Crafting a Powerfully Poignant Film: A Conversation with Writer/ Director Anne-Marie O’Connor
A film with a trans character at the heart of it, telling a universal story: When Kate goes back to see her mother after a few years away, she realises that far from being ready for a day out, her mum is gravely ill. And no one thought to tell her. So she takes matters into her own hands and although she doesn’t get the day she wanted, she gets the day she needed.
In our interview, The Fan Carpet’s Camila Sayers interviewed Writer/ Director Anne-Marie O’Connor about her Short Film MUM, she tells us casting three generations of transgender actors, the song choice and what she hopes for the film going forward…
Anne-Marie, what a powerfully poignant film, can you tell us how you came up with this story line?
Kate O’Donnell (who stars in MUM and co-created it) and I have known each other for years and when I first began to talk about writing and directing a short, I realised that I wanted it to be about Kate somehow. We met and discussed her relationship with her mum and how she finds it difficult to have one for many reasons – but one of the factor is that her step dad is difficult. I asked Kate if she could go home, what would she do with her mum and she said ‘paint her nails’. The fact that this was such a simple thing, but seemingly so hard to do was the kicking off point for what would become the story line for MUM.
The three generations of transgender actors are incredible in the film, how was the casting process for you as the director?
What may have seemed a difficult challenge was actually relatively pain free and (hopefully!) a very positive experience for everyone involved. Through Mermaids, the UK charity that helps families with transgender kids, we found Joe Pearson who played Little Andrew and who was nine at the time of filming. We auditioned a number of trans boys for the role and held the auditions at Kate O’Donnell’s house because we wanted it to feel informal and for the boys and their parents to feel comfortable. We were looking for a little boy who could emulate Kate’s girliness at that age, which Joe found a little difficult at first! But he just looked and talked like Kate at that age and this was why he was cast. Ash Palmisciano is an actor who Kate had met a couple of times on other acting jobs and when I met him I knew he’d be perfect for the role.
The song sung throughout shows the beautiful connection between mother and daughter, how did you include this in the writing process?
Initially I had a different song in mind, but we came back to Black Velvet Band as it was a song that means a lot to me – being from an Irish background I remember it was a song that was often sung at family parties – and it was a song that Kate’s mum used to sing to her when she was little. It was important to me that the song connected through Kate/Andrew’s life and demonstrated and underpinned the bond between mother and daughter. Did you speak to anyone in the transgender community about their experience in order to write and direct the film?
Kate is transgender and she co-created the film with me and so the film was made from trans point of view and we were very keen to make a film where the trans narrative didn’t hang on the fascination with the transition or portray a negative experience of being trans, as Kate’s experience of being a trans woman has been positive. The reason we cast a trans man and boy for the role of Andrew was really important – we wanted trans actors to bring their experience with them so that we could benefit from it in the film, and learn from it ourselves.
The film has been received so well already, what are you hopes for this film going forward?
I am very proud of MUM and what we achieved with a very small budget (£10,000). Once the festival year is over I will be putting it online to be viewed I am currently writing a feature film which I will direct. The feature again deals with issues of family, love and identity.