Underwire 2019: Amani Zardoe

Amani Zardoe doesn’t just have one film showing at this years Underwire Film Festival, she has multiple! Her anthology series Portraits explores how we present ourselves to the world and her XX award nominated short Lazy Money is a stoner comedy about friendship. In this interview she shares her journey into film making.

How did you find your way into film making? 

I trained as an actor but I’m a storyteller at heart. From youth through training and into work life I was never able to simply look at one character and their role within a story. I was always looking outwards to the larger ramifications of the character portrayal, the themes covered in the stories and the impact on society etc. This led to feelings of frustration quite early on, especially as a woman and POC. I started writing and producing projects as a means of creating interesting roles for myself - and for fun to be honest - but very quickly I found myself fidgeting to get behind the camera and plant myself there. 

Tell us a bit about your film Portraits? 

Portraits is an anthology of five short monologue films. Each film is unique but together they explore the theme of a ‘curated self’, which refers to versions of ourselves that we compose, package and present to the world versus what is true and hidden. There’s always an agenda with ‘curated selves’ - to be wanted, to be understood, to survive. A Tinder date story explores what control of one’s own body truly looks like, a group of outsiders explore feelings of rage over a lack of autonomy, a young woman makes a vlog to find the UK’s next Supreme Leader, and a kleptomaniac turns catfisher. In Portraits, we catch these characters in the very moments when the cracks start to show and we see their true selves emerging from beneath. 

Still from Portraits

Still from Portraits

How did you take the news of being accepted into the festival? 

Underwire is hands down one of my favourite film festivals, not only is the work that they do so important but the line-ups of short films and the special events they curate are always unusual and fantastic. So when I got the call that Anna Bogutskaya (Underwire’s Artistic Director) wanted to do a special event for Portraits I - honestly, I can’t even describe it. I was BUZZING for days. The adrenaline come down was exhausting! 

Funding in this industry can always be a challenge, how did you achieve yours? 

I made Portraits on no money actually. I had a tiny bit of budget leftover from my last film, Miss J, so I used that for post and bits and bobs, but really this was a love project made over the course of a year with a group of friends and through pulling favours from some very kind and talented people. The nature of the anthology - five different pieces provided by four different writers and set in five different locations - meant that we ended up very organically adopting a rolling process. So we were editing one piece while prepping the shoot of the next one and working on the script of the following film. It was fun! And also worked well when you’re making something for no money. 

Still from Portraits

Still from Portraits

What was the most challenging aspect of making your film and how did you overcome this? 

Portraits was actually probably my easiest project to make. There wasn’t any time pressure, the stakes were pretty low as I was making it mostly for fun and to explore and learn. I also purposely imposed strict limitations on locations, setting, length of time, number of actors etc. so I knew it was going to be manageable. 

My most recent short film, Lazy Money, which has also been accepted into Underwire and for which I’m up for the XX Award, was very challenging on the other hand. We experienced multiple random technical glitches, scheduling issues, the pressure of legal restraints and missed deadlines. There was a moment in the middle of post where I had the very real fear that I wasn’t going to be able to get this film completed, which was something I’d never experienced before. I feel an enormous amount of responsibility when making a film to be sure it gets made well, on budget and on time, so everyone who’s been involved and who put time and talent and sweat into it can be proud of the end product. So facing the possibility of letting the team down was terrifying. Finding a way to get back on it and keep driving the machine was probably the biggest challenge I had to overcome. People never talk about the emotional and mental stress involved in making a film, because a lot of film making is really fun and when things go well, that’s all you want to talk about. But I think it’s important to flag and share the moments where nothing seems to be working out. So this was a great question! 

Still from Lazy Money

Still from Lazy Money

Underwire celebrates female film making talent in the industry, what female film makers do you look up to? 

Lynne Ramsay, Ava DuVernay, Nadine Labaki, Kathryn Bigelow, Reed Morano, Andrea Arnold, Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion, Patty Jenkins, Alice Rohrwacher, Kate Herron. So many awesome women! 

What’s the next project for you? 

I have a couple of feature scripts I’m working on with a view to possibly making a short first but so far I’ve produced all of my projects either in part or in full so I want to find a really fantastic producer to collaborate with before I make my next project. Passionate producers come say hi! 

Portraits along with a panel discussion is showing on Tuesday 17th September at Rich Mix and Lazy Money is screening in the Best Friends Forever category on Thursday 19th September at The Castle Cinema. For tickets and more information on Underwire 2019 visit their website here.

You can follow Amani on all social media channels via @AmaniZardoe and view more of her work on her website www.heavywait.co.uk.