For anyone who has grown up in Los Angeles, we’ve all heard of the casting couch stories. The predicaments that some women (and men) are placed into in order to get a role. While the practice of the casting couch has mostly been the butt of many jokes, it’s a serious matter where power imbalances come into play and create a systemic cycle of victimization within the entertainment industry. However, in director Yfke Van Berckelaer’s short film LILI, we see the power imbalance switch between the actor and producer switch, with oddly satisfying, yet horrific results.
Ahead of its screening at this year’s FilmQuest Festival, I had the opportunity to interview director Yfke Van Berckelaer, where we discussed everything about how the #MeToo movement came to heavily influence the subject matter of the film to how much there is to explore about women in the horror genre.
Yfke, I have to say that this film was really great. It’s so relevant and, in a way, so personal. I’m wondering what was the inspiration in bringing LILI to life?
Yfke Van Berckelaer: When #MeToo hit, I realized two things. First, I was super inspired by how all these strong women banded together to make sure this kind of shit never happens again. Second, I realized a lot of people didn’t fully understand what we were talking about. More than once I’d hear someone say. ‘It’s not that hard to say no’ or ‘Are we still talking about this?’. So, first and foremost, I wanted to make a movie that would portray what it’s like to be caught in a situation that more and more straddles the line between what’s okay and what’s not and how hard it is to get out of that. We deliberately told the story in one take so that watching it, you too are trapped, just as LILI is. Without giving too much away I also wanted to make sure to not make a movie where the woman was once again the victim. Even though it gets really uncomfortable to watch, I still wanted people to leave the theater with a satisfying kick-ass feeling.
With the one-shot approach, was that the most difficult portion of the film? Or did you run across any other difficulties that we didn’t see?
Yfke Van Berckelaer: This might have been the easiest film I’ve ever made haha. I live in the US, but I am originally from Holland and was going to be there for a few weeks. I thought it might be fun to shoot Lili there because I wrote it with Lisa Smit, a super talented Dutch actress and awesome friend, in mind. She agreed to do it and within two weeks we had the whole cast and crew together and shot it in a day. It came together so quickly that it almost didn’t feel real.
It’s always amazing how that comes together. Working with Lisa, did you have any favorite moments working on the film with her?
Yfke Van Berckelaer: Watching the actors go at it! The whole movie is one shot on Lisa, who plays LILI, sitting in a chair talking to a man, played by screen veteran Derek de Lint, who is off-screen. The heavy lifting 100% came from the 2 of them. The rest of us just got to watch them be awesome take after take. It was like having a front-row seat to a Wimbledon final! We did ten takes and each had a slightly different motivation going into it. In the end, all of them were amazing and usable! All I had to do was chose which motivation best fit the story we were trying to tell. It was a director’s dream!
Ugh. That’s great. It’s always a relief when a project comes together seamlessly. With the #MeToo movement being an obvious source of inspiration for LILI, what did you really want the audience to take away from the short? Because there are a couple of things that I was able to get from it, but might not have been picked up by an average viewer.
Yfke Van Berckelaer: I tried to translate the way the #MeToo movement inspired me into this film. For those who’ve been lucky enough never to find themselves in a #MeToo situation, I’d love for them to see the film and understand what it feels like. For those who are familiar with it, the movie is meant as a reminder that we don’t have to take this shit anymore and that we are a lot stronger than we’re given credit for.
I love that. I know for myself, it was just an all-too-familiar experience. But yeah, we don’t have to take this shit anymore. To be honest, this short really makes me want to see more work from you. I’m absolutely hooked. Do you have any other projects coming up for us to sink our teeth into?
Yfke Van Berckelaer: I feel there is still a lot more that can be said about how women are treated in society and horror is definitely a powerful and interesting way to tell those stories, so I’d definitely love to do more within the world of LILI. [It] doesn’t have to be the exact same story, but something that is thematically related. Could be a smaller slasher, could be post-apocalyptic zombie road-movie, or could even be both.
Yfke Van Berckelaer’s LILI is still making the rounds on the film festival circuit. You can catch the short at the upcoming Nightmares Film Festival.