In today's Big Apple Film Festival Director's Spotlight we are proud to present our interview with writer-director Alicia Slimmer. Her directorial debut, "Creedmoria"(2016) screened at various festivals worldwide, including Dances With Films (Winner, Industry Choice Award), Cinequest San Jose Film Festival (Winner, Best Feature Film), Brooklyn Film Festival (Winner, Audience Award).
Creedmoria is a tale about growing up in Queens, New York, in the '80s-but at its core, it's about one teenage girl's hope. Set against the backdrop of the state's largest mental hospital, Creedmoor, we watch Candy try to survive high school, a psycho boyfriend, a domineering mother, a dickhead boss, one brother coping with a drug addiction and another struggling with his sexual identity-all while trying to fit in and stay as hopeful as she can. This heartwarming film is the story of how she breaks out.
1. What inspired you to make Creedmoria?
I got pregnant with my first (and only) daughter right after I wrapped a film festival run with my short movie. I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of mother I would be and it made me think a lot about my own childhood. I had a burning desire to make a feature film and came up with a story about a girl who lives in a crazy world called, Creedmoria, and her desperate need to escape it. I created a character as equally ambitious as me. Like Candy, I felt like a bit of an underdog. I didn't go to film school. I lived in Brooklyn, a wife and soon to be mother. I had an inkling of what my next steps should be but didn't have a grasp on the whole picture. My character, Candy, doesn't even know she has the ambition to live a life better than the one she has had so far--but luckily she comes up with a plan to escape the crazy world she lives in to go and find a better one just in time. It took me a month to write. I scribbled notes down while riding the train uptown to my dance class. I created an 80s soundtrack on my iPhone and listened to bands like The Cure, Tears for Fears, Marshal Tucker-everything from new wave to classic rock that enriched the world that I was creating.
2. Why was Creedmoria set in the 1980's? Is that a nostalgic time period for you? If so, why?
I set the movie in the 80's for a few reasons. From a filmmaker's point of view, it saved my story from having to introduce technology like computers and cell phones. From a nostalgic point, I love the music from that time period, the clothes, the edge, the cars. I'm a product of growing up in a tough environment where high school was a place of eat or be eaten. Candy dates a caveman who tattoos her name on his arm--the same as I did. She needs to find her edge or she won't survive. Things are crap at home, school, work and with her love life and the 80's vibe just felt right to encapsulate it all. Add in my love of muscle cars and drag racing and it all looked like the 80's.
3. What is your next project you are working on? How is similar from Ceedmoria? How is it different?
Right now I'm developing a limited TV series, very Game of Thrones in tone, and as different from Creedmoria as one can imagine. It's a period piece again but this time set in 15th century France. The similar thing between the two projects would be the strong female mother/daughter relationships. In Creedmoria, Candy looks up to her mother when she's little but as as she sees her mother for who she really is, she grows apart from her. The two actresses, Stef Dawson and Rachel de Benedet, did an incredible job showing the bond they shared and the difficulty separating. The TV show I'm creating has another tragic story line that follows a young prostitute who gives birth to a daughter she adores, only to have the baby stolen from her. When they finally find each other in the end, it's a bit too late and both meet their demise. Its soooo not the dark comedy that Creedmoria is. It's just dark.
4. Which films directed by women do you feel are most important and
influential in our society today?
I'm a huge fan of Jane Campion, Mira Nair, Ava DuVernay, Sofia Coppola, though I have to say Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman was amazing. It was the one movie that I heard both men and women herald this year, even months after its release. I'm sad to see Jenkins not get the recognition she deserves with the Golden Glove nominations. Wonder Woman is probably the most influential movie to come out of 2017 when it comes to young women. Not only was it a great superhero movie, it carried a timely message of hope and female empowerment. Given what has transpired in the news recently, it's time to have more women telling stories on the big screen. I hope we've reached a point where audiences can hear the messages women want to send.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers? And, what
advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
I would advise any young filmmaker out there to just get out there and do it. Find your story, find either the money or a way to make it without any, surround yourself with good people and shoot. The only thing I'd tell myself ten years ago is to have the next project up and ready to go once Creedmoria was in the can. So much of my time and energy was spent on Creedmoria and the screenings at the festivals and all but everybody always wants to know what next. Opportunities come from a wide range of places during a festival run and you want to be able to seize the moment when it comes and not be scratching your head. I'm good to go now! Totally eager to shoot again.