The Importance of The Opening Scene: An Interview with Simply Sandra Director John Joyner

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simply sandra john joyner

Director John Joyner used mostly natural lighting for his short Simply Sandra

After thinking he has completed his short Simply Sandra, filmmaker John Joyner realized something was missing.

 …It became apparent to me that the film wasn’t really complete. It needed an intense catalyst to draw the viewer in. So a year after our first round of filming we re-assembled and shot what is the now beginning of the film. It was a much needed and infinitely stronger way to begin.

Joyner emphasized the importance of the opening sequence and its ability to capture the viewers’ attention.  The new opening of his movie is a fast-paced sequence of imagined terror in front of a mirror. This rhythmic opening sets the tone for the psychological drama.

As is revealed in the scene, we were symbolically using the mirror as a window into a higher reality. The whole segment was shot hand-held.  It was certainly a challenge because we were filming in a tight little space. The angles had to be precise to convey the action and to avoid the camera crew appearing in the shot. […]

A close-up from the opening scene

A close-up shot from the opening sequence of Simply Sandra

It was important to punctuate that what she was seeing in the mirror was not apparently there. Shooting that was half the battle.  It proved the most difficult scene to edit.  The timing, consistency and emotional impact needed to be maintained. One wrong choice and the scene would’ve fallen flat.

Just like Chris Marker did in his experimental short La Jetee, Joyner used editing to build the expressive parts of the film.

 You might notice from the film, I am a big fan of the montage. I find the weaving of silent images to be a very pure expression of film making. Revealing and trusting the audiences to interpret your intention makes the process far more inclusive and to my mind enthralling.

Joyner edited the film on Final Cut Studio, and shot on Canon XF 300. The film’s budget was about $10,000, which he got “through Kickstarter, self-financing, and good graces.”

rafaela salvadori simply sandra

Rafaela Salvadori as an apparition in Simply Sandra

Executive producer Rafaela Salvadori also starred as Amy, the femme fatale in Simply Sandra. She prepared for her character with a monologue which was not in the script.

I knew I would have to portray the beginning and the end of a relationship in a short period of time but everything was done at the day of the shoot as I didn’t know what exactly the scenes would be and my role was a memory of Amy. I didn’t have much to prepare except connecting to what that meant to me in my own life, the suffering […]

Simply Sandra screened at  Marche du Film at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival and will be distributed by New World Cinemas. Joyner plans to film a feature-length version of the film.