Luis De Filippis is a Canadian-Italian filmmaker whose work has played at festivals such as TIFF, Rotterdam, and Sundance, where her most recent work, “For Nonna Anna,” received a Special Jury Prize. hey are not interested in being social justice warriors, De Filippis’ films explore the complexities of family, the bond between generations, and the realities of living as a trans woman. Through her work with The Trans Film Mentorship, De Filippis uplifts the voices of other trans filmmakers; recently the program wrapped its second iteration on the HBO show “Sort Of” and plans are underway for its third run on the upcoming Jackie Shane documentary executive produced by Elliot Page. “Something You Said Last Night” is De Filippis’ debut feature film.
“Something You Said Last Night” is screening at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, which is running from September 8-18.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
LD: “Something You Said Last Night” follows Renata, a woman in her mid 20swho tags along on holidays with her parents and younger sister after being fired from her job. Through Ren, we explore the realities of being both a millennial going through a quarter life crisis, and a trans woman on vacation in a conservative beach town.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
LD: “Something You Said Last Night” takes its cue in both tone and style from my short “For Nonna Anna,” which premiered at TIFF and went on to win a special jury prize at Sundance.
For both films I was drawn to making work that saw trans women as intrinsic members of their family. So much work about trans women and their relationships with their families focus on stories of “acceptance” or coming out. I wanted to tell a story where we saw a trans woman loved and supported by her family from the get go.
Renata is a sister, a daughter, a grand-daughter first, and a trans woman second.
W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?
LD: I hope people think of their own families and relationships. I hope they watch the film and leave the theater smiling.
At the heart of it, “Something You Said Last Night” is a film about family and thus it is a universal story.
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
LD: I would say the biggest challenge of making the film is split between sourcing the financing, and production. We had a lot of meetings but most financiers wanted to see more of Renata’s tranness front and centre. Questions like, “But how do we know she’s trans” kept coming up.
Ultimately, the support we got was from financiers who came on board fully embracing the way I wanted to make the film. Production was also really tough. We only had 19 days to shoot in September. We were constantly racing against the weather, which never seemed to behave for us.
I quickly learned that nothing goes the way you imagine it and every day is a blank slate. The shoot day before, whether it was good or bad, is not an indication of what the next day will bring. So enjoy the good shoot days, and be ready for the bad.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
LD: The financial structure for “Something You Said Last Night” was mostly government and public funding. We used a co-production model and were able to receive public funding from both Canada, where we shot the film, and Switzerland, where we did post-production. We also had some private funding, and support from American institutions.
W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
LD: I grew up in a family of storytellers, so it was inevitable that one way or another I would end up telling stories. I specifically became interested in film in grade 11 when we did a film course with one of my favorite teachers, who I still keep in contact with today.
It was also around this time that I went to see Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” in theatres. It was the first time I recognized that film could be art. Up until then, I had only thought movies were for entertainment’s sake, but Coppola was able to take this story that was completely removed from my reality and through music, costume, and the magic of cinema reflect my experiences and love of pop culture back at me.
Never underestimate the power of a good teacher and a good film. They might just change your life.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
LD: Worst advice was that I was too quiet to be a director, that I didn’t have what it took to “command” a set.
Best advice I ever got was a reminder that no one in the industry actually “knows” what’s going on and that there are infinite ways to get things done.
W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?
LD: My advice to women directors, or any underrepresented person hoping to direct, is to question the way film sets are run. We often take it for granted that there is a “certain way” things get done without questioning who those systems or modes of working benefit, and why they were set up in the first place. Every time I make a film, I see it as a chance to deconstruct the filmmaking process, if even in just a small way.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
LD: Oh, I don’t think I could name just one film, but I can name filmmakers: Andrea Arnold, Sofia Coppola, Naomi Kawase, Céline Sciamma. I could go on and on, really. In all of their work I see a marriage of tenderness and rawness that I strive to find in my own films.
W&H: What, if any, responsibilities do you think storytellers have to confront the tumult in the world, from the pandemic to the loss of abortion rights and systemic violence?
LD: In telling the truth the pains of the world are confronted. Right now we’re seeing a lot of vitriol against trans people rising to the surface, especially in the U.S. And while “Something You Said Last Night” doesn’t address those issues head on, I think it does offer a glimpse at a trans woman’s realities without being sensational.
The film is contributing to the conversation in showing a trans woman as just being another human on this earth trying to get by. In her we see the struggles, hopes, and fears that we all have, and thus we see that she should be afforded the same rights and access to healthcare that anyone else should.
Renata is not just an abstract “transwoman” but rather a living, breathing character whose humanity is undeniable. It’s hard to justify violence when you recognize your humanity staring back at you.
W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive?
LD: It’s not just about being “inclusive” but rather going out of your way to make sure you have a diverse crew. For example, on “Something You Said Last Night” we ran a trans film mentorship and had five trans youth mentee in various departments. From initial outreach, to the application stage, and interviews, we set up systems where both people of color and trans women were prioritised to ensure that we would ultimately see their presence on set. Inclusivity is a nice idea, but it doesn’t work if you’re not thinking about the barriers that marginalized people face and being proactive in taking steps to establish equity.