Today’s post features my interview with an awesome female indie filmmaker. Cassiah Joski-Jethi is in the process of making her fourth short film. It’s called Catch a Butcher, and I’ll let Cassiah tell you more about that!

Here’s our interview! 🙂

Debbi: Tell us a little more about the inspiration for making Catch a Butcher and your personal reasons for making it.

Cassiah: After I finished shooting my last short film Kindling (2019) late last year, I decided that I wanted to really push myself and embrace my unique voice as a storyteller in my next short. I discussed some ideas with my collaborators, and we unanimously agreed a horror could be a great vehicle to explore an issue that is very personal to me; the experience of being mixed race. After looking into the experiences of Anglo-Indian individuals throughout history (as my heritage is Caucasian and Indian), I found myself delving into accounts which revealed some disturbing and saddening truths about how Anglo-Indians were treated in the late 19th century under the British Empire. So I decided to use this as inspiration for Catch a Butcher, whilst creating a story which also explores the identity crisis that I have felt at times growing up as a mixed race person.

“After looking into the experiences of Anglo-Indian individuals throughout history (as my heritage is Caucasian and Indian), I found myself delving into accounts which revealed some disturbing and saddening truths about how Anglo-Indians were treated in the late 19th century under the British Empire.”

Debbi: The themes of female empowerment and mixed race are very timely. But I get the sense that timeliness is hardly the reason you’re making the film. Can you give us your thoughts about diversity in storytelling?

Cassiah: I’ve always believed diversity is important in storytelling, mainly because that’s all I have personally known! My whole life I’ve writing or telling stories about interesting, complex women from different backgrounds because these are stories I imagine. It’s only when I got older that I realized that these stories, the ones that come so naturally to me, are not often told in the mainstream. So any film I get the opportunity to make, I want it to represent my view as a diverse storyteller with the hope that others can watch these stories and relate to them on a deeper level, rather than the recycled archetypes and narratives we are often used to seeing.

“So any film I get the opportunity to make, I want it to represent my view as a diverse storyteller with the hope that others can watch these stories and relate to them on a deeper level, rather than the recycled archetypes and narratives we are often used to seeing.”

Debbi: By making this film, you’re exploring your own mixed race heritage. Was this a difficult subject to mine for your writing? (I’m thinking here about how vulnerable one can feel talking about personal issues.)

Cassiah: It’s more difficult in a sense now, having to justify my writing; it’s scary, because it is vulnerable and I’m putting my view, my voice, my experience, out into the wider world. However, the actual writing process, diving into the screenplay and exploring my thoughts/fears/feelings, was very therapeutic and enjoyable. Something tends to take over when I’m writing, and only now it’s a bit terrifying to think that others will eventually discuss and criticize the script/film/my voice in the future!

“[T]he actual writing process, diving into the screenplay and exploring my thoughts/fears/feelings, was very therapeutic and enjoyable.”

Debbi: The notion of lightening one’s complexion or otherwise trying to become more Caucasian is more than just a concept. Did you have that in mind when you used that imagery in your film?

Cassiah: During the British empire, often Indian-born Anglo-Indian children by orders of their British fathers would be sent back to England to assimilate into society. This notion of adapting and transitioning to almost erase part of your heritage and identity leaned into the imagery I have used in Catch a Butcher. But also as a wider issue, the matter of skin-lightening is an important to address; how the standards of beauty across many communities and cultures make it aspirational to be lighter skinned, and this is so damaging; not only on a physical level, but emotionally making people feel unworthy, undervalued and pressured to look more “desirable”. I think sparking these kind of conversations are really important.

“During the British empire, often Indian-born Anglo-Indian children by orders of their British fathers would be sent back to England to assimilate into society. This notion of adapting and transitioning to almost erase part of your heritage and identity leaned into the imagery I have used in Catch a Butcher.”

Debbi: Even though you’ve described the film as being in the horror genre, do you gain any inspiration from neo-noir movies? I ask because your use of surrealism is popular in that subgenre (or style, if you will), too.

Cassiah: I greatly respect neo-noir movies, and some of my favourite films are of that genre; Seven and Memento. I draw inspiration from many different types of genres, and my “thing” is to utilise surreal aspects whilst playing everything very nuanced and ‘close to the bone’; it’s a difficult balance to strike and I like to walk that line, so that although there’s strong surreal visual images, it’s rooted in a sense of a grounded emotional reality.

Debbi: I did a bit of online research about Birmingham and West Midlands. They remind me of our “Rust Belt” cities in the U.S. I’ve been to Glasgow and was struck by how much it reminded me of Pittsburgh. What is it about the location that resonates with you? And how did you decide on shooting locations?

“I think the West Midlands is such an underused area for film in Britain, and I’ve kind of adopted it as my second home – I’ve been in the West Midlands since University, and I love the history, architecture, nature, the whole feel about the place.”

Cassiah: I think the West Midlands is such an underused area for film in Britain, and I’ve kind of adopted it as my second home – I’ve been in the West Midlands since University, and I love the history, architecture, nature, the whole feel about the place. And aside from the aesthetic advantages of the West Midlands, it’s also cheaper and more accessible in many ways, as well as underrepresented on screen in cinema. So I like to pay homage to my adopted home!

Debbi: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in screenwriting and/or filmmaking?

“There are a few good screenwriting courses out there, but so much of screenwriting is reading screenplays, researching writing techniques, and just having a go at it – then many cycles of tweaking and rewriting!”

Cassiah: My main advice for anyone who wants to get into film is to write and make what you can with the resources you have. The only way I got better at screenwriting was by writing many, many, MANY scripts, some of which will never see the light of day again, but it’s all part of the learning process. There are a few good screenwriting courses out there, but so much of screenwriting is reading screenplays, researching writing techniques, and just having a go at it – then many cycles of tweaking and rewriting! Similarly, if you have a camera (or even a good quality camera phone), get some friends together and make a film. It might not be your breakthrough Oscar winning movie, but it will give you a basic understanding of the process and challenges, so that when you do get an opportunity to work on a film or shadow a director, you’re clued up on how things work. And this whole business is based upon passion, so if you meet that one contact who could give you a lucky break into the industry, you will need to prove how much you eat, breathe, live film so you don’t get passed over for a big break.

“Similarly, if you have a camera (or even a good quality camera phone), get some friends together and make a film.”

Debbi: So, this is your fourth short film. I’m excited! You mentioned to me that you’re thinking about doing a feature next. Can you give us a teaser about what’s coming?

Cassiah: The plan for Catch a Butcher is to be the launch pad for a feature, with the hope that Catch a Butcher will be a critical success not only in the UK but internationally. This is why it is such an ambitious film with lots of potential, and if we pull it off, it will mark my viewpoint as a writer/director, and hopefully people will want to support my work going forward. I have a few features on my slate, so once Catch a Butcher is completed and out in the festival circuit next year, with any luck, you’ll see a feature from me in the following 3 to 5 years (yes it does take that long!) My features do range in genre and tone, but they all have my signature slightly surreal take and explore socio-cultural issues that are important to me.

*****

You can support Catch a Butcher on Indiegogo! Click the logo to learn more! 🙂



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