Published on March 7th, 2018 | by Biz Books
2018 VIWIFF Interview: Tisha Deb Pillai
BizBooks.net is pleased to showcase a few of the local filmmakers at the 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.
In this interview, we talked to Tisha Deb Pillai about directing If You Fall.
Can you start by telling us a little bit about you and your VIWIFF film?
I grew up in New Delhi and came to study animation at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2012. As an animator living between Canada and India, my work has been inspired by two vastly distinct worlds of colours, cultures and ideas. I enjoy telling stories from personal memories and experiences, and searching for the perfect mix of distinct and universal themes in my narratives.
If You Fall is my graduate film from Emily Carr and tells the story of eight-year-old Lila, who takes on the daunting task of learning how to cycle, as she faces an unfamiliar parental ‘role-reversal’ at home.
What does this film mean to you?
The film is based on my childhood memories of growing up in a home where my father was the primary caregiver and my mother the primary breadwinner. This arrangement was very different from what I saw around me as a child back then, but I was always proud to belong to this unconventional home. Seen through the eyes of an innocent little girl, the film depicts the challenges and advantages of such a ‘role-reversal’, and how the child gradually becomes aware of her family dynamics and complexities. I was keen to draw a parallel to this dynamic and so the story of Lila learning how to ride a cycle evolved. Just like her parents in their unorthodox roles, the child has to overcome the unfamiliar, keep trying even if she falls, and know that her family will always be there to pick her up.
What can audiences expect from the film?
If You Fall has bold colours, authentic soundscapes and nuanced storytelling. It is realistic, honest and not afraid to show conflict. The film portrays different relationships within a family and how each one affects the other in day to day life. The audiences can expect to be moved by this story of a nuclear family struggling to find their sense of balance and purpose amongst their loved ones.
What was the biggest challenge for you in making this film and how did you overcome it?
Unlike live-action films, animation films are pre-edited. To avoid any unnecessary and time-consuming labour, the story is written and storyboarded before any of the actual animation takes place. Therefore, my biggest challenge during the filmmaking process was the editing. I was worried about the length of the film, and about creating a succinct narrative without letting go of the small yet powerful details. I eventually overcame this challenge by spending a lot of time writing a script I was happy with, and involving my family, teachers and classmates in every discussion so that I had a good amount and variety of constructive feedback for the edit.
“Keep trying even if you fall.”
What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in your career so far?
To keep trying even if you fall!
What would your advice be to women who are aspiring actors, writers, directors, or producers in the industry today?
There were many times in the past when I felt I lacked the competence or experience to make a film from scratch. I was passionate about the subject but I cared so much about how things would turn out that I doubted myself a lot. In these situations it helped to play to my strengths, constantly bounce ideas off people around me, to take long breaks and start afresh!
Who are the women in the film and television industry who have influenced you the most?
Leah Nelson from Giant Ant has always been a big inspiration and it’s so exciting to see her journey as the co-founder of one of the most creative and talented animation studios in Vancouver!
What film and television-related books and authors have been influential in your career?
Story by Robert McKee!
What other projects are you working on right now?
My husband and I run an animation studio in Vancouver called Good Bad Habits. We are currently working on a Google Doodle project and an animation for a feature-length documentary film about Mr Toilet, the leader of a global sanitation revolution. We are simultaneously also developing a feature film idea of our own!
Where can we find out more about you and your film online?
You can find out more about me and my work at GoodBadHabits.ca, and on my personal website TishaDebPillai.com. To know more about my film, take a look at my Facebook page, If You Fall.
Thanks to Tisha Deb Pillai for speaking with us!
You can check out If You Fall at the 2018 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival as part of the Family and Friendship Shorts Programme which screens on March 11th at 4:15PM.
For more information the VIWIFF, please visit WomeninFilm.ca.