Dirt - Short Film
Dirt is a film about surrendering to and revelling in life's chaos.
A single mother and her young son transmute numbness into aliveness, freedom and awe.
Dirt - Short Film
Dirt is a film about a single mother and her son, who transmute numbness into aliveness, freedom and awe.
Three months since his father left, a woman and her young son are existing in an impenetrable jungle of mess. She is finally forced to face herself and engage with their current reality, when escaping it in favour of reforming her relationship puts them in harm’s way. But in the process, the real 'dirt' - past pain and issues of self worth that are suppressing her ability to feel - reveals itself, and together, the woman and child make a beautiful discovery. Now revelling in the dirt, they are reborn into a new freedom and connection.
DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT - ISABELLA SPEAIGHT
‘Beneath my feet were the bones of a thousand years. I thought: I cannot bear this world a moment longer. Then child, make another.’
In ‘Dirt’, I seek to illuminate the capacity of female tenacity, the delicate intimacy of motherhood and the healing resonance of movement. It is a story of female sensuality, self-abandonment, longing and hope. I am interested in telling stories that encapsulate the vast and spectacular, often uncomfortable magnitudes of womanhood.
I believe many women hold a deep and suppressed yearning for the wild, something primal and intangible that we have been taught to keep inside or shamed for expressing. Women throughout history have been damned for expressing a desire to live outside the lines drawn for them. I am keen to celebrate female sensuality through a raw and unfiltered lens, uncovering a deep, feral hunger for liberation that I believe is almost uncharted in depictions of motherhood, despite the belief that we are surely more free than ever.
I hope this film will resonate with many, from all walks of life, and above all, I hope it will encourage people to dance, dance in their light and dance in their dirt.
DIRECTOR'S CREATIVE CHOICES
Filmmakers such as Sofia Coppola and Peter Weir's ‘Picnic on Hanging Rock’ conjure an ethereal, dreamlike atmosphere that transcends the reality in which the story is being told. Playing between reality, dreams and memories, I would like to explore the world of ‘Dirt’ in a similarly evocative rhythm, using celestial style flashbacks, cutaways of nature and physical bodily connection to enhance the growing awakening in The Woman and the ever-changing inner world of The Child’s mind with delicacy and sensitivity.
Photographers such as Sally Mann capture snapshots of childhood mystery with an unselfconscious beauty. A deep sense of impermanence derives from the light and shadows in her work. The fleeting nature of her photographs insinuate the terrifying speed of childhood, one imagines that seconds after the photograph was taken, the scene appears wildly different. Her human subjects appear so close we can almost touch them. I will use tight close-ups and handheld camera to portray a similarly immersive intimacy in ‘Dirt’.
I am drawn to Pre-Raphaelite imagery: angles of repose, of dreaming, religious references & poetry. I will use a pallet of soft, balmy colours in romantically lit, sun dappled scenes to capture the feeling of an endless, hot summer. This will not only accentuate the stifling claustrophobia of The Woman’s monotonous routine but also the impalpable magic in her awakening.
I have noticed in quiet moments between Bel & her child, (whose name we aren't listing here!) that their hearts, eyes and bodies feel so soft and open, a love like no other. This inspired me to draw upon mother and child imagery in renaissance and impressionist art. Some of painting's most praised motifs, for example the Madonna and Child, immortalising this deep and sacred bond.
Having explored a mock-rehearsal and test shoot with 'The Child', as he is named in the script, his freedom and spontaneity (of which he is of course mostly oblivious at three years old!) is one of the things we are most excited to capture in ‘Dirt’.
From the very first stages of talking about making this film, it was important for us to discuss ethics, potential challenges and establish boundaries for working with a child. We plan to shoot in an almost fly-on-the-wall documentary style, to give space for he and his mother to simply be and play. Early on in the writing process we began to explore ways to ‘gamify’ some of the moments that call for specific actions. We will be shooting mostly in the child's own home, and are in conversations with Directors of Photography and the rest of the creative team about how we will keep an environment and atmosphere that's unintimidating and allows for intuitive, slower shooting. For example, we will be using mostly smaller handheld cameras, every member of the team will be briefed on the specifics of working with him, and we will have had time for everyone to get to know each other before the shoot. He has his own assigned 'minder' who he knows and loves, and will mostly be enjoying time in the park near his home with her while we film the shots he does not feature in. He and Isabella are now well acquainted and have already formed a strong bond.
In part due to having a mother who documents almost everything perhaps, on our day-long test shoot he proved to be an easy and happy subject on camera, mostly ignoring it’s existence, sometimes noticing, enjoying and playing to it. Our intention is to create a loving, playful space and to ensure we have as much time as possible to work with any in-the-moment changes.
It feels really special to be able to work with a real-life mother and son and hopefully capture unexpected gold-dust moments organically as we shoot.
WRITER - BEL VELI
Bel is an interdisciplinary artist, sharing through writing, acting/embodiment, voice, song and musical composition.
