Gintaré Parluyté in a scene from her short film “Is That, Like, Your Real Job?”
Photo: Véronique Kolber
Delano recently caught up with Gintaré Parluyté to ask about her first short film as a director.
Writer and actor and Gintaré Parulyté can now add the title “film-maker” to her CV. Her first short film as a director, “Is That, Like, Your Real Job?” receives its premier at Cineast on Wednesday. It is as honest and witty as one would expect from the author of local best-selling novel “Fuck”.
Duncan Roberts: Your film tackles themes of acceptance, bullying, self-awareness. What did you want to say, and why did you choose to hook these themes onto a story about the vagaries of the film business?
Gintaré Parulyté: I began working as an actor at the pubescent age of 15, so I’ve been marinating in the film industry for a big chunk of my life. I always knew I wanted to make movies and I was waiting for the right story that I would find compelling enough to transform into a film; a story that would feel very me. I experienced an uncomfortable and humiliating situation--one of many--during a film shoot a few years back and when I returned home, I knew I had to write about it. At the time I was reading a series of books by Nora Ephron--an essayist, writer and filmmaker I adore--and a quote of hers came to my mind as a sign from the universe, a loving guidance if you will. “When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your laugh.”
Writing, directing and acting in this film was my way of owning and celebrating that very slip. The topic of the story itself--humiliation and abuse of power--was clear to me from the get go. But the story itself as well as its message about the power of vulnerability as a tool to transcend pain, wrote itself, and in some way, became a prophecy for my values and what I strive to live by today.
The professional context of the story might be the film industry, which is an industry I know very well and also one that the event happened in that led me to write the film. But the story itself ultimately deals with humanity and how cruel people can be if they are granted unlimited power that is not being questioned or confronted.
DR: Will anyone recognise themselves in the characters in your script?
GP: Although the film is inspired by a true event, the story itself is a construct. But because I included elements that I either find funny or that mean something to me, the story is not me, but very me at the same time. Regarding the audition scene, it is unfortunately based on real experiences, but is obviously a collage of different elements for dramatic and comedic purposes and doesn’t reflect all of them, thank goodness.
I didn’t quote anyone, and I didn’t tailor any character on one person in particular, so if someone should recognise themselves, they better cure their egos.
DR: The nervous handheld, black and white style gives the impression of filming on the run--was that wilful or were you constrained by budget?
GP: Although we were, indeed, on a tight budget, the camera work was thought through and planned in advance with my amazing directress of photography, the wonderful Amandine Klee. I decided that the film would be black and white the night I wrote the entire script to suggest the timelessness of the story. What happens in the film could have happened ages ago as much as it could happen tomorrow. I wanted the film to be black and white for both the look and the justification behind it, so the decision was not just a result of masturbatory hipster hyperventilation. The entire film was indeed shot with a handheld camera, which I hoped would bring a dynamic energy to it and make it feel alive and documentary-like.
DR: How long was the shoot? Was your first time being directly involved in post-production a frustrating or liberating experience?
GP: As the script had 27 pages initially and our budget was tight (€30,000 attributed by the “Carte Blanche” initiative of Film Fund Luxembourg) we decided to have three days of rehearsals and two days of shooting. It was an absolute marathon, but the cast and crew were wonderful enough to work under unusual circumstances. The post production was my first time as well and I gathered the bestest of people thanks to my producer Vincent Quénault, who knows me by heart and whose instincts are diamond, “bestest" meaning people who are both talented and with a great heart. I spent three weeks side by side with Pia Dumont, my wonderful editor, who became a soul sister. Working with Ben Barnich in sound mixing and Raoul Nadelet in grading was an absolute bliss as well. They allowed me to bombard them with all the questions that were popping in my mind regarding their craft, which I appreciate immensely.
Most of them voiced a fear that I wouldn’t be able to distance myself from the material as I play the lead, but soon realised that wasn’t the case. I was a perfectionist with everything, including (or maybe especially) my own performance. I wanted to make a film that felt right, that felt “me”, with people who I loved and who understood me. And that’s what I think, what I hope, I managed to achieve.
DR: There is a reference to [cult Lithuanian director] Jonas Mekas, and the sadly deceased Pol Cruchten makes an appearance-are these cinematic heroes of yours?
GP: I included them for both personal and narrative reasons. When the film director makes a Lithuanian reference--Jonas Mekas--to Ramuné during the audition that she is so nervous and excited about, she is super pleased, as she is used to only hearing negative clichés about the country of her conception. Mentioning of Jonas’ Mekas is a personal ode to him, surely, but it is also intended to be a symbol for the film director’s kindness, which then escalates into something uncomfortable. Jonas Mekas passed away shortly before the shoot and I ordered a T-Shirt with a print of him holding a sign saying “We don’t need perfection. We need mental breakdowns”. It arrived one day before the shoot and that I wore it as a talisman whilst making the film.
Having Pol Cruchten, who to my utmost distress passed away recently, in my film was my way of thanking him for being the first producer who believed in me, who encouraged me and supported me, and by doing so became a father figure to me on both personal and professional levels--a figure I dearly craved and longed for. He was reluctant to play the film director in the final scene. “There is nothing I hate most than being in front of the camera,” he told to me with his signature smirk.
I wrote the text as me…as what Gintare would like to say to Pol, and it matched with what the character Ramuné had to say to the director she was so in awe of in the film. We both cried during the shoot. It was a very very moving experience. Now that he has travelled to the other side, this scene, this shooting experience has suddenly got a new meaning for me. It became a treasure I cherish and feel protective about.
DR: In the final scene Ramuné is really putting herself out there, trying to be honest--is this a call to break through the bullshit of the film industry?
GP: It is a call to break through the bullshit of everyone and everything, whatever personal or professional environment they should marinate in. It’s a celebration of the courage to stand up for oneself and of vulnerability as a healing tool in order to get there. We don’t know whether Ramuné’s expression of her truth will land her the job. But I hope that we can see that she landed self-respect, self-honour and self-love, which are much, much more meaningful.
“Is That, Like, Your Real Job?” Premiers at the short-film marathon evening at Cineast on Wednesday 9 October at the Cinémathèque.