An Interview with Gabriela Pichler
- September 29, 2014
Gabriela Pichler’s debut feature film, Eat Sleep Die, is showing at DIFF 2014. Gabriela was born to working class parents in a segregated suburb of Stockholm. To attend the School of Film Directing in Gothenburg, Gabriela left her stable job at a cookie factory. In 2009, her graduation project, the short film “Scratches”, was awarded the Swedish national film award “Guldbaggen”. Gabriela Pichler’s films focus on social class and cultural identity. Her work searches for authenticity and the unexpected in everyday life and often incorporates amateurs.
Where did the inspiration for this film come from? How personal is it?
In Sweden, around 2009, when I was beginning to research the story, the financial crisis was peaking and many factories had to let people go. Many lost their jobs. I wanted to capture that time that we lived through and what it did to the individual human being.
I wanted to create a female main character that would be strong and cocky, a bit like “Rocky Balboa” in Rocky. But instead of being a boxer in the ring, she fights against situations in her every day life but often loses. I wanted to bring that fighting spirit, charisma and working class perspective into the film. You seldom see that with female characters. My main character challenges many the stereotypes you often see when it comes to women: Muslims, daughter/father-relationships and immigrants in Sweden.
The story is fictional but many of the situations, characters and locations are personal.
What were some of the challenges of directing your first feature-length film?
The biggest challenge was the physical and psychological stress and heavy burden, and to push the boundaries of how much you can work until you drop without betraying your idea along the way.
It’s not the first time you’ve worked with non-professional actors. How does the casting work and how do you think that affects your films?
It is important for me to decide before every film I do which method I am going to use to get where I want with the idea. The process for Eat Sleep Die was different from the traditional filmmaking process. I started to cast before I even had a script. The most important thing for me was to have an authentic and honest feeling in the film, and to get that the greatest challenge was to find the right people in front of the camera. So the research process was deeply intertwined with the casting, location searching, writing and so on. I wanted to work with amateur actors, and sometimes a potential character turned up when I was visiting a location for instance. I even chose my own mother and her working colleague in two of the main roles. But most importantly, I had the very best casting director who totally accepted these unconventional methods and did a great job.
You’re one of the few directors editing their own films. How is the transition from the director’s chair to the dark editing room?
Often I take some weeks off between the shooting and the editing. To rest and to forget about the shooting. When I edit I am not very sentimental about my scenes, the most important is to understand what kind of film you’ve got right now in the material, not what you wanted to do when you wrote the script or didn’t get in the shooting. You can’t edit something that you don’t have, and that is often a hard process for directors. Because of my way of shooting (with long and very diverse takes) I had a lot of material to choose from. For that editing process you need a lot of time, patience and determination. You can edit the film in many totally different directions. I have to go through them all by myself. But that is my method and it is a strategy to get the best kind of acting from my first time actors.
Can you share some of the films or filmmakers that have motivated you and helped to shape you as a filmmaker?
I am very inspired by Wong Kar-wai, Clarie Denis, Ulrich Seidl, Agnes Varda, Truffaut, and many more… I get inspired by different kinds of film, and many different kinds of aesthetics.
Eat Sleep Die has had a great response in the festivals it has been screened at. What comes next?
I am working on my next feature. And I just premiered my first theater play here in Gothenburg.
Check out the entire DIFF 2014 programme at http://diff.co.in/filmsa-z/, and register now to immerse yourself in the magic of cinema in the shadow of the majestic Dhauladhars http://diff.co.in/registration/