VCA 2018 Graduate Film Series: Among Men
The annual Victorian College of the Arts Film and Television Graduate Screenings showcase the talent of our Film & Television students. We caught up with director Ande Cunningham and producer Melanie Scammell to talk about their film Among Men, screening at ACMI on Saturday 8 and Sunday 16 December.
By Susanna Ling
Ande Cunningham, director (Master of Film and Television, Narrative)
Melanie Scammell, producer (Master of Film and Television, Narrative)
What’s Among Men about?
Melanie: It’s a film about Michael, a young man employed to hunt deer on a banana plantation, and the struggle he faces being an outsider in a hyper-masculine world. It’s really an exploration of fragility and vulnerability, and how toxic masculinity destroys these things.
What led you to explore these themes?
Ande: I’ve always felt uncomfortable around overt masculinity and at times have noticed that I’m not happy with the way I respond to it. I became interested in exploring a figure who is othered by a group of hostile men, and the story grew from there.
Melanie: Both of us are interested in exploring constructs of gender and the harm of gender stereotyping. As a filmmaker, I tend to make films exclusively about female/non-binary experiences, within a feminist framework. It was really exciting and empowering for me to work on a film that explores another side of that (a male experience), but still with a feminist lens. It was also really wonderful to collaborate with a friend who wants to tell diverse stories in a sensitive, considered way.
What was the highlight of shooting the film?
Ande: The highlight for me was filming with a herd of deer. They were pretty shy at first and then one became curious and came over to where we were waiting. Even so, she was unsure of the camera and we were having trouble getting a clean angle. The sun was going down and we were all getting a little stressed and then I looked over at one of the crew playing with her and it dawned on me how absurd it was to be stressed in that moment. I think everyone had a similar realisation. I could feel us all let go and it wasn’t long before the whole herd came down and played with us until it got dark. It was one of the most incredible moments I’ve lived and it set a beautiful tone for the rest of the making of this film.
What do you hope the audience will take away from viewing your film?
Ande: I hope it gives them the opportunity to contemplate things like masculinity and aggression and the fragility of life …
Melanie: … and I would love audiences to question and experience their own fragility and vulnerability – particularly male viewers. I think the ending of Among Men allows for audiences to feel what they want to feel. The film is immersive and subjective. We’re not trying to tell you anything – we want you to explore what it means to you..
What’s next for you both?
Melanie: We’ll be submitting Among Men to festivals for next year, so we’ll (hopefully) get to see it on the big screen a few more times. My background is as a screenwriter, so I’m keen to get back into that for a while. I just want to tell good stories, no matter what form they come in.
Ande: I’m working on a film about the Syrian migration route through Europe. It’s a visual work that focuses on the kinetic movement of migration. One of the best things about VCA has been meeting other filmmakers – beautiful people with phenomenal skills and talents. I hope we continue to collaborate in the future.
Banner image: Still from Among Men, directed by Ande Cunningham and produced by Melanie Scammell. Image supplied.
The 50th Annual Film and Television Graduate Screenings will take place at ACMI, Melbourne, between 6–9 and 13–16 December. Among Men will screen as part of Program C on Saturday 8 December, 7.15pm and Sunday 16 December, 2.30pm. Visit the ACMI website for program details and tickets.