Director and writer Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s powerful short drama, “Haven”, received its North American premiere on at SXSW Film Festival, and stars Tika Simone and talented young actress, D’evina Chatrie.
We sat down with Kelly and the film’s female producer Tamar Bird for a chat.
Tell us about where this story evolved from. How long were you working on this story before you decided to start?
Haven evolved from a conversation I had with my good friend and DOP Jordan Oram. We spoke about making a powerful film that had just two characters in one room. That night I came home and wrote Haven. I thought about a picture that we don’t see in film, a black woman and her daughter getting her hair done. For black children growing up this is a safe Haven, I thought about what conversation would be born out of that. What deep secret would you reveal to your mother? From this Haven was born.
What makes Haven different or special?
Haven is three minutes long. It’s classified as a short short. In such a small timeframe, I am able to reel in the viewer, make them fall in love with the family and then leave them wanting more.
What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
I like films that display human stories, films that let us see the moments in between. What happens after the big moment? What does grief look like? What is love after the honeymoon phase? My newest favourite films are Stoker, Get Out, Three Billboards and Prisoners.
Kelly, what was the hardest part of making the film? And the second?!
The hardest part of making the film was making it without money. We lost our equipment 48 hours before we moved on to principal photography. I was able to use my connections to get back the equipment back 6 hours before call time. I never take no for an answer and pushed to make sure that I could do my part for this film, as so many gave their passion and time for this film. The second hardest part was working with a minor. D’evina Chatrie was 8-year-old and a first-time actor. With the topic of this film being so taboo, delving into it with an 8-year-old was hard. Being one of her first teachers of sexual education wasn’t something I took lightly. In four hours of rehearsal I was able to teach D’evina how sacred her body was and bring her to the performance that we see in the final film.
How’s the reception been at SXSW? Have you been before? What’s it like?
This was my first time at SXSW and it definitely my favourite creative experience so far. I felt loved, accepted and celebrated. Hearing the audience go through the emotional rollercoaster of Haven, and the silence when the credits rolled means that I’ve done my job as a writer and director. The reactions from the many film goers that approached me in the lobby after the screening was mind blowing. From tears to telling me life-long secrets I am very grateful that Haven is doing what I set out for it to do.
Kelly, what role have film festivals in general played in your life? Why are they necessary?
Film festivals are a special place that allow artists to share their art with people who appreciate it. As a filmmaker sharing your film on such a large scale allows you to reach a bigger audience. It allows you to share your story, your passion and perspectives. This is before your films are about money but are about substance.
How do you get the most out of film festivals?
As a film maker, it is dependent on the festival. For me with SXSW was about being around as many great film makers and soaking in as much knowledge. I made a schedule of all conferences I wanted to see. I put the films and events that are non-negotiable in my calendar and then use the rest of the time to go with the flow. Sleep is always negotiable.
What did you learn from this production?
I learnt that story is everything. As long as you have a great story and an amazing crew everything is possible. I call Haven ‘the little short that could’. Who would have thought that a 3-minute film would be able to affect so many?
Anything else you want to get off your chest?!
Use this film to affect change in your community. We have so many survivors of sexual assaults and child molestation. It is important as adults that we look out for children in our lives.
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