NO DIRECTION debuts at Frameline Film Festival

We just got a sneak preview of a hilarious short film NO DIRECTION directed by Melissa Finell which will be making its debut at the

We just got a sneak preview of a hilarious short film NO DIRECTION directed by Melissa Finell which will be making its debut at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco this Pride Weekend. No Direction follows recent grad Jamie who falls in love with the GPS in her mom’s mini-van while desperately trying to navigate life after college.  We got a chance to sit down with Melissa before she headed off to San Francisco!

VP: What was the inspiration for this project?

MF: The idea for the project came from a conversation I had with Harper Gernet-Girard (who plays Jamie in NO DIRECTION) the summer after we graduated from college. I was visiting LA with a couple friends and they brought a GPS to use in the rental car. This was my first experience using one, and I instantly despised it. I found the voice nagging and condescending, and I resented it. When I complained to Harper, to my surprise she felt the complete opposite. She found it soothing, reassuring, and even sexy. I wondered how we could each have such strong, opposite reactions, and it got me thinking. I realized that both of our reactions stemmed from the same post-graduation anxiety, and so the idea for the screenplay started brewing. I knew I wanted to frame the story in this post-grad “Where the hell am I going in life?” sort of crisis, where the main character would form an attraction to the GPS as a coping mechanism for this new-found uncertainty in life. It sort of took on a life of its own from there.

VP:  What made you decide on a short?

MF: Shorts are an art form in their own right, but for me – as someone who is working toward a feature directing career – shorts are a way to practice my craft and get exposure on the festival circuit without needing as many resources as it takes to make a feature.

VP: What were the biggest challenges in making this film?

MF: A lot of the movie takes place inside of a moving car, so my lead had to drive while acting, which isn’t very easy and definitely isn’t safe. We did get pulled over once because we had suction cupped the camera to the hood of the car for one shot, and I guess that looked pretty suspicious at 2am in the suburbs, but luckily he let us keep shooting! The other big challenge of course was money. Even a “low-budget” movie is extremely expensive to make, and not having enough money means not having enough days to shoot or the ideal equipment to work with. I was extremely lucky to have such a dedicated cast and crew who volunteered their time and did such amazing work. A lot of friends donated the use of their homes and businesses for our shooting locations. I raised funds for our shoot on Kickstarter and so many people chipped in to support the project.

VP: What was your favorite behind the scenes moment?

MF: By the end of the shoot we were so behind schedule that we had to shoot a pivotal scene while driving Harper to the airport because she had to be back at work the next morning. So Harper, in character, drove herself to the airport while acting out this really important scene in the car. Erin Galey – the DP – shot her from the passenger seat, and I was crouching down behind the driver’s seat with a monitor, trying to direct and not be in the shot. In our footage you can hear me reading out Google Maps directions to JFK in between takes.

VP: Did you make the flight?
MF: We did not.
VP: What do you hope audience members walk away with?

MF: I really just hope they’ll laugh and be entertained. If they can identify with the character and feel moved by her story, even better!

VP: Do you feel that being a lesbian influences your creative decisions as a filmmaker? How so?

MF: Being a lesbian, along with other core aspects of my identity, influences the way I experience the world, so of course that carries through to my filmmaking. It’s a personal goal of mine to feature LGBT characters and stories in my work, and to try and contribute something meaningful to queer cinema. As a teenager I felt pretty starved for characters and storylines I could identify with, and that personal need is part of what drew me to filmmaking initially. That said, NO DIRECTION isn’t a story about being gay in that the main character’s struggle has nothing to do with the fact that she’s gay. Jamie is a recent college grad (who happens to be a lesbian) who’s trying to find her way in the “real world.” Her being gay is significant to the character but not to the story. It’s funny because I randomly happened to work with a lot of straight guys on this film (my editor, composer, etc.), and they’ve each said at one point or another that they can really relate to Jamie, and I think that’s really cool.

VP: If you were going to cast a sapphic romantic comedy, what would your dream cast look like?

MF: Ellen Page, Olivia Thirlby, Sandra Oh, Amy Poehler, Mila Kunis, Maya Rudolph and Mindy Kaling.

VP: What’s next for you?

MF: In the fall I’m moving to LA to start the UCLA Film Directing MFA program. I’ll definitely be making a lot more shorts over the next few years, or else I won’t be allowed to graduate and stuff.

After – Moby from Alberto Gomez on Vimeo.

No Direction will be screened at Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on this Friday, June 24, and will be appearing at film festivals nationwide throughout the summer. For more information check out, Facebook, and @MelFinell