Ahead of SXSW 2022, director Bianca Poletti joins us to talk about Radical Honesty. The short film follows a date that quickly goes south as two young people’s attempts to construct a new definition of relationships takes a turn for the absurd.
Can you talk about the inspiration for Radical Honesty and the vision yourself and Allison Goldfarb had for this project?
Allison originally wrote the script mainly as a vehicle for her acting. She wasn’t getting cast in the stories she wanted to be apart of, so she started writing for herself. I know that the script is fiction, but we’re both very drawn to exploring relationships and dating, especially within the Gen Z and Millennial generations. So, that was an inspiration for when she wrote it, and why I was interested in telling this story as well.
I really liked the chemistry between Allison and John Hein. It reminded me of Linklater film, where I could have listened to them discuss topics for hours. Can you tell us about casting John and, more generally, what you look for in the people you collaborate with?
That’s really so nice to read, thank you. I originally met John on a music video that I was directing and I just thought he was so interesting, very present, free spirited, and odd in the most charming way, and I remember wanting to work with him on something narrative in the near future. So, when Allison came to me with her script and said “I have a guy in mind, his name is John Hein, what do you think?”, I was over the moon. The two of them naturally have such beautiful chemistry together and are both great with an awkward type of humour.
Usually when casting, I always try to find people that have a somewhat unique look and are charmingly awkward in their natural way of being. I’ve worked with non actors and very seasoned actors. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, but I do like to mix in both when casting.
Although the film is largely a static conversation between two people, there’s lots of interesting visuals in this film – whether it’s the opening tracking shot or the costuming. What was your approach to the visuals for this film and, more generally again, how would you describe your style?
When Allison brought me the script, it was two people having the conversation as you see it, but on a park bench. I really wanted to create a world that was a bit bigger than that and also gave us the tool to play with the aesthetics feeling a bit more retro, contrasting with the very now and current conversation they were having. Which is why we decided to shoot it in more of a forgotten type of diner. I decided to add in the waitress and that opening tracking shot so we had some movement at the top of the film to play with as well as giving us a beat to establish the world we’re about to enter, before landing and staying in a conversation until the end of the film.
My general style is quite retro. I’m very much drawn to the aesthetics of California in the 1960s and ’70s. I’m drawn to locations that have texture to them, and aren’t super new and shiny, they have a story themselves to tell. Cinematically, I like to play with colour a lot, and with the help of my very talented DP Corey C. Waters, frame moments that look and feel a bit more like a moving painting. Playing with light and colour. For Radical honesty, we were really inspired by the neon lights used throughout the film Paris, Texas and Todd Hiddo’s photography.
What is your dynamic like working with Allison Goldfarb?
Working with Allison has been an absolute DREAM. We have very similar sensibilities and sense of u. More than anything she’s very trusting, which frees me up to explore things visually, without any surrounding doubt.
When did you first fall in love with films and what led you down the filmmaking path?
I’ve loved film and storytelling since I was a kid. I used to write my own plays, and act in them for my mom when she came home from a long day of work. My parents are from Argentina, so my sister and I are first generation. I was always mesmerized by American TV and film. I learned a lot about American culture and relationships etc… from watching A LOT of TV and films. I followed this love for film and went to film school for 4 years, then assisted a handful of well known directors on commercial shoots, and some film shoots.
Then from there I have just been trying to create consistently whether it be commercials, music videos or films. I’m endlessly interested in all storytelling mediums.
Tell us three films you’d take with you to a desert island.
Almost Famous, Mommy (by Xavier Dolan), and Lady Bird.
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
Right now my main focus is on developing a TV series with Allison based off of the ‘Radical Honesty’ short film. TV right now is so incredible, and I’d love to explore that world a bit more in the near future.
March 12 2:15pm, Alamo Lamar, Alamo Lamar B (World Premiere)
March 13, 9:00am, Online Screening
March 16, 12:15pm, Alamo Lamar, Alamo Lamar E