Screening in our Experimental Shorts programme, Trying to Find Me is the debut short film from Dominique Tipper, best known for her acting roles in The Expanse and The Girl With All the Gifts. It explores writer and lead actor Ann Akin's experiences with mental health, and is based on a play she will be performing. Here, she speaks about the art and ideas that inspired the film:
What drew you to this story?
The theme drew me to the story, and the idea of turning said theme into something that maybe no one has seen before. Also the way my creative juices reacted to the idea of turning the play that the short film serves as a trailer for, into a film. I had a million ideas pop up and they just kept flowing out. The transfer from paper to film went over better than I could have ever possibly imagined and I think for a first time director that for me was a big worry/challenge.
Had you worked with the writer and lead actor Ann Akin before and how much of Trying to Find Me is based on her own experiences?
I hadn’t worked with Ann creatively before this. We are really good friends and had cemented each other as really good friends not too long before her entrusting me with bringing her writing and experiences to film. It's heavily based on her own experiences and so this was a very delicate piece to bring to film. I wanted her, more than any one else, to feel happy with the end result.
What inspired the visuals and movement in the film?
I have so much that inspired this film its hard to list, but I'll give you a little insight to some parts. Obviously Ann’s play was a huge inspiration, but I was really interested in exploring the themes of inner and outer states. What’s going on in a person’s head at any one time, what they may be dealing with, and then how they present to the outside world. I wanted us to constantly not really know what part of Ann’s psyche we were living in. Not knowing if we were in a dream, in reality or in the depths of something that we don’t quite understand i.e anxiety or depression.
Also when people are suffering with any kind of mental health issue, what that may feel and then look like to us but also how it looks and feels to them. The beauty and ugliness of it. The fight that goes on inside their head. The movement is a nod to Ann’s play. She is actually speaking BSL while she is moving, signing parts of the song 'Fade' by Jakwob which she does on stage when she performs the play. The movement in the bath is inspired by a set of photographs I came across by Alban Grosdidier from his project 'Drowning'. I'll stop there or this will go on for pages and pages. Im an art sponge. Every single thing you see in that film was inspired by some other form of art and other filmmakers and also my own experiences.
How have people reacted to it so far?
The reactions have been mixed, but I expected it to be. Some people love it, some people don’t quite get it. Ive had quite a few women tell me this is exactly how they have felt at certain points in their lives. If people have seen the play they tend to really really like it. So Im pleased with that. That’s art for you.
What did you learn from directing your first short, and what are you working on next?
I learned so much. The biggest thing was that I never want to be the only producer and the director ever again. It was like I had to deal with my own split personality. But I'm glad I did it this one time. I also learned what things work and don’t work when transferring from page to screen. I learned most importantly that I can do this directing thing and I intend to do it again.
Im currently writing a full length feature that I intend to direct and star in that evolved from the idea of me wondering that if a parent isn’t present in one’s life, which is normally considered a loss, if it is in fact a blessing in disguise.