“Jordan is a femme gay man—a label he wears proudly. But every time he steps out of the house with his lipstick on, he remembers his dad’s stark warning: the world will always be a dangerous place for a boy like him. After suffering heartbreak at a nightclub, Jordan meets Wes, a drug-dealer, out on the street. Wes is flirtatious, masculine, and exactly the kind of boy Jordan’s dad warned him about. Throwing caution to the wind, Jordan gets in Wes’s car, and the night takes a dangerous turn. FEMME is a response to the hyper-masculine fantasies celebrated in the films of Martin Scorsese, the Safdie Brothers, and Nicolas Winding Refn where exciting bad men do exciting terrible things, and are deified for them. It’s a genre that has historically excluded the queer voice, and we decided to do something about that.” Having its World Premiere in the Narrative Shorts Competition, we speak with directors Sam H. Freeman & Ng Choon Ping on FEMME, screening at SxSW 2021 Online!
Welcome to SxSW and congratulations! Is this your first SxSW experience?
Yes! And it’s been really exciting meeting the other filmmakers at SXSW.
How did you first hear about SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?
So many of our favourite films premiered at SXSW, that when we made our first film, the festival seemed like the natural home for us!
Tell me about the idea behind FEMME and getting it made!
We love genre films, especially thrillers. But we’ve so rarely seen ourselves in them. We wanted to make a big thriller with a queer protagonist, whose desires and fears are fully baked into the thriller plot, and through whose gaze we see a hyper-masculine part of the world. We wanted to re-center the queer character, out of the usual comedy side-kick / coming-out / romance narratives, into the full range of movie stories. We also wanted to tell a quintessentially London story, infused with the geography and culture and voices of London.
Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or movie that inspired you for this project?
The idea for our short came from watching GOOD TIME by the Safdie brothers. We love DRIVE by Nicolas Winding Refn, TAXI DRIVER and GOODFELLAS by Martin Scorsese, and THELMA & LOUISE by Ridley Scott.
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 used the Arri Alexa Mini with Master Primes. We wanted to embrace available light in all locations, and this combination unlocks almost complete freedom. We also wanted the film to have a relatively unaffected aesthetic, straddling the worlds of documentary and drama. Using the small camera size and the technically pristine lenses, we had pure freedom of hand-held movement, allowing us to play with the realism and unpredictability of every moment. This gave us very precise control over the tension and emotion of every shot.
Being all virtual this year, what do you hope to get out of the virtual SxSW experience? And where is your project going next?
We hope to introduce ourselves to the world as a writer/director duo! The next Safdies/Coens/Russos, but queer and diverse. We have currently completed the script for the feature based on the world of our short FEMME.
What would you suggest to film festivals as a way to show more short films or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?
Sponsorships for high school- and college-age filmmakers from disadvantaged communities to attend the film festivals. People can only do what they’ve been given opportunities to imagine.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone to get their start as a creator or filmmaker in the industry, what would you suggest?
Find a friend who has the same passions as you do!
And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?
WASP, by Andrea Arnold!
This film and many others like it will be showing at the virtual South By Southwest taking place March 16-20th. For more information and to register for the festival, point your browser to www.sxsw.com!