Interview: Gabriella Zussino & Kit Whyte


‘One Life Too Many’ has been described as a short film hybridising urban fantasy and science fiction. What primary meanings are you hoping to leave the audience with?

KW: It’s a story about morality and how you value life. This woman becomes the personification of death, and she has to choose between her life and the life of a man with whom she has a history, and that’s a very difficult moral struggle for her. I suppose it’s also about the complexity of women, because we don’t see that a lot in film.

GZ: It deals with whether we can justify someone’s life as worth more than another. And how do you judge that? Is it by their actions or the people they know? You can’t really compare two people, especially when everyone’s so different. 

The film’s demographic has been set as women between the ages of 25 and 34. As young women in the film industry, what type of standard do you wish to set in terms of how women are portrayed on screen?

KW: Women are so much more complex than they are often portrayed on screen. I was just watching Thor: Ragnarok, and the fact that this superhero movie had two complex female characters was impressive, and it really shouldn’t be impressive. It should be the standard to see women as multidimensional people.

GZ: The original character (Maria) was based on me, I wrote it as a kind of goal character for myself. She is very deep and that is shown through the decisions she makes. She is an open, honest character for people to relate to rather than sticking to stereotypes.

KW: I think strong female characters these days are portrayed as emotionless, but that’s not what Maria is, because nobody really is emotionless. She goes through these struggles and has a lot of facets to her character, and that’s what we really want to see in the future.

Even in the 21st century, female directors are a considerable rarity. What types of challenges have you endured as young women making a film?

KW: We actually did a video on this a while ago. We dressed up as caricatures of men and did a presentation where we spewed out facts about women in the film industry in a very condescending manner.  We also threw in a few things that had been said to us by fellow male filmmakers. So many more women win awards, but when you look at the number of women going to film school, compared to the number of women working in the industry, there’s a drastic decrease, and I think that’s pretty terrible.

GW: There are more women who graduate with degrees than men but it’s predominantly male. And when you fight against it, that’s when a lot of people say that you’re pushing the issue too hard and limiting men’s rights, when it’s got nothing to do with that. It’s just striving for women to do more.

KW: I’ve been on sets before where the only women were the caterer and myself. I want to encourage women to get out there and film, to stand up and say ‘we’re here’ and we want the same opportunities as men. Screen Australia’s done a really good job on that with the Gender Matters Initiative.

GZ: There’s a quota that needs to be met in terms of how many women are on your crew in order to get funding.

You managed to secure funding for this film via the crowd-funding platform, Indiegogo. What did it feel like to achieve your goal using crowdsourcing?

KW: We were surprised by how quickly we raised it, and really just thankful.

GZ: We both weren’t expecting it at all.

Why do you think so many people were responsive to your proposal?

GZ: It’s such an original story. I’m going to do a bit of self-bragging here, but there’s literally not a story like it. And I know a lot of women who see other women making films get onto it purely for that reason, which is exciting.

You two have already been involved in a handful of shorts and documentaries. Can you give me some insight into your previous work?

KW: My latest documentary, which isn’t online yet, I’m planning to put into a few festivals when I’m done with it. It’s about a young man named Lucian who I find very inspirational. He’s a member of the LGBT community. I was also DP for Good Girls Say Nothing, Gabby’s documentary. I also recently shot some videos for an up-and-coming science fundraiser called Sciencer.

GZ: The documentary is probably the best thing I’ve done. I’d like to put it into the film festival circuit but I have to edit it a bit more. I’ve also been asked to do sound on a Tropfest film coming up. I’m the only girl in an all-male crew.

What are your plans and aspirations for 2018?

KW: We are developing another film together, as a producer-director duo, which we will probably be shooting in a year’s time.

GZ: Kit’s writing it as well. It will be our grad film. And then hopefully we will make a couple more short films outside of uni.

KW: We just want to be involved in as many projects as we can.

And now to the standard interview questions, what is your favourite film and/or TV show? Why?

GZ: My favourite film is Contact, with Jodi Foster. She’s an astronomer, but she’s always on the search for life outside of Earth. She knows she probably won’t find anything, but she likes the stars. And then one day they receive a signal back, and it deals with how they react to that. I love it because she’s completely her own woman, and the story is about her and what she does.

KW: I always think that being asked to pick a favourite film is like being asked to pick a favourite child. But the TV show that really inspired me to study film was NBC’s Hannibal. The cinematography is fantastic, and it did have some really well developed female characters as well.

Which directors most strongly influenced the making of this film?

KW: I’ll let the director answer this one.

GZ: It’s hard to pick that because the stylistics didn’t come from one particular influence, it’s all in my head. I’ll spot something and remember it and then slip it in. But definitely Bryan Fuller from Hannibal for a lot of shot choices and colouring. And Gaspar Noe, who does really wild international films. His take on reality and characters really inspired me to just write who they are and how they interact. It doesn’t matter. It can be as crazy as you want it to be because someone out there will want it to be doing that.

KW: I’m struggling to think of who really inspired those choices. We watch so many films. You should see my DVD collection.

And, finally, what words of advice would you give to up-and-coming film students hoping to break into the industry?

KW: I feel like we haven’t really broken into the industry yet so I’m not sure I’m qualified.

You’re doing what you love, which is pretty awesome.

KW: It is about doing what you love, you have to be sure that you love it 110% because otherwise, [cinema] is such a difficult industry. It’s about perseverance, going through those 16-hour shoots as the production assistant, unpaid, which I have done many times. It’s about building connections with people. Say ‘yes’ to as many things as you can, and stay true to yourself. It’s very hard not to let go of your own creative vision in the face of so many other people telling you what’s good and what people like. Just keep swimming.

GZ: Mine, I guess, is kind of similar. Don’t let anyone get in your way because there are going to be people that are going to tell you that you’re not good enough. And there are going to be men who tell you to let them do it. But fight for your place there, because you deserve it as much as anyone else. But there are also people who are going to help you forward because they want to see you succeed. There are a million people out there who just want to see more films be made and more people break into the industry. It’s not all bad, there’s some good stuff out there.


For more information, and to support ‘One Life too Many’ on Indiegogo, click here.

To keep updated on production, look at the film’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onelifetoomany/

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