Scottish filmmaker Siri Rodnes is one of five directors selected for 2016's online LGBT film festival Five Films 4 Freedom, with her short Take Your Partners. Siri, who has an MA in Directing Fiction from the NFTS, is also developing her debut feature Nine Lives.
What’s your connection to the British Council?
The British Council have supported me in a number of ways over the last few years. Travel grants to attend the Berlinale firstly in 2013 to participate in the Berlinale Talent Campus, then again this year (with a little help from Creative Scotland, too) to support my short film Take Your Partners, which premiered in Generation Kplus.
Most excitingly though, is our inclusion in this year's FiveFilms4Freedom, which makes Take Your Partners and four shorts available online for the duration of BFI Flare (16-27 March). There is a huge online campaign to get everyone to watch at least one of the films on 17 March, then share and discuss it on social media.
Our inclusion in FiveFilms4Freedom is a dream come true for us. Love is a human right and we are delighted and proud to help promote that idea in all corners of the globe.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on my debut feature film. It’s a contained and grounded sci-fi called Nine Lives, adapted from the short story of the same name by Ursula K. Le Guin. I co-wrote the screenplay with Tom Basden and it is being produced by Gavin Humphries at Quark Films.
It’s a really exciting project for me, not just because it will be my first feature, but because it is sci-fi and I love sci-fi. I’m a total geek. I am also currently developing a treatment with SFTN and Creative Scotland for a feature film based on Take Your Partners, where we meet Ollie later in life, so it’s more of a sequel that a 'feature version’. A small part of the story takes place in the near future, so it also has science-fiction undertones.
What originally turned you onto film?
As a kid I can remember painstakingly pausing the VCR during the ad breaks as I recorded (usually sci-fi action) movies off the telly. I guess film is just something I never grew out off. Some teenagers write diaries or journals, I wrote screenplays. Secret screenplays, they weren’t for anyone else at first, more a means of escapism. Being gay and in the closet until I was 17, writing films was a way to add narrative to my fantasies as well as express how I was secretly feeling. But I never really took a career in film seriously until my early 20s when I decided to go study film production at Edinburgh College of Art. Since then it has been my life.
What has been your career high so far?
Right now actually. Last year I made a bunch of short films, of which Take Your Partners and Grimm Street are now at the beginning of their festival runs, with Take Your Partners premiering last month in Berlin and screening now at BFI Flare. Tomorrow is the designated FiveFilms4Freedom day which is crazy exciting. And yesterday both my leading ladies, Lily Graham (11) and Sarah Miele (22), were nominated for a Bafta Scotland New Talent Award for Best Performance for their roles inTake Your Partners and Grimm Street, respectively. We are all feeling pretty high right now.
What was your first job in the film industry?
In my heart it was the Saturday job at my local video store, but professionally I have only really ever worked as a director and writer. However, I did spend 5 years in education (3 undergrad, 2 masters) so I have first hand experience in every part of the process. From runner to First AD to Boom Op to Colourist, crewing up for each other is just how it works.
What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?
Study the craft, formally if you can. Otherwise just keep making films as often as you can. And experiment! The only way to make good stuff is to make shit stuff first. It’s 50% perseverance.
What’s the first film you remember seeing?
I guess they would be Disney movies. I always found the enslavement and/or death of the mothers pretty devastating like in Bambi and Dumbo, and I can remember being disappointed when Bambi turned out to be a dude (stag). It was a bit like someone saying, yes but if you were a deer you wouldn’t get to have antlers, those are only for boys, which turned out to be a pretty accurate allegory for life as a woman. However, I absolutely loved Disney’s Robin Hood, especially when they dress up in drag to swindle Prince John. I also really liked how Maid Marion and Robin where kind of the same, just wearing different clothes. I guess I found them both quite easy to relate to as a gender non-confirming child.
What’s your favourite line or scene from a film?
"Clever girl.” I love the scene in Jurassic Park when the Raptors outsmart Robert Muldoon. It’s such as great action sequence, full of suspense.
Favourite screen kiss?
The kiss in Fucking Åmål by Swedish director Lucas Moodysson. The film is called Show Me Love in English. Having only just met properly for the first time, the two teenage female leads kiss in the back of a car they’ve just hitched a ride in, and to the soundtrack of Robyn’s "Show Me Love" no less. It teeters so close to cheesy, but instead manages to brilliantly capture the intensity of being a horny, curious teenager. Even though they get thrown out when the car owner returns, there is such a positive energy to it all, you really feel their lustful intoxication in the moment!
Who’s your favourite screen hero and/or villain?
That’s easy! Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley from the Alien trilogy. I am discounting the fourth instalment because the story removed what was so great about her character in the first place, plus the film is far from on a par with the others. In films 1 to 3 ,her character manages to maintain a moral high ground without ever being self righteous, which is a tricky line to navigate. If they had only just listened to her in the first place the alien would never have got onboard the Nostromo and they’d all be alive (except for Kane obviously). Granted that wouldn’t make for exciting viewing, but her initial protest established an integrity and strength of character she manages to maintain and even build on in the sequels. She is also just badass and I want to be her when I grow up!
Who would play you in the film about your life?
Ewan McGregor. It’s called Trainspotting. No, I’m too boring to bother making a film about. There would be a lot of sitting at computers...
Watch Take Your Partners here until March 27: