Interviews / Women Film-makers

INTERVIEW- Diorella Mirsol, director of ‘Happy Melancholy’ talks her inspirations, award shows and upcoming projects

Diorella

Back in January we reviewed Diorella Mirasol’s latest short ‘Happy Melancholy’, clearly sporting a keen directors eye and sharp humour, we got back in touch with her to speak with her about her process as a film-maker, the making of Happy Melancholy, her inspirations and the gender bias in the film industry…

 

Tell us about how you got into film to start off, was it your academic choice or something you pursued on the side?

As a child Drama and Theatre Studies were a large part of my school curriculum.  It was a subject I excelled at from primary school into high school and acting came very naturally to me.  I remember in Grade 3 my teacher would hand my parents different clippings from newspapers for drama schools but when I was younger, funnily enough, tennis was my passion and I took it very seriously so although acting was fun it was something I enjoyed at school and tennis was extra curricular.

Movies were my education.  I devoted more time to watching a film than doing my homework and I wrote creatively as a child about fantastical realms and created crazy characters.  It was in high school that I was given an opportunity to participate in a school drama festival and I put my hand up to write the script.  The writing process was so very exhilarating.  Creating the characters, their conflicts and their destiny was so rewarding.  The story was a satirical view on the Greek Gods attempting to put their incestuous differences aside to save humanity.  When the play was performed in 2001 we were the clear favourites and the audience roared with laughter.  Experiencing that high of creating a story that entertained the viewers unearthed a passion in me I hadn’t experienced before and I was inspired to continue creating.

From there I directed some school plays and decided to study Film & TV.  In between I’d make shorts or skits with friends.  I’d watch movies and read books immersing myself emotionally and be so moved that I knew I wanted to be that person that wanted to give that back to those who appreciated the art form the way I did.  Aside from a collision of experiences the driving force to becoming a filmmaker was my love for film and being a storyteller.

Was there any particular film/film-maker that inspired you to take the path of director, if so, what/who?

Where do I begin!? There are a plethora of directors I admire ranging from Woody Allen, for his well-written banter and cynical observations on life, which I tend to agree with.  Michael Haneke for his high standard of intelligent and emotive direction.  Mike Nichols, who had such range and talent for all genres.  However, one director who stands out for me would be Joseph L. Mankiewicz who won 4 Oscars inclusive of Best Director and Best Screenplay for ‘All About Eve’ and ‘A Letter To Three Wives’.  He also directed two favourties, Cleopatra and Suddenly Last Summer.

Aside from his evident talent based on his accolades Mankiewicz was a filmmaker that believed writing and directing were mutually exclusive and in the case of Cleopatra his evident conviction towards that was tested.  He spent long days directing and even longer nights writing concurrently as the film was in production hardly sleeping.  That to me is a true example of passion and dedication for the art of filmmaking.  Additionally Mankiewicz was noted for his preference for female protagonists.  He found the mindset of a woman much more interesting and also found it a nice challenge to tell a tale from another perspective.   Whilst most could say that Cleopatra’s character is over sexualised I see Mankiewicz’s directorial choices portray Cleopatra as a highly educated and politically intellectual historical figure’s plight for both conquering love and kingdom which is admirable.

Literature also played a huge part in my drive to become a filmmaker.  In my youth the Bronte sister’s books, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ made a profound impact on me.  It sparked emotions so deep within that I almost felt the earth moved beneath me.  What a hyperbole!  Such admiration for storytellers who bring me into their world vicariously to a point, which every emotion expressed, written or felt becomes my own, is an incredible achievement and that, as a storyteller is what I strive for.  I genuinely believe being a storyteller is one of the biggest contributions that I can make in this beautiful world.  It is the best way to speak to people I may never meet and give them a valuable part of me.

Do you believe that there is discrimination against women in film, have you experienced any of this yourself in regards to getting funding, on-set and at festivals?

There is discrimination against women in all areas of our modern world; the film world is no exception.  However times have changed and statistics towards equality have increased ranging from education, pay grades and positions of power.  That said, there is still a gap in complete equality.

In my personal experience as a female director I have not experienced discrimination based on my gender to such a degree.  I recall being hired for the Broadcast role with Disney and upon walking into the broadcast room my boss looked me up and down.  This for me, was not because I was a woman or incapable of the role.  My CV spoke for itself and my demeanour was nothing but professional.  I could tell immediately that my boss’ initial concern was my size and stature.  I am pint sized at 5ft on board a cruise ship sailing through challenging weather conditions working on board a vessel that was somewhat regimented like the Navy.  Additionally, my role was to film on board and on land carrying lighting, cameras, lenses and other large forms of professional equipment.  He was considerate of that and when shoots required more equipment would organise an assistant for me.  I was one of only 2 females in a male driven environment and no concessions or displays of discrimination were given to me based on my gender.  I was one of the boys and refused the princess treatment which was liberating.  My other female colleague was one of the leads in the sound department who was very well respected for her experience and commitment to her role.  My only concern however, was that I had found out the Broadcast Specialist prior to me was paid more and male.  I will not however state the lower pay rate was due to the fact that I was a woman.  At that point this was a career break for me and I was willing to work for less for the experience but it does make me wonder if that was ever a contributing factor.

