By Katrina Medoff
NYWIFT member Katrina Medoff spoke with fellow member Gaia Visnar, an actor and producer for the short film The Basis of Intimacy, which was made by a female-driven and largely international crew. They spoke about the power of a silent film and what conversations Visnar hopes to spark with the film.
What is The Basis of Intimacy about?
It’s about a girl trying to find her place in the world. After her sister, the only family she has left, is taken away by immigration officers, Skylar is rendered powerless, without support or a place to go. We follow her struggle through different forms of abuse in her search of somewhere to belong.
What was the inspiration behind The Basis of Intimacy, and how did you get involved with the project as an actor and producer?
The connection with the writer/director Victoria Spadaccini was instant. The story is based on real life experience, and we were both motivated to bring it to life.
Moving from the other side of the pond and leaving my world behind, I was drawn to the emotional journey of the character and her search of intimacy, which becomes a whole new challenge in New York City. In spite of masses of people and daily interactions, it’s where you can feel the loneliest.
We wanted to cut to the core of our universal feelings and drives, wrapped around bigger existential issues. If intimacy and belonging somewhere with someone is what’s guiding us all, it becomes a different matter when you are left with no frame whatsoever.
Even though The Basis of Intimacy is short—just around four minutes long—it has a very clear beginning, middle and end. As an actor working on such a short piece, how do you work on showing your character’s transformation in just a few minutes?
While making the movie, there were clear episodes of Skylar’s story and each required a different mindset. With editing and time lapses, the storyline became intertwined in the style of memories in our brain. The ability to transform quickly through the spectrum of emotions comes from specific scene-by-scene preparation beforehand, so you know your work in every given bit and circumstance.
Why did the creative team decide to make The Basis of Intimacy a silent film? Do you think there can be power in not having any dialogue?
We thought the images would be stronger than the dialogue. Most of life happens in between the words, in behavior. The worst violence is silent, the numbing of the senses stops the words. In life, we are fundamentally alone. At the end of the day, at night, it’s just your thoughts. That’s when the fears creep out and depression builds up. You have to summon your strength to get out of that abyss; no one can do it for you. We wanted to capture more how it feels rather than intellectualizing about it.
What’s next for this film?
The film is in the official selection of the Cyprus International Film Festival as well as Florence Short Film Festival and we are applying to other festivals in Europe and USA. It is a New York story, but I believe it resonates on an universal scale.
What do you hope that the audience thinks about after watching your film? What sorts of conversations do you hope to spark?
The two major events of the film are the family being broken apart due to immigration difficulties and a young adult having to deal with circumstances of being left with nothing. We wanted to challenge the preconceived notions, stigma and prejudice about homelessness. In the U.S., there are up to 2 million homeless young people from diverse backgrounds. They are facing abuse, discrimination, poor health, sexual exploitation, substance abuse and very little support. It’s hard to see homeless youth as victims of their circumstances and the cycle of abuse, which challenges mental health and is difficult to get out of. So why not give up? How can someone get back on the right track when the environment keeps pushing you astray?
Skylar manages with love, persistence, boundless spirit and belief in a better life. She starts writing and knocks on as many doors as needed to finally get her story published. There’s no glamour in her achievement, a small victory, but a huge turn in her life. That’s the message of the film: it can be done. With determination, you can be heard, even as a woman.