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Interview with Andrew Short

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Much appreciated by the audience of the Bottega dell’Attore in Rome, “Fragile Reflections” is in competition at the third edition of the Indiecinema Film Festival

On Friday 17 May, at the Bottega dell’Attore in Rome, one of the works from the Indiecinema Film Festival‘s Short Film Competition that received the greatest acclaim from the public and critics this year was screened: we mean Fragile Reflections by Andrew Short. Discussing it in the room with the festival spectators was Veronica Orciari, journalist, festival organizer and film-maker, who also just returned from the set of the short monie.
Secondly, however, a very interesting long-distance discussion developed with the British director, the very friendly Andy, hence our interview!

The Covid situation and the short movie’s genesis

In your short movie the spectre of Covid hovers; how have interpersonal relationships changed in general at the end of forced isolation in U.K.? And was it easy or complex to return to normality?

In the film Covid is related to a stressful job situation and obviously to the relationship between the two characters, Arthur and Charlotte. I would say that these are probably two of the main things that have been affected by the pandemic restrictions: workplaces and relationships between couples. After things started going back to normal, people have slowly forgotten what the Covid period really felt like and everything now feels very distant looking back. So one could say that it was easy and complex at the same time, as it has definitely left a mark on people’s life histories. Fragile Reflections is not a film about Covid, but I thought that hinting it would have helped get into the story even more.

How much have the couple’s relationship been affected? How easy is it for long forced cohabitation to bring out unexpressed conflicts? In the short movie a small episode – a dirty glass – is enough to give rise to a comparison that has been repressed for too long, in which the foundations of love and respect, the individual responsabilities towards the couple are called into question.

Covid seemed to bring out the worst in people between relationships. However, those in healthy relationships were able to respond to set-backs, such as long, forced cohabitation that Covid, and allow their relationships to blossom. The protagonists in Fragile Reflections had issues in their relationship prior to the events of Covid. Theirs were issues of underlying values such as trust, respect, love and support. Covid exacerbated feelings of anxiety and mistrust between the couple. Simple acts, such as not cleaning a dirty glass, can escalate arguments that can expose broader issues between a couple. I hope this film resonates with audiences who have experienced mismatched expectations in a relationship.

The couple’s crisis: two truly magnificent performers

How do you think the relationship man/woman has changed in recent years? In the short movie we see how the two can no longer understand each other, they speak two different languages, he is pragmatic, she is instinctive, he is concerned with the material side, keeping everytihing clean and tidy, in spite of her disorder comes from her internal dissatisfaction, from the lack of emotional support. Do you think today the confrontation between the two sides has ceased, replaced isntead by a gradual emotional detachment that is bringing crises to the point of no return?

I think the confrontation between the two sides may or may continue, depending on whether each side decides to listen to one another, move on from their ongoing resentment and work on the relationship. I think that it’s not just a matter of being different and having contrasting approaches in itself, but it’s more about being able to put work into the relationship to try and make it work, when possible. I don’t think it depends on the period we live in necessarily, but external circumstances can make things worse or better, as said earlier. I shot the end of the film to be deliberately vague on whether the relationship will continue or not. I actually shot the scene asking the actors to interpret it from 4 different perspectives I) Both are willing to make the relationship work II) He is willing to make the relationship work but she is not III) She is willing to make the relationship work but he is not IV) Neither are willing to make the relationship work. I edited each version into what makes up the final scene. It’s up to the audience to interpret how they see the relationship working moving forward.

In a matter of minutes you managed to give life to a small daily drama with universal value:the story told, in fact, is as simple as it is widespread, a small episode that is the trigger of a river full of misunderstandings and resentment. Was it based on a story that actually happened to you or someone close to you, or rather on the generic observation of couples you met by chance?

The story was based on my own personal experience. It was a marriage that began with the best of intentions, as all marriages do, but it deteriorated into something beyond our control. I do believe that my film can represent a lot of couples which have gone through similar situations and hope that it will be seen as a story that can talk to a broad audience.

The two protagonists, Dan Plumb and Charlotte Barnes, play their characters with great professionalism and intensity; how did you choose them? Did you already know them or did you do a casting?

I went through a casting call to find my actors. As a student director, it was a first time experience for myself, moving away from the safety net of film school. I gave each actor a small section of the script as part of their audition, asking them to do the scene twice. The first time I asked them to do their own interpretation of the character, without direction. The second time I gave them direction on how I saw the character, and focused on how they interpreted my feedback. Dan was great at asking a lot of questions in the direction I was providing him, quizzing me on the motivation of the character ‘Arthur’. Charlotte perfected the audition on the first attempt; I had very little direction to provide her!

For the pivotal central sequence, which was filmed as a one continuous shot of 10 minutes, I asked the actors to do 15 takes. I was looking to continually increase the intensity of the scene whilst also looking to get the best out of the actors. We ended up using take 15 in the final film.

Indie movies in UK and prospects for short films

What is the situation for indipendent movie in U.K.? Are there specific funds, facilities, competition notices, or is it all in the hands of the author/director, honors and burdens?

There are many options for funds and competitions you can enter, as the UK notoriously has great film production. The issue is a lot of people are working in the industry too, so there is a lot of demand as well. I will try to not be set back by the potential lack of funds in my upcoming projects. I strongly believe in them and I am willing to support them financially too, as much as I can.

What is the path of short films in the U.K., do they have their own circuit ouside of festivals or are they rather a spingboard to make yourself known and find a production for a subsequent feature film?

To be a feature-film director in the UK, the tendency is to develop a portfolio of consistently high quality short films in order to get noticed. This means showing them around the festival circuit in order to get sufficient funding for the next short film. Now that I have completed my first short-film, my plan is to produce and direct a number of short films to see where things take me next.

Fragile Reflections is having quite a success at festivals; are you already working on a follow-up project or are you thinking of making a feature film out of it?

I have connections to Italy, so my plan is to do joint collaborations in your wonderful country! I’ve already written a short film script to be set in the Tuscany area, for Italian actors and crew, and I’m working on a short film script to be set in the Venice area. I plan to shoot them both back-to-back later this year / early next year. I also want to remain true to my roots in the UK, and I’m planning for a number of short films in and around London. As for Fragile Reflections, I’m happy for the success it has received at festivals but, given its deep connection to parts of my life, I see it as a way of closure and have closed that chapter on that story.

Michela Aloisi

The Indiecinema Film Festival’s artistic director, Stefano Coccia, introducing “Fragile Reflections” in Rome

Picture of Stefano Coccia

Stefano Coccia