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Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmmakers #8: Stephen Fingleton Paints an Inverted Portrait of Sexual Politics in ‘The Survivalist’

Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmmakers #8: Stephen Fingleton Paints an Inverted Portrait of Sexual Politics in 'The Survivalist'

READ MORE: George Lucas, Christopher Nolan, Stephen Colbert and More Set for Tribeca Film Festival Panels

Self-preservation takes on a new level of meaning in this organic post-apocalyptic drama, where the only way to get food is to farm it. A man is threatened when two starving women stumble across his cabin and demand to stay. Each new mouth to feed strains the limits of what the farm can produce and diminishes their chance for survival. [Synopsis Courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival.]

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

It’s about a loner who lives off a small farm hidden deep in a forest. He’s got this strict code of self-preservation, which is challenged when a starving woman and her daughter find the farm.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s about the choices people make in times of calamity. We only find out who we really are when the vestiges of civilization are torn aways from us. It’s also kind of an inverted portrait of our society, particularly the sexual politics.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I was born in Northern Ireland and I made my first short films at University College London with the student film society. They had these great 16mm cameras and lights and editing equipment — Christopher Nolan was an alumni made some of his first films with the same kit. After graduating I kept making short films and writing scripts.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

Completing the sound was much more difficult than on an ordinary film. There is no music score in the film and it’s set in a period when there’s no traffic or airplanes, so the sound is very exposed. Virtually every element of the sound had to completely replaced through foley and design, and mixed in such a way that it felt very real.

What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?

When people step outside the cinema they’ll be standing in one of the greatest cities civilization has produced. And it’s very tempting to think that it will last forever. But at the back of our minds we knows it’s all going to end, and that they way we’re living right now is completely unsustainable. Our society has many taboos, and among them is talking about the huge growth in population we’ve had in the past century. When my parents were born, there were 2.5 billion people on the planet. Right now there’s 7 billion. It can’t go on forever.

Any films inspire you?

The filmmakers that got me into filmmaking were Spielberg and Zemeckis — then Hitchcock when I was old enough. As I’ve got older my tastes have got more political but their visual taste remains a huge inspiration. A recent film I loved was “Under the Skin” — it was so utterly singular and brave. I loved the way it depicted society from the perspective of a complete outside and invited the audience to interpret things rather than spelling them out. That was something I wanted to do with “The Survivalist.”

What’s next?

I have a written a script for Working Title and am developing a science-fiction thriller set in a very paranoid future.

What cameras did you shoot on?

We shot on Arri Alexa, alongside a Black Magic camera. I would have preferred to shoot on film as “The Survivalist” is set in an analogue world, but digital did allow us to shoot in very low light conditions, which I liked.

Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?

No. We talked about it as a means of reaching a core audience rather than raising a key element of the budget but my producers thought it would be too time consuming. If the film has a good reaction, something I would like to do is crowdfund a three colour archival film print of the film stored in a vault in the ground somewhere — it would nice to think of it surviving in a hundred years after our planet is coated with iridium or fall-out.

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? 

I’m self-taught via “The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook,” making short films, and taping late-night films off Channel 4 when I was a teenager.

READ MORE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmakers

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.

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