Director Lola Blanc joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss her new short film, Pruning.
The film, which is set to premiere at Palm Springs Shortfest 2023, explores what it means to benefit from the human capacity for division and hate. It’s a character study about a woman who gets what she wants at the worst imaginable cost, and how she deals with that cognitive dissonance. The film tackles themes of gun violence, the need to be right in a culture of fanatical certainty, and the real-life consequences of extreme rhetoric.
Pruning explores what it means to benefit from the human capacity for division and hate. What drew you to this subject?
Aside from my lifelong interest in extreme belief, watching America become so deeply polarized, vitriolic, and outright hateful has left me, like so many of us, searching for an explanation. I became fascinated not just by who believes crazy things, but by the systems and the psychology of the people who are spreading some of these ideas. I wondered not just how our culture got here, but how the public faces of those ideologies got to where they are, and how they really feel about the things they say.
Where did you draw inspiration from for the character of Sami?
We looked at a lot of the popular conservative commentators, ranging from moderate news folks to full-blown conspiracy theorists. There is definitely a mold that exists, and I knew I wanted her to fit that mold—at least publicly.
Can you tell us more about Sami and what you explore through her?
Sami’s persona is so certain and so loud, and in such utter conflict with the realities screaming down on her, that she’s torn between these parts of herself and has to decide which person she is. And yes, Sami represents a particular kind of person who I find morally reprehensible, but my co-writer Jeremy Radin and I wanted to raise questions not just about the individual bad actors but about this culture we live in that rewards loudness over truth, fear over thinking, and clicks over humanity.
The film stars Madeline Brewer. What was your collaboration like?
Madeline is so wildly talented as an actor, and she really has a filmmaker’s brain. She can see the big picture of the story and the character so well, and she’s so sharp and knows how she works best as a performer and owns it. It was amazing and a little intimidating—I feel like directing her helped me grow. I’d work with her again in a heartbeat.
The film recently screened at Shortfest in Palm Springs and is now scheduled to screen at Fantasia on July 30. What do you hope audiences take away from Pruning?
I understand that this film will not be for everyone, but even if it makes one person think a little more deeply about their own behaviors, motivations, and spoon-fed certainty, I would feel like I have done my job. And at the end of the day, it’s a horror film that deals, in part, with gun violence. I hope that it’s upsetting. It should be.
Title image by Mikey Piliero
Lola Blanc Online:
Official Website: www.lolablanc.com
Trust Me Podcast:www.trustmepod.com