This is a story about a girl who doesn’t have many people to look for and ends up by herself. She wanders away and ends up finding people she had no idea that she was looking for. You find your people in the most unlikely of places, even the woods. Even if it doesn’t last forever, at least there is tonight.
This film is for the people trying to find each other, and their forever community.
Adolescent: Hi Jo! Your film is so beautiful! What inspired you to make it?
Jo Gaffney: It has taken me a long time to find a community of people I can agree with, and this film is about when I finally did. I wrote it during a summer where I met a group of like-minded people, but they all left. Even though they were gone, I didn’t feel lost anymore. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt more comfortable in my own skin because I didn’t feel alone anymore. On a tiny island, there is only so far you can go without hitting the forest. In the summer of 2019, I developed a core group of friends. We all worked at the same little cafe in our small town, and after work we would go to the lake, or have dinner parties. It’s hard to get lost on Salt Spring, as almost everything runs along a few main roads, but this night we did. It was warm, and we blared music driving to my house. We ended up at a dead end, and came face to face with a group of deer. They all had glowing eyes and jumped into the forest. One of my friends said we should follow them. As we drove closer and closer, we saw more deer. It was like they were leading me home. I was inspired by the idea of finding your group of people, and how they will always help you find home. That’s what inspired the story.
The visuals were inspired by the 1978 film, “The Wicker Man”, which is a movie about a man who finds himself surrounded by strange people. I loved the masks, old fashioned clothes, and the “Folk Horror” aesthetic it evocs. Other influences are “Spirited Away”, “A Midsummer Night's Dream”, and “Labyrinth”.
Adolescent: How was the process of it?
I wrote the script after being dropped off by my friends, after a night on the beach. It was written late into the night afterwords, and I didn’t go to sleep until it was fully finished. I immediately sent it to the girl I consider a sister more than friend, Elisabeth Hinshelwood. She loved it, and said she would love to be in it as Bianca. Then, I dm-ed my friend Izzy Cendese, who said they would love to be in it, as King. Afterwords, I gathered up all the performers I would need, from dancers, actors, and friends who lovingly said they would be in it. On the day of shooting in August, I woke up early and made a dozen crowns made of twigs, and gathered up willow branches for them to wield. We shot the whole thing in three hours in the same neighborhood that I was inspired by. It was overcast, which made lighting easy, but in later scenes you can see when it started to rain. It meant parading a group of teenagers in nightgowns around in the rain, while hauling camera equipment in tow. It was definitely a sight. I edited it all together in three days, which was easy because of the lack of dialogue, and then I sent it over to my composer. Jacob Culling is an amazing musician who had a piece for me in four days following, just in time to be screened at the Salt Spring Youth Film Festival.
Adolescent: Which character do you most identify with?
Jo Gaffney: I wrote Bianca as myself, she is someone who feels lost, and until she finds her people. She is “ordinary” and feels left out of all the “ordinary” people, until she realizes she was never one of them. She follows a stranger down the not so beaten path, and ends up finding a whole group of people who want her there. She ends up being seen in a world where she never thought that she would be. I love her because she becomes comfortable in a large group of people, which she never thought would be initially possible. She wants to be seen and wanted like anybody does.
Adolescent: Why is real representation important and what does it mean to you?
Jo Gaffney: In this fantasy, I wanted the truth to peek through. Queer kids grow up feeling lost, wondering why they don’t feel apart of “it”, without ever fully understanding why they feel like the odd one out. There is no one way to appear queer, and no reason to prove that you are “queer enough”, this casting choice was not based around appearance. This is a story for queer kids, finding their people, and then finding their way when they’re gone. Knowing that they are not alone in the world is a feeling I really wanted to put emphasis on.
Adolescent: How do you think growing up in British Columbia has influenced you?
Jo Gaffney: I have been incredibly lucky to grow up on the West Coast, in an accepting community full of artists. I grew up in the city of Vancouver from when I was born until I was ten years old, and then we moved out to Salt Spring Island. I am influenced by my surroundings, and inspired by nature. The mysteries of a forest at night, what lies below the ocean floor, all mysteries that are waiting to be seen. I am surrounded by artists of all shapes and forms and I consider myself very fortunate for that. Inspiration pours in all forms in British Columbia, especially on Salt Spring Island.
Adolescent: What’s the biggest thing you want the audience to take away from the film?
Jo Gaffney: You have to stay open to finding your people, you cannot wait for them to come to you. Like-minded people eventually all find each other, nobody is alone forever.
Adolescent: Do you have any advice for filmmakers who are just starting out?
Jo Gaffney: Make risky movies, try things that may not work. Try the special FX, try the practical effects, attempt the camera shot that seems out of your capabilities. You would be surprised how many of your friends want to help you even if they aren’t interested in film. Figure out what you like about films that you love, and try to invoke that in your own work. Write about what you know, it will help you understand the kind of stories you want to tell. Try everything and figure out what kind of art that you want to make.
Adolescent: Is there anything else you want to say?
You meet the best people by pursuing what you love, because there’s a good chance they love it too. Living truthfully and vibrantly creating art is essential to living life the way it should be lived. Make cool art, meet cool people.