Firstly, director Luci Schroder is the real deal.
Secondly, no matter what anybody tries to tell you, making short films is excruciatingly hard. When you are trying to make something that stands out from the pack with very little resources or money, it’s the filmmaker’s passion that keeps fuelling the engine and keeps it ticking over. Case in point: Luci’s hugely successful short film SLAPPER.
This gut punch of a film was finally released online this week after a slew of high profile festival screenings at Sundance, Melbourne International Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival (where it won Best Short Film) and left audiences thrilled, excited and disgusted. She committed over four years of her life to the project and the blood, sweat, and other bodily fluids, can all be seen on the screen.
The NSFW short film features a remarkable performance from Saphire Blossom in the lead role as a young woman just trying to get through her horribly troubled day. And whilst some people find the film intense and over the top, Schroder says her film isn’t a patch on the real things that are going on in parts of rural Australia—where she lived whilst trying to get the film made. Yet amongst all the chaos, SLAPPER also possesses an underlying black humour that provides an extra sharp twist of the knife to add to the whole experience. The film has already recieved so much attention online that Sean Baker, director of edgy indie films such as Tangerine and The Florida Project, took to Twitter to profess how great he thought Luci’s work was.
With a background in music videos, commercials and fashion films, Luci has built a solid reputation. She has just joined the stable of directors at Australian creative collective Collider in Australia along with Art + Commerce in the States for commercial projects whilst she continues to carve away at her feature film script. If that anticipated long form project has a fraction of the raw, sexual and powerful kick that SLAPPER has, then it will be worth the wait.
You’ve worked with some super slick clients such as Nick Knight at SHOWstudio and made some stylised music videos for Vance Joy. Where does SLAPPER‘s social realism come from?
I was initially looking to experiment with multiple film styles; looking to find my voice. Some of my early advertising work (which had no budget) was for The Big Issue, The Reach Foundation, and T.A.C. I enjoyed working with people whose stories and messages are vital and important for survival. I also worked on a test documentary for people struggling with poverty, drug addiction and mental illness in the old Gatwick Hotel in St.Kilda (before it was sold), and that experience heavily imprinted itself on me.
My parents both work in human care fields, so I’ve always been into the idea of helping in some way. I want to tell stories that speak to the hardship of human life. There is also humour and beauty that comes with all of this, so I think these other styles and experiments I’ve tried will be useful eventually. I like the idea of blending all off these elements together successfully.
You once told me that you went and lived in the area SLAPPER was shot to immerse yourself. What was the process of casting the film?
Casting was tricky and took months. I had to cancel the first shoot as I didn’t have all the cast. The casting agents didn’t feel they had anyone who would work in the film, so I started street casting. A lot of the people were suspicious in the area we shot. I tried local theatre companies and drama schools but nothing much happened. I took out a little ad in the local newspaper over two months and found a couple of people that way, but was still short. A few people were found in a KFC and in the Morewell mall. Sapphire Blossom I found through an editing friend who knew of her from another short film. I spoke to friends who had connections in the location and those connections helped me find Maddy who plays Vegas, and Dylan Peck who plays Taylah’s best friend. Dylan helped me cast a lot of the remaining characters as he knows a lot of people locally. Big love to Dylan.
Narrative Short film is a super hard medium to get right and be successful in. A festival like Sundance receives over 8000 entries a year and only screens 70 films in this category. How aware of that were you when developing SLAPPER?
I was aware that it’s highly competitive and potentially unrewarding. I knew I wanted to get into Cannes or Sundance, that was the dream. I basically set my sights, dove in and worked away with no real expectation other than to see what happens.
Australia has a pretty great track record of impactful short films over the last 10 years. Why do you think that is?
We have a culture that supports shorts. There are a good number of festivals throughout Australia that celebrate shorts and they’ve helped launch director’s careers over the last 10 years. However, it seems like you need festival success overseas too to make the local industry fully take note.
SLAPPER toured with a lot of festivals in the past year, both big and small. What was the most bizarre festival experience that you had?
The Pacific Meridian Film Festival in Vladivostok, Russia. Being on a three mast sailing ship in the middle of a beautiful harbour, drunk on Russian vodka with a fleet of young sailors with a 50-something, female, redhead shipmaster chasing me around the deck commanding me (in thick Russian) to eat cabbage soup was strange. I had an awesome time at that festival though and met some great filmmakers. I also met Yul Brenner’s son who was presenting the Yul Brenner Award, and Natasha Kinski, which was pretty inspiring.
Sean Baker, director of Tangerine and The Florida Project tweeted about his love for your film when it was released on the net last week. Does that sort of thing influence your work moving forward?
It blew my mind to have Sean Baker respond. It’s exciting that people have watched it who I wouldn’t have expected to. I’m not sure that it changes my creative ideology, but it feels encouraging for the film to be recognised in that way.