Now in its 20th year, the Los Angeles-based film festival, Dances With Films (DWF), lives up to its words of conception: a festival where ‘who you know’ doesn’t matter, but the quality of your work does. First-time writer and director of a narrative short film, German-born Monika Petrillo jumps into the filmmaking waters with Wink. Her film’s topic sounds a bit unusual—a frustrated and lonely suburban housewife and a goldfish—but Petrillo laughingly said, “How can you go wrong with a beautiful woman and a goldfish?”
The inspiration behind not only this film, but Petrillo’s decision to become a filmmaker was her godmother, Li Erben. Erben’s late husband, Russian-born French film director Victor Vicas had written a story about a blonde, a winking goldfish and a bath. After hearing that description, Petrillo could see the whole film. “I came home…and before I knew it, I had written the whole 12-page script.”
Working with animals and children can be challenging, but fish? Petrillo didn’t want to use CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), but she questioned how trainable goldfish could be. A little research and YouTube viewing and she had a plan, using real goldfish. She needed not just one double-finned aquatic genius, but four—stunt doubles, if you will. The “stunt” was eating. Once a fish is full, it no longer wants to eat, thus the need for the lookalikes. And finding four identical goldfish, Petrillo recalled, was more difficult than you can imagine!
This unusual story still retains basic components of reality which was very important to Petrillo. “I’ve always cared for films about people like you and me…I think making films about emotions that we all have and we all share is what really connects us as human beings.” In the end, the message of Wink, according to Petrillo, is written on Melanie’s (Caitlin Brandes) coffee mug in the film: “Do more of what makes you happy.” She hopes this film can “…inspire people to break out of their routine…and do something crazy!”
Creating memorable and vibrant films like this as a female seated in the writer and director’s chair isn’t an easy one. Petrillo concurred that sadly, there is a very small number of women in these positions, although she has observed an increasing number of women producers. Petrillo had the opportunity to work with notable directors, both male and female, learning important lessons such as maintaining a sense of humor from Mike Judge and allowing a scene to develop naturally from Richard Linklater. However, she observed that female directors aren’t “given…room to be indecisive, whereas a male director can easily say ‘I don’t know yet’ without being judged as wishy-washy or incompetent.”
Petrillo’s “Wink” is anything but indecisive and it has a naturalness with a sense of humor, but most importantly, she shows us the importance of making each day memorable.
© Pamela Powell (6/10/17) FF2 Media
Photos: Monika Petrillo & Wink
Photo Credit: Fish Tale Films, LLC