example. It is not that I am copying them or their style, but having a varied and deep understanding of your own medium is key to expanding your own canon. 

And make friends if you want to actually make your movie happen. Most of us are struggling artists who are trying to figure out how to make money to survive, let alone have an extra $20k stashed away just to shoot a short film. This film came together because of personal relationships that I had fostered over time. Friendships shifted easily into super positive working relationships. Be yourself, and above all be a good friend and people will show up for you. I was blown away by people’s generosity and am incredibly grateful to my team. 

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

Ah! Tough question! You know, I am not a connoisseur of shorts, but my favorite that I have seen is called THE BATHTUB by Tim Ellrich. I love shorts that are a moment in time that really grab you. This short is captured in a single shot. It’s about brothers trying to recreate a photograph from their childhood for their mother’s birthday. The taut family relationships, the baggage in every line and the inside humor made this short sharply realistic. I loved it and thought about it all the time. You can check it out on Short of the Week, another killer website.

For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!

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