Co-Directors Arielle Friedman and Lucy Blumenfield’s short film Immutable Uncertainties is a thoroughly compelling relationship drama about the fallibility of memory. It’s about Kristen and Mark, a couple creating foundational memories together whilst Kristen wrestles with her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Told in reverse chronological order, Friedman and Blumenfield reflect their characters’ own ongoing battle with memory in the structure of their short film, creating a continuous sense of disorientation. Cece Chan’s cinematography gives the short the look of a photograph too, with a soft, textured aesthetic that conveys the feeling of watching a captured moment in time come to life. DN is delighted to premiere Immutable Uncertainties on our pages today and have both Friedman and Blumenfield join us for a discussion about the film’s unique structural flow, the challenge of adapting it from a play, and the mechanics behind its photographic cinematography.
What inspired you to tell the story of a couple whose foundational memories become intertwined with the experience of a loved one battling with Alzheimer’s?
We came across a short play written by Callan Stout and fell in love with the story and characters. On a whim, we emailed Callan to see if she would be interested in adapting the play into a short film and thus began our collaboration. In the adaptation process, we wanted to have the audience viscerally experience the feeling of memory loss and the pain of being forgotten. The play was already structured in reverse chronological order, but in writing the film, we added the sequence where Kirsten physically goes back into her own childhood memories. We wanted to give a visual to what Kristen is thinking and feeling, to have the audience innately understand the emotional attachment Kristen has to her childhood home, and how to her it is a way of keeping her mother alive.
The fragmented presentation of memory feels akin to what Kristen is experiencing with her mother.
It was also important to us to communicate the fragmented and fallible nature of memory. Not only does Kirsten’s mother have Alzheimer’s, but the more Kirsten holds onto the memories, the more they change. Technology seems to mimic that process with the corrosion of data over time, and so in the adaptation we added this ‘physical’/virtual element of the videotape on the thumb drive.
I feel like the look of the film feeds into your themes too. You feel like you’re looking into photographs. Was kit did you use to achieve that?
We shot Immutable Uncertainties on the Alexa Mini with Kowa Cine Prominars as well as a digital camcorder for the home video recordings, which we used VFX on to achieve a VHS look.
We wanted to give a visual to what Kristen is thinking and feeling, to have the audience innately understand the emotional attachment Kristen has to her childhood home.
What were the steps through production in taking Immutable Uncertainties from concept to reality?
We started the writing process at the end of 2020, began pre-production in February of 2021, and shot the film in May 2021. We finished post production in January 2022. We were connected with our Producer Camila Grimaldi who helped us source a truly amazing crew, many of whom have become our frequent collaborators. We shot on location in Nassau County, mostly in the parking lot of an abandoned Sears building. Through that process, our collaboration with Camila led to the three of us starting our own production company, Fazed Films.
Arielle, how did you find balancing the process of co-directing and acting?
Arielle Friedman: I found the process of co-directing and acting to be quite demanding, which is why I feel so fortunate to have had a team as supportive as the one we had while making this film. For me, the challenges of directing while also acting were more about managing the stress of having multiple roles on set and trying to do each well. Having a co-director allowed me to share a lot of those responsibilities, so that while on set I could focus more on the acting knowing Lucy was carrying out our vision on the other side of the camera.
I really wanted to deliver a performance that was faithful to the experience of losing a parent, since I too have lived through that.
As an actor, being deeply involved in the adaptation process and creative development of the film gave me insight beyond what I would normally have as an actor when preparing for a role. But this level of intimacy with the project also created a lot of self-inflicted pressure while on set. I really wanted to deliver a performance that was faithful to the experience of losing a parent, since I too have lived through that, and that pressure was challenging to manage at times. I am still learning how to balance directing and acting, but this experience taught me the importance of having a team who believes in your vision and ultimately has your back while your attention is divided between two roles.
Lucy, how does your background as a photographer inform your approach to filmmaking, if at all?
Lucy Blumenfield: I started as a photographer even though I knew I eventually wanted to move toward film because I wanted to give myself a basic understanding of visual storytelling that I could build upon when I was ready to move to film. Working in photography also just trained my eye in what to look at: light reflections, moments of movement, interesting spaces in architecture. Thinking visually definitely was what pointed me towards the parking lot location that we ended up using; I was in the area, saw the building, and knew it was where we had to shoot this project.
What kind of preparation do you need to construct a non-linear short film? And how closely does the finished film resemble the initial screenplay?
A lot of the preparation we did as directors was making sure the audience could key into the reverse chronology; we spent a lot of time thinking about ways of transitioning between the different time periods and worked with our DP and production designer to distinguish each time period in terms of visual style. Although there were a lot of changes from the short play to the film, the script actually pretty closely follows the screenplay other than a few dialogue cuts.
It was also important to us to communicate the fragmented and fallible nature of memory.
What’s next for yourselves and Fazed Films?
LB: I’m looking to direct some music videos in the near future, and am also working on writing a few narrative shorts.
AF: I am currently working on a short film that I will be directing and starring in which we will be shooting in the spring, as well as dedicating more time to producing and supporting other writers in the development of their pilots and features.