There’s a relaxed looseness to Director Turkina Faso’s music video of Herbert’s Two Doors ft. Joy Morgan, which is conveyed through the stylisation of its dreamy, late-night narrative set across London. We follow Emma, a young woman who sets out for a night on the town, as she shares intimate encounters with those around her. The visual tone of Faso’s video perfectly matches the darkened, eerie electronics of Herbet’s pulsing song, showing Emma in romantic and almost reality-adjacent scenarios that range from atmospheric club dance floors to a close-knit bathroom rendezvous. It’s got a great energy to it and showcases Faso’s brilliant ability of capturing personal human emotion. DN invited Faso to take some time out to chat with us about her journey making it, the challenges of directing a narrative for the first time, and her aspiration to expand upon Emma’s story.
What did the concept of a dreamy, sort-of late-night odyssey come from?
I was in Italy in March 2021. Actually, to be precise, I was on a plane somewhere between Italy and Switzerland. It was one of the first flights after the lockdown. I started to write the story out of the blue. It seemed to be waiting to come out during that trip. Well, good timing! And a beautiful place to be born.
It came to my mind as a strike, a flash of images and a sequence of memories which I’ve never had. Probably it’s called Inspiration or Muse’s Kick. But I am not sure how it works. I was writing like crazy with a pen, which went completely crazy because of the cabin pressure. I felt the pressure too. The ink went all over the paper and my hand. I have a big stain on my sketchbook. I was thinking about the Conversations in Bed series, maybe a mini-series. It was my initial idea earlier that year. I do not remember why I was thinking of putting Emma Breschi there, but I left it unfinished. So I have started a new story. A very specific one which was connected to relationships and the sea.
Mistakes are hard to avoid but you can minimise risks.
We landed in Italy. I finished the job, it was stressful, and I couldn’t sleep normally. We stayed in a big vineyard country house. It seemed spooky. I was 100% sure that some ghosts were hanging around while I was sleeping. During the day we worked, everyone spoke Italian. I had stomach pain and was afraid to sleep, which made me really tired. On the way back from Tuscany to Milan, I finished conversations in the car with producers and took my notebook out of the bag. The sun on the horizon looked like a bloody orange rolling down. The road was smooth, allowing me to use my pencil and finish the story. The light was almost gone, so I used my iPhone to see what I was writing. The letters were all over the place. I was trying to keep up with my pencil. My brain was producing faster than I could manage on paper.
And what parts of the narrative did you have down that stage?
The story was about Emma, who is looking for something in the world, for herself, for people, for new experiences, but losing the sense of reality. She decides to steal people’s clothes so that she can become them. What does she like? Who does she want to be with? No answer yet. It is a journey that would feel familiar to others in a way.
Who were the first collaborators you approached with the concept? And what were you looking for from them in terms of their perspective on it?
I wanted to make sure that everything was right. But when you have that kind of intention, more or less, it will all go wrong. Mistakes are hard to avoid but you can minimise risks. Rob Jarvis, the Director of Photography on our project, plays an important role in the project. He is attentive to details. It is helpful to have someone who cares on board. You need a collaborator to be there for you, sit for a couple of hours, talk, express doubts and ensure you’ve done everything possible to avoid a horrible mistake during the shooting.
After our meeting, I emailed him details of the project and our very first draft of the script. It was more like a description of the story with some inspirational materials. Time passed by. I thought he would never email me back. A few weeks later, he replied to my email. He wanted to take part. But I wasn’t sure if I could handle it. I didn’t have money, a team, the proper script… So I placed the project on a shelf and was doing everything but that. But while avoiding acting towards realisation, I was constantly thinking about it. Since March 2021, I never stopped thinking about this project. That’s what you can call love at first sight. In my head, that film already existed. So I just had to put myself together and make it real for others.
How did you move forward from that point and bring it back into a state of production?
We scheduled a few meetings, each lasting about four to five hours at least. We went through scenes, discussing each detail and trying to find out what we would need and what could be cut off. A couple of months earlier, I couldn’t imagine that we could actually start working together.
