As part of the Texas High School Shorts Program, THE GOOD WIFE’S GUIDE is a take on 1950s housewife culture based off of Housekeeping Monthly‘s article “The Good Wife’s Guide” published in 1955. We spoke with director Chloe Merriman who is premiering the title at SxSW 2021 Online.
Welcome to SxSW and congratulations! Is this your first SxSW experience?
Yes! I’m so excited and honored to be a part of SXSW this year.
How did you first hear about SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?
I first heard about SxSW when I was in middle school. My school is fortunate enough to have such a good film program, thanks to my teacher Corbin Doyle, and we have had a lot of other student films get in for the last 13 years. Every year, we have a showcase of various pieces of artwork, from dance to paining to improv to film. One of the first student films I watched had gotten into SxSW for Texas High School Shorts which is when I first heard about the festival. And if I’m being totally honest, I would never have submitted my film to SxSW had it not been for my film teacher Corbin Doyle, who made it required in order to pass the class.
Tell me about the idea behind THE GOOD WIFE’S GUIDE and getting it made!
While I was bored in quarantine I watched an unhealthy amount of YouTube. I stumbled upon an old Danny Gonzales video about weird 1950’s “How To” videos, many of which were about how wives could do things for their husbands. As I was out of ideas for the summer film camp I was enrolled in at my school (via zoom), I thought why not go down this route. During one of my breakout rooms, where I was paired with all the other people who wanted to go down the animation route, I stumbled upon this article called “The Good Wife’s Guide” from Housekeeping Monthly in the 1950’s. I found it to be extremely unsettling and weird, which seemed like the two perfect factors I needed to make a film. I began by creating various backgrounds, some out of magazine cutouts and others out of collages I just found on google after making my own collage took too much work. After, I printed out various women from the 1950’s that could match the article- cooking, vacuuming, serving a husband, or just looking pretty. I cut those images out as well as the women’s heads, then cut out a background for all 12 which was just from printer paper. After gluing on the images onto each background, I took pictures of them, and removed the excess background so that the image only contained the headless women and their white backgrounds. I repeated this process with a window showing that it was snowing outside and a fireplace to go along with the one of the lines. I edited all the frames on my phone by layering the colored collaged backgrounds, and digitally drawing scribbles to replace the women’s heads. I tried to make this as easy as possible for me by making as few frames as possible then just reusing them once I started editing on premiere pro. Once all the scenes were uploaded to my laptop I looked up voice generators so they could say the lines as I didn’t want to say them myself. This was a super long process but it was worth it in the end.
Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or movie that inspired you for this project?
Before I began working on my film one of my camp counselors, Jaclyn Goldstein, tried to inspire me and the other animators I was grouped with with various short films off of vimeo and I got inspired by a few but cannot for the life of me remember who created them.
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?
Like I said before I used my phone for everything except editing. I wouldn’t say I had any creative challenges, only that I realized later that I could have cut out a lot of steps to make the process easier and less time consuming.
Being all virtual this year, what do you hope to get out of the virtual SxSW experience? And where is your project going next?
I hope to get a good sense of the thinking and creative process of other creators. Next, my short film will be screened alongside other short films from our school in our annual AVP (Advanced Video Production) screening, and I can’t wait!
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?
I don’t have a lot of experience with film festivals, but if there were a page on the festival’s website where people could access some of these films for free or a small fee after the festival occurs I think that’d be great, unless that already exists.
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?
I would just suggest to follow your gut and don’t worry about whether or not people will like it, do what you want and what you like.
And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?
I know this is a super basic choice but I love Disney’s BAO! I remember seeing it and being reminded of my mom who makes really good bao, and it’s just nice to see your culture represented.
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!