Five Questions With... Emilie McDonald, Bruce Smolanoff, & Urvashi Pathania (CHURROS, NAAN & BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE)

We spoke with the filmmakers behind two of the shorts in the “What I’m Looking For” block, playing on Sunday, June 23 at 11:30am.

Read more with Emilie McDonald and Bruce Smolanoff of CHURROS and Urvashi Pathania of NAAN & BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE, and see the films on the 23rd!

NFF: Please say a little about your inspiration for the film.

URVASHI: 2016, the end of democracy, some say, also happened to coincide with the end of my first relationship. This film was an attempt to make sense of it all.

NFF: Your film is in the "What I'm Looking For" block. What do you think your characters are in search of?

EMILIE & BRUCE: Jo-Jo is in search of a sense of security and belonging. Maria is in search of safety and comfort for her family, seeking to see the beauty rather than the blemishes in their daily struggles. 

URVASHI: Maya is searching for her own identity. As a woman on the brink of adulthood, she is finally learning about herself, her own preferences, even if the process leads to some painful discoveries.

NFF: What do you find the biggest advantages and challenges of making a short as opposed to a feature?

EMILIE & BRUCE: The biggest advantages of making a short are that you can finish things *slightly* more quickly - the script, the shoot and the edit, although the process is still quite time-consuming. Another advantage in our case is that we have a piece of work to show our vision in trying to make the feature version of the film. The biggest challenges of making a short are that you have only a finite number of days to get everything in the can (and in our case our DP was here from out of town so we had no flexibility with timing), and must face whatever challenges come up head-on (we had locked parks where you are supposed to film, unexpected multi-day rainstorms, and more). Ultimately the challenges are part of the work and make their way into making the work more layered.

URVASHI: Shorts give you more room to experiment with form. The viewer of a short has not been conditioned to expect a three-act structure in the same way they have for a feature. Of course, they’re also cheaper and less time-consuming. I have yet to make a feature, but I look forward to having the running time to explore my characters more deeply! I also think excess is more forgivable in features. I love scenes that veer off course, but in a delicious way that adds an unexpected nuance to the story. There's rarely time for that in the short film format.

NFF: What are you working on currently, and/or where can we see more of your work?

EMILIE & BRUCE: We are working on the feature version of Churros :)

URVASHI: I’m entering the final year of my MFA at USC this fall and will be traveling to Rajasthan, India to shoot my thesis film! You can follow my journey on my website or on instagram @swurvashi.

NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences might relate to or takeaway from the film?

EMILIE & BRUCE: We are excited to screen in Nantucket for many reasons. We have heard that the festival and audiences are just incredible and we cannot wait to meet everybody. We of course are also excited to see Nantucket for the first time. We have never been there and it almost seems like a magical Shangri-la so will be nice to see the real thing in person. We hope Nantucket audiences will relate to the plight of a young boy grappling with a big decision, and will be able to put themselves in the shoes of a new immigrant trying to provide for her family.

URVASHI: This film is five minutes of densely layered half thoughts. It was the first film I made in my MFA, and I felt a sort of need to scrap together all of my ideas and emotions. I hope the audience derives some pleasure from the mixed-media format and that it inspires some creativity.