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Slamdance Women Directors: Meet Gabrielle Demeestere – ‘Yosemite’

Slamdance Women Directors: Meet Gabrielle Demeestere - 'Yosemite'

Born and raised in Paris, Gabrielle Demeestere is a New York-based filmmaker. Most recently, she wrote and directed a segment of the feature film The Color of Time, based on the poetry of C.K. Williams. Demeestere’s short film The Last Cigarette won the 2010 Reel 13 Independent Filmmaker competition and was broadcast on PBS. Demeestere holds a BA in Literature from Yale and a MFA in filmmaking from NYU. Yosemite is her first feature film. (Gabrielle Demeestere’s official site)

Yosemite will premiere at the 2015 Slamdance Festival on January 29.

W&H: Please give us your description of the film playing.

GD: Yosemite is about three 5th-grade boys growing up in Palo Alto in the fall of 1985, at a time when a mountain-lion attack has the town on edge. We follow the boys’ evolving friendships: how they deal with death and confront the fear it creates for the first time.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

GD: The movie is partly based on two of James Franco’s short stories, “Yosemite” and “Peter Parker,” from his collection A California Childhood. I was drawn to the very specific cinematic details of the stories, and also an eerie, uncanny mood that speaks to a certain time in childhood, when you lose your innocence and become aware of the dangers of the world and realize you’re on your own for the first time. I was inspired to write a third story (the “Ted” chapter) and create the mountain-lion framework to dramatize the sense of danger that the kids face.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

GD: The biggest challenge was definitely working with three 10-year-old actors, who had limited work hours, on a very tight schedule (17 days).

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

GD: My favorite movies are ones that give you a sense of beauty, and also make you feel connected to other human beings and emotions you’ve had in the past. Hopefully Yosemite does both of those things.

W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?

GD: I haven’t yet experienced any obvious obstacles as a female director, but since the statistics are not in our favor, it seems that women develop a very legitimate fear of not being able to make a second film and have a sustainable career. My advice would be to mentally convince yourself that those obstacles don’t exist when addressing people in the film industry, remain confident in your work, but most importantly to fight the status quo. I have a filmmaking collective called LaTiDa Productions with several of my female friends from the NYU Grad Film program with the aim of creating more female-driven content.

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

GD: The film was mostly funded through an Indiegogo campaign spearheaded by James Franco and the non-profit The Art of Elysium. We also had a private investor and help from NYU, which just started a Production Fund and stepped in to help us finish post-production.

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

GD: I love Wendy and Lucy by Kelly Reichardt; I think every frame of that movie is beautiful and socially resonant. Two Days in Paris by Julie Delpy is hilarious. I feel lucky to have grown up in France with so many amazing women filmmakers as role models: Agnes Varda, Chantal Ackerman, Claire Denis, Catherine Breillat, Pascale Ferran, and now Sophie Letourneur, Mia Hansen-Love, etc. I never felt that women filmmakers were less respected than men growing up.

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