Sunny Grace on finishing her short film, Charging

Sunny Grace (far right) and crew working on "Charging". Photo: Phil Erbacher.

Sunny Grace’s new film, Charging, will premiere this Saturday as part of the AACTA Screen Fest. The process was fraught but ultimately fulfilling, she writes, in this piece for the Sentinel. 

This week a long-held dream came true. We finished post production on the short film I have written, directed and co-produced and it will premiere this Saturday as part of the AACTA Screen Fest (follow the link and register to view).

It’s a strange feeling after the months of work to bring it together. The people in the post production house congratulate me for finishing the film and yet it feels a bit anti-climactic. I don’t feel like it is that important for some reason. It’s only a film, right? But it is important, I tell myself. Many people worked really hard to bring my script to life. They gave so much. Is it ungrateful of me to not feel happier for their sake at least? 

Perhaps it is because this year the premiere is online whereas last year there was a red carpet event and it was shown on a big screen. All that time spent in the post production room perfecting the grade and sound may come undone on the small screens of the audience. However, as one collaborator remarked, at least there will be an audience. Not every short film has a guaranteed audience. This is what I need to focus on now. It will continue to live online after the premiere, meaning the audience can continue to grow as it is shared. 

The inner conflict I am experiencing is perhaps imposter syndrome as well as, it’s not brain surgery, but I really need to remember stories make sense of life. This film is not just for me. It is for my husband and son who are blessed with the super power that is called dyslexia and yet at school they both struggled. They still struggle with self-esteem in a society that values scholarly achievement. 

The final film is very different to what I wrote on paper but the essence is there. The reason it is so different is what the other collaborators have brought to the process. This is the pleasure and pain of filmmaking. Pleasure in seeing your vision realised and improved by other creative talents. Pain in letting go of certain moments, or killing your darlings, as they say. By letting go of some darlings, new ones appear. The ending of my film is nothing like what was in my head but it is wonderful. More poignant and yet uplifting than I imagined. A stroke of genius from the edit team combined with the composer. 

A still from Charging. Image: Ben Sullvan/supplied.

Making this film has been a real education despite my years as a producer and writer. Directing is a different beast. People defer to your opinion and say things like, ‘Well it’s your film, so you can have what you want.’ As a producer, my role was to facilitate the director’s vision and mediate between the creatives as well as juggle time and money. It took time and courage to let go of the tendency to be a peacemaker. To find the right combination of asserting myself without succumbing to being a tyrant or letting the ego respond to the stroking of others. 

Being top of a food chain is not a position I find myself in often as a woman. Occasionally, it made me uncomfortable and I found myself falling back into some of the self-defeating habits that have previously stopped me from following my dreams. I had to talk myself into remaining steadfast and trusting my instincts. I imagined I would be a very collaborative director but I discovered the ship really does need a captain or it will capsize. The other self-talk I found helpful was to drop the idea of perfection. After all, it is only my second film. I will make mistakes and yet that is how we learn.

I have a notebook I started for this project and on the first page I wrote ‘Embrace the imperfections’. I referred back to it every time I had to problem solve or confront a conflict. It gave me the freedom to experiment. To break rules. To fight for what I believed would best serve the story even if it may not have been technically correct or the film school way. It is these sections of the film I am most proud of each time I watch it. The moments of rule breaking, the magic. Sure, they won’t be for everyone but I hope it gives an alternative to those seeking different stories.

I am bracing myself with anticipation for the audience feedback after it goes live this Saturday to see what else I can learn in readiness for the next one. Yes – that’s right, the next one. I can’t wait to do it all again. 

You can watch the making of video here: www.mini.com.au/mini-news/aacta-pitch-charging-creativity/.

Sunny Grace is a Sydney writer, producer and director. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.

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