Manchester Film Festival 2017: Josephine Doe Q&A

An opportunity to learn more about Ryan Michael’s film


Following the UK premier of Josephine Doe, there was a chance for the audience to pick the brains of some of those involved with the production of the film. The writer/lead actress Erin Cipolletti, the cinematographer Brad Porter and the director Ryan Michael were all visibly passionate about their film, and eager to give insight into the behind-the-scenes aspects of the film.

Why the choice of black and white? This is a very interesting decision, one that I feel sets the film apart from the norm. The answer lies in how I imagined the film. When I read the script initially, I imagined it in black and white. Claire’s life was not normal, she couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. Black and white was the right choice as it really emphasises the grey areas in her reality.

How long did it take to film? The production period was just 12 days, but ‘the time was made up for in post’ which lasted for over one and half years. A major problem which led to this is that Emma Griffin who played Josephine lived in Australia. When the post-production period started and things needed changing it became difficult to reshoot or rerecord as it required Emma to travel. To overcome this we waited until there was a large amount of required reshoots before flying her out.

Did much change from writing to the end of the post-production period? Many aspects of the film did change, mainly due to production issues. In the end though the complications ended up creating a better film than we started out making. Something that was very important to us was that the tone should remain the same. If the tone changed then it would no longer be the same film. The scenes, the words, the people could change but the tone was the backbone.

How was the experience of being both the writer and the lead actress? Was It empowering? This is a very interesting question that brings up both personal and business points. Some of the crew had issues separating me from my independent roles, often coming for scripting problems when I was assuming the role of lead actress. This was only a minor issue as the experience was wonderful overall. The role allowed me to easily alter the script on the fly allowing the filming process to be more fluid.

Was Erin’s character ultimately meant to evolve into her mother? That was one of the questions that we were intent on evoking. In particular involving fear. The fear that Claire had that she would become her, especially after she saw how she was in the mental facility. The fear Angie had that she would lose another member of her family to mental health issues but also the fear the genetic aspect of her families mental health issues would ultimately affect her daughter. This was emphasised by the choosing of a child actress to play Lily who had physical features more closely resembling Claire than Angie.

Who was the Inspiration for Josephine Doe? There was not one simple answer for this. More a confluence of lots of ideas that came together to form her. Firstly it’s the sister she never had. Who laughed, loved and cared for her. It was also meant to embody the childhood she never had. Due to her mother suffering from mental issues whilst she was very young she lost her innocence, the ability to just be a child. Lastly it is a version of her without fear, to be who she desires to be.

This Q&A was but another example of the wonderful events at this year’s festival. All those involved with Josephine Doe were happy to discuss their film after the showing and seemed eager to hear the audience’s opinions.

Click here for the Josephine Doe review

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