Interview conducted by Marina Brafa
Natalie MacMahon is a Berlin-based actress, director, writer, translator, interpreter, voice over artist and presenter. Currently, she is working on the script of her first feature film Hot Scary Summer and on her Esperanto web series Malsano Nomata Amo (A Disease Called Loved) and organizing the Female Filmmakers Festival Berlin.
Read Part Two of the interview here, where Natalie speaks about founding a film festival in Berlin and her work as a female filmmaker.
Marina Brafa: Hi Natalie. You attended the film festival in Cannes this year. How was your stay there?
Natalie MacMahon: Cannes was really interesting this time! It was my third visit and every year I have different agendas. This year I wanted to promote my Female Filmmakers Festival Berlin (FFFB), look for funding and meet filmmakers. I noticed people had already heard about the festival even though we haven’t promoted it yet because it will take place in June 2019, so we still have plenty of time. We will, however, have a pre-event in February 2019 and screen the short films sent to us as part of our “Cannes special.” The best one will then open the festival in June!
I was also at Cannes to promote my short films. Some of which have been shown at other festivals and I am currently looking for distribution for my latest one.
MB: You are talking about your film The Redhead?
NM: Yes. Another thing I did in Cannes was to get some ideas and raise funds for my first feature film. I am writing the script for it now but it is not finished yet. I was also scouting locations because I do not know where I am going to shoot the film.
MB: Do you already have any concrete themes or a name for your first feature film?
NM: The name of the film is Hot Scary Summer for now, and it is probably going to be in English, maybe in German. The film is set in the future, however, this is not emphasized aesthetically but rather narratively. It is about a couple that goes on a virtual reality honeymoon by visiting a studio and putting on AR glasses. Their brains then get scanned for triggers of emotions and experiences and with all this information the studio creates the perfect setting. In their case, the beach. But during the virtual trip something goes wrong and only the husband wakes up and the wife is in a coma-like state. Her mind is stuck in a different virtual reality and everything gets out of control from there.
MB: You started with short films, now you are going to shoot a feature film. Why the switch?
NM: I do like short films a lot because you can test out ideas and develop your skills. They also don’t require a lot of funding and are easier to make. I learned so much about the filmmaking process. For example, before I made my first short film I didn’t know how to edit, how to make a storyboard or how to direct people. It was really good to try out everything because when I make a film now, I can appreciate the people I work with more. Having a better understanding of all the processes makes it easier to work together and to explain what you want!
MB: Besides your new film project Hot Scary Summer, what’s next?
NM: For the fall I am planning an interactive web series based on my short film A Universal Love Story, which is partly in Esperanto. It was well received by the Esperanto community and has been shown at many festivals, so I decided to make the web series 50% in Esperanto and 50% in English.
MB: Where will it be released?
NM: I will probably just release it on Vimeo or Youtube. Usually I am not allowed to make my work available online because of the film festivals but the nice thing about a web series is that it can be online and at the same time I can send it to festivals so everyone has the opportunity to see it.
MB: You work in many different fields of film: as a director, a screenwriter and an actor. How have you been treated, especially as a woman, in these different roles?
NM: I remember when I went to Cannes for the first time three years ago with my short film. I had to decide if I would go to the festival as an actress, or director, or both – what should I tell people? I had to focus on one aspect, at least for the festivals, and I went as director instead of actress. It really was a different experience. There was less competition among directors, they were more supportive! As a woman it gets easier when you get older. But I guess I’m not that old yet, I just turned 31…
MB: So belated congrats!
NM: ...well it was in April but it feels like yesterday [laughs]. So it is not that old but it feels different compared to five or six years ago. I think it is definitely true that if you are a young woman other filmmakers tend to think you are naive and do not take you seriously, especially as a director. If you have to direct older, experienced actors, it is difficult until they work with you and notice that you are professional and well-prepared.
MB: How does this look in your everyday work as director?
NM: I am always open to other people’s ideas and suggestions but especially on shooting day somebody needs to be the boss and say: “That’s what we are going to do.” You have to be confident and trust yourself because you know what you are doing! When I tried to listen to everyone and make them all happy it was a mess. When you clearly tell people what you want, it works.
MB: This year the jury in Cannes was mostly female and there was a movement called “5050 by 2020,” similar to “Time’s Up” in Hollywood. Were you aware of this during your stay?
NM: Yes! When we got the festival bag there was a flyer with a hotline you could call if you felt like someone was approaching you in a weird way. I think that’s the first time they offered it. I do not know if anyone called it but I think it is a good idea. I never had bad experiences myself but I heard from other women who did, especially at Cannes. I also noticed a change in the panels and talks I attended. The speakers were mixed 50/50; not only men were giving talks.
MB: Do you think we have an equivalent movement here in Germany? A German version of 5050 by 2020?
NM: Yes. It never became that big but many things are happening, especially in Berlin. There are so many talks and events to support women. When it comes to funding there are also opportunities which are female-only. Many still do not know about the funding schemes that are out there. I think an important next step is to raise awareness of this in the film world.
You want to know more about Natalie's film projects?
Check out her Website and follow her on Facebook !
Get a taste of Natalie's short films by watching the trailers:
A Universal Love Story
Like a Summer Sonata
Two of her films are available on realeyz:
The Man Who Coudln’t Cry
Like a Summer Sonata