We are delighted to welcome Director Kylie Eaton to The Green Room! Thank you so much for taking the time to join us!
Where does your passion for fantasy, science fiction, and all things other-worldly come from?
Great to be here! As a child, I read a lot of books, watched a lot of movies, and completely immersed myself in fictional worlds. In my latest film, DISPEL, the protagonist also dives into fiction as an escape from her difficult situation at home. Fantasy is such an interesting way of exploring bigger issues, projecting real fears onto the make-believe. I wanted to bring these ideas into a single piece of work by creating DISPEL. Together with the cast and crew, we were able to create something that has a deep story, but also honours the fantasy and sci-fi themes that I love so much.
From music videos to commercial content, short films and screenplays…. you seem to love it all! Where do you feel most at home?
I love being a storyteller, and try to do it as much and as often as possible regardless of medium. My real love, however, is narrative filmmaking. I am driven by my desire to tell as of yet unexplored stories, to build unique and meaningful worlds, and to create characters who are dealing with universal struggles. These feats can all be accomplished in music videos or branded content, but I love the narrative platform and the voice it can give to our inner struggles.
How do you get yourself prepared for your next job, is there a routine you go through?
As a director, the job starts in pre-production, working with the department heads to create a script, storyboards, shortlist, etc. Before any of that starts, however, I like to do my own prep by pulling together a visual deck for the project – all of the image references that represent what I think the locations, tone, cinematography, characters and wardrobe should look like. This deck is incredibly useful, along with the script, to help me communicate ideas to the rest of the team. Another thing I always do before starting a project is re-read Judith Weston’s Directing Actors. I have read the book several times and I learn something new with each re-read. The way she approaches working with actors – from casting, through rehearsal, into production – has served as invaluable wisdom that helped me become a better director.
Your short film DISPEL stars Gina Torres- a very familiar face to fans of US TV show Suits. How did this casting come about and did you enjoy directing her?
I had Gina Torres in mind from the start when writing the role of Celeste Skygood, partly based on her portrayal of the tough, loyal space pirate, Zoë, in Firefly. I reached out to her through an agent, explaining how much it would mean for a little girl watching DISPEL to see a strong woman of color take on the hero role. I strongly believe we need a lot more diversity in the science fiction and fantasy genres. I was honored that she agreed to bring Celeste to life. My job was pretty easy from there – since Gina is my real life superhero!
If you had to list three films that have left their mark on you whether it be through inspiration, emotion or just pure pleasure, what would they be?
Arrival: I am a big fan of Denis Villeneuve and was thrilled to see him take on this sci-fi project. There is something about Arrival that makes me want to watch it over and over – and it moves me every time I see it. From featuring a multifaceted female lead, to the way it uses the narrative format to subvert our expectations of past and future, to the way it makes us question the human experience… I think Arrival is a superbly directed film, with a great balance of nuance and excitement in the storytelling. The photography by Bradford Young is also extraordinary. District 9: I was immediately struck by this film the first time I saw it. Neill Blomkamp’s direction and creative vision are an inspiration. The character concepts and use of faux-documentary storytelling perfectly create a whole new world. The main character, Wikus, goes through a hugely emotional journey, beautifully performed by Sharlto Copley. The message and parallels that it draws from real life situations are incredibly important, yet don’t distract from the narrative of the film. I was also drawn to the alien characters, brought to life by truly impressive performance capture and visual effects. I was absolutely immersed, to the point that I could identify with this completely alien race. District 9 is both a beautifully scripted narrative and an incredibly fun, engaging sci-fi action film. I really hope there’s a District 10 in store for us in the future! E.T.: It’s a classic for a reason! My love of E.T. reaches back deep into my childhood at a time when I was obsessed with all things Spielberg. This film stood out from his other work to me at that time, and I think it was because I really related to Elliot’s feelings of loneliness and isolation. Everything about that film influenced me as a director – from the focus on the deeper and darker issues of childhood, to the characters and relationships, to the beautiful score… I have an E.T. figurine in my office to this day.
You’re a member of the Alliance of Women Directors. Do you feel the industry is moving in the right direction to support female filmmakers?
The Alliance of Women Directors is proof that women can and do direct – and the industry is finally starting to take notice. If you visit the AWD website, you can see all the wonderful ways they support their members. I’ve just completed a four-month-long intensive workshop on directing actors, led by the founder of AWD, Jennifer Warren. Learning from someone who has been in the industry for a while – who has worked on both sides as both an actor and director – gave me a lot of perspective. We do still have some big strides to make, especially regarding the portrayal of female characters in film. There’s so much unexplored in sci-fi and fantasy worlds when it comes to women, such as mother-daughter relationships, sisterhood, and female friendships. I often tackle these issues in my own genre filmmaking.
What can we expect next from you?
I’m finishing up rewrites on the sci-fi feature that landed me as a finalist in the ScreenCraft competition, and I’m in post-production on a new science fantasy short. Stay tuned for more details on this project, coming soon! I’ve got some feature ideas bubbling away in me as well. Once things have calmed down around the DISPEL premiere, I’ve got new worlds to explore and bring to life. I think I’ll still be making films, writing, and directing no matter how far into the future. I always take steps to work at a higher level of skill and production with each new project.