ITSY, 12min., UK, Drama
Directed by Amy Mathieson, Premila Puri
ITSY is a fictional narration of two neighbours and an unsuspecting friend who forges their unique bond.
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Premila Puri’s involvement in films started as Executive Producer on her first micro-budget feature Delhi Boom! ITSY is Premila’s debut short film as a producer and director. She recently worked as a Line Producer on a feature titled Nine Nights and her development slate includes two high end tv series based on true stories and 6 episode webseries. She was selected to attend The International Rotterdam Film Festival’s (IFFR) prestigious Lab Programme in January 2014 as one of 8 UK emerging producers.
Amy Mathieson is a film director and videographer born & raised in the UK. Her first feature length documentary, BMX Club; 1 Way Up, shot in native 3D was made with Academy Award Winners Shine Global and theatrically released in 3D before airing on MTV and Pivot in the US followed by a Netflix and iTunes release. Amy also works as an audiobook director, most recently directing the Mortal Engines audiobook which Peter Jackson is currently turning into a 200 million dollar movie.
(PP) Premila Puri – Producer/Director
(AM) Amy Mathieson – Director
What was the inspiration behind ITSY?
PP: When my husband narrated his experience with his ‘buddy’ the spider, I was incredibly moved that a tiny spider had stirred something within an adult which eventually stopped him from killing the spider and destroying the web on his wing mirror. The kindness shown towards a tiny vulnerable creature inspired me to share this sweet touching story with the world and produce this as a short film on behalf of my charity Be Kind Movement which my production company, Ariana Ventures, has produced. Ignorance or fearing what we don’t understand can breed prejudice and intolerance. If we can be kind and compassionate to animals, with whom we have little in common, then is it not possible to extend the same courtesy to each other, to overcome strife, violence and war and create a peaceful and kind world.
How did you assemble the team of actors and crew?
AM: I was completely drawn to the fantastic and heart-warming script written by writer, Sameer Puri who took the brief of a man and a spider in a car and reimagined the story with many layers and nuances in introducing the characters of Mustafa, Fatima and Milan. As a director, it was very important to find authentic actors and we have assembled a talented team excellent at improvisation and scripted work but who were equally passionate about the story, it’s message and how we chose to present it. Working with editor, Natasha Westlake, and Sound Designer, Emma Butt, we have used sound and cutting techniques to heighten Alison’s anxiety and illustrate her lonely state of mind whilst gradually building her connection with the spider. The opening of the film is bleak and darker to reflect Alison’s frame of mind however as her relationship with the spider develops, we begin to see a change in her personality and that is reflected in the more vivid colour palette we used to drive the story forward.
Equally as the story progresses, our composer Segun Akinola’s beautiful blend of classical music with Arabic themes has given our spider an authentic and cinematic quality that transcends Alison’s world and that of her neighbours and finally allows them to connect.
What was your approach to shooting ITSY?
AM: I approached the film as though it were under a microscope. Often the truth that is right in front of us is what we are most afraid of addressing. In the case of ITSY our protagonist, Alison, is an anxious hard working and focused career woman who’s ill at ease with her Muslim neighbours, a combination off her biased perception towards them and the noise from their renovations which Alison finds to be a nuisance. Filming on an Alexa, we used the world of extreme close ups and Macro to blend the spider’s world with Alison’s attention to detail. A closeup of her applying lipstick, our spider creeping into her view as she looks into her wing mirror. Its about capturing humanity as we move from focusing on objects to people and emotions.
We film Alison in her car driving to work as she visits sites for client meetings and though she interacts with businesses, she doesn’t have the camaraderie associated with office colleagues so often feels like she doesn’t belong and so is out of place socially. We have shot on the streets of Newham in London (UK) with local actors to reflect the diversity in our story and also in Wandsworth where the story is set. Using a mix of hand held, static and a slider along with dash cam footage of the industrial world along with the CGI images of our spider and it’s web on the wing mirror, our story seeks to not only entertain but most importantly to ask the question Does Kindness Matter? and to serve the craft of filmmaking as an art.
Tell us something about Itsy, the spider?
PP: During Alison’s daily trips to work she encounters a tiny spider in her car who manages somehow to weave a place into her life. Acting as a catalyst, this little creature helps Alison break out of her cocoon and not only appreciate herself but eventually to bridge two cultures and strangers together. Our spider liberates Alison making this a key component of our story and at the same time, we are also able to appreciate the importance of Nature and Man’s relationship with it.
We have worked with a high skilled VFX team out of India who have done a marvellous job in modelling and creating a believable yet magical creature whose warmth has been CGI’d from the colour of the skin tones from all the actors in the piece.
What are you especially proud of?
PP: Proud of many things! The story of ITSY is a celebration of diversity within our community, a ‘coming together’ (as Milan the character voices) that reflects multi-cultural Britain. And I’m proud to be a part of this vibrant city of London for over 20 years as a European Asian. We are also incredibly proud to represent the female voice whether in our lead protagonist, directors or in our heavy centric female crew. As we were keen to encourage women from BAME communities to enter the film industry, we provided practical working opportunity to a talented, young disadvantaged girl who worked with us a runner. She penned a beautiful poetry for the film which we are excited to showcase at our film’s premiere and are super proud of her journey to date. Finally, ITSY would have been impossible without the passionate commitment of the cast and crew who worked with us on humble rates whilst others forego their fee entirely for a good cause. It is humbling and very kind of them and I hope they all are as proud of the final product as I am because without them and the support of our sponsors, donors and partners, ITSY would still just be an inspired idea.
What do you hope to achieve with this film?
PP: The production company’s goal is to showcase ITSY at film festivals and eventually on digital and other distribution platforms globally. Post the festival run, the charity is excited to showcase the film in local boroughs and educational institutions as part of it’s social impact strategy in 2019.