SAE Glasgow Film student Rhianonne Stone has kept herself busy and her skills fresh during lockdown by shooting 50 short films in 50 days! We caught up with her to find out what her favourite of these productions are, and to learn more about what being a woman in the creative industries means to her.
What inspired you to do this project?
I was just really eager to get some set experience and start becoming an asset to future employers. Even experienced crew members are struggling to find work during the lockdown and spending hours on job and traineeship applications was going nowhere so I knew I had to take matters into my own hands and make work so I could hone my craft. I’m also a bit of an extremist and I love pushing my creativity and workflow to new levels — I initially had the idea of doing 365 Days of Film!
What is your favourite short film you've made so far, and what is the concept behind this?
It's so hard to pick a favourite — they’re my babies! I love “Wrong Number” because I’m so proud of myself for coming up with such a silly idea and executing it quite stylishly. I love “Finger Food” because I was nearly sick filming it and people have told me it’s made them physically ill and that really appeals to the gross-slasher fan in me. I love “Smile” because I did it with my best friend and it won me my first award. I love “Smütch” because it is 50% creative and 100% silly and I love “Bathroom Break” because it’s so perfectly imperfect compared to how I had envisioned it but the result is something I'm incredibly proud of. I filmed 'Zoom Class', 'Downhill' and 'Beauty Blogger' on my laptop webcam and I love that taking such an experimental risk really paid off and I love 'Auld Wullie Winkie' because my mum and dad starred in it — I really can't choose!
How have you applied the things you've learned on your course to this project?
This project wouldn't have been possible without the knowledge I attained at SAE. Everything from framing, cinema language, camera control, lighting and lens choices would have been impossibly difficult if I didn't already have a year of lectures under my belt. Even little things you wouldn't immediately think of like knowing the ratio of time spent on pre-production, production and post-production really helped me plan out my days and still leave me (just) enough time to eat and relax while waiting for proxies or films to export. The most important thing was editing though — if I hadn’t learned Premiere Pro at SAE I would have had a mental breakdown!
What have been some of the challenges of making short films in lockdown, and how have you got around these challenges?
The lack of locations, crew and actors was something I really didn’t think I would have to contend with. When I told all my friends and lecturers I was going to do this challenge I really thought I’d have access to more than just me and my house! I’m not a trained performer by any means so I decided to go for funnier stories rather than more drama reliant ones so that even if my acting was cringey (and often it was) it would aid the humour rather than take away from the emotion of the story. Even though I really dislike relying on expensive bits of kit I must say that if I didn’t have a DSLR with wifi capabilities that allowed me to use my phone as a monitor I would not have been able to do the simplest of things like get myself in focus or fit myself in the frame correctly and even with that help it was still an uphill battle. There are so many shots I am not happy with but were impossible to get the way I wanted because I had to be DOP, starring actor, gaffer, director, and script supervisor all at once! On the rare occasion when I did have actors though it made me enjoy the experience even more and the acting practice has made me a much better director. To avoid making my films all look the same I had to get really creative with my techniques. I used string tied to my toes and tripod handle so I could pan the camera while I acted in the frame, I shot a whole movie on Zoom with my friends, I ripped up old clothes to use as set pieces, I went to Facebook to ask some fire spinners if they could perform for my camera in the park, I shot movies in my garden, in my bathroom, at my mum and dad’s house — anywhere I could legally go! I even did an entire documentary with archival footage I found in the National Library of Scotland's Moving Image Archive. I try to see every challenge as an opportunity to improve, and lockdown certainly added a lot of extra challenges to this project!
What does being a womxn in the creative industries mean to you?
It means avoiding working late so you don’t have to walk alone to the bus stop in the dark. It means holding your tongue when you know you should speak up because you don’t want to be a bitch. It means finding roundabout ways of asking your male peers how much they are getting paid so you know if you're being undercut or not. It means dedicating energy that could be used elsewhere to protect and support your fellow womxn because you know we all exist in a system and industry that does not offer that support. It means being scared to flirt with someone even if you have a crush because you fear what your flirting will be taken as permission for. It means showing up with no makeup, unwashed hair and trainers on to be called “messy” and “unkempt” by your unshaven boss who wears jeans and a rotation of the same 4 old and bobbled t-shirts every day. It means groups of male coworkers acting weird around you because they can’t take part in “locker room chat” with you around, but you know they’ll include you in that conversation when you're out of earshot. It means getting over all of these emotional and social hurdles every moment of every day before you can even start the job you’re paid to do. It means trying your best to make the industry better for the womxn who will enter it after you as well as achieving everything you want to do creatively. It means having to work so much harder than your male counterparts to get the same respect and accolades they do. It means hoping for change.
Where can people watch the films?
On my website: www.rhianonnestone.com. Just look for the 50 Days of Film tab! Please keep in mind that I got better as I went on so I’d recommend starting with the later ones unless you want a full-on cringe-fest!
Do you have plans to submit any of them to any competitions or festivals?
I already have! One of my films won SAE’s lockdown competition, I had two of my films shown at the Scottish Queer International Film Fest and there was another one that I applied for but didn’t make it into. I have plans to enter more as I find relevant festivals but, I’m really tired of looking at myself on screen! I want my next films to have trained actors, a crew and a location that isn’t my own home and I think those will be far more worthy of film fests!
What advice do you have for anyone struggling to be creative at the moment?
Be willing to push through discomfort. That wonderful flow state where time passes and you don’t notice because you’re so into your work is really hard to achieve but I found that just pushing through the first 5-10 minutes of “fed-up-ness” and just doing the thing makes the trudge of it all fall away and very soon you’ll be finding yourself having fun! Getting off your ass and closing Netflix to get started is often the hardest part, once you get past that it becomes 10x easier. Getting into a habit helps too but I know daily habits can be unappealing to some people, so for those of you like that I suggest viewing your lack of energy or flickering creative spark as a challenge to be overcome rather than a tragedy. For example one day I felt like just lying in bed, watching YouTube and not doing a film, but I knew I had to — so I laid in bed and asked myself “what story with a start, middle and end could be told from a bed?” I worked around my energy levels rather than fought against them, and 'Zoom Class' was born! Also, and this is a big one, put your ego to the side. You’re going to be bad at it until you’re good, and you have to practice to get good. The first few times you try something you’re probably going to be awful at it, it might be really embarrassing to show people, you might just want to keep it for yourself and never let anyone else see or just give up and delete/scrap it. Try not to beat yourself up for it being bad, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad — it just means you haven’t practised yet. It doesn’t take talent to practice, and it’s the repetition of the things that's going to make you great at it, so get going!
Where can people keep up to date with your work?