This week we sit down with Director Chloe Tai about her involvement in the short film Alpha & Omega. Chloe talks us through why she got involved with the project and how she would like to get better at ignoring the naysayers.
What drew you to get involved with the script for Alpha & Omega?
From a surface level, the first thing I noticed, and most likely what everyone else would notice, is that it’s a film about a culture rarely seen on screen. I didn’t know much about Rastafarians before this project; their culture, their lifestyle, their faith, and it was something different and intriguing. But also, the way Maia brought the colours and small cultural references to life on the page instantly made me think there was something new about this story.
But funnily enough, the more I read and re-read the script, I think what actually pushed me to say yes was that at the heart of it, the film is about human connection. These two young people in love and they’re going through a difficult time. Yes, their culture and their faith bring a different meaning to what they experience, but ultimately, it’s about a relationship, and how they get scared, how they laugh, how they support each other. Being in a relationship myself, I felt I could relate strongly to that.
Religion and Cancer are both taboo and sensitive subjects, how will you ensure that both themes are represented accurately?
By speaking to people, by reading, by learning more about these experiences. As a filmmaker, I think it’s inevitable you’re going to be inspired to tell stories that are not your own, that have never been told before or to be offered the opportunity to give a voice to people who don’t have one or are unable to share it. That’s where I feel as a filmmaker you’ve got a responsibility to make sure you tell those stories with care. Yes, there is an element of creative licence, and of course, not everyone has the same experience, but I think you need to have as much information on the subject as you can before presenting an experience on screen, to ensure you have a genuine understanding, and the truth behind what you’re showing. Knowledge is power, and I think an audience can tell straight away when your filmmaking isn’t honest.
As a female Director yourself, are there any other female Directors whose works stand out for you?
There are so many but Kathryn Bigelow is front of mind. I wouldn’t say I’m that familiar with her work, but I’m very aware of her career path and the way she’s navigated the industry is definitely inspiring. Firstly, just being one of the only well-known female action directors is amazing – a genre dominated by men, but also to be successful in it AND win an Oscar?! The Hurt Locker was an incredible feat, but it was also astounding how surprised people were on finding out it was a woman at the helm. I admire that she makes the films she wants to make, from action (K:19) to horror (Near Dark) and now drama (Detroit), and she’s opened the door a fraction by being the first and only female to have won a Best Director Oscar. It took her a long way to get there, and I’m sure many people asked her “Are you sure?” every time she’d gear up for the next gun blasting, adrenaline pumping script, but she clearly ignored them…something I’d love to get better at!
What more do you think can be done to get more women into film?
I find that question so interesting because it suggests that not enough women want to get into film which I don’t really think is true. In fact, I think plenty do want to get in, whether it’s as a cinematographer, as directors, as producers, 1st ADs etc, but I think there’s a century old ceiling that often makes it harder for women to get to the next level, and that I think, often in turn puts women off trying in the first place. It’s really difficult to make the system fairer without allocating quotas that start to become tick boxes and checklists, but I think it’s really important that the issue isn’t seen as just a “women’s issue” and that putting one woman in charge isn’t going to fix it, especially if she’s never been there before and has little experience in it; essentially setting someone up to fail. I think the best place to start is for people in privileged positions to recognise the problem and start to actively mentor and guide potential leaders, with the aim to get them to the top so they can begin to actually have an impact with a strong foundation behind them.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge working on this film?
Time. As with every indie film I’ve worked on, the amount of time you have is usually dependent on how deep your pockets are…and mine aren’t that deep! I absolutely want to do the script justice, and with about only 60% of the script relying mainly on dialogue, the prep and work with the actors is going to be so important. But that’s why my producers and I have sought a team together who are genuinely passionate about the story, share our vision of the film we could make, and are all incredible at what they do. We’ve been working on this film for almost a year now, and we started to recruit the team very early on, so I’m confident we’ll be in a good place before we start, now we just need the money!