Interviews

Eliza Hittman about It Felt Like Love: 'IFFR is bigger than expected'

In her debut film, Eliza Hittman shows how far teenage girls can take their love. An intimate, steamy and, at times, harrowing puberty drama including (which is pretty groundbreaking for an American film) a close-up of the male member. Nominated for a Hivos Tiger Award.

In a nutshell

'This is 14-year old Lisa's dark coming-of-age story that takes place on the edge of Brooklyn. She is prepared to do almost anything to get near a boy she met on the beach.'

First time

'I made three short films whilst studying and the time was now ripe for a feature film. I didn't have much money and so I worked minimalistically using three lights and a small crew. What I had to get used to and initially worried about was the enormous number of scenes that had to be shot. For a short film you shoot 12 pages of script per week, now I suddenly had to do five a day. I was continuously scared that I'd forget an essential shot.'

Difficult

'Casting was definitely the most difficult part. I wasn't looking for a specific appearance, but did want vulnerability and sincerity. For six months, hundreds of girls auditioned, however many of them proved intimidated by the script's sexual content. When I met Gina Piersanti, the lead, we talked about the film intensively for a month before she said "Yes". To indicate the desired tone and atmosphere I showed her my short film, photos of locations and the casting videos of the other actors. I wanted to give her the most comprehensive impression possible of the people she would be working with, what the set would like and what the atmosphere would be like.'

America

'I've just been at the Sundance Film Festival for a week, where It Felt Like Love premiered. The film was shot in August and we worked day and night to finish it on time. There was no time for test screenings so I basically viewed the premiere as one. Luckily, it received a good reception. Some people were surprised that I had made it even though I don't really understand why. I expected the audience to be shocked by the male nudity, but they weren't. I was asked why it was in the film, but no one was upset about it. That's surprising because American audiences are pretty puritanical about what you can and can't show. I'd braced myself for heated discussion, but that proved unnecessary.'

Rotterdam

'IFFR is much bigger than I expected. I walked into the hall for the premiere and thought to myself: oh my God! There were at least 500 people there. The funny thing was that here conversation afterwards was centred more on visual aspects, about the why of certain shots, while the audience at Sundance focused more on the emotional content. The awkward humour also went down better there. In any case it was great to be in Rotterdam. I am pleased that my film could be screened for a European audience.'

Bright Future

'I am currently working on a scenario about an event that took place while I was a student: a couple of guys had hired some prostitutes to "perform" at a birthday party. Really depraved. That incident is ingrained in my memory. I am going to continue to explore extreme sexual themes in other words.'

It Felt Like Love – Eliza Hittman
Sa 2 18:45 Pathé 4

This is an article from the Daily Tiger dated Friday 1 February 2013.
Photo: Corinne de Korver