Written and directed by a team of BA (Hons) Film Practice students at London College of Communication, Dog Days is a short film that explores the relationship dynamics between 14 year-old Mia (Roshni Ahira) and her mother, Ann (Simona Cosimi). While Mia copes with a sense of isolation through increasingly secretive behaviour, Ann struggles to balance the demands of work and parenthood while facing the shock of divorce.
The film was recently recognised by the Ufa Youth Short Film Festival, which encourages young creatives to develop their skills in the field of film production. Hosted by the Russian Ministry of Culture, attendees are invited to take part in practical masterclasses, Q&A sessions with industry professionals and a programme of public talks, and also have the chance to submit their work to a short film competition.
While the global pandemic may have moved the 2020 Festival online, organisers still received over 3000 competition submissions from over 110 countries, with work spanning genres including comedy, drama and thrillers.
After developing an initial long-list of 134 films, entries were then judged across a range of categories, with Dog Days awarded 'Best Young Actress', nominated for 'Best Editing', and named as a semi-finalist in the category of 'Best Motion Picture'.
We caught up with director, Simin Zeng, to talk about the hard work and inspiration behind Dog Days, her experience of applying to an international film festival for the first time, and highlights from her experiences so far on BA (Hons) Film Practice at LCC.
"Every step in filmmaking has been a completely new world for us"
What inspired you to create Dog Days?
This film was made by an all-female crew. As women in our 20s, we’re able to understand the idea of being a mother from a wider point of view, but we also know what it’s like to be young and rebellious with ineffable feelings that are a mixture of love and hate.
This was our main motivation in creating Dog Days, which captures the feelings of loneliness and frustration in mother-daughter relationships.
Tell us about your creative process.
Before pitching this idea to our course leader, cinematographer Marin Kawamori and I both had an idea of making a film about motherhood. We wrote the script together based on some of our true experiences, and decided to try our best to achieve our vision.
We made this film in our first year, and at that time, we didn’t exactly know how a film crew works. Every step in filmmaking has been a completely new world for us, and we’ve attended every workshop, semester and lecture we can to learn more about the practice.
The entire crew worked very hard on Dog Days, from pre-production to the actual shooting. We gave our all to this project.
"Witnessing the interaction between our actors was a thrilling experience"
What was your stand-out moment throughout the making of Dog Days?
The first time I truly realised that we were making a film - during the rehearsal, when the mother-daughter relationship that we portrayed on the script came alive. Witnessing the interaction between our actors was a thrilling experience to me.
How did you first find out about the Ufa Youth Short Film Festival, and why did you choose to submit your work?
The Ufa Youth Short Film Festival is an international film forum hosted by the Russian Ministry of Culture, and young people from 14 to 25 years old can take part. We found out about it on FilmFreeway, a website introduced to us by LCC’s Film Festival Coordinator, Mary Davies.
After getting advice from Mary, we browsed FilmFreeway and started to look for suitable festivals to attend. We thought that this opportunity would be a good start for us to begin presenting our film in front of young filmmakers across the world. A few months after submitting our film, we received a congratulations letter which told us that our film would be included in the programme where, in the end, it was named as a semi-finalist overall. It was also awarded Best Young Actress, and nominated for Best Editing.
“Helped me to understand how the film industry works in real life”
Why has the achievement been so significant to you and your team as young filmmakers?
This is huge encouragement for us to keep making films in the future, as well as for the talented protagonist in the film - Roshini is also thinking about being an actress.
We are proud that the debut for all of us could go so well.
What have been the highlights of your time on the BA (Hons) Film Practice course so far?
The first year of the course was a highlight to me - we had a chance to make different types of films such as documentaries and short fiction, and my filmmaking skills really developed.
The course has also encouraged me to explore work outside of the university - I’ve gained a lot of work experience in the past 2 years. It’s definitely helped me to understand how the film industry works in real life.