After its screening at Paris Lift-Off, one of our festival volunteers, Betsy, interviewed Daphne Schmon, director of family drama short All of Me.
Interview by Elizabeth Kim.
Hi Daphne. So where was the film shot?
We shot the first portion in London and the second in Dungeness—I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but it’s a beautiful seaside town in England. We purposely wanted the two [scenes] to feel very different: the scene shot in London is essentially Viv’s stage; it’s very stylized, with high contrast lighting. And then when she goes back home, we wanted the film to feel like a documentary, more raw and real.
I noticed that in the beginning, Viv is a performer who can control her own image so that she seems powerful. When she’s singing onstage, there’s all this color and lighting; the audience is filming her on their phones because she’s the star of the show. But when she goes back home, everything starts to look very bleak and colorless.
Yes! Like you said, she can control her image in London, but she is out of control back home. And we also use long takes to show that anything can happen—it’s not the controlled cinema of the first half.
I think my favorite part was that long take during the home scene—was that one continuous shot?
Almost—we filmed it as one 8-minute continuous shot, but there ended up being certain portions that we liked better from beginning to end, so we split it up into three shots. And what a lot of people don’t realize is that Chereen Buckley, our lead actress, was pregnant during the filming. So it was cold, she was pregnant, and we were doing one 8-minute continuous take. But she comes from a theatre background, so she actually said that as an actress, she found it easier to film without breaking in between shots.
And how many takes before you got the right one?
We rehearsed for an entire day and then we filmed for an entire day [trying to get] that 8-minute shot. And we got to the end of it three times. But the very ending sequence you see in the film is the very first take, because I felt like it was the most emotional and sincere one.
It was tough because we were filming inside a house, so the entire crew was crowded in one room and I had to cue each crew member. There were even certain people set up around the house to help the young boy get in and out of the shots. But it was really fun, and such a challenge—we had to light it from above because the camera was moving 360 degrees around the actors.
It turned out great. What kind of camera did you use to shoot it?
We used an RE Mini with Cooke Anamorphic Lenses, which is why the film is so wide-screen. But we chose the RE Mini because we knew we had this long take and we wanted it to more lightweight so it would be easier for the Steadicam operator.
So someone is wearing the camera, filming by walking and turning?
Yes. A Steadicam is basically a stabilization rig that you wear like a harness around your body. And our Steadicam operator Svetlana Mikos is amazing. I always called her “The Beast” because the camera is fairly heavy, and to go in and out of that house and through the corridors with that size of a rig is really difficult. She did amazingly well.
Moving onto casting: did Chereen sing too?
No, actually she didn’t! I’m happy that you thought so, though. The song Trans Rosetta actually existed before the film. It’s a song written by some friends of ours—their band is called ACM. The song is about being genderqueer and also about how one shouldn’t be judged on appearance. And so we created a character around that song: she is genderqueer but also straight, struggling with cancer and family problems—all in all, a very complex character who isn’t necessarily how she appears. And we wanted to show a character onscreen who was unusual in that she was mixed race and gender queer, but not have the story be about that. We wanted the story to be about her health and her family.
Could you talk a little bit about your background? Did you study film in college?
I did! So I’m from New York, and I studied film at Wesleyan University. But my background is actually in documentary filmmaking, so I tend to gravitate towards the documentary style—I love handheld camera and long shots. I’ve made three feature documentaries, and All of Me is actually my first professional narrative film. I really loved it, so I’m looking to move more into narrative filmmaking. But I’ll always chase the good story, whether that needs to be told as a documentary or a narrative. The story is what draws me in.
It’s awesome that you can draw on your experience as a documentary filmmaker, regardless of any genre film you’re making.
Yes, exactly. And I also love working with actors, so I built in a lot of rehearsal, even for this short film. It was really important for me to find a good lead actress—Chereen sort of carries the film. She’s just so honest in everything she does. We were lucky to find her.
Just to finish up, would you mind talking a bit about how you discovered Lift-Off?
Sure! I’d always heard of the festival, but I met [Lift-Off] founders Ben and James last year at Cannes. And they explained a bit more about the Lift-Off Global Network, and I was just so impressed to finally come across a festival that really supported young emerging filmmakers. I think it’s easy for young filmmakers to go to festivals and fade into the background. What Lift-Off is doing is really unique, because they’re giving young filmmakers the opportunities to navigate the industry. So once I met Ben and James I was very eager to get my film screened.
You can find more information on All of Me on the following social media accounts:
FB: All of Me Short Film
Twitter: All of Me Short