Crowdfunding Pick: Close Your Eyes
“It’s vital that actors — especially young women — try and create their own work. Show the world who you are, what you can do. Tell us your story. We want to listen.”
It’s been a while since we interviewed a filmmaker to help support their crowdfunding campaign so we thought we’d come back with a bang: three interviews in one!
Hannah Warry-Smith (writer, director), Nina Rose Taylor (actress), and Julia Pappo (actress) have been longtime friends and now they are working on a short film together which is just too great for words. Creating filmmaking magic with your BFFs in the summer… is there anything better than that? Answer: no.
Close Your Eyes is a short film celebrating long, music filled summer days, and those deep, loving human connections that never really leave us. Written, Directed, Starring, and driven by women, this innovative, beautiful film will be shot in and around Toronto, Canada in the summer. Help us bring this world to life and help support female creators!
They’re already off to a great start and only have 30% more to go until they’re fully funded. Check out the rest of their campaign and donate via the image below. Then continue on for our interview with Warry-Smith, Taylor, and Pappo.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with filmmaking.
Hannah Warry-Smith: My childhood was family movie nights, visiting my parents on set, and filled with music and creativity and laughter and lots of love and support. I am so, so lucky and privileged in that way. My incredible, funny, kind father is a writer and director, and my brilliant, kick-ass mother is a location manager. My whole family in general — I have 3 older brothers and a younger sister — are all in creative industries, whether it’s in the film industry, music, theatre, through all forms. How I got into filmmaking specifically was more of a winding road — I took lots of drama and acting classes as a kid, and went to an arts high school that really shaped me as a person and as an artist. For a long time though, I was focused on visual arts — illustration, photography, and then writing. I write a lot, and I’m naturally a very visual person, a very visual storyteller, so the transition from short stories and books to screenplays was a very natural one for me. It felt right, and I am so excited to continue exploring this path and see where it leads.
Nina Rose Taylor: I am an emerging actress who has been raised in a theatre family. My mother is a director and has spent 30+ years working in the professional theatre as an actress. Theatre is in my blood. I don’t remember having a particular moment of realization where I went “I want to be an actor!”, it was always just something I knew. I grew up in a family of artists. My father is a visual artist and musician and my grandmother is a painter. I do not have a “fallback” option if acting doesn’t work out, which I think is what drives me to work that much harder and push myself. Close Your Eyes is the first project I have been involved with at its foundation level. OH BOY it’s exciting. I owe my strange half-waltz into the medium of film to Hannah. She has been very generous and open during this process, encouraging us to be curious and honest. I am getting my feet wet with film but also beginning a beautiful collaboration with two people I truly admire. I am so grateful. We are gonna do so much cool stuff!
Julia Pappo: Looking back, there isn’t a time in my life that I can separate from the films that I was watching — no, devouring. Movies have always had such a strong influence over me, from the clothes I wear to the people I’ve tried to model myself after (hello amazing Jewish women! Barbra Streisand I love you!). Both of my parents come from a health care background, but they’ve always been incredibly supportive of me in my pursuit of the arts, from encouraging me to play the violin throughout my childhood and into a specialized arts program, to my fascinations with visual art and the magical ways you can express stories through film. They’ve also put up with my dalliances with musical theatre, so there’s that.
Tell us about this project! Where did the idea come from?
HWS: Close Your Eyes is a story about friendship and love, set in Toronto in 1972. The idea came from listening to a lot of 70s folk music and just really wanting to make something I believed in. It follows Jim and Mae, two young women who mean so much to each other and have a very deep and special and real connection. The film provides a snapshot into their relationship, and specifically a rift in that relationship and how it changes and affects them. There’s an interview or clip somewhere where Greta Gerwig is discussing Lady Bird, and she describes the film as acting like a memory, which is something I immediately felt a strong connection to, and something I want to bring to this film as well — just in terms of those purposeful, beautifully framed shots, where you see it and you feel like it’s yours as much as anyone else’s — it makes it really special for anyone watching it, I think, and I really would love to be able to bring some of that to this story and these characters.
What inspired you to set the story in 1972?
HWS: It had a lot to do with the music that inspired me and that I wanted to incorporate—I listen to a lot of Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce, stuff like that, and a couple songs in particular really inspired me. There’s so much aesthetically that you can do with that time period as well, which is another thing that really drew me to the 70s. I also think that the sexuality in this film is shown as a very fluid thing — it’s about these two young women that just have a very honest and real and loving connection, and I wanted to show that in a different era — when I put it together with the music I was inspired by and figured out how I wanted to tell this story, it really just clicked into place.
NRT: The best part of 1972 (other than the absence of bras) is the MUSIC! The characters communicate through music in this film; they use it as a means of expressing themselves. I believe this is a common experience for young women who are trying to find their identity.
JP: Something that I absolutely love about the setting of 1972 (besides the music) is the visual aesthetic. I have such a huge place in my heart for the clothes, from flare jeans and clogs to bad corduroy, and looking at pictures of Toronto from the period is such a unique experience — it’s the only decade of the city’s history where everything has been unequivocally BROWN. I think trying to express the experience of female friendship through such an utterly monochrome, dusty, grimy looking period is a really fun challenge.
