Writer Aminder Virdee and Director Nathan Morris talk about their short film ‘My Eyes Are Up Here’ to screen at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival

Jillian Mercado – My Eyes Are Up Here

In order to broaden perspective, it’s vital to spotlight stories seldom told to bridge the gaps and foster meaningful connections. Writer Aminder Virdee and Director Nathan Morris both bringing to the fore the story of HER, played by Jillian Mercado, a disabled woman who sets off on a mission to get the morning after pill after a clumsy one night stand in short film my Eyes Are Up Here. Drawing on a day in the life of Aminder, a British South Asian transdisciplinary multi-art form and STEM artist, activist and writer, the short film embodies inclusivity at its very core. Ahead of its screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival on the 11th, 14th and 17th June, Aminder and Nathan tell us more about what to expect!

Hi Nathan and Aminder, your short film My Eyes Are Up Here will be screened on the 11th, 14th and 17th June at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. How are you feeling ahead of the event?

I feel delighted and scared all at once! But mainly delighted. It’s such an honour to be selected for such a prestigious festival. I know that sounds cliche and vacuous, but it really is an honour. There are so many great filmmakers at this festival. It’s so hard to make a short film, so it’s really rewarding to get some recognition and to be playing alongside other films and being able to meet filmmakers is such a great bonus. But it’s a battle to keep my imposter syndrome from raising it’s mucky little head but mostly I’m overjoyed.

My Eyes Are Up Here is inspired by a day in the life of yourself Aminder – a British South Asian transdisciplinary multi-art form and STEM artist, activist and writer. The film following a disabled woman who sets off on a mission to get the morning after pill after a clumsy one night stand. How have you both found exploring this narrative further?

It was a really interesting experience for me to dive into a world I didn’t know very well. I had to really observe and listen for a long time to make sure I could portray this journey, this world in an authentic way, and by no means did I do it by myself, Aminder was next to me the whole time guiding me I am and giving me insights into it. I couldn’t make it without that relationship – in that sense, the process was like a documentary, with which I am very familiar. During the script edit process, I would stop and ask Aminder ‘This wouldn’t happen’ and she’s put me straight, it was all very much based on real experiences and we felt it was important not to water it down, that taught me a lot.  I think having an inclusive team with different viewpoints was invaluable.

The film will also screen at Emden Filmfest in Germany, IN THE PALACE International Short Film Festival in Bulgaria, deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma, Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, Sundance Film Festival in London and BuSho Film Festival in Budapest this summer. What does it mean to both of you to be able to screen your work at these important filmic platforms?

It’s been an amazing experience. It’s always so hard and scary to make a short film, write something and put yourself out there. I was watching the new David Bowie documentary over the weekend, which is wonderful, it was really funny watching him squirm when an interviewer asked him when he was going to show his paintings. He was so nervous. He didn’t want people to see them. It was really nice to see such great artists being vulnerable. It’s relatable. I think it’s an intrinsically scary process. You’re making yourself vulnerable as a filmmaker, as a person and that’s like jumping off a rooftop – because making something is very very different from watching something, and we all have the best taste don’t we? So to be recognised and accepted by so many of these amazing festivals is really a true honour. It really is encouraging as a filmmaker, and I think given the subject of this film, I think it’s great that more people will be exposed to this world. I mean, the whole idea of the film comes down to this. Hopefully, it will create some empathy within the able-bodied community and they’ll have more understanding of others.

The film is written by yourself Aminder and Arthur Meek, and is directed by yourself Nathan. It’s produced by Katie Dolan, Vanessa Muir and Naomi Wallwork and stars Jillian Mercado, Ben Cura, Pooky Quesnel and Colin Hoult. How have you all worked together to realise the film?

I’ve said before short films are tough to make and I think I’ve understated that! I had to get a root canal after this shoot – because I clench my jaw when I’m stressed. I was on this project for four years on and off so it was great having such a supportive team which I managed to pull together slowly. I had some super-talented people working with me on this project.

One of the trickiest part of making shorts is finding a producer with enough experience and time to come on board to help make all thee wonderful ideas a reality, I was lucky I managed to find 3 wonderful producers! Katie Dolan, Vanessa Muir and Naomi Wallwork, who are all amazing and are still working tirelessly on the film to this day, it’s a long process, but having a team means sharing the workload.

We’re all very supportive of the project and although it took so long to put together we all knew it was important to tell the story and we knew it could be a wonderful film so it’s really satisfying It is getting a response that it’s receiving.

What have you both learned/taken away from working on the film?

Always wear two condoms.

I’ve learned so so much from making this film. It’s hard to pinpoint something for an interesting soundbite. I always learn so much during production and the post-production process, always!  I also learned so much about another world which I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know a lot about going into, but it really opened my eyes to what a concrete nightmare cities are for some people, and how society often, despite sometimes having good intentions isn’t inclusive. I think that this is something very unique this film was able to give me and I hope I’m able to pass that on to others watching. Perhaps we can be slightly more aware of our attitudes and maybe we can remove some obstacles for people. I think that the most important thing about filmmaking is having something worthwhile to say (or something hilarious!) and being able to present it in a non-preachy way, that’s the best use of entertainment I think. I learned so much making this film and I really hope that rubs off on others.

What can viewers expect from the film?

I want people to laugh. I think it’s a really sweet authentic story with some funny moments that I think most of us can relate to it, so I just hope people enjoy it. I don’t like telling people how to receive anything I make. I think it’s fun for people to draw their own conclusions and thats insightful for me. But it’s a fun light film with some undertones that aren’t so light, which I think is great.

What would you like for viewers to take away from the film?

I’d  love people to walk away, thinking that was a sweet, funny film, about two people beginning to maybe fall in love  -that’s the most important thing first and foremost and secondly, my very dear friend, and the composer of some of the music on this film, released an album entitled “Isn’t it about time you thought about something more than what makes you happy”  it doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be a tiny bit of empathy, like Jacinda said ‘be kind’.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

My Eyes Are Up Here will screen on Sunday 11th, Wednesday 14th and Saturday 17th June at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. To find out more about the film, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop