Returning to the inevitable difficulties which arise when attempting to navigate matters of the heart, Alexan Sarikamichian ponders the quandary of loving two people at the same time in his new relationship short NOT YOUR GIRLS. We caught up with the director to discuss nudity, the male gaze and capturing unadulterated femininity in his alluring tale of teenage desire, guilt and confusion.
You’ve dealt with the subject of young love previously in shorts such as COSMOS. Did the romance taking place exclusively between girls this time require any adjustments to your narrative approach?
NOT YOUR GIRLS is the continuity of my previous videos, there are many similar things, young characters in love and some nostalgic atmosphere involved in human relationships. This selection was different because there was a love story between two women and in my opinion, they have a special and particular beauty. We tried to work on the strength they own and highlight their best characteristics, for example, through costume we made changes for every location, and in those moments I find a special care for the film. We tried to tell the story taking into consideration each detail on the stage of the short film and not just a pretty view, we wanted them to be able to transmit the story.
How did you find your leads and then shape these natural performances with them? How much of their look within the film came from their existing personas?
My first inspiration was to work on the girls, as I chose them I had to know what they could give. Creating the characters according to the feelings they gave me, their movements, physical appearance, looks and even the clothes they wore. We captured their essence and that was the starting part of the video, I find them very special, they are the kind of girls that show themselves on social media, through pictures, art, paintings. I considered them artists so I checked out their posts and pictures to capture from them something useful for the character. We had a group where we uploaded many reference videos, pictures, costumes, colors, clothes, and brands and that helped us get into the atmosphere.
We captured their essence and that was the starting part of the video.
Rigoberta del Tesouro contacted me some time ago because she liked my videos and as she worked with costume we thought we could do something together. Unfortunately, our project didn’t work out but we kept in touch and I thought it would be a good idea to ask her to be in front of the camera this time. That’s when I found out about her lovely look and charisma and that she could be the protagonist of a love story between two women. I knew she was going to put a big effort into the project and be very courageous. I wanted to make an emotional video but I also needed to find the right chemistry between them and a very particular aesthetic view.
After that, it turned really easy for me to contact the other protagonist. I called Agustina Leal, someone I really feel confident with, and in my second line I told her she had to play a very courageous scene where she had to act like a ‘lolita’ and show her boobs in the middle of a bridge with a highway full of cars at the back – something similar to Aerosmith’s Crazy video. When she agreed to do that then I knew all the rest was done.
I had already worked with Anahí Roy, and I asked her to participate but we could never find the right time to get together. I knew she had a special energy and attitude. Anahí has a special behavior that was really present during the moment of shooting. She has such an intensity that makes us all awake all the time and such a natural beauty that I didn’t want her to wear any makeup; I wanted her freckles to be shown. In the end, we decided to add something distinctive to the character and she only painted her eyebrows.
In what ways did your choice of Buenos Aires locations reflect significant moments in the girls’ complicated relationships and the forming of their bond? What were the considerations behind their selection?
Sebastián Ferrari was the Cinematographer of the video; we’ve been working together in all of them. He understands my style and we complement each other. He is a thinking person and very down to earth but I am extremely passionate and anxious, so we create the perfect balance. He takes care of the technical stuff that I don’t know about and I use my intuition and my ability of observation, if there is something I like, then we keep it going.
The locations are well-known places in the city of Buenos Aires; we always worked with natural light. We didn’t have the time nor budget to get a whole illumination plan. That is something I’ve been doing in my projects for a very long time, I produce and film with the elements that I have and I don’t give it up for being ambitious. It is the only way I have to do things right now; some other time there’ll be more ways to produce.
As it happens in most of my works it is independently done, I’m the producer and I finance the costs it takes. However, as it was a short project with a lot of exposition, I needed the actresses to give it all. I felt that they worked with such love and dedication that, in a way, they owned the video.
I believe the images on the video show different states of mind and you can see that the characters are going through different situations, from having fun to making love or even feeling lonely when they are with the wrong person. I think that in every situation the main goal is to create a feeling or a sensation to make the spectator feel affected in a good or a bad way and be able to solve the puzzle from the outside.
When it came to shooting the girls’ interactions – especially the more intimate scenes – were you at all concerned about inadvertently objectifying their bodies for a male gaze?
I always knew that I wanted a sexual scene between them. I like the idea of provoking and thinking of the external point of view as a complement. Especially in NOT YOUR GIRLS, where images are used to transmit feelings and sensations. The artwork was delicate because we wanted the bodies to be natural. Actually, we emphasized the body marks. We wanted that women could feel identified in them because they are beautiful girls but not stereotyped models.
We thought that men could also have fun, but we always took it as a provocation game. We really don’t care about what people think. The sexual scene was the last one we shot, so we already trusted each other. The night before the shoot the location was cancelled and we had to change our plans in only two hours. Finally, I found a place that wasn’t the ideal but we did it!
There were only the girls, Sebastián and I. I knew that we had to try different things until they were comfortable. We put on music to generate a quiet atmosphere. In that moment I felt like we were friends. We told them to do what they could, I didn’t want to force anything. We shot with respect and taking care of them. There were moments when we all started laughing and we had to stop. Sometimes it was hard to concentrate, I think that taking it with humor made it more natural.
What will we see from you next?
After three months of hard work on NOT YOUR GIRLS, I’m now in the post production phase of a twin’s video, called EVIL TWINS. The story is about two twins who seem to be quiet and enjoying a summer afternoon near a river with some friends until everything turns dark. EVIL TWINS was supposed to be a short film that still represented me as a director as I did with the other videos.
I’m focused on keeping a personal mark and style. In all of my works, I like to take special care to the aesthetic part of the film and that is shown in the fashion film, in the attention in the costume and the visual beauty I’m trying to show. I always start thinking about the project from the producer side because that is my strong suit. I’m a producer first and then a director and that video required a strong effort because we all had to travel to an island in Tigre and find new impressive locations.
Not Your Girls is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.