At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his "radical" open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.
I had the good fortune of connecting with writer and star Allison Goldfarb and director Bianca Poletti about their latest creative endeavor Radical Honesty. The duo shared their personal connection to the films subject matter, their collaborative relationship with each other and key team member Corey C. Waters and what's next in development from the short film. Radical Honesty will be having its World Premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival March 12, 2020 at the Alamo Lamar.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Sadie Dean: Allison, how did you land on this story specifically?
Allison Goldfarb: I was interested in exploring this space between ideals and reality, and just the disconnect between the two and how tricky it is to navigate those two extremes, just like in your lived experience, and your relationships. Also, I think that there's a lot of humor in that disconnect. As far as the subject matter, being relationships and trying to invent your own authentic relationship, I think that it was just a topic that was really on my mind at the time, and that I was kind of experiencing. I'm just at an age where everyone around me is experiencing that; and just talking to my friends, we're constantly analyzing our relationships and dating experiences, and there's kind of just a goldmine of humor there.
Sadie: Right, it doesn’t necessarily write itself, but you figured out a way to do it. Was it always in mind for you to play the lead?
Allison: Yeah, I was working mainly as an actor before this and I kind of had trouble finding projects that I felt really connected to, or roles that I was really excited to play. And I thought, 'I'll just write something for myself.' And I just had the idea and was kind of, like, ‘Why not?’ [laughs] I really enjoyed that experience.
Sadie: Bianca, how did this project initially come across your desk and what was your initial connection to the material?
Bianca Poletti: Allison and I actually worked together on a music video - I cast her in a music video that I directed. And we got along so well, and we had very similar aesthetics that we were drawn to, and personality wise, and all of these things. And so, she wrote me and sent me the script, and I just loved it. And we took it from there. But more than anything, I just loved how simple it was, but there's so much going on in such a simple scene that I think is really fascinating that you don't see all the time in shorts; you try to fit in like, the world is ending and all these things [laughs] and this is just something that's so relatable and has the humorous moments that you can play with that I love so much.
Sadie: I really enjoyed the juxtaposition between the use of the aspect ratio with the old school look and the new school thought. Was that originally laid out in the script or was that something that you developed?
Bianca: Yeah, that was something that was definitely developed. It was originally written as just two people having a conversation in a park at the tail end of a date. We talked about adding in the diner and the waitress and having those kind of retro moments within this modern conversation and this modern couple in this old school environment, and retro music and all those things. It was really fun to play with those two things and it worked out.
Sadie: Speaking of look and tone, I noticed that you have worked on various projects with cinematographer Corey C. Waters - what was the collaborative process like for the two of you on this short film?
Bianca: I've worked with him on almost all of my stuff. It's like a seamless process, we really have the same eye for what we're interested in. When working together, we do find a lot of inspiration from photography, and film of course, but we were really inspired by Paris, Texas for some of those neon moments coming through the window. And then Todd Hiddo, his photography, for a lot of the close ups, because we're in the close ups for so long, having it feel really interesting visually, and rich and feel a little bit more like a painting than just a standard scene. So, I'd say those two were the main inspirations that we pulled from but yeah, he's the best collaborator.
Sadie: And for you Allison, working with Bianca as your director this time in a narrative form, what was that collaboration process like?
Allison: It was great, because we had worked together already. Something about this project and doing it together, it just kind of all clicked into place. And just so much of Bianca's eye and vision comes through the final product in a way that I was so happy about. I feel like we're just very aligned in what we're interested in achieving - it worked out great.
Sadie: Was this always intended be developed as a TV series, or did that come afterward?
Allison: It came after really. I think the medium of the short works so well for the scene itself, but it also shooting it in that medium led us to think about more episodic moments that we could explore. So, it does lend itself well to a television series.
Sadie: What kind of themes are you looking to explore with this series and these characters?
Bianca: We're both really interested in relationships and connection, and how technology plays into that now, and specifically with the Gen Z generation, and millennial generation. And there's so many dating shows out there, but I think that's what's missing. And what's really interesting is focusing on how it's changed and how dating used to be versus how it is now.
Sadie: Bianca, what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Bianca: I've always loved film. When I was younger, I would write my own plays and direct them for my mom when she came home from working all day. [laughs] My parents are from Argentina, and my sister and I are first generation here, so oddly enough, I learned so much about American culture and everything through TV and through film, and I think that just escalated over the years. And I love every aspect of it.
Sadie: That’s amazing. And what about you Allison?
Allison: Kind of similar to Bianca; I was in my first play when I was six years old and just kind of living that fantasy life on stage was everything for me growing up. I was also always writing as a child, I was in love with movies; going to Blockbuster, watch the same movie over and over again. It was just from the get-go, I was like, 'I want to be an actor. I want to work in film.'
Sadie: Any advice for those who are wearing multiple hats on a set like yourself and working, is there some that you wish you would have known beforehand or is there something that you may have learned from that process?
Allison: The most important thing that I've learned is just to really see something through and don't give up. I had moments where I wrote it and was just like, 'Alright, that's that,' and wasn't sure if I was going to push on with it. And then being open to what something could be is very important and paying attention to the people that are showing up in your life that can help and trusting that and trusting your own abilities.
Sadie: Which is really important, because a lot of creatives definitely have a lot of self-doubt. For those that are multi hyphenated, like yourself Bianca, what is something you would suggest to maybe lean into?
Bianca: I would just say keep creating. I tap into all these different mediums because it strengthens your filmmaker muscle. It's good to try different things. I don't believe in only doing film, or only doing commercials, or only doing music videos; they all are different parts of you, and you can explore different things. Before, I used to not share my work, and I'd be super nervous about it, and that's when nothing happens. You have to even if you think it's horrible or whatever, just share! And technology's so great right now with outlets of people resharing your work - it really is huge, and it's very helpful. So, I would just say, be super bold, keep creating, keep learning, and just keep sharing with everyone.
Radical Honesty will be having its World Premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival March 12, 2022 at the Alamo Lamar B.