DIVA catches up with the duo who directed and produced The Greenhouse, Thomas Wilson-White and Lizzie Cater
BY NADIA DAVIES
Discovering a way to travel back in time helps Beth come to terms with her present in this daringly original debut.
Describe your film in three words.
Thomas Wilson-White: Tender Time Travel!
Lizzie Cater: What He Said.
What inspired you to make the film?
TWW: I was raised on the South Coast of Australia by my two mums and a majority of my siblings are LGBTIQ+, myself included. When it came to writing my first feature I knew I wanted to write a love letter to them, and centre an upbringing I had never seen depicted in the media. I also yearned to make something that surprised the broader audience and challenged their ideas of what Queer Cinema looks and feels like.
LC: I’ve always been close with TWW and his family – my mum Lesley was best friends with TWW’s mum Amanda and so he’s almost a brother to me. I lost my mum a year or so before we shot the film, and so when he told me about The Greenhouse, I knew that this would be an important story that I had to help tell.
What does screening at BFI Flare mean to you?
TWW: I am so proud to be a part of this incredible festival. To have our film be one of 25 selected is genuinely gobsmacking. It is so hard to make queer work, particularly in Australia, so the support of BFI Flare and its amazing programmers means the entire world to us. Still pinching myself!
LC: It is extremely validating! For our debut feature to be programmed in this esteemed festival is thrilling, and we could not have dreamed for a better international launching pad for the film.
What do you hope audiences will take away from this story?
TWW: The film is ultimately about loss and grief. These are universal experiences that transcend sexuality and identity and I wanted this to be an audience’s takeaway; we have more in common than not. Family is family. Loss is loss. Hope is hope. At the end of the day we only have each other.
LC: I hope that our audiences will recognise that queer stories don’t have to be niche – they can straddle genre, they can centre queer characters and alternative families without focussing solely on their sexuality. I want other filmmakers to watch this film and be inspired to create queer stories that smash the boundaries we’re often given by the mainstream gatekeepers.
Why is it important that queer films and documentaries are showcased every year at an event like this?
TWW: A festival like BFI Flare is a vital platform for the LGBTIQ+ community. Not only does it ensure these brilliant films will find an audience, it also creates access to opportunities that are impossibly hard for LGBTIQ+ creators to find otherwise. Yes things are changing, but we have so far to go and BFI: FLARE plays an essential part in the necessary and inevitable evolution of global cinema.
LC: We’ve found an immediate and dedicated audience at festivals like BFI Flare which is so affirming. This film was made with this community in mind, and so getting a glowing review from a queer publication or selling out a screening at a queer film festival makes us incredibly happy – and is a pretty lovely confidence boost!
BFI Flare is completely online this year, giving everyone across the UK the opportunity to watch the amazing line-up of films available. How important is accessibility with regards to representation on screen?
TWW: LGBTIQ+ and marginalised people have a hunger to see themselves and their experiences validated and affirmed on screen, and to know our story can reach not just those living in metropolitan areas but all of the UK is so remarkable. Growing up regionally, the films I found that spoke to me and my identity saved my life. They gave me courage and a community; a way forward. The most I could hope for is that The Greenhouse finds that person too.
LC: While the idea of our film screening in London is big, that it could be seen by anyone in the UK as a part of the festival is HUGE. In-cinema screenings have a limited capacity, specific timings and are metro-based, whereas the film screening online means that our film can reach more of the queer community across the country.
What are your words of advice for any aspiring queer filmmakers/actors?
TWW: Dream as big as possible and do not listen to anyone who says you can’t do it. It’s so important you protect yourself from these voices (some of which come from within). The world needs queer creators who are deconstructing the boxes we have been put in and kicking their way into the mainstream, into genre, and questioning the mechanics of story and structure. For me, queerness means subversion and innovation. It also means resilience and courage, and those are the things you need to make it in this industry.
LC: Find your person or your people. Filmmaking is really hard – especially as a queer creator – but it pays off when you’re creating with people you love, trust and believe in (who feel the same about you). I am so lucky that I have TWW in my corner and that I get to stand in his. I probably would have given up years ago if we didn’t have one another.
How has the pandemic impacted you creatively?
TWW: I was 100% that overachiever you hated during lockdown who was working full time. We finished our film via Zoom during lockdown in Australia, with actors, sound designers, colour graders and composers all around the country. It was completely bizarre and tested all of us in different ways but we persevered. I was acutely aware of the unspeakable pain and loss being experienced globally, and it only made me more grateful for the chance to finish the film in relative safety. I think we all have a renewed understanding of what is important and the fragility of our beautiful lives. We owe it to those who we lost to savour every second and thank the heavens for everything we have.
Who is your LGBTIQ+ screen hero?
TWW: Joey Soloway! Transparent re-shaped my concept of what queer story could be. It was utterly unique and boundary-pushing, and it’s only after making The Greenhouse that I understand how bloody hard it is to create something that feels new, and to convince the powers that be to trust your vision. I applaud Joey and their collaborators; they are pioneers.
LC: Céline Sciamma. Her films are so sophisticated, they look divine, and the stories she tells are always incredibly intricate and interesting. I think she has really elevated the bar when it comes to queer cinema.
Other than buying tickets for BFI Flare, how can people best support independent queer media
TWW: Independent queer media needs exposure and amplification, but it also needs the broader audience to interrogate their ideas of the mainstream; of what story deserves attention and why, and ultimately what constitutes a “good” story in the first place. It’s a lot to take on, but I live to challenge the assumption that our stories are niche. I believe in the future and potential of queer stories. There is limitless possibility and that outlook starts with the individual and can spread like wildfire. Also, it’s really bloody hard, so if you ever meet an independent queer creator – buy them a drink!
The Greenhouse plays as part of the BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival, 17-28 March.
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