FAME: Can you provide us with a little bit of background with your work in film?
PORTMAN: My Mom was a visual artist. I tried painting but my efforts didn't live up to my vision so I started exploring photography and playwriting. At a certain point, film because a natural evolution of the photography and writing. I went to Florida State University's film school. I've worked freelance in film production, all kinds of positions: PA, DP, 1AD, and director. I spent ten years teaching Screenwriting and Playwriting at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida. I have written a pile of screenplays, my own stories and screenplays for clients based on their ideas. I've directed seven short films and a feature. All but one I wrote. And this June I wrote a screenplay for a friend, Kyle Kleinecke, to direct.
FAME:What was the inspiration behind your short film, "Falling South"?
PORTMAN: I originally wrote the script for an actor who lives in Canada. I thought it would be fun to road trip with her and make a movie. And wind up on my partner's fern farm. It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been and I don't think anyone has ever shown the fern world on film. My last short film was two women talking over the casket of a dead friend, shot in my living room. My boyfriend had his acting debut playing a dead guy. I love that tiny, contained film that was about an issue important to me. It was a film I was driven to make but it was dialogue driven and more like a small play.
In this film, I wanted to tell a story that was not contained, that was out in the world, and also was not dialogue driven but instead based in visual metaphor. I thought of places we might stop between Canada and Florida where we would have friends or family and support and in thinking of places I loved along that route, I thought more and more about how women are like water. We flow around obstacles and like water, will find places to be, to make our lives. And I wrote roles for actors I want to work with or who I thought I could find. The original lead dropped out but I had written a small role for Madeline Barr and it was an easy call to ask her to be the lead. We had done a staged reading of one of my plays and I love her work.
So there were actors and locations and then I realized the story was about starting over, which is a very personal story. I've started over a couple times. I wound up exploring very personal moments, pulling from my life and also creating fiction to make this story something that would work as a short film
FAME:What was underlining message you wanted to convey?
PORTMAN:I think the best films offer understanding of the human heart or the human condition. With FALLING SOUTH I think a big piece of what we walk away with is hope. No matter what our lives look like, we can start over. There is hope. Which I think is important and especially important for women to know. We are not trapped. We can find a new journey and there is often support and help along the way. Even when you don't expect that help or support.
FAME: How would you describe your film for someone who has never seen it?
PORTMAN:Charlotte puts Rochester in the rear view as she runs away from the life she has known. She has never been on her own and doesn't know if she'll make it as her resources are stripped away. She meets diverse women who offer connection, insight, and laughter on the road to Florida and a possible new life.
FAME:What challenges did you overcome in the creation of this film?
PORTMAN: The film was shot during a road trip from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Pierson, Florida. With stops along the way in Rochester, Chattanooga, Tennga, Pomona Park, and Crescent City. The normal production details were even more intense with all the moving pieces -- equipment and crew and cast coming out of New York -- picking up crew and cast in Tennessee and then new crew and cast in Florida. This kind of shoot would be challenging and then Hurricane Matthew hit right after we headed north to meet up with everyone. We were too far away to turn around so had to try and help our family back in Florida get ready while we were on the road and starting to shoot. And when we came down, we had trees down in locations I planned on shooting. One house, where the crew was staying, lost AC. The house with our cast lost water. Lots of hurricane issues that made the shoot more of a challenge.
FAME:Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
PORTMAN: It costs nothing to spend time on the script. Work on the script and work on it and work on it. Get actors together and read the script. Listen to their feedback, and especially listen to their questions. Don't defend, just listen. Time spent making sure the script is as strong as it can be is time very well invested
FAME:Do you have any upcoming projects you wish to tell us about?
PORTMAN: Kyle Kleinecke directed SPARKY & BUTCH, a short film I wrote. We'll be hoping to be in festivals later this year.
FAME: Where can people see your work or find out more?
PORTMAN: FALLING SOUTH is playing in WNY FAME as well as The Film Girl Film Festival in Milwaukee in October, The Knox Film Fest in Knoxville in September, The Austin Revolution Film Festival in September, The Big Water Film Festival in Wisconsin in November, The Southeastern International Film Festival in Nashville in November.
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