ATARAXIA, 15min., USA, Drama
Directed by Haley Seppa
Ataraxia is a film about 32-year-old female-bodied, queer identified photographer, Mickey, who, due to experiences with trauma and rape as a teenager, has built her adult life around making “safe” choices and hiding behind the lens of her camera. Until she meets Olivia, a 30 year old “straight” woman who pushes Mickey’s understanding on what it means to actually live and not just to survive.
The last decade has been particularly hellish for a lot of womxn. From the election of a "pussy grabber," to the #metoo movement, and so much more, many of our issues have been front and center.
But let's be real, these have been issues for ages for so many womxn. So much so, that sometimes we interact with them as second nature. Some of these issues, like the notion of having to be aware of who we are when we inhabit space, particularly at night, have become so ingrained in our every day that they don't even seem unusual anymore.
With the resurgence of bigotry, racism, and sexism in this country, the social gains from civil rights movements, feminist movements, queer movements, and many others, we cannot take the status quo for granted and we need to be constantly telling these stories.
This film confronts the reality of being different, internally and externally, even in a world/environment that most would call “safe.” It is a completely character driven film. It is also an attempt to queer the rules of the process, the crew*, the filming, and the expectations of a “traditional” narrative.
*This film crew was 90% womxn or non-binary and 50% LGBTQIAA identifying. Working with this incredible family of artists was one of the most amazing times of my life.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Many years ago I had the opportunity to read Diana Son's play Stop Kiss and I spent many years afterwards thinking about how to best make an adaptation for film. The story stuck with me like a bug in the brain and (for me) that is a sign of really caring about an idea - so I invested in it.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From idea to finished film, it took about 4 years. We shot in 2019 but by the time we really dove into editing, Covid hit, and everyone took a step back to self-care and to be with family and loved ones. The break ended up being helpful to get some perspective on the film and editing and made it a better film in the long run.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Getting too close to it. After so many script revisions and adjustments and feedback loops I got a bit burnt out by it and I lost track of the vision.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Feedback is always such an interesting process of reflection -- my initial reaction is always that I have to brace. I am so used to things being ripped apart, especially when in the academic setting, so the feedback here was really refreshing. I had forgotten what it felt like to hear people discuss what is working really well in a film and how it made them FEEL. That is the most interesting part of filmmaking to me, hearing about the impact it has on the people experiencing it.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
In my twenties. I spent many years hopping around different jobs and going to community colleges to study many different subjects and just couldn't find something I was passionate about. And then a good friend I was carpooling to work with asked me what I would want to do for the rest of my life if there were no barriers. I thought about it for a few minutes and the only answer that felt right was filmmaking. I quit that job shortly after and took up an internship with a filmmaker in San Francisco. I let that moment of dreaming guide the rest of my educational and career path and it was the best decision I have ever made.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Clue (the 1985 version), The Princess Bride, Heart & Souls, or the Harry Potter Series (I do watch serious films as well but I love having good hearted material on while I am working on projects so these have played quite frequently over my life span.)
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I loved the experience of the feedback and I think it would be very helpful to have social media content around the winners. The snippets of audience feedback, images from the film with the winning laurel on it, etc. Things that make it easy for the filmmaking team to repost and help promote the film and the festival.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
The site makes it so easy because it provides a central place and a standard set of filmmaking requests so everything can live in one place.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Caesar Salad + Olive Oil Poached Salmon (made over a campfire) + Banana Hammocks (S'more ingredients put into a sliced banana, wrapped in foil, and baked over a campfire) + Prosecco/Champagne
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I am working on a series of short docs about individuals from a small town in Costa Rica who unintentionally became community activists by following their different passions, as well as a longer form documentary about a woman who survived a car accident where she lost half of her brain and has defied all odds on her road to recovery.