SAE London Film student Jean-Sébastien Degni is working on a 10-minute film he has written the script for called What A Mess!, which explores the phenomenon of toxic masculinity. He’s currently in the production stage of the project - we caught up with him to find out how this project has been impacted by Covid-19 and ways he’s managed to problem-solve some of the challenges that have arisen.
What is the storyline of What A Mess!?
A cleaner challenges a young man’s masculinity while he waits to get called into his first ever university counselling session.
What gave you the idea for this script - what made you want to focus on toxic masculinity?
I see a lot of men cringe when they hear the term "toxic masculinity” and I think it’s partly because of how often the term gets thrown around on social media. I also think that just like many men don’t understand what it means to be a feminist, most men don’t fully understand what toxic masculinity is and how it affects everyone.
It should no longer be news to anyone that girls and women suffer daily from being subjected to the consequences of this social norm. What interested me the most, however, is how much boys and men also suffer from toxic masculinity’s restrictive rules and norms, yet, ironically, they continue to conform to it in one way or another - myself included to a great extent. Toxic masculinity is deeply ingrained in society, like a disease that is given to its boys and men, which is then passed down from one generation to another. I wanted to make this film because I think toxic masculinity deserves profound attention from everyone, and by focusing on men’s experience rather than women’s experience, I hope to approach the problem from its root.
How are you finding the production process - what stage are you at?
I’ve been lucky to have dedicated and patient actors working with me on this project, and the research part has been relatively pleasant because of my interest in the subject. At the moment I am at the stage of scouting a shooting location, which has proven to be the most challenging task for this production, since a lot of buildings have been forced to temporarily close down. I do, however, have a promising location on my radar, and I’m hoping to be able to set a shooting date very soon.
What other students from SAE are involved in this production and what are their roles?
So far, no other SAE students have been involved in this production. I often have very particular visions for my projects, and I usually automatically and eagerly take on multiple roles. When shooting the film, however, I’m sure I’ll have classmates by my side. I know for sure I’ll be hiring Sigma Sonics sound team (previously SAE sound engineers), for this production as they’ve delivered outstanding work in the past, and their professionalism on set helps everything run smoothly.
How have you found temporarily learning at home during lockdown?
Both challenging and helpful, like most people I suppose. Challenging because of how easy it is to procrastinate while working from home, and helpful because of the limited possibilities to go out and see friends.
How have you problem-solved some of the practical problems presented by Covid-19?
As I mentioned, the shooting location has really been the biggest set back for this production thus far, and there hasn’t been much else to do other than search online and email a bunch of people, hoping they’ll get back to me.
What are your long-term goals - what would you like to do after graduating?
I’ve always had a soft spot for music videos, and I’m currently directing music videos for a production company here in London. When I graduate, If I can keep working on music videos and write and direct short films as passion projects, I’d be very happy I think. The plan is to one day move on to directing feature-length films.
Check out Jean-Sébastien’s website here.