What excites you about using crowdfunding?
HWS: I personally haven’t used crowdfunding before, so this will be a really new and interesting experience and I’m excited to see how it will go! I really like it because it’s so easily shareable across so many various platforms, and I think it’s really accessible too—it’s a way for creators and artists to gain patrons and supporters and build a community around a project, where people feel invested in what you’re doing and are excited for you to create this thing, which I think is a really beautiful way to support each other.
NRT: Crowdfunding is great because it’s accessible. It makes the financial part of creation way less scary. It’s also a way for people you know to feel like they’re a part of what you’re creating. I appreciate the transparency of crowdfunding and the fact that it is super user-friendly!
JP: Something that I love about crowdfunding is the sense of community that it fosters, especially through the inclusion of small rewards in return for donations. Being able to give people tokens of our appreciation, from postcards to tickets and credits, makes it feel like we’re creating more than a movie, but a real artistic community through an online method, a medium which can so often feel isolated and polarizing.
Tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who are going to work on this film!
HWS: Ok I am SO excited to have the opportunity to work with and to direct two of my best friends in this film. Nina and Julia and I met in high school and have stayed friends through moving to different cities and countries, reconnecting, and all sorts of stuff. They are so supportive and special and our friendship is so important to me, to be able to create something like this, to work on a story I love with people I love, is truly special and I feel so privileged to be able to do this. We also have some other really great, talented people involved — Nastasia Pappas-Kemps is a mutual friend of ours, and she’ll be writing an original song for the film that we are so excited about. I originally approached Nastasia because I was familiar with her music and loved the vibe, and she so quickly sent me back a demo that just fit more perfectly than anything I could’ve ever dreamed up. Another awesome artist involved is Xulin Wang, she is a local Toronto artist who I am so excited to say has signed on to create a poster for this project! Check them out — they are brilliant creators and I honestly can’t wait to get this film going and work with all of these talented, powerful people.
NRT: Allyson Landy will also be featured in this film! Allyson and I were in a production of The Crucible together back in the winter. She’s such a kind, positive person, I am so glad we are going to have her on set and I am excited to be working together again! We also have a fantastic makeup artist, Emma Levitt, involved, and are currently working on getting more of our crew together.
JP: I’m so excited that a local photographer, Emma Robinson, has said she’d be interested in doing on-set photography for us this summer. I first met Emma through Instagram, and her analog images are absolutely breathtaking — she’s so good at capturing snapshots of authentic adolescence through her own special, dreamy, hazy lens.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
HWS: I think being a feminist is such an inherent thing, I’m not sure I could explain why other than why wouldn’t I be? I also want to add that I try to be aware of myself and my own privilege in my feminism — intersectionality has to be at the heart of any movement. Feminism doesn’t make sense if it’s only benefitting a select few, or only benefitting white women, able bodied women, straight women. It just doesn’t work that way — so I definitely try to be aware of my own privilege and make sure that I take time to listen and not speak for others when it’s not my place. That being said, I’m also constantly learning and adjusting and figuring things out, which I think really is a lifelong gig — I’m figuring out my place in this world and in storytelling as a Jewish woman, a young woman with a lot of privilege in so many ways. It’s definitely important for me to address that — and to me, it’s an important aspect to my filmmaking because it’s an important aspect of me as a person. Of course I want to tell stories about women and about my experiences, because these are the things I know, the things that make me who I am. I want to see stories that reflect how I feel about the women in my life, how those relationships are so layered and can be so strong and intimate and loving and empowering and so many things that you just don’t see depicted very often.
NRT: I am a feminist because why wouldn’t I be? I am inspired by my tenacious, brilliant mother who has had to lift herself up to be seen and heard. Female artists need to be able to advocate for themselves. I often feel like because I’m a young actress I don’t have a lot power, especially in auditions, but I think it’s important to feel like you are representing what kind of artist you are, as opposed to proving your worth. Reveal who YOU are through your work, whether that’s on screen, in a performance onstage, or for five minutes in an audition. The actor’s life can be tough. You are constantly in pursuit of someone who will say “I want you.” That is the inevitable nature of this crazy life. However, it’s vital that actors — especially young women — try and create their own work. Show the world who you are, what you can do. Tell us your story. We want to listen.
All of this to say, being a feminist influences everything I do and it has since I picked up the first Rookie Yearbook at age 15.
JP: If going to TWO film schools has taught me anything, it’s that the industry is a major boys club, and I’m SO TIRED of hearing dudes compare their favourite Tarantino versus Fincher movies. There’s such a trend of not actually being able to admit to liking your real favourite movies, especially when they come across as being feminine or chick flicks. I honestly don’t remember when I started identifying as a feminist anymore, because it’s such an integral part of who I am and how I try to improve myself every day, but a big part of it for me is trying my best to be true to myself and to be open and accepting of all the people around me — and to seriously question the reasons behind my thinking in the event that I am not. Being a feminist to me is all about intersectionality and constant personal growth, and while it can sometimes be a struggle there’s no other real way to do it.
Who are your favourite women working in the industry?
