A loving ode to the late 60s/early 70s as well as a delicately drawn coming-of-age memoir about a young woman’s upbringing by a “wild” single mother, Suzanne Racz’s short film WILLOW demonstrates the first-time filmmaker’s sense of style behind the camera as well as her depth as a storyteller. Shot on 16mm (in fact, the film just won the Kodak Golden Reel Award at the Louisiana Film Prize as the best film shot on film in that competition), the bonus – and ultimately, the success of the film, is the subtle way it reveals itself as a story of acceptance of who we are via the film’s title character and her embrace of a furry bunny costume and the key it holds to finding her tribe.
1 The film serves as a coming of age tale, a mother/daughter relationship story, and an exploration into the roots of Furry interest – all in a short film. How difficult was it to balance those elements and not have one overtake the others?
It sounds like a lot in 15 minutes, but I did not find it difficult to find balance because in the end it is just the story of a girl. Life is complicated, and for Willow, the Furry element is simply her truth. I don’t claim to have knowledge into the roots of anyone else’s Furry interest, but for Willow it was essential. It was important that I told her story which is what allows all of those elements to live comfortably together in the same short span on screen.
2 You just won the Kodak Golden Reel Award at the Louisiana Film Prize as the best film shot on celluloid. Why was it important to you to shoot the film on film?
I learned to take photos on film and I love the medium. There is something film offers that is not reproduce-able. Initially, it was the love of the look and the challenge of film that began the conversation. I knew film would be a tremendous hurdle, so the idea was hotly debated. Ultimately, it was staying true to the story and the way I envisioned Willow when I wrote it in 2013. The first words on my script are “Written in Super 8”.
3 Let’s just say you happened to have a Furry costume. What would it be?
In writing Willow, I chose my favorite, a bunny rabbit. If not that, I would be something with wings.
4 You had three different actresses playing the role of ‘Willow’ through the years. How difficult was it to find girls that you felt could pass for the same person at different stages of her life?
We had four Willows, age 5, age 9, age 12 and age 18. This was a huge challenge. I started with Frances Watson whose work I really admired as she fit the Willow I had written. From there, serendipity stepped in.
5 This was your first film and you happen to be a female filmmaker. Can you describe what was the bigger “issue” to address on set as far as running the set? Or was it all smooth sailing as far as everyone automatically taking your lead?
To start, I appreciate the wording of this question. I am proud to see more women in film than ever before and surely the challenges are somewhat unique for any underrepresented group. However, I hate seeing the term used as a disclaimer. To answer the question, I had a fantastic team. They were quality human beings and professionals all the way. Everyone stepped in, did their job and gave 110% on every level. I believe the key is respect on both sides. I had great respect for their talents and contributions which they gave in turn.
6 Having just watched your film with an audience (that wasn’t entirely composed of friends, family, cast and crew) for the first time, what was the greatest part and what was the toughest part?
Watching WILLOW on the big screen in a crowd of strangers was a wild ride. I felt proud, nervous, and more than anything else, exposed. I think the best part was feeling proud of having met a high goal I set for myself. The most difficult-hmm mm. It is an odd thing to see your ideas come to life then lay them out in the open for others viewing. This is a recipe for how to be vulnerable. That, I did not expect.
7 Popcorn or Candy?
Candy, all day, every day.