Q&A with Eva Sigurdardottir

Eva Sigurdardottir directed Rainbow Party through London Calling in 2015. The film was shot in Iceland and won the Icelandic Academy Award for best short film.

Tell us about your work/career as a filmmaker before you made a London Calling short.

Before I directed Rainbow Party with London Calling I had been working as a producer. Rainbow Party was my directorial debut. I had produced a number of successful short films, but had yet to direct my first one. London Calling gave me that opportunity.

Why did you enter London Calling?

It is a fantastic scheme – not only does it offer money, but more importantly, it offered guidance and support. Making a short under the brand of Film London and London Calling made a world of difference for the life of the film, and it helped us get further funding and get the film into festivals.

Tell us about the short film you made and why you wanted to make it?

Rainbow Party was a very personal film for me. Similarly to my main character Sofia, I had been bullied as a teenager in school by the popular group of girls. I wrote the script at first simply to process my feelings, but soon realised that I had a film on my hands, and eventually the script ended up being a mix of real experiences and fiction. I am very passionate about telling stories which contain raw emotions, and nothing is more raw than teenagers feelings! The film was an amazing experience for me, but more importantly, left audiences with something to think about. In particular, I was very excited to share the film with a group of teenagers, who responded really strongly to the themes of the film – this is why I make films, to share them with an audience.

How did the development process help you?

I am one of those people who likes to spend plenty of time in development. I wholeheartedly believe that rewrites, rehearsals and notes make the film even better than the early draft. Working with Film London on the script was really helpful –the other participants gave comments, as well as the professional staff at Film London. We made lots of adjustments which I know made the film stronger. For example, we changed the title!

What was the most important thing you learned through the London Calling process?

How can I choose just one? I think I learned that I, like anyone else, am entitled to direct a film. I didn't go to traditional film school, and so I was unsure if I was simply 'allowed' to make a film. But at the end of the day I got enough encouragement to do it, and the results were fantastic. It meant a lot that London Calling didn't only pick traditionally trained directors, but also took a gamble on people like me. So many of us have stories to tell, but not all of us take the same route to produce them.

Did you have a mentor and how did they help you through the process?

I didn't have a mentor as such, but I did turn to a lot of people both at Film London as well as in the film community for comments on the script and on the edit. I sought out feedback from filmmakers that I respected, as well as experts in the field who have seen thousands of short films and so can spot the clichés. It is really good to get feedback, as long as you are open to it – but I did learn that sometimes you can get too much feedback, so it is important to choose the right people as well as the right moment to share your material.

Do you have any favourite moments from the shoot?

It's gotta be the last slate that we shot. We had been shooting a really long day as well as through the night, a party sequence in a fancy house full of teenagers. By the end of the night we were all so tired that we had almost become delirious. We were all high on sugar and just running on adrenaline as our DoP had to rush to the airport at 4am. The very last slate we decided to go wild and get the extras to improvise. It was amazing – so many funny performances which the actors delivered. It was well worth that one final slate.

What happened after you made the film – what kind of response did you get from the festival scene and industry?

We have been very lucky with the success of Rainbow Party. We began by winning the London Calling prize, then screening at BFI London Film Festival in the London Calling section. That was such a great start for us. Since then we have screened at over 60 festivals worldwide, winning eight awards. We won the Icelandic Academy Award for best short film and our lead actress was nominated as best actress. I couldn't ask for anything more – but we are still going strong and submitting the film to festivals.

How has the whole experience helped you as a filmmaker?

It has given me so much confidence and I am now working towards a career as a writer-director. Rainbow Party was my debut, and after that I got signed by the fantastic agency Sayle Screen. I am currently planning and developing my first feature film, and am going to shoot another short early next year. I am just so excited to keep going, and I have Film London to thank for so many of the opportunities that have come my way.

What advice would you give to anyone making a short film?

Just do it! Although perfection is something we all strive for, we also need to just go for it. The best way to learn is from experience, and so we should just try and get the opportunities where we can find them. I also really recommend any short film director to make sure that they team up with a strong producer – they are your best ally and your rock. Choose wisely, as if things go well you may be picking a partner for life.