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SXSW Women Directors: Meet Sarah-Violet Bliss

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood March 12, 2014 at 11:30AM

An in-depth interview with the co-director of "Fort Bliss," which took home SXSW's top honor yesterday.
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Still from "Fort Tilden"
Still from "Fort Tilden"

Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers are filmmakers based in Brooklyn who met at NYU Graduate Film school. They have each written and directed award-winning short films that have screened at festivals such as Telluride, Sarasota, and Aspen Shortsfest. Fort Tilden, which won SXSW's top prize yesterday, was conceived and produced last summer and is their first collaboration. (Press materials)

Fort Tilden debuted at SXSW on March 8. Its last screening will be on March 14. 

Below is an interview with co-director Sarah-Violet Bliss. 

Please give us your description of the film. 

The film is a delayed-coming-of-age comedy about two best friends whose journey to the beach is much harder than it should be. 

What made you write this story?

My writing/directing partner, Charles Rogers, and our DP, Brian Lannin, were all kicking around some ideas for a web series. One of the episodes was about two twenty-something girls who are trying to get to Fort Tilden (a beach in The Rockaways that primarily attracts Brooklyn hipsters) but are not gifted with basic life skills. We all immediately responded to the idea and the potential for comedy in its simplicity. We started throwing around some ideas about what could happen to the characters and at some point we thought, "This could be a feature!" We committed to making it that summer so we started outlining and writing immediately. As we were writing, we found a lot of heart in these characters to complement the humor, which made us fall in love with the story even more.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film? 

Limited time and resources, which was also ultimately our greatest friend in getting this project done. There was absolutely no room for pushing deadlines, so while our tight schedule was a ton of self-imposed stress, it inspired us to work hard, fast and well.

What advice do you have for other female directors? 

It would be the same advice for any filmmaker: Write a film that you would want to see, find the people who love the story as much as you do to work on it, and make it.

What's the biggest misconception about you and your work? 

There's more depth and richness to Fort Tilden than people expect from a traditional comedy. Based on the premise, you might think it's going to be a simple satire, but it's actually much more complex than that. It has a thesis statement which is always really important for me in my work.

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films? 

Everyone wants to see their film have a life in a theater with a big audience, so I think it's hard for filmmakers to accept that the consumers are less interested in going to the theater with the changing environment. The challenge is letting go of your own romantic idea of theatrical distribution for what might actually be the best way for your film to reach a larger/loving audience. 

Name your favorite women directed film and why. 

I love Your Sister's Sister and Hump Day by Lynn Shelton. I think she's fantastic and I really look up to her. She writes characters who are unique but familiar and her films have a beautiful blend of comedy and heart that also make you think. She knows how to cast right. Those are the ingredients that I aspire to incorporate into my own work. She really inspires me.

This article is related to: South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Festivals, Interviews, Fort Tilden, Sarah-Violet Bliss, Women Directors, Interviews