A friendship is jeopardised after a drunken hook-up in Rosie Westhoff’s short film Treacle. Here she talks to us about putting the relationship/friendship within the film together and giving the B in LGBT a louder voice.
How did you get into directing?
ROSIE: I started out working as producer for commercials and branded content. And then I moved into working as an assistant director in scripted film & television. After working with probably about 50 directors I started to think, "I think I can do this…." So around 2016 I decided to move into working as a writer-director. In 2017 my first short film “Crush”, premiered at BFI Flare my seconds at the Scottish Mental health Festival and now "Treacle"!
Where did the concept of the story come from?
ROSIE: This actually stemmed from true life experiences of April Kelley the writer (who also stars and producers). She never had the courage to deal with the situations how she wanted to at the time so wanted to explore that within the film as well as shine a light on one of the least represented communities within LGBTQ+. There’s a tendency for bisexuals to feel disposable and we wanted to show how seemingly harmless actions can have a lasting effect on those who identify as bisexual.
Did you come across any obstacles during the making of the film?
ROSIE: One of the biggest challenges was conducting pre-production from the UK. It was like herding fish. We had to make the brave/crazy decision to just head out there and grab the metaphorical bull by the horns and we pulled it all together within two weeks, everything from locations, to cast, to crew. We were fortunate that it works completely in our favour - it was scary though.
What was the best part of the experience of making this film?
ROSIE: Do I have to chose one? Im going to pick two. Firstly working with the amazing producers Sara Huxley from mini productions and our US producer Katie Rotolo. I have never felt so supported in my life and its because of those two that we were able to make this film the way we did. And equally to that it was getting to work with the cast April and Ari and see the chemistry they have on screen because of all the hard work we put into rehearsals. Throwing two strangers together and making them best friends doesn't just happen, it takes a lot of work in rehearsal and I think we got there in the end.
How important was it to show the complex dynamic between the two friends, both before and after the drunken hook up?
ROSIE: It’s the core of the film. Without establishing Belle and Jessie’s friendship there would be very little heart in the aftermath, especially if they were just strangers: I think we can all relate to the friendship at the start, painfully familiar, crude, endearing yet mocking... we hope you’ll watch it and it’ll remind you of you and your bestie, so then, with that in mind the incident is all the more impactful. Despite whether Jessie did or didn’t mean to hurt Belle, she does and may have destroyed the friendship in doing so.
What do you want the audience to take away from your film?
ROSIE: We hope we’ve told a story that regardless of your sexuality you’ll be able to relate to this story. Although it’s a buddy film at heart we hope that audiences come away with a broader understanding of bisexuality and that it isn’t just a phase or experiment. We want to give the ‘B’ in LGBT a louder voice.
Only 4% of the highest grossing films in the past decade were directed by women, being a female director can be disheartening in this environment. What would your advice be for aspiring female directors out there?
ROSIE: Being a new director trying to crack it is hard regardless of your gender. However the hard truth is males are given directing jobs based on potential and women are given directing jobs based on experience, so you have to get that experience anyway you can. For me thats been investing in myself and my own work when no one else will. And also be ready to work 7 days a week!
What’s next for you?
ROSIE: I've got a very exciting short film I'm shooting in May but I actually can't talk too much about it, I'll be able to in April so you can ask me then! I can tell you that it's a drama short with an autistic lead and I really can't wait to make it, I think it's going to be really special. Im working with another female producer Fiona Hardigham at Adapted Pictures who is a force of nature. Her work ethic is insane and I again feel very supported which is all I can ask for really.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Treacle showed in the CALM INSIDE THE STORM shorts collection on Sun 24 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view links to the film makers social media platforms below.