Mat Sheldon interview for the short film “The Electricity In Me”

The other week we got to speak with filmmaker May Sheldon about his short film The Electricity In Me. In the interview, we talk about how it is to film a short film with what goes throughout the process. How difficult and different it is filming a short film Vs a feature film.

AJ Friar:
So Mat, how did The Electricity in Me all come about? Because it’s a very interesting and passionate short film. So what drew inspirations for you to direct it?

Mat Sheldon:
I’ve always wanted to tell the story. I had been tracking Ellora Torchia for some time. And Ellora is an extremely talented actor. If you’ve seen her in Ali & Ava and Midsommer and In the Earth-

AJ Friar:
Yes. I got to interview her for In the Earth when that came out.

Mat Sheldon:
Oh really? She’s a massive talent. But I’d always wanted to tell the story of my birth mother and I just couldn’t figure it out. And then I had the opportunity to meet Ellora and I thought, shit, I’ve got to write something and I got to write something quick. So it started from there. It was meeting her, I’d written some dialogue, showed her my mother’s diaries, the actual diaries. I brought the diaries with me. These are 40 year old documents or 35 year old documents. And, yeah, it all started from there.

AJ Friar:
Well, and doing it in this short amount of time that you got, like 10 minutes. That had to be a difficult challenge to just tell this story in 10 minutes, right?

Mat Sheldon:
Yeah. If you’re making short film longer than 15 minutes, you better have a great, great story. And I think usually the sweet spot is around eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 minutes.

AJ Friar:
I agree. Yeah.

Mat Sheldon:
There are shorts that have won Oscars for being 20, 22 minutes long. But that won the Oscar this year, that was 10 minutes, 11 minutes. But it is a frightening format. And actually, most people… If you stop someone on the street and say, oh, how many short films have you seen this year? The answer is somewhere between slim and zero. People don’t watch short films really. Film people do, but it’s an unusual format. So we’re not used to watching them and they’re hard to write for. They’re scary actually I think. They’re hard.

AJ Friar:
And I agree with you because I still find trouble reviewing short films myself. Even though I’ve been reviewing films for a long time, like you said, it’s a difficult format.

Mat Sheldon:
It’s like a feature film. So my theory is with a feature film, if you have a scene or two that’s a bit flat somewhere in the middle, from somewhere close to the beginning, some close to the end. Do you know what? You can recover from that. It doesn’t quite land, it doesn’t quite move the plot or the character, or it doesn’t have that moment that you need. But in short films, most of them are three, four, five, six, seven scenes long. And if you have one scene that doesn’t work, you are finished. Do you know what I mean? And there’s other words I could use, which I won’t. You can’t recover basically. So every moment counts.

AJ Friar:
Right. And when you were directing this, the baby sequences were profound. So how did that all come about too when you showed on the baby in this film? How did that all come about as well?

Mat Sheldon:
You’re the first person to ask me about the baby.

AJ Friar:
Really?

Mat Sheldon:
I feel like I shouldn’t reveal my secrets about the baby. But since you caught it, it’s period appropriate, location appropriate. It’s archive footage. But it cuts in beautifully because that archive footage was shot on film, scanned at high quality, so it fills appropriate. But it was shot in 1972, so it’s absolutely perfect for the period. And it was an absolute gift to find it. And it was also shot in North America. So that’s a right and the nurse looks right. And maybe could the baby be me? It could be.

AJ Friar:
And what are you looking forward to the most of just people getting to watch The Electricity in Me as well?

Mat Sheldon:
To start with, I hope that people appreciate the incredible craft and the skill of the people who made the film with me. A lot of performances is profound and moving and slightly intimidating. If that character had been sitting within two or three meters of you, you’d been blown away. And that was the point is that I wanted you to be drawn in by her. But we had an incredible team who made the film and created the set. So the team who made the set, they went off to work with Sam Mendes on Empire of Light. The designer is now working on the new alien film. The costume designer has worked with Kanye West fashion label. Extremely talented, lovely guy who created the music, worked on the Arrival score.

AJ Friar:
Oh wow. Yeah.

Mat Sheldon:
I was surrounded by ridiculously talented people. So I hope people appreciate that. And people have appreciated it and we’ve had lovely comments about, yes, absolutely Ellora. And we’ve had lovely comments about the look and feel of the film.

AJ Friar:
And have you submitted this to qualify for an Oscar, this short film?

Mat Sheldon:
So to qualify for an Oscar, you have to win an Oscar qualifying festival, and we haven’t won an Oscar qualifying festival. We have qualified for a BAFTA though, so I’m hoping people are voting for us to be a… What is the category? The category is Best British Short Film I think is the category. But yeah, to qualify for an Oscar, there are a hundred qualifying festivals and you have to win one of those festivals to make it. And I don’t know if you know anything about… I’m sure you do, but your listeners, your viewers may or may not know how competitive short film festivals are. Sundance had this year 14,000 submissions. Well, last year they screened 59. So that’s 0.2 of a percent. And the smaller festivals are getting… HollyShorts had 5,000 leads, where we showed… They showed leads. International Film Festival, they showed 14 short films, but they received 1400 submissions. It’s pretty intimidating. And again, as a filmmaker, you want to make films that are going to get seen. You want to connect with people.

AJ Friar:
Right. And one last question for you, how was it showing this in HollyShorts? Because that had to be an amazing feeling to get accepted in that kind of film festival as well.

Mat Sheldon:
Yeah, no, HollyShorts was a big deal to me because… It was showing in the Chinese theater in Los Angeles. For those who don’t know, it is an iconic theater. If you are a Star Wars geek like me, you know that Star Wars showed there. And every major release gets shown in that cinema. So to screen there was a really big deal.

AJ Friar:
Well Mat, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been fun and congratulations on The Electricity and Me.

Written By: AJ Friar

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