We had a lot of equipment. Somehow we managed to get friendly deals from many people despite the high season before Christmas. Rob filmed with Alexa Mini and some beautiful vintage lenses. We built some locations in random spaces, such as a bedroom where we see Emma and Tom. Also, we managed to arrange a full fake nightclub in Hackney in a studio with black walls. We found this beautiful red car online… Everyone was super friendly and helpful throughout the process. You can use many things around you, but sometimes it is hard to put things together in your head and in your preproduction.
And how was production? What were your first days on set like?
The first point of production was two days of filming in December 2021. It was two intense shooting days in London with an amazing local crew. The plan was to cover a few scenes from the script, about seven scenes out of thirty, so we could start the edit and understand what works and what needs to be amended in the script to make the story stronger visually and from the narrative side.
The hardest part was to concentrate on the flow of the scenes because, when you are looking at the playback, everything seems already beautiful and cool but so many things could be improved.
This film is my first experience with a narrative and complex story, so I had to arrange some test days to see how I could handle the situation as a director and the project’s main producer. The crew arrived on set at eight in the morning on Saturday the fourth of December 2021, and our work began. It was challenging to start with one of the very private scenes, where actors had to interact as lovers. Of course, it wasn’t easy for them, but they got used to it, and we had our scene in a few takes. They laughed and got really shy, but the footage looks believable in the end.
You mentioned that there that this was your first go at something narrative and complex, how did you react to those first takes/scenes?
The hardest part was to concentrate on the flow of the scenes because, when you are looking at the playback, everything seems already beautiful and cool but so many things could be improved. The second challenge is timing versus money, not a surprise! Low-budget projects are tricky because there is no opportunity to spend enough time on things. There was a certain rush. The schedule was very intense. So we finished shooting on Saturday Morning in Hackney Wick in East London and had to move to North London to continue in my friend’s flat. She was shocked when her flat was occupied by lightning, crew, set, actors, etc… We did our best to maintain it clean, but it is always messy when there are more than five people in one room, I guess. There were 25 of us.
There are some really intimate moments in the film, what kind of preparation did you take for those so that everyone was as comfortable and looked after as possible?
The main lead Emma had to take a bath with another person Mary. I was worried that it would be uncomfortable for them to do that, as they didn’t know each other before. So we arrange a meeting with rehearsal and wine to make sure they got used to each other and understood the task.
The scene went well, apart from the situation with the hair… Mary had to cut Emma’s hair while they were taking a bath together. So fake hair was all over the place and got into the sewage. A month later, my friend, who let us in to shoot at her place, told me that the plumber had to come and clean up the pipes for them… My friend mentioned that the hair looked like some weird animal. Sounds scary and funny! Unfortunately, it happens when it is a real location! Embarrassing! I got her a drink at the pub. She forgave me. How did the hair go into the pipes? While sitting in the tub, Emma opened up the water, so the hair slipped in. Oops.
You can use many things around you, but sometimes it is hard to put things together in your head and in your preproduction.
When did you finish the shoot?
We finished in the evening on the 5th of December. No overtime. Everything was filmed. Satisfied but exhausted, we managed to do everything that we wanted. One of the shots required 50 extra people to participate in the fake party on Sunday. We had to wait outside for the studio owner for about two hours. Under the rain in the cold. Everyone was asking me questions. We were trying to find solutions. What if he never arrives… He showed up at ten instead of eight. We started building the lights, unpacked and managed everything on time. It wasn’t that hard because we knew exactly what we were doing. Prep days helped a lot but of course, these kinds of situations are stressful.
Earlier you said that you initially thought about expanding this script, is that something you still hope to do down the line?
We thought to continue filming but decided to turn it into a music video, but the short story itself became a feature script, which we are working on now. We have 85 pages about Emma’s journey. It is a contemporary Odyssey, through London, through her life which could be so familiar to many who live in a big city and are scared to be by themself, live alone, and take responsibility. The hardest thing is to find a production producer who would believe in your abilities as a first-time director. But I am sure it will eventually happen, and we can continue filming Emma’s journey.
What can you tell us about any of your next filmmaking projects?
I’m working on a feature film with the working title Expanding Sea, the one I mentioned above. Like I said it’s loosely based on that initial short film idea, but it has progressed in its own way. I’m looking for any support for the project at the moment.