Exclusive interview with the filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy
I added another interview with a wonderful person to my collection. This time I interviewed the talented filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy about her career and her film, award-winning, Black Field. This is the English version. My final article in italian will be published soon on the site ThrillerMagazine.
I thank Danishka very much for her kindness in answering all my questions and for her special bonus: some photos from the set never published by Rebecca Sandulak (you can see two of them in this post).
You’re a director, screenwriter, editor and producer… What kind of work do you prefer? And why?
I find this a difficult question to answer because, for me, the roles are so deeply intertwined. At each stage of creating a film (writing, directing and editing), I get a chance to tell my story. And the story changes at each one of these stages. But I started making films as a director so I think that role is the one that calls to me in the strongest way.
How did you get into this career?
Like many filmmakers, I started by making amateur videos. Simple short films shot on home camcorders. But I think my desire to tell stories started much earlier. As a teenager, I started a fantasy writing group with my best friends. I think that is when I truly became a filmmaker — even if I did not know it!
One of your most famous and appreciated works is Black Field. What can you say about this?
Black Field was my first feature-length film. It was an incredible experience for me — to start working in long format filmmaking. I had been making short film for about ten years before I was finally able to make Black Field. It was a dream come true to see my story come to life.
From what is born the idea of this movie?
Black Field was inspired by my love of the novels written by the Brontë sisters. Novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. When I read those novels as a young girl, I always imagined the stories taking place in the landscape where I grew up — the Canadian prairies. So, when I wrote Black Field, I tried to capture the gothic romance of a Brontë novel — but set in Manitoba.
Before Black Field, you have made only short films. So, I imagine this has been a great challenge for you. What were the main obstacles you had to overcome?
It was indeed a great challenge. Most of my short films were shot in 1 to 5 days. Black Field was shot over 20 days and in some very difficult weather. We were shooting in isolated and open prairie fields — exposed to the elements. The mud was deep and difficult to traverse. The temperatures at night became very cold. I realized that I had to give 100% of my energy to the film or I would not have the stamina to complete it. Outside of filming, all I did was sleep!
Did you expect that it shaken up so much praise from critics?
I was very pleased with the critical response. And I was especially please that our lead actor, Sara Canning, received so much praise. She was awarded the Best Performance award at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival.
One of the strengths of the film is the setting. You have shot in a wonderful and evocative place. Do you think this has a great influence on the result?
The prairies of Manitoba have inspired much of my work. The land here can seem barren and plain – but it also has its own stark beauty. I write stories that embrace that landscape. I also choose the time of year very carefully so that the weather and the season reflect the inner struggles of my characters.
But the most important aspect for the success of a film is the understanding, trust with the actors, is not it? Have you had a good agreement on the set?
I have a great respect for actors. Working with actors is one of my favourite parts of being a filmmaker. I try to create an environment on set where the actors feel empowered to bring their talent, their insight and artistic contribution to the storytelling process.
I know that you had a clear idea in the head, as regards Maggie McGregor’s character, and Sara Canning didn’t reflect that idea completely. But then you changed your mind, is the truth?
I tend to be very careful throughout the audition process. So, I resist committing to an actor until I am absolutely sure that they are the correct choice for a role. My producers suggested Sara Canning very early in the casting process — because they had worked with her before. But I would not let myself make a decision until I had seen all the auditions. So, we looked at lots of actresses for the role of Maggie — but my producers had been correct! She was the perfect choice.
It’s common change idea about how it should be a character, a scene, etc. ..?
Do I change my mind about characters and scenes? Absolutely. I know what I want — but I always try to be open to collaboration and new creative opportunities. I think that a strong director always has her eyes open for happy accidents.
Do you you prefer the pre-or post-production?
My favourite stage is definitely Principal Photography. During pre-production, I am often very anxious. So many things could go wrong! During post-production, I am often frustrated. Because I want the film to be finished and released to our audience. But during principal photography I am working with my actors and my crew. Which is delightful. It is the best place in the world.
Do you have any advice for those who would like to pursue the career of the filmmaker?
Follow your dreams. And try to tell a story that only you could tell.
And finally … give to our readers any good reason to watch Black Field?
I think the chemistry between our two lead actors, Sara Canning and Mathieu Bourguet, is wonderful. Black Field is a gothic romance. So, it should make your heart race and ache at the same time.
More about Danishka: http://www.danishkaesterhazy.com/
Watch the film (3,50€): http://indiemondo.com/black-field/