Writer and director Emily Singer stops by on Close-Up Culture to talk about her directorial debut, Sticks & Stones. The film stars Bella Giannulli, alongside co-star Jose Velazquez, in a role that is one of profound meaning and symbolism, as she portrays a young woman named Clair, who is learning to love not only herself, but her new partner, after sexual assault.
Hi Emily, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Your film, sticks & stones, explores the devastation that sexual assault causes to women. What was your starting point to write this story?
Thank you! It does.
I was hesitant to explore this subject at first. In fact, I tried to write something else but this story was persistent. One that wanted to be told. I think often times, sexual assault is portrayed as very technical and pragmatic after the fact, when it’s actually very visceral.
Can you tell us about Clair and Eli, and what the film explores through them?
In the beginning, Clair so clearly has her walls up and throughout the weekend, Eli chips away at them. She portrays what a lot of young people do when they are hurting – the armor we put on to protect ourselves, the witty banter we use to cover up how we actually feel. In the end, even though she’s reeling from this trauma, she remains vulnerable and doesn’t let what happened to her define her character.
Through Clair and Eli, the film explores the intensity of what can happen in just one moment, one weekend. The way you can feel about someone you barely know, that barely knows you. And if they did, would they still like you? That’s a question I think a lot of people in their 20s ask themselves.
Their relationship is an ode to the almosts and the maybes. They represent the type of connection that you can’t define, or maybe don’t need to. I believe certain people come into your life to teach you things. Sometimes it’s fleeting and bittersweet, and not meant to last.
What type of experience can audiences expect from stick & stones?
Anyone watching can expect an emotional journey. I hope people walk away from this story knowing that we don’t always have control over what happens to us, but we do have the power of choosing how we continue on.
This is such a hard-hitting story to make your directorial debut with. How do you reflect on the experience?
It’s definitely a serious subject and was challenging at times, but I ultimately feel that sometimes the hardest conversations to have are the ones that are truly worth having.
How do you navigate Hollywood as an emerging female director?
Being a young female in any career, you want to be taken seriously and that can be a challenge. I think hard work, persistence, and treating people with kindness goes a long way.
What do you hope to achieve with your voice as a filmmaker?
I hope to make people laugh, cry, and think. That people can relate to my characters and their experiences, and maybe walk away with a new perspective.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
My producing partner, Alexander Schikoff, and I have a few projects by emerging writers and directors that will hopefully make their rounds during the film festival circuit. You can see updates on our instagram, @greenestreet.global. I’m working on a few writing projects of my own but it’s too soon to share!!
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
To create beautiful, engaging content that spans across a multitude of genres and highlights the voices of young talent, mine included. I plan to release a book of short stories soon that delve further into some of the subjects touched on in sticks & stones. It would be a dream would be to have a show of my own…hopefully a few. Some features too.