She holds a BA in Acting from the Oxford School of Drama and is completing an MA in Songwriting at the Institute of Creative Music Performance. Bel acted for film, theatre and radio before the birth of her son and the decision to take some time to focus on being a mother and engaging in deep healing and integration work. During this time, the script for Dirt was also born. Along with Dirt's development, Bel works as a vocal artist and is also composing a body of music, some of which is due to be released this year together with accompanying films of her conception and in collaboration with other artists. She is also initiated in The Listening Voice process with Katya Barton and will be assisting in hosting upcoming song expeditions and retreats.
Bel gives offerings that incorporate Sufi-mystic-style poetry, spontaneous-song and embodiment practices, sharing these to be of service from a place of felt, present experiencing.
DIRECTOR - ISABELLA SPEAIGHT
Isabella is an award-winning BAFTA Connect filmmaker and co-founder of female-led production company, Backscatter Productions. Her films have won selections and awards at over 30 international film festivals.
Isabella seeks to find the synthesis between politically driven female themes and emotionally-led narratives. She is inspired by sensuous and intimate approaches to storytelling, looking for beauty in the mundane, and is drawn to art, poetry, nature and the physical body as key inspirations in her work.
Much of Isabella’s work to date has been driven by a desire to illuminate social topics, particularly women’s rights. She worked on the upcoming documentary Holloway which will follow women who were once incarcerated in Holloway Prison on their final physical journey back inside. In her film, Farewell She Goes, she partnered with charity, Womankind Worldwide, to raise awareness for a woman’s right to choose. On her upcoming film, Wild Animal (starring Charlotte Riley), she is working with Action on Postpartum Psychosis.
PRODUCER - SUSIE HUNT
Susie Hunt is an award-winning producer with 8 years experience producing short films that have screened across the UK, Ireland and internationally. Lately she has been assisting the executive producers on productions for Amazon Studios and Lucasfilm, alongside associate producing short film ESSENTIALLY PAINLESS (starring Niamh McCormack) and developing DOGFIGHT with Bumble Female Filmforce awardee Emma Moffat.
Susie gets a kick out of pulling teams of creatives together and fostering an environment where everyone can do their very best work. She enjoys championing stories that tackle challenging themes and advocating for fresh perspectives - and she's a sucker for a stellar spreadsheet!
Bel's beautiful script and the compelling vision Isabella presents for its execution enticed Susie immediately, and she's incredibly excited to be part of the team bringing this deeply moving story to life.
BACKSCATTER PRODUCTIONS - Production Company
Backscatter Productions was founded in 2019 by Isabella Speaight and Molly Murphy, after becoming aware of a lack of connective tissue between underrepresented filmmakers. Driven by a desire to redress the gender imbalance on both sides of the camera, illuminate female authorship and tell bold and compelling stories, their films thus far focus on female-led narratives with women at the helm.
Their first three shorts (Clementines, Birdwatcher & Farewell She Goes) won multiple selections and awards at BAFTA qualifying and international festivals including Best Score at Underwire Festival and Best Short Film at the British Independent Film Festival. Their recent work includes short film, KINKED (Freya Mavor), in partnership with Pietro Greppi of Lunapark Pictures (BFI Vision awardee and recently produced Peter Strickland’s Berlinale 2022 selection Flux Gourmet), WILD ANIMAL (Beth Park), backed by First Flights (whose most recent short, An Irish Goodbye, won an Oscar and BAFTA for Best Short Film this year) and A REFLECTION (Laurie Barraclough) starring Niamh Cusack.
They are now developing their debut long form slate which includes BAFTA Rocliffe shortlisted feature film, MAID (Anna Freddrike Bjerke) and KINKED as a TV anthology series.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY - CARMEN PELLON BRUSSOSA
Carmen is a London based Cinematographer from Barcelona. She mainly works across commercials, short films, documentaries and music videos.
Her interest in filmmaking lies in the ability this medium has to broaden our understanding of the world. Her passion for photography from an early age and the technical knowledge she has gained over the years have given her a distinctive way of framing and lighting every project, with the story and the characters at the core of her creative process.
Represented by Wizzo & Co, she mainly works in London but has bases in Barcelona, Madrid and Paris.
Carmen has recently worked for an Apple TV series directed by Jerry Rothwell as a 2nd Unit DP.
She was named Best New Cinematographer at the Shark Awards 2022.
Where will the money be going?
We have spent a long time refining the budget for 'Dirt', finding creative ways to save and be as economical as possible with the resources we have. 'Dirt' is unlike many other narrative films due to the fact that we are working with a real life mother and son. Whilst Bel is a trained actor, her son is not - he is a child and we will always treat him as such. We will create a safe, gentle, playful space for him to inhabit freely, at his own pace. Time is money in film with high daily rates for kit, camera equipment and crew, meaning film sets often come with intense time pressures and quick turnarounds. We are hoping to raise as much as possible, to provide the time and space needed throughout the shoot and create a safe and nurturing environment for all involved.
A note from Bel:
Thank you so much for being here and for your interest in the film!
Your belief in us and support towards bringing this project to life means so much. If you can donate, or share - I really look forward to being able to thank you in person. I’ll be in touch directly, and with your reward too if you would like one!
Sending very much love. x