“It’s okay to be conflicted about being true to yourself, and afraid that being true will take you away from the people you love most.”
BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY BFI FLARE
Describe your film in three words!
Personal. Confronting. Hopeful.
Could you tell me a little about your background as a filmmaker? What inspired you to get into film?
I’ve always loved films, and for a long time I knew I wanted to make them – but the films I wanted to make changed as I got older. I went to a public school which didn’t have much funding for a media studies department, so I didn’t get to pick up a camera until I was 18. It meant I couldn’t waste any opportunities I had – if I could make something, it had to be something I really cared about.
Could you tell me a little bit about your film?
It follows a twenty-something international student who decides to have sex. With a guy – a guy he doesn’t really know, mind you. Oh, and he’s not out of the closet. Or had sex before. Ever.
What LGBTQI themes does it tackle?
Exploring sex with someone of the same gender. Losing your virginity. The feeling of living a double life while being in the closet.
What inspired you to make this film?
I wanted to tell a story that challenged me and I also wanted to make something that I hadn’t really seen before. Firsts was born out of digging into my own life, experiences and anxieties.
What does a screening at BFI Flare mean to you?
Getting to screen an BFI Flare is an absolute honor – I’ve followed the festival for years and been a total fan. To have something I worked on be featured in the festival alongside so many other wonderful projects is kind of a dream come true.
Who is your favourite LGBTQI on-screen figure, be it a director, an actor or a character?
I’m afraid I have to cheat and offer two characters – Glen and Russell from the film Weekend (2011). It’s the very first “gay” film I ever saw, and my gateway drug into queer cinema and queer stories. That film and those characters mean a lot to me.
What is the importance of LGBTQI representation on-screen? What do you think the industry could do to improve positive representation?
I think representation should always be grounded in strong characters and compelling stories. I think for the most part, the independent/arthouse/foreign part of the industry has been there for years, but mainstream cinema has a long way to go. These characters, their stories and their relationships have spent enough time on the sidelines – I’d like to see them take centre stage for once.
If you could have audiences take one message from your film, what would it be and why?
It’s okay to be conflicted about being true to yourself, and afraid that being true will take you away from the people you love most. It’s something I’ve wrestled with for years – and admittedly still wrestle with. Sometimes it feels like it’d be easier to pretend to be someone you’re than confront those fears, but pretending is much, much harder.
Finally: what do you think the future of film looks like?
Exciting. Film has been changing for decades and there are always new and interesting things around the corner. Challenging films – whether they’re foreign language, indie, arthouse, short, long – are easier for audiences to access now more than ever. More and more stories are on offer now and there isn’t just one place we have to go to find them.
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