SxSW 2022 Interview – ROOMMATES director Ashley Eakin

“OK so think THE HANGOVER meets SUPERBAD or BOOKSMART, but make it disabled.” Director Ashley Eakin on ROOMMATES which screens at SxSW 2022.

Welcome to SxSW and congratulations! Is this your first SxSW experience?

YES! My short film SINGLE was selected for the 2020 SXSW festival and we were so excited to attend in person, but everything got cancelled because of the pandemic. However, my film did win the Special Jury Recognition prize, despite having an actual event. So this will be my very first time going in-person!

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

I was an alum in 2020 and my film SINGLE launched my entire career, we’re now developing it as a series with FX. I know the power of this festival and the fun surrounding it. We are thrilled to be back!

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

Paul Feig’s production company Powderkeg selected me to be a part of their cohort and when deciding which project to pursue, I wanted to make something that was fun and included disabled stories. I love putting two disabled characters together that have different views and seeing what happens. We only had one day to shoot, so budget and time was definitely a factor. We shot in Los Angeles in September and it was such a fun experience. Our producers were wonderful and our cast is the best. I got to spend a few days rehearsing with the girls, which resulted in way too many laughs and killer performances on camera days later.

Who are some of your creative inspirations? Any particular filmmaking talent or movie that inspired you for this project?

I love a coming-of-age R-rate comedy but I haver never seen it done with authentically disabled talent. I am a disabled filmmaker and had a whole college experience but prior to attending, I was terrified. I had no idea if disabled people were going to be accepted in that world and so I made a film I wish I saw growing up that tells us we do belong. It’s also important for me to make things that share disabled joy. There is undoubtedly pain that comes with being disabled, but also joy. I have made a variety of projects but I knew for this, I wanted to celebrate our community.

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 an Alexa Mini, our incredible DP Arlene Muller and myself drew inspiration from Euphoria with the neon lights and visceral approach. We shot in one day and in a dorm room that was very very small. We had to get creative with angles and using daylight to our advantage when needed. It was a tough shoot, but the crew was such a fun group so it was worth it!

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?

Hybrid festivals are key these days to make more short films accessible, especially for the disability community who does not always have the access to travel to each fest.

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?

One. Start somewhere. It will never be perfect, and you will be scared, but do it anyways and Two: Story is KING.

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

AUDIBLE, a short film by Matt Ogens on Netflix nominated for an Oscar this year.

This film and many others like it will be showing at South By Southwest taking place March 11-20. For more information point your browser to!

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