A middle-aged man sits alone in a dimly lit living room at night on a visibly exhausting phone call with his mother while overlooking a printout of Narcotics Anonymous meetings all cancelled due to covid. He grows increasingly agitated and fidgety, tossing the printout aside and beginning to pace and engage more in the call. Eventually, he tosses the phone to the couch, collapsing into a nearby chair to try to calm himself.
Frustration and isolation continue to build, until his eyes catch a box on his coffee table, remembering what it might still be inside. He rips it open, exposing a secret compartment and finding only an empty piece of used foil. He begins to rip apart his living room searching various other places with no luck and finding only a small amount of money in his wallet as his mental state becomes more scattered and chaotic. Throughout his search, photos of a woman who seems to have a close relationship with him appear repeatedly in the background as if omnipresent despite her physical absence from the scene. As he grabs car keys and the wallet and rushes to exit, still seeming determined, we see an affectionate photo of the two hanging on the wall above a digital clock that turns from 11:10 to 11:11.
Lisa Singletary, the director of the project spent her early years in live theater, on stage, backstage, and running lights and sound. She has a bachelor's degree from The University of New Orleans (2012) and a law degree from