When Hanna’s brother introduces her to his new girlfriend, Wilma, it transpires to be an awkward time since they are definitely not strangers to each other. Director, Julia Boström, speaks to us about her short film, Children Alike, and the importance of standing up for your vision as a director.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO DIRECTING?
JULIA: My first experience of directing for film was when I did my best friend’s music video. The rush that it gave me was amazing and I loved the process of putting all the bits and pieces together. I discovered that filmmaking takes a lot of patience, but I like to imagine the result of a film and then work systematically to get there. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing hard work transform into a beautiful film. After my debut I began my studies in media and culture management. During that time I decided I wanted to make movies. I reached out to all kinds of networks. I found WIFT (Women in Film and Television), a network for female filmmakers. At the WIFT meetings, we shared our stories and processes as we helped and encouraged one another.
At the time I was a new filmmaker and contributed mostly my ideas and inputs on the acting process. Nevertheless I was taken seriously, invited to participate just as much as everyone else. I’ve never had that experience in a community before. Those meetings made me grow tremendously. It was during that time I also got into a talent program that helped young filmmakers produce their first film. I was very eager, so I was put in a group of four women and we were told to make three films about different women in our city. The films were to make an anthology and our coach told us we should aim for Cannes Film Festival! We all laughed at the idea, but our coach was dead serious. This was when I wrote Children Alike. We filmed my film first at the end of August that same year. All the films were finished a year later.
We soon discovered how different the films were and considered that we might have more success if we separated them rather then kept them as an anthology. My film got into the national competition for young filmmakers. And later, the largest LGBTQ film festival in the world, Frameline42. It was a dream come true, that came much sooner than I had anticipated.
WHERE DID THE CONCEPT OF THE STORIES COME FROM?
JULIA: I was told by my coach that the film should only be around 5-10 mins long and about a woman my own age. I wondered what kind of story I wanted to tell and when I started writing, almost immediately my scripts wound up telling the story of same sex attraction. Probably because thats what was occupying my mind a lot at that time…The story first became a kind of revenge story between a brother and sister, but later it turned into an awkward yet funny triangle drama. My coach, Boel, was a great support, being extremely frank in her feedback. After maybe ten drafts and we both laughed at the ending, it felt just right.
DID YOU COME ACROSS ANY OBSTACLES DURING THE MAKING OF THE FILM? IF YES, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?
JULIA: Since it was my first film, there were of course some technical problems. However, my biggest obstacle was to claim the right to my film. By that I mean that sometimes I had to fight to decide which creative direction to take. Since the film was made within a talent program, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between when I was receiving constructive feedback and when I was losing control of my project. Making a film is teamwork, but only the director can guide all the pieces together to make a one of a kind story. When I started to feel that the management was trying to control my story and not giving us the freedom to do what we wanted with our film, that’s when I had to speak up. I took on the fight, and I'm very happy I did, otherwise I’m sure the film would not have made it this far. I learned that when you stand up for what feels right you gain respect, but you should pick your battles wisely.
WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE OF MAKING THIS FILM?
JULIA: With telling this kind of story comes a lot of responsibilities. You need to treat this kind of situation with a lot of heart, otherwise the people whom it might concern could feel neglected or used merely as a trigger to ”spice things up.” I think the only way to do it right is to always tell from your heart and be honest. Thats why my first meeting with Mille and Jonna (the lead actors) was so important to me. We discussed Wilma’s journey and their history together, and how we all have had that experience of sometimes not being able to put words on our feelings towards other women. At this meeting, I actually felt understood for the first time, and I knew that I found the perfect actors for my film.
HOW DID YOU FIND CREATING THE ATMOSPHERE OF AWKWARDNESS AND TENSION BETWEEN THE CHARACTERS WHILST ALSO KEEPING THE TONE OF THE FILM QUITE LIGHT?
JULIA: I believe it was quite simple since the situation in itself is quite serious, but we love to laugh at those kinds of tricky situations. The lovely thing about Children Alike is that Wilma says something in the end that is completely different than what is expected from her. I think that all the work that Mille and Jonna did to build the connection really gave the extra tension between them. You can actually see that they share the same experience of what has happened between them and how hard it is to hide. Then adding Johannes to the story, with all of his energy and enthusiasm about showing off his new girlfriend, is just heartbreaking and ironic. I always feel strongly for him in the end. He is needed to lighten up the situation and I think the sympathy you get for all the characters is key to making it so hopeless and difficult. Also, I leave a lot of the imagination to the audience. I think leaving some things unsaid is a good way to keep the audience intrigued.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR FILM?
JULIA: I hope the film will brighten up their day and maybe even inspire them to be open to whatever feelings they might be struggling with.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
JULIA: I’m currently working on my next film that is called Midsommar (Midsummer’s Eve). It’s a 20 min film about the power struggle between couple, Sara and Martin, during the celebration of Midsummer’s Eve in Sweden. It’s a film about identity and oppressive relationships.
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?
JULIA: Tell true stories about you and the world around you. Being true creates important, life changing stories that will force the industry to open up to women. Female directed films get higher ratings with less budget. Just imagine what we could do with all the money!
Also, build networks that give you strength. We are not used to being cheered on with a pat on the back. Let’s give more of that to each other. Having a strong support system of other female filmmakers make us believe in ourselves and gives us the strength to speak up.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
Children Alike is showing in the DANCING WITH A STRANGER shorts collection on Sat 30 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the trailer below along with links to the film makers social media platforms.