We’ve been saying it for years: money may buy you high production value, but it can’t subsidise a poor concept. On the flip, a meticulous concept lovingly worked over at every level will often organically boost the production value of cheap filmmaking. Bidisha SK Mamata – first time director of short An Impossible Poison that dramatises one of her poems – calls it ‘Luxury Minimalism.’ Get to know the phrase because given the current state of the UK film industry, it’s something all us budding filmmakers should start thinking about.
Bidisha – creative writer, broadcaster and journalist who writes for The Guardian amongst many other outlets – wanted her first foray into filmmaking to be, above all, beautiful to look at. ‘I wanted it to work visually first and foremost, so even if you weren’t interested in the narrative, the visuals held their own.’ Indeed, An Impossible Poison has all the careful crafting of an art film, from its velvety decor to its heightened gothic colour palette.
It is this attention to styling that brings the element of luxury to what is very minimal-input filmmaking: a crew of two, Bidisha handling the old ‘writer-producer-director-star’ role and counting on friend and colleague Amy Cameron to deal with the technical stuff, namely camera and editing.
As well as crossing over into installation-worthy territory, An Impossible Poison fuses spoken word poetry with moving image – and in a way that doesn’t split the audience’s attention or demand too much brain power. Every frame is a portrait. Every line is deliberately married to the frame.
For someone who’s never delved into the mechanical workings of filmmaking before, Bidisha’s film is a true accomplishment based on knowing what was most important to her, and what could be overlooked. It all started with collaboration.
‘Personal networks are the only way I want to work,’ she says, when probed on the difficulties of gaining support as a woman trying to break into what can only be described as a boxing ring-like industry of blokes, for the most part. ‘Meeting people you trust who are willing to help you, who can recommend others – and incidentally, the only positive responses I’ve had have been from women!’
It was no surprise to learn that one of Bidisha’s key influences for An Impossible Poison was Anna Biller: director, writer, editor, everything-er of The Love Witch amongst other films. It is this DIY approach to crafting filmic stories that really sets the industry on fire and creates openings for others to do the same. In a sea of generic perspectives, every time something new and daring is made, against the odds, it’s like winning an Oscar for us.
‘Because let’s face it – we’ve got no chance at the actual Oscars!’
Watch An Impossible Poison on our What We’re Watching page.
You can find my info about Bidisha and her work here.