DepicT! ’15 winning director Karim Soussi talks about generating ideas to fit the 90 second format
90 seconds… It’s not long right? Longer than a commercial but shorter than the majority of most short film formats, DepicT! challenges filmmakers to both think creatively and cut ruthlessly. But as the great DepicT! films demonstrate, constraint can be a very useful tool for innovation, forcing you to lose all superfluous or self-indulgent elements, and often brings out really high levels of invention and experimentation in your filmmaking.
One group of filmmakers who really got to grips with the concept of DepicT! are 2015 winners Karim Souissi, Robin Wijnhold and Reda Zniber. Take a look at their masterful film Hand Maid whose purely visual story made a big impression on last year’s Jury members, making them think in new ways without even showing them a face.
Hand Maid scooped both the Main DepicT! and Audience Awards last year and we caught up with director Karim to find out the process behind how they came up with idea.
Can you describe your winning DepicT! film for us and how you came up with the idea?
Handmaid tells the story of a Moroccan maid through her hands. We follow her for a day, discovering her routine, her work, some of her struggles and some of her aspirations.
Because the format was very short, we knew that we had to come up with one single idea or concept and stick to it. After a while we agreed that it would be very interesting to focus the whole film on the hands of the characters because hands are a very expressive part of the human body. At that point we had a concept but we still needed a story. So we started searching for characters that use their hands a lot in their daily life or job. We first went with a street beggar but we realised it might be too static or repetitive. Then we came up with the idea of a maid. It’s a job where you constantly use your hands for a wide range of manual chores so it was a perfect fit for our concept.
What was your level of experience before submitting to DepicT?
Handmaid is my first fiction film as a director. Before that I directed and edited many corporate films and commercials.
What have you been up to since your DepicT! success? Where did the competition take you?
Well since DepicT! Handmaid has been selected for festivals in Kiev, Abu Dhabi and in Missouri and we really feel honored to be able to share this little film with audiences from around the world. Winning two awards at DepicT! gave me a lot of confidence. It also pushed us – Reda, Robin and I – to work together again. Robin and I are currently finishing the script of a new short movie that we would like to shoot this summer.
What would be your top tips for this year’s DepicT! entrants?
Firstly, don’t think twice, if you have an idea, shoot it, even if it’s flawed and you are afraid that people will think it’s corny. Just shoot it and edit it quickly. You might be surprised with the result. Secondly, 90 seconds is a short format. Think of one simple idea and try to breathe life into it. You don’t have enough time for a complex plot. Thirdly, do not neglect the sound. Audiences will have no problem to cope with low quality images. But if your sound quality is bad, you will lose the audience. And finally, don’t eat yellow snow… !
DepicT! ’16 is currently open for entries. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a big budget or a teeny tiny one; whether you specialise in live action, animation or documentary; whether you live for Westerns, action or comedy; or hail from Japan, Mexico or Slovakia – so as long as your film is less than a minute and a half long. It’s completely free to enter and there’s up to £2500 prize money, invaluable industry exposure as part of Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival, plus other exclusive prizes up for grabs. So get thinking and get making!