February 2018: Let Us Entertain You - Take Three: Irish Actor Returns to Santa Fe for Directorial De
QED, directed by Irish actor Amy-Joyce Hastings, is about a couple dealing with the aftermath of a terrible accident when they are forced to explore what they will and will not sacrifice for the person they love. The film will screen at the Santa Fe Film Festival and marks the 3rd time filmmaking duo Amy-Joyce Hastings and Graham Cantwell will screen their work in Santa Fe at The Santa Fe Film Festival on February 7th-11th. Director Amy-Joyce Hastings and Executive Producer Graham Cantwell will attend the film festival and be present for a question and answer following the film's American premier. I had a chance to catch up with the multi-talented screen queen and chat about her film, QED, which addresses a controversial topic.
This is your third trip to Santa Fe? How did you come to find Santa Fe from Ireland?
I was living in London the first time I discovered SF. I’d starred in a romantic comedy feature called “The Callback Queen” and George R. R. Martin had invited the film to screen at his Jean Cocteau Cinema the week running up to Valentine’s Day. It was actually the US Premiere of the film & George wanted to do a Q&A so I flew over for that. Then in 2016 Graham’s film “Lily” was selected for the Santa Fe Film Festival, Graham, myself and the other actress Clara attended. “Lily” won both Best Narrative Short & the Courage in Cinema Awards. I’ve fallen in love with Santa Fe so when “QED” was selected I had to return!
How did your background as an actor influence your approach to filmmaking?
I’d be very focused on the actors’ performances, I rehearse the scenes with them for longer than the filming takes. Story is the most important component really, you can have the most flashy, beautifully-shot film but if the subtext between the actors isn’t rich and interesting, it’s a soulless story.
What is the process in Ireland/ UK to fund a short film? Are there funds available that you apply for or do you raise money from anyone and everyone you can?
There are a select few funding schemes for short films. We have the Irish Film Board that you can apply to. For “QED” we had private investment from one Producer and one Exec Producer, combined with support from Filmbase - one of the production companies - who paid my department heads for the duration of the shoot and supplied some graduating film students as extra crew.
How did this project come about for you?
The lead actor Michael, who also produced, pitched the basic story idea to me at a film festival a year ago. We worked on the screenplay together, and when that was complete I sent it off to Filmbase who came on board and helped us realise the film.
What fascinates you about cameras?
I know we’re all running around with excellent cameras on our mobile phones these days so it’s easy to take it for granted, but I think there is something absolutely incredible about being able to capture a snapshot or motion picture on a device, and have that moment recorded forever. It’s a little everyday miracle if you stop and think about it.
Tell me the story about meeting Jerzy Zielinski on the set of “Fools of Fortune”?
That the first film I was cast in, at eight years of age. It was a huge production and I was very lucky to work on it. While acting is my favourite job, even then I found myself fascinated by the technical wizardry on set. Both Jerzy and the director Pat O’Connor were so kind, explaining how it all worked and letting me look through the lens - the equipment was bigger than I was!
The film deals with euthanasia, which is a difficult and perhaps controversial subject in America. How is it viewed in Ireland?
Unfortunately in Ireland, we aren’t big on allowing individuals the right to choose, whether that’s a reproductive choice or a medical decision like the right to die with dignity, should you so choose. In fact, Ireland has some of the strictest euthanasia laws in Europe. I’m personally a strong advocate for personal self-determination as a basic human right. I don’t believe it’s the role of government to interfere in those individual choices, the role of government should be the smooth running of society as a larger organism, not corralling individuals along particular paths according to religious (Catholic) morals.
Why did you want to tell this story?
The story initially was Michael’s idea, albeit in its original form it was more centrally focused on Jack’s predicament. Michael’s inspiration for that came from a personal experience of his, caretaking for a loved one. I found Jack’s ethical dilemma really interesting, but I felt it was equally important to explore Ali’s experience within the narrative. The perspective I approached the film from is the horror of being a prisoner in your own body. I felt a lot of resonance with that aspect, I felt powerless to help while my Grandad slowly deteriorated from Parkinson's Disease until his perfectly acute mind was locked in a completely non-functional body. That experience affected me profoundly and made me think deeply about the issues we explore in this story.
What would you do on the other side of the equation?
To be clear I understand why euthanasia is such a complex issue and were it legal, it would need to be safeguarded. I feel intense admiration and respect for the amazing human spirit that allows some individuals to make the most of life even in those situations. What “QED” is saying is not that life is not worth living under those circumstances, but how not everybody has that ability to transcend, and it’s neither fair or ethical to use the law to force endurance on someone who wants release, or to prosecute those who would help them. While I personally would feel as Ali does in her situation, and I would be inclined to fulfill her wishes if I were Jack, the film doesn’t provide those absolute answers, it poses the question. There is no Universal answer which is why the individual’s right to decide should be an inalienable right, and why there should be an impartial medical route offered if it’s simply too big an ask for a family member.
How do you think films help address difficult subjects like euthanasia?
It’s easy to have clear-cut black and white stances on difficult issues like euthanasia when you haven’t been confronted with the reality of certain experiences. I think first-hand experiences naturally change your perspective, and storytelling through the medium of film is a very effective shorthand for sharing different perspectives to allow other people to experience what a different reality might feel like. Changing hearts and minds through storytelling… I’m not trying to force an issue, only open a taboo human rights subject up for discussion. The best feeling is when audience members are excited to discuss it after seeing the film. I met a nurse at one screening, she told me that when she started her work in this field forty years ago, if you’d asked her about assisted suicide she would have been horrified, but having cared for so many real people she’d come to understand it’s a mercy to allow individuals and families to decide internally how to manage their situations.
Anything else you want to share?
Thanks for such thoughtful and considered questions. I really enjoyed getting to speak about the themes of the film for the first time, most interviews revolve around the filmmaking / festival side of it - so thank you!
“QED” is screening in the International Shorts Program at the Santa Fe Film Festival, Feb 8th, 8:15 PM
http://santafefilmfestival.com/index/film/international-shorts/ Learn more at www.qedfilm.com or at the Facebook page www.facebook.com/QEDfilm/