HWS: Ava DuVernay! Ellen Page! Daniela Vega! Jameela Jamil! There are SO many women in film and television who inspire me — I could go on for pages and pages. Honestly, any woman who uses her platform to speak up for what she believes in and lift other women up. Anyone making honest stories. Anyone brave enough to open themselves up and give the audience a little piece of themselves.
NRT: Greta Gerwig is my personal hero. I also really look up to Lena Waithe, Sarah Polley (I met her at a party once and she saw me on stage when I was 15 and I freaked out, oops), Saoirse Ronan, Beanie Feldstein, Laurie Metcalf, Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, Rachel Morrison, Agnes Varda, Lupita Nyong’o, Jenny Slate, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Amy Adams, Sally Hawkins, Helen Mirren, Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore, Cicely Tyson, Sigourney Weaver, Emma Thompson…Too many.
JP: JANE! FONDA! JENNY! SLATE! Not to mention AMAZING femme comedians like Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. All of these women are so strong and so quick to call people out when they need to, it’s honestly such an inspiration to see women being unapologetic in who they are, what they believe, and how they want to be perceived. I live for that kind of agency!!
HWS: Wow I don’t know if you can tell from our answers that we love and admire so many women? I’m not sure if that enthusiasm is coming across at all? Oh boy.
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
HWS: Ava DuVernay posted some advice to female filmmakers starting out a while back, and I immediately read it, cried, saved it to my phone and computer, and look through it whenever I feel like I need it (a lot). It included things like ‘Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer’, ‘Remind yourself why you’re telling this story every day on your way to set. Why it’s important to you.’ and my personal favourite, ‘Knock it out the fucking park.’ It has taken me a long time to learn to be confident in what I do — to acknowledge that I’m a good writer, that I have good ideas and deserve to have space to have my voice heard. It took so many teenage years of shyness and horrible self-confidence to get me to where I am now, directing my first short film that I’ve also written, and being really excited and really confident in it.
NRT: DON’T WAIT FOR PEOPLE. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME. GO MAKE YOUR ART. THE WORLD NEEDS YOUR ART.
JP: To be honest, none of the best advice I’ve gotten about filmmaking has come from people I’ve actually known. I think the most inspiring thing I’ve heard lately has been from Greta Gerwig talking about the behind-the-scenes of Lady Bird, and how throughout making the film she was just totally in it. Wholly engrossing yourself in your art and being there for those you’re working with seems like the best way to make the movie you want to see to me.
What’s your go-to jam?
HWS: It definitely changes daily, maybe even hourly. I’m an incredibly indecisive person—right now I’d probably say “Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding. It just makes me want to dance barefoot on a beach with someone — it’s so lovely and slow and sweet and I could listen to it for hours and I still wouldn’t be able to wipe the smile off my face.
NRT: Right now it’s “Bang Bang” by Nancy Sinatra. Damn.
JP: I’m going through a major Dion DiMucci phase right now (that’s what you get for setting the screenplay you’re working on in the 50s). I’ve been seriously vibing with “Kickin Child: The Lost Album of 1965.”
If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be?
HWS: This one is tough! Ok…I think I have to say Patti Smith, just because I really love her, and I met her once when I was 15. She was doing a book signing at the AGO and my fearless mother told me I should do an illustration for her and write her a card! Being the shy 15 year old in an oversized denim jacket and half of my head shaved, it took me a few hours to come around to the idea — but I am so glad I did. I gave it to her the next day and she thanked me profusely for it, and then gave me her scarf. HER SCARF! I cried on the subway home and that blue scarf still hangs in my room.
Also Ava DuVernay — I’ve mentioned her so much already. She didn’t pick up a camerauntil she was 32, and she is such a powerful storyteller and she seems SO nice!
I’m going to have to say Greta Gerwig as well — I would have WAY too many questions for her, but at the same time I’d just want to sit and listen to whatever she wanted to talk about. That Lady Bird so instantly became one of my favourite movies really, really affected me — like somewhere in that film, as I was watching it, something just clicked, like oh, this is a part of me now, and it’s going to be a part of me forever.
NRT: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Crystal Pite and Joan Baez.
JP: Keanu Reeves, Mel Brooks, and Hari Nef!
Recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers.
NRT: Lady Bird! Yup. I’m that person. It’s seriously so so good.
HWS: There are so many I love — new and old! I think I’d have to go with Whale Rider — I watched it a lot growing up, and it has stayed with me in so many ways through everything I’ve done. The story was originally by a Māori author Witi Ihimaera, and he’s credited with being the first published Māori novelist. For the film, the screenplay was written by Niki Caro, who also directed it. It is an incredible story, and Keisha Castle-Hughes starred in it at 13 and was nominated for an Oscar for her incredible performance — she is absolutely brilliant and watching it as a kid made me feel so powerful. I would definitely recommend this! It’s also beautifully shot and completely stunning.
JP: If you haven’t seen it, Mystic Pizza (1988) is such a gem. It’s got young Julia Roberts and her massive perm, beautiful New England in the fall, and Lili Taylor running around the most charming wharfs in Breton shirts. A perennial fave.