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TIFF Women Directors: Meet Sarah Galea-Davis – ‘An Apartment’

TIFF Women Directors: Meet Sarah Galea-Davis - 'An Apartment'

Sarah Galea-Davis is an award-winning director, writer
and producer. She works in both fiction and documentary filmmaking. Her last short film, Can You Wave Bye-Bye?, won Best Short Film at the Worldwide Short Film Festival and
was nominated for both a Genie and Jutra award in 2009. (Press materials)

In the 17-minute short An Apartment, middle-aged and unemployed Paul is looking to restart his life. 

The An Apartment played at TIFF on September 5 and 7.

WaH: Please give us
your description of the film playing.

SGD: An Apartment is
an intimate portrait of Paul, a man who finds himself in mid-life struggling to
restart his career and maintain his financial independence. Forced to
move in with his brother and take seasonal work, Paul’s hope is that things
will turn around with the next job interview. But it becomes increasingly
apparent what he’s lost can’t be regained.  

WaH: What drew you to
this story?

SGD: I produced a documentary about men and
unemployment in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. We followed six
different men as they tried to restart their lives after devastating layoffs.
During our time with them, I became really moved by how the experience of
unemployment reverberated out to all areas of their lives. Not only did
it have an effect on their finances, but it also cut to the core of their family
relationships, social structures, and identity as men. I was really
struck by how much more difficult it was for older men to get their lives back
on track, and some of them never did.

WaH: What was the
biggest challenge in making the film?

SGD: By far the biggest challenge was casting the
role of Paul. After an exhaustive auditioning process, where we
considered everyone from non-actors to seasoned performers, we finally settled
on Bruce Hunter. Bruce is a veteran comedian and improv actor/teacher at
Second City. But Bruce’s dramatic turn as Paul is pitch perfect, never
melodramatic or overwrought. I have a long-held belief that comedic actors
are great at drama because they are trained to always stay in the moment, are willing
to take risks, and aren’t afraid to change.

WaH: What do you want
people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

SGD: I never like to impose my ideas or feelings on
an audience. I specifically leave room in my storytelling for viewers to
formulate their own thoughts and responses. My one hope is that people do
take time to consider what they’ve seen before moving on to the next

WaH: What advice do
you have for other female directors?

SGD: I find the film industry’s conception of a
director is based on a very macho ideal. But I believe there are many
ways as a director to assert a vision and lead a team. Don’t be
afraid to be different from what the crew expects.  

WaH: What’s the
biggest misconception about you and your work?

SGD: That I make straight-up dramas. Usually
the one-lines for my films read like they are direly depressing, but even in
the darkest of circumstances, there has to be room for humor. It might be
humor that comes from a painful or uncomfortable place (and it might not have
an audience in gales of laughter), but even in a film like this, there has to be
some release.

WaH: How did you get
your film funded?

SGD: My film was financed through a combination of
arts grants and deferrals. Favors are invaluable when you’re making a
low-budget film. I was really fortunate to pair up with producer Karen
Harnisch for An Apartment. She
has a wealth of experience producing shorts and micro-budget features. Although this wasn’t micro-budget, it was low-budget, and Karen was
instrumental in making the film come together with the limited funds we had.

WaH: Name your
favorite woman-directed film and why.

My favorite female-directed film (and just one of my favorite films, period) is
Claire Denis’ Beau Travail. It
is a poetic and almost dreamlike interpretation of army life. It’s so
stunning in its imagery that the atmosphere stays with you long after the film
has ended.

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