Written and Directed by Brigitte Haviland
Produced by Brigitte Haviland and Amber Kinnear
Starring Laura Andon, Brigitte Haviland, Sophie Long, Nishita Merchant, Jeff Mesina, Josephine Parsons, Harry Peek, Nick Pes, Christine Snell and Sheree Zellner
When Kate loses her job and meets Rachelle, she is forced to question her close relationship with her dependent sister, Daisy.
Article by Brigitte Haviland
My first hands on experience of the filmmaking process was during my study of production design. The course had a filmmaking component where we got to design, build and render full scale sets, costumes, make up and props for short films. We literally created our own worlds. This was absolute heaven for me because it was by this means, with each new project, that I first really got to experience what is now my creative process – this weird and magnificent practice of imagining things into being.
At the same time, I found myself getting distracted by the question of what it was all for. The films we shot looked amazing, and I graduated from the course with a passion and appreciation for design, but I was inspired to take on new disciplines pertaining to screen storytelling. I went on to study filmmaking and directed some shorts of my own. I worked in commercial production, learning what it takes to go from script to screen in the real world. I took some improv classes where I learned some invaluable writing principles and performance skills. I watched as more and more of the stories that spoke to me were being made by and about women taking control of their own narratives. And I wanted in.
This is a fundamental theme of my web series, I Know You Are. It’s the story of a young woman who knows she has talent and something real to offer if only she’s willing to give herself permission. I think this is relatable for so many people. It’s also about breaking free from your comfort zone, and any circumstances that are limiting your potential. Kate’s main obstacle is her relationship with her sister, Daisy. Both characters are a nod to my own sisters, who have had the same profound presence in my life. I also wanted to see what would happen if I wrote a lesbian protagonist without having any character utter a single word about it, because in my own experience of being out as gay, it’s not a noteworthy part of being a person.
In writing the outline, I literally watched a bunch of things in the dramedy genre that I love, and took notes on their structure. In writing the scenes, I just tried to be as truthful and realistic as possible. I wanted this story to take place in Sydney’s south west suburbs where I grew up because I know it well, and it’s a part of our national identity that we tend to ignore on screen. I used Kate’s painting as a cinematic way into her mind, while she finds a way in her mundane life to take a few basic but crucial steps forward.
Once I had the script in a reasonable state, I dove straight into preproduction because I knew that I had a time limit on the main location of the sisters’ house. I also knew that if I put off production too long to perfect the script, I would probably lose my nerve and the momentum needed to just get it made. My partner Amber and I combined some savings, but we were still working with no-budget level money to produce the series. So, we looked around us for locations, cars, deals on gear and online resources. We recruited talented friends, called in family favours, and ran a little crowdfunding campaign to get us over the line.
The eight day shoot schedule was of course super tight, and we had some ambitious logistics to pull off for such a small and inconsistent crew. Mates were stepping in on whatever days they could spare. Looking back now, I don’t really know how we finished production, except by just getting through the immediate thing in front us. I knew the material inside out and could decide what to let go fairly quickly. We also did some pick ups once we had a rough cut, but I think we slept for a week when the shoot block was over.
In post, between the weird confrontation of seeing myself on screen and having on-set stress flash backs, I had to be as strict as possible about not letting these things dictate my choices. I did a lot of reflection with Amber and ultimately trusted my instincts because by doing this, you can’t really go wrong in the end. I genuinely hope people get something out of the series, because the process of making I Know You Are speaks directly to the themes of the show. You don’t have to have all the answers to get started. You don’t have to have all the money in the world to have humour and heart. To be quite honest, I find creativity is born of limitations. They force you to make something work, to find a solution to an already weird problem and you end up learning more than you could’ve without them. Also, I have now used the word ‘weird’ for the fourth time, so there’s that.
I want to say to women and minority filmmakers: Your voice is needed. The existence of my series is proof that anyone can do this who really wants to. And I’m not just extremely proud of pulling it off as an achievement, but of the final product. The key going in, is to surround yourself with people you absolutely trust, and then trust them absolutely. Please make your films. I can’t wait to see more of these types of stories, make more, and hear what people think of I Know You Are.
You can watch the whole series here.