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Tribeca 2015 Women Directors: Meet Anna Sandilands – ‘Uncertain’

Tribeca 2015 Women Directors: Meet Anna Sandilands - 'Uncertain'

Anna Sandilands and her co-director Ewan McNicol are the directing and producing team behind and the co-owners and creative directors of the documentary studio Lucid Inc. Both are named in Filmmaker Magazine’s 2013 “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Their film “The Roper” won the 2013 Webby for Best Documentary. (Tribeca Film Festival)

Uncertain” will premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival on April 16. 

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

AS: “Uncertain” is a Southern Gothic tale set on the Texas/Louisiana border in a town called Uncertain, population 94. The town sits on the edge of a vast, swampy lake that is being choked to death by an aquatic weed, which has upset the natural balance of the lake and the town’s only source of livelihood.

As the town struggles to survive, we follow three men who are each battling their own demons. An ex-convict who becomes obsessed with killing “Mr. Ed,” a gigantic boar he hunts as part of his way of staying sober. A young, diabetic alcoholic with big ideas but few prospects; he’s fighting the cycle of poverty for a bigger life. And an aging fisherman reluctantly letting go of his youthful ways, reflecting on a long life and making peace with one fateful moment thirty years ago. It is a tender and often humorous story of forgiveness.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

AS: What drew me in were the people — there actually was no obvious story to begin with. I only knew that we had these great characters with extraordinary stories in an incredible place. The instinct was to keep filming. I could feel it, I knew it was there, but I couldn’t explain what the story was. It was about a year into filming when it really started to cohere. This was also, by far, the biggest challenge in making the film.

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

AS: As I was saying before, the biggest challenge in making this film was that there was no obvious story when we started filming, and for a fairly long time we didn’t know what the film was going to be about. Not only does that cause the obvious creative dilemmas, but it also meant we weren’t likely to get help in funding the film. It’s hard to pitch a film as a first-time feature director when you can’t explain what it’s about just yet.

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

AS: That we are all cut from the same cloth, and we can recognize ourselves in other people. Understanding each other might be the most compelling and honorable thing we can do as human beings.  

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

AS: I was very fortunate to be raised by parents who put no limitations on what I could achieve in whatever I put my mind to. It was always about merit — as my father would say, “the work will out.” So I’ve never felt limited by being a woman, or thought of industries as being male or female. And I’ve never thought about myself as a “female director.” Being a director is not a man’s profession — it’s a profession that doesn’t have a lot of women yet. So my advice to other female directors would be to work hard, hone your talent and it work will out. 

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

AS: “Uncertain” is self-funded. As mentioned earlier, we didn’t know what the film was about until quite a ways into filming. Since it was our first feature film as well, that would have been a hard sell. We knew we wanted to maintain creative control, so we held off on any other funding avenues that might have affected that, so the money to make “Uncertain” was raised working our tails off doing commercial work.

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

AS: Hands down, Barbara Kopple’s “Harlan County, U.S.A.” It’s a poignant, heartfelt and determined portrayal of people in crisis. As a filmmaker, she put skin in the game. That woman is seriously gusty.

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