As for on-set or with funding?  At present there has been no discrimination with regards to my independent film projects or during the festival circuit.  However, I have found in the professional realm when applying for jobs or being interviewed in Production Management roles there has been a level of discrimination as I feel I have to explain my marital status as the prospect of potentially becoming pregnant can sometimes become a deterrent to potential employers.  Understandable that this could affect project timelines or require a fill-in during maternity leave but for me personally, the thought of divulging personal information such as marital status and plans for a child are better left exempt from a job interview.

I was however disappointed in this year’s Oscar Awards knowing that women nominated in creative fields were quite marginalised to that of the men.  There was an interesting article in The Guardian in 2014 relating to a United Nations backed study which stated that less than a third of all speaking roles in films went to women.   Further statistics showed less than 22.5% in the film industry were made up of women which is definitely cause for concern.  Whilst the stats are lacking the plethora of talented and capable women who are putting their hands up for these roles is not lacking.

Actress turned activist Geena Davis made a great statement on the issue:

“There are woefully few women CEOs in the world, but there can be lots of them in films. How do we encourage a lot more girls to pursue science, technology and engineering careers? By casting droves of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), politics, law and other professions today in movies.”

For all those women out there pursuing a goal, be it film or any other profession.  Now’s the time to change statistics, gender inequality and pervasive stereotyping.

And now onto your latest short, the brilliant Happy Melancholy; where did the idea first come from and how did you go about filming?

The concept for Happy Melancholy originated from an idea I had several years back about two down and out individuals falling in love with one another for their imperfections and it was a matter of creating the characters and the world they were in.  Instead of only creating a real world for the audience I wanted to take them into the world of those who struggle with reality and what they consider their ‘happy place’ in order to escape and feel freedom.

In life, and based on my own experiences, people fall in love when both find a common ground of fears and insecurities and not only lift one another’s spirits but take them away from their current, seeming stagnant, world into a world of fantasy and unlimited possibilities.  Happy Melancholy is a literal portrayal of that and Penny and Gene meet unexpectedly to give each other the taste of happiness they were both craving and afraid to find on their own.  They guide one another but of course reality and conflict always finds a way to catch up with us and it does for these two lovebirds.

Filming went for 5 days overall but was drawn out over a couple of months based on the bloom of the canola fields which are only in season 2 weeks of the year in September here in Australia.  We were lucky that spring was approaching which allowed for all the colourful outdoor scenes in the Rhododendron Garden to show the pinks, reds and greens at their brightest.  We had an extremely dedicated crew who ventured out many hours from home to these locations in the blistering heat for long days which turned into some tiresome nights also.

Have you got another short in the works or planning a feature anytime soon that you could spill some details on?

Yes, a million times yes!

There are a few projects brewing this year, which I’m very excited about.   Heidi Valkenburg who played the quirky Penny in Happy Melancholy and I are co-writing our series ‘Ingenue’ which is set to release this year.  We’re still in the process of writing so the details are a little hush hush but I’ll just say this: It’s funny!  Slap your knee, choke on your food, tears in your eyes funny.  Rock hard abs guaranteed post the first season or your money back!

My first feature, my baby, my one true love, ‘Wives and Lovers’, which I’ve been writing since the days of parchment and quills, ok not that long (but close enough) is still on the go and I’m looking to finish that by the end of the year to get the production moving in 2016.  ‘Wives and Lovers’ is a psychological drama which focuses on the failing marriage of Spencer and Evelyn who resort to perverse violent acts and a life threatening game of truth or dare in order to salvage their turbulent relationship.

Quite the contrast from the light and fluffy ‘Happy Melancholy’ and comedic value of ‘Ingenue’ but ironically is the genre of writing and storytelling I lean towards.  I love playing on the human psyche and exploring the dark side of our minds to find what we’re truly capable of when tested and how far one’s conscience goes.

Feel free to check out the News tab on my website diorellamirasol.com for upcoming projects.

And finally a quick fire question:

What’s your favourite film you’ve seen in the past year?

Nymphomaniac Part 1 and 2.

 

By Chloe Leeson


CHLOEChloe Leeson is 19 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller & Dane DeHaan a whole lot. Her favourite films are The Beach, Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants @kawaiigoff.

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