Diorella Mirasol is an independent filmmaker all the way from Australia and is here to talk about her latest romantic short Happy Melancholy as well as her Cannes Film experience (her film was selected as part of the Cannes Short Film Corner this past May). I recently watched the film and loved it! With a unique story, great writing, beautiful cinematography and charismatic leads (recently, the male lead of Mirasol’s film, won the Antenna Award for Outsanding Male Personality for a role in Leongatha), Diorella Mirasol is a filmmaker to watch out for. (You can read my review of Happy Melancholy HERE.)
On top of Happy Melancholy, Ms. Mirasol has already made a few other awesome films like Supermarket Django and Trauma with a couple new ones (ie: Wives and Lovers and Ingenue) coming soon. She’s also a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts where she studied Film and Television. I’m excited Diorella Mirasol recently took the time to talk to THE SILVER PETTICOAT REVIEW to discuss her background, the process of making Happy Melancholy, advice for fellow filmmakers, her personal Cannes experience and more.
First, can you talk a little bit about your background and what first sparked your interest in film?
Movies have consumed most of my existence from a young age. I grew up with a family that loved their movies. Siblings, cousins and friends constantly recommended movies for me to watch which I devoted a lot of my time to. I still recall the first films that made an impact on me as a child: Labyrinth, Willow, The Dark Crystal, The Legend and Ladyhawke. All films within a fantastical realm and from early on sparked an obsession with fantasy and the creation of distant lands. As I grew older I became obsessed with Greek Mythology, the idea of story serving a higher purpose is why mythology appealed so strongly to me. It was this obsession with Greek Mythology that inspired me to write a theatre play in year 10 titled ‘Oops’ which was performed at the Monash School Drama Festival in which it received a brilliant response. The thrill of experiencing the response to a story I created was a high I thoroughly enjoyed and made feel validated as a creative. This sparked my interest in writing and from high school pursued film, TV and multimedia in my Bachelor and Postgrad eventually leading me to the Victorian College of The Arts. There I was able to learn the fundamentals of filmmaking as well as cement the idea that this is what I was born to do.
Tell me about your short film Happy Melancholy. For those who are unfamiliar, what is it about?
Happy Melancholy centres around Penny and Gene, two unconventional and flawed individuals who meet unexpectedly inside a janitor’s closet. Both, feeling so isolated and estranged from the world they know, decide to embark on an adventure to escape their mundane realities however their inner conflicts and fears catch up with them and inevitably challenge them.
Can you talk a little bit about your process getting the film made?
I hadn’t written or directed a short in nearly 3 years and felt I needed to learn everything about filmmaking all over again. Once the brainstorming occurred and an idea was cemented I got to writing. It’s amazing how easily it all comes back to you when you enjoy redrafting and immersing yourself within the story. After the final draft was done a crew was assembled and there we went into pre-production to go location scouting to find the most cinematic destinations for Happy Melancholy. The process was long in terms of organising everyone we needed, getting our actors, all the logistical aspects but soon enough we were filming over 5 separate days between September and November. Once we had all the rushes it went through the post production team for edit, composition, sound design, ADR and colour grade.
You also wrote the script for your short. What inspired you to tell this particular story?
I believe I’m still going through a large learning curve with film. I want to explore different genres. The last film I wrote and directed was an adult drama and this time I was interested in creating a quirky comedy that explored the dark side of emotion but was still open to all age groups.
The story itself is rather simple. It’s a love story. The elements in between are what makes it unique. I’ve always been interested in unconventional love stories, unique and flawed characters and enjoyed creating a world where imperfection is what creates the perfect union. In the case of Penny and Gene they are both relatable but their idiosyncrasies and quirks make them loveable and different.
How did you cast the two very talented leads, Heidi Valkenburg and Chris Gibson? Did you carry out any auditions? Or were you able to just offer the role to them?
Heidi Valkenburg and I are childhood friends who bonded early on in our youth through our passion for telling stories. My first three shorts Trauma, If Lost and Supermarket Django all featured Heidi in the leading role. Penny’s character was written specifically with Heidi in mind and when we started brainstorming and discussing her character it was evident she was the right choice.
Chris I had never met until we met to discuss Gene and Happy Melancholy. I went through an actor’s database and contacted him. For the role of Gene I wanted something unique to his look and Chris has those wonderful puppy dog eyes and a flair for comedy that seemed right for Gene. Once we met and chatted it was evident, just by his personality, that he was the right man for the job. I’m very lucky to have been able to have these two on board. On and off set they were a riot and great fun to work with.
Happy Melancholy was selected as part of the Cannes Short Film Corner this past May. How would you describe your Cannes experience?
Overwhelming to say the least! My First AD and Producer Olivia Whyte and I went to Cannes together. We both didn’t know what to expect and spent a lot of time researching. None of the information could’ve prepared us for the rollercoaster ride that was Cannes. The day before the festival started we went to a Screen Australia meet and greet for all Australians selected in the Short Film Corner. They had rented out a lovely space with a balcony overlooking the Grand Theatre Lumiere where we could watch the red carpet getting rolled out and paparazzi securing their spots with camping chairs and ladders. The meet and greet introduced us to so many talented filmmakers, inclusive of two friends we became very close with, Paul Leeming and Hamish Downie who are currently living in Japan and created a heart warming film, An American Piano.
The day the festival started we received our Cannes badges and proceeded to the Palais where there was a section devoted to the Short Film Corner. The building harboured distributors and buyers alike and you could walk from stall to stall and see what movies were coming out in different countries and speak with the distributors and organise meetings. It was great to speak with industry professionals who had a lot of wisdom to impart and lots of stories to share.
Then there was the red carpet. Olivia and I secured seats into the Grand Theatre Lumiere to watch the premiere of Saint Laurent directed by Bertrand Bonello starring one of my favourites Lea Seydoux. It was an exhilarating experience with celebrities like Eva Longoria and Salma Hayek posing for paparazzi on the red carpet. From there our days were spent promoting Happy Melancholy and the nights were spent in the Cannes fashion. Mixing business with pleasure in bars or on yachts. All in all Cannes was a life altering experience and I learnt more in those two weeks about filmmaking and the business of film than all my years as an independent film maker.
How can people interested see Happy Melancholy?
The Cannes Short Film Corner was our world premiere. Once my Olivia and I returned from our whirlwind trip in France we screened HM at Long Play Bar during August and September and were amazed by the turn out and positive responses to the film. At present we’re concentrating on the festival circuit and getting the word out there and will have more screenings early 2015.
What is the Australian independent filmmaking community like?
There is so much talent within Australia. I recall the first few weeks at the Victorian College of The Arts being so intimidating. Surrounded by such talent, amazing ideas and experience to boot! I learned the most from my peers and my experience at the VCA and continue to call upon past class mates and friends for advice or opinions. Like any community where people share the same interests it’s great to constantly be introduced to others as passionate about film who can teach you a thing or two as well as bounce their ideas with you. I’ve found that the circle for filmmakers within Australia is quite small in that most people know each other, have met on set or have worked with each other in a professional capacity.
Any advice for aspiring independent filmmakers?
Make the films that have a piece of you in them. Your experiences, be it love, laughter, pain or sorrow can fuel your inner creativity. Writing is a psychological study in itself. Stories become much stronger when a part of your experience, be it small or large, is involved. Especially when you first start writing. Additionally don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded by your inner demons or what you hear, see or read. I know I start to freak out when I reference a writing book and think I have done the wrong thing. There are no rules, create your own or break the ones you already have. It’s all a creative process and as a filmmaker your creativity is what brings the characters and stories to life. Also, allow yourself to make mistakes and don’t be so hard on yourself when you do. These mistakes become great knowledge for the next film you create. Most importantly have fun and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Making a film is hard work!
Are there any stories (movies, books, TV shows) or filmmakers that particularly inspire or influence you?
I grew up watching old movies on a small wooden box on the weekend where the only movies they played were from the 50’s and 60’s. Early on I fell in love with the grandeur of old MGM films, particularly those that had Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Marlon Brando in them. My dad loved watching epics and we’d watch Ben Hur, El Cid and Cleopatra. I remember being so amazed by the beauty of Cleopatra. The barge entrance to Rome scene was my favourite as well as the fashion and the extreme passion in the acting. This also sparked lots of interest in Tennessee Williams literature and movies from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf to A Streetcar Named Desire which all had such witty dialogue and intense flawed characters. The magnitude in which films were created always amazed me and I wanted to know how everything was done. My favourite books growing up were by the Bronte sisters. Wuthering Heights, to me, is still one of the most eloquently written books I’ve ever read. These days I’ve found myself to be a self diagnosed Francophile obsessed with French films and music. The colours, the acting, the mood. Some notable French favourites are La Vie En Rose, Blue Is The Warmest Colour and Amour. Everything is so cinematic, powerful and emotive. Everything I aspire to create in my own work.
What’s next for you? Do you have any other upcoming projects in the works?
Since 2009 I have been writing my feature Wives and Lovers which is quite the antithesis of Happy Melancholy story wise. Wives and Lovers is a psychological drama centred around a married couple Spencer and Evelyn who resort to perverse acts and violence to maintain their failing relationship.
I’m excited to announce that Heidi Valkenburg and I have started our own production company, Miraburg and we’re in the process of co-writing for our two new projects Manor of Kent and Ingenue which we will be releasing in 2015. Feel free to follow the Happy Melancholy Page as well as Heidi Valkenburg’s page for further news.
What is the best way to follow you and your projects?
The official Happy Melancholy page can be found on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/happymelancholymovie
For my personal work check out www.diorellamirasol.com as well as my instagram, deemirasol. The site is currently going through some updates and will be back up by the end of the month.
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