Francesca, congratulations to you and your team on winning Best Comedy, Best Actor, and Best Duo! Before we talk about "The Perfect Size", please tell us a bit about yourself. What were your first steps into the filmmaking world?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed on your platform. It’s an honor for me to be featured in a festival that has so many awesome reviews.
My first steps into the filmmaking world were when I played a role as an actress in a TV show in Burkina Faso. The story was about a girl who gets lost in the woods while camping with her classmates and finds her way back to town with the help of a shepherd. It was an amazing experience for me. The whole cast and crew went out of a city in a neighborhood village that had a beautiful scenery. I was twelve and it felt like holidays for me because I was doing something I love in a camping-type of situation.
What was the first piece of filming equipment you owned?
I am glad you asked. I used to think that the first equipment that I owned was a camera my parents offered me, but this question just triggered some memories that make me smile. The first piece of filming equipment I owned was a tiny camcorder, a JVC that operated with miniature VHS cassettes and that I was offered by my uncle. I don’t remember exactly what model it is was, but I remember it needed some kind of process to transform the footage in digital. I loved that camera and it’s probably still there somewhere at my mom’s house.
You moved to LA just a few months before the pandemic in 2020. What would be your advice for newcomers? What are some things you wish you knew about LA and the industry here?
There are many things I wish I knew before I moved to LA.
First, I would have loved that a higher power told me in my dreams that a virus would change things in the world. Well, that didn’t happen. It is what it is. However, I don’t regret my decision to move here.
If I had some advice to give to newcomers, I would say brace yourself. The competition is harsh specially in film industry. But I would also say Los Angeles is a city of opportunity and if you work hard enough, things will start getting where you want them to be, maybe slowly, but surely (Got that advice from my parents 🤪).. Los Angeles can feel very challenging for newcomers especially when you come from a different country and don’t have your friends and your family with you. The cultural disconnect can be dauting and it’s true for any new beginnings. But learning to embrace what comes our way and actively seeking opportunities is the key. If you are a homebody like I am, you’ll have to get out of your own way. Not easy but doable.
Let's talk about your film! In real life, the preoccupation with the size of the "member", the comparisons to others, and the fear that the size is "not enough" for our partner can cause men a real insecurity. In the film, you managed to convey these feelings of, probably, every man in the world, in an entertaining and humorous way. How did the idea for the story develop?
Well, let’s just say without too many details that this started with a boyfriend asking his girlfriend years ago, if his penis is bigger than her ex’s 🤷🏾♀️. Ridiculous but funny. I write a lot of dramas and I wanted to take a break from this genre. So, I thought I would use that “incident” as a premise for a comedy short, and to keep it lively I decided to add ideas coming from discussion with some of my friends, on how they felt about “their member” when they were younger. It’s funny that all men I talked to when developing this story went through these insecurities at some point in their life. I heard comments like “I wish someone told me when I was 15 that my penis was fine” or “If your ex is bigger than me, I can’t satisfy you”. I also heard a lot of comments in the past about how your race can affect your penis size, which is basically a myth. The comments and little jokes helped get the story where I wanted it to be.
One of the interesting (and creative) additions, is the possibility given to viewers to see Daniel's thoughts and his emotional and hidden reactions to his fiancee Shayna. She tries to convince him that she doesn't have a problem with the size of his penis, and that he's hallucinating all kinds of things that didn't happen, but he's completely convinced that her intentions are different, creating a gap between what the viewers know and what Shayna knows. How and at what stage did the idea of using narration and illustrations come up?
The idea of bringing a narrator into the story came late in the process, about two days before filming. I felt like something was missing in the script and as I was trying to play it in my head some comments popped in. That’s when I decided I will add narration to it.
For the animation it was different. I knew I wanted some animation in the beginning of the film to set the tone and make the viewer know that this will be very ridiculous situation dealing with what men could consider a serious topic, however I had absolutely no clue of the type of But as someone said, “if you sit long enough on it, the solution will come to you”. It had to be simple, not elaborated, obviously funny and serve the purpose of accentuating the ridiculousness of the situation. After brainstorming, ideas finally came up and were added to the final film.
We absolutely loved the performances. Chad Anderson as Daniel and you as Shayna are literally the perfect couple for this film! Of course, it says a lot about your directing work. Can you tell us about the process of working with Chad? How did you prepare for the filming, how did you build the chemistry and the right energies at each point in the story?
Aww… Thank you for the compliments!
Building chemistry was easier that I though. Chad is a nice and funny guy, and he is easy to work with. I just had to trust my characters and roll with them. Chad and I had a discussion on the characters and their motivations, and we had a rehearsal before filming day which helped us build the on-screen chemistry. I also had a discussion with Brian (the narrator) and went over the story and the tone that needed to be created, then I sent him the film. Brian did everything remote from his home studio. We did a couple of revisions and that was it.
As soon as Shayna manages to convince Daniel that she has no problem with his penis and that he has no reason to be jealous of her ex, Daniel remembers the sentence she told him before they started dating. At this point, the viewers realize that this is an extreme obsession, and the character's smirk approaches its peak. Shayna, who until now has been very patient with him, begins to lose patience ("You realize how weird you are right now, don't you?"). Did you at any point think of ending the story differently? And can you tell us about the process of building the characters?
Building the characters was the most important part of the story. They had to be the ones leading it since it was all taking place in one location and there was only the two of them. For me everything in the story was about contrast and opposition. Shayna and Daniel are different races, Daniel takes the subject seriously, too seriously which makes it ridiculous for Shayna. He is in and emotional distress while she is amused. And I think that’s what makes the story work and what makes it funny is the ridicule of the situation.
Right now, I can’t really think of how else the story would end. This is a quirky comedy, and I really wanted the end to be romantic, make people laugh and feel good. I hope I did service to the story.
No spoilers, but at some point, Daniel asks a question, and once Shayna breaks down and answers, he gets an answer he really won't be happy to hear. As they say, there are questions that are better not asked. Since the reactions of the characters are funny, we are interested in hearing experiences from the set. Was there any embarrassment on set? You must have laughed a lot between takes.
Yes! There were some bloopers on set. I kept missing some of my easiest lines. Chad missed some of his lines which was funny. And I could also see the DP and the sound Mixer smiling during some takes.
Obviously, Daniel has some sort of obsession with Shayna's ex. He is jealous of him, even when Shayna repeatedly explains to him that he has no reason to. He talks about his muscular body, the clothes he chose to wear, and of course, the size of his penis as he imagines it. Daniel also talks about a meeting where he started thinking about the whole issue when he saw her ex. Was there a point where you thought about shooting more characters, or that scene they're talking about? And was the decision to use two characters in one location related to financial considerations only, or to artistic considerations as well?
I love this question. Thank you for asking.
Well let’s be honest. Indie filmmaking is not easy, and budget restrictions are lurking around to remind you that you can’t always go crazy on the scripts you choose or write.
So, to come back to your question. Yes, my early drafts of the script had additional characters and locations but most of the action was still taking place in the bedroom with two characters. And due to budget restrictions, I had to rewrite the story, keep it creative and get every details intact, still in a funny way. I am glad I did it that way. It pushed me to level up my dialogue writing skills.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of the film is that the story manages to captivate the viewers even though it is filmed in only one location – the couple’s bedroom. Can you talk about the challenges of shooting an entire film in one location, and on the other hand, about the benefits?
Well, the biggest benefit of shooting an entire film in one location is obviously money: it considerably reduces your budget. However, it can be challenging, but a good type of challenging. When making a film in one location you can’t really rely on anything else but the story and the characters. Both must be crafted in a way they are not boring with conflicts happening often. The challenge is not only in building the script and the character but also in directing them, making sure the location is used in its entirety. Creating movements between characters, and choosing some types of shots are some ways of doing it. And finally, post plays a huge part in setting pace and tone.
The music and sound contribute so much to the building of the story and the comedic effect. What was your post-sound process like?
Postproduction was the longest process for this film. It took about 5 months.
I got the final cut of the film in about 2 weeks and the rest of it was about animation, sound and colors. I spent hours trying to find the right music for each part of the film. The music not just needed to be funny but also needed to be malleable so it could be cut to perfectly fit the beats of the story. We also had to do some foley and a little bit of ADR. The final mix was completed before moving to the color that I wanted bright to match the tone of the film.
What are your short-term and long-term goals, career-wise? Do you see yourself focusing on writing, directing, or producing?
My very short-term goal is to finish postproduction for my next short film that is in the drama/tragedy genre, and in medium term, I hope to start working on my own feature film. As for what I would like to focus on, this is a very tough question for me to answer. I love all three of them. Writing comes to me as a necessity to release, it could be good or bad feelings but when the urge comes, I don’t fight it. I just vomit it on the paper. This urge doesn’t happen often, however when it does, it feels great. Directing makes me smile, makes me happy. Being able to take a script and work on a specific vision with different departments, seeing actors giving life to your characters the way you imagined on paper and all the film coming together is just mind-blowing to me – every single time. Producing is just amazing. I love the whole process of managing a whole project from preproduction to postproduction.
I am a multitasking person, and I don’t see myself really choosing only one of those. But If I can choose at least two, I would say Producing and Directing.