'Fish out of Water' is May 2020's Film of the Month winner

15 Jul 2020 in Film of the Month

8 mins
'Fish out of Water' is May 2020's Film of the Month winner

We are very pleased to announce that the May winner of our Film of the Month competition is Fish out of Water, from filmmaker Georgina in Lincoln - see the winning film above!

Fish Out of Water (engaging for 7+) is a creative and thoughtful documentary about what it's like to be on the autism spectrum as a young girl, including candid discussions with her mother.

What a little gem this documentary is! Absolutely wonderful, superbly well made - the whole film was a joyful and very educational experience for me. I loved it!

Film of the Month judge on 'Fish out of Water'

We got in touch with Georgina to find out more about her amazing film.

Congratulations! How long have you been making films?

I've been making films since I was in high school yet only recently have my films been of a good quality, I definitely needed time to refine my skills and experiment with my filming style to start creating films that I am proud of.

I've been involved in the creative arts all my life, starting out in theatre and starting to show an interest in film once I started to direct my own shows - often the only way to show these to an audience was by filming them! Taking media production as a subject throughout my education it has given me time to learn and grow as a filmmaker while being given the creative freedom to learn and being able gain experience alongside. Although I've made many fiction films; Fish Out of Water is the first documentary I have made.

Can you tell us how you met Livvy and how the idea for your film developed?

One member of our team - Grant - knew Livvy's mother Ali as a family friend. From hearing and learning about Livvy, we as a team were sure that we wanted to focus the documentary on her life and experiences. 

The film developed greatly to get to the finalised product. At first the documentary was to focus on Livvy's experience with schools as she's had a lot of unique experiences. This quickly became too large a subject for our desired short format, and felt impersonal and more like an attack on the school system. I was not happy with this as a filmmaker. From this point, the team and I changed our outlook on the tone of the film. 

We focused instead on Ali and Livvy as a mother and daughter, showing a snapshot into their lives. We knew we wanted to take Ali and Livvy on a day out to bring a fun dynamic to film; the aquarium was a perfect choice for the family. The film easily took shape from here.

Livvy's mother speaks so candidly in the film. How did you create such a strong environment of trust?

I wholeheartedly believe that Grant knowing the family beforehand helped with creating a strong environment of trust between Ali and the crew. However, a trusting environment was a strong aim of mine to be able to create a more personal documentary, therefore we remained in constant contact with Ali throughout the process and gave her an overview of the questions for the interview stages in advance of the shoot. 

Ali was extremely open with us about her own experiences, thoughts and feelings and was completely sincere throughout. We ensured that she would see the final copy of the film and have the power to change the final cut if she wasn't happy.

What were some of the challenges making Fish Out of Water?

The first challenge that we encountered was the time limit that we were under. We had a short amount of time from developing the concept to having the final cut of the film. For this we had to be extremely organised and work hard throughout.

Another challenge was ensuring that Livvy was anxiety free throughout. As there was a lot of crew that Livvy didn't know beforehand, we ensured that she was comfortable throughout by taking measures such as only having the key crew in the room when filming her. This worked well, as she got extremely close with one camera operator, Belle, and took Belle into her room to show her around. This was footage which we didn't believe we would be able to get. 

A tactic that we employed was to let Ali interview Livvy while we all left the house. This is my favourite part of the film and allowed for a closer look into their relationship as a mother and daughter, while Livvy speaks confidently throughout.

For the aquarium scenes we created the feeling of being underwater. This was a hard task to do initially, yet the team worked to hard to create this effect. Our lead camera Patrick went around the aquarium gaining stylistic shots of the tanks and fish, working hard to make these as cinematic as possible. Our sound team also worked hard to capture sounds of tanks and water flowing, which we edited together to saturate the film with water imagery and sound design.

What is the most important thing about PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) you would like an audience to learn from your film?

I would like the audience to see that these children have a greater number of things to deal with than we as outsiders realise; that they are not misbehaving or being naughty, and especially that the ‘typical' parenting strategy is not always successful. I hope this film will teach people to think before they judge a situation or a child. I would also like the audience to see how truly smart and loving people with PDA are, and I hope that the film showcases that through the brilliance of Livvy!

If you could make Fish out of Water again, what would you do differently and why?

I wouldn't do much differently, as I love the way that this turned out, and had an amazing time while filming. However, if I could it would be factors such as to make the film slightly longer and show more of Livvy and Ali's life together and spend more days with them. I would also feature a lot more of Livvy in the documentary, as she is so funny, nice and caring, and I believe showing more of her would have made the documentary that little bit better.

What three tips would you give to a young filmmaker who's about to make their first documentary short?

Always film way longer than you need to. We captured some brilliant expressions and saw Livvy more relaxed just playing around after the ‘formal interview' section was filmed. She just played with the camera while it was still running and this way we got to see much more of her personality.

Focus on sound - the sound design is key to a good film. This helped us massively when editing the aquarium scenes.

Work with what you've got. Whether it be filming a documentary about family or friends, most people have interesting stories to tell. I believe that some of the best documentaries come from looking close to home. You don't need the biggest budget or crew!

Georgina's film will now be showcased to over 300,000 film club members online and all of our Film of the Month films are now on the Into Film YouTube channel, and she has also secured a £100 Amazon voucher to help further develop their future films. Think you could win Film of the Month? Find out more about how you can enter our ongoing Film of the Month competition.

If you've been inspired by Fish out of Water then make sure to check out the following films:

  • A For Autism (1992, Unclassified, 11 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Multi-award-winning animated short film film made in collaboration with people on the autism spectrum, voicing their experiences.
  • My Kid Could Paint That (2007, 12, 82 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    Documentary about an American four-year-old, whose abstract paintings are described as masterpieces and sell for thousands.
  • Mad Hot Ballroom (2005, U, 101 mins) Engaging for ages 7+
    Uplifting and thought-provoking documentary about a group of eleven-year olds who set out to compete in a ballroom dance contest in New York.
  • Faces, Places (2017, 12, 94 mins) Engaging for ages 11+
    The final documentary by the late French director Agnès Varda sees her travelling across rural France with a street artist, capturing portraits of local artists and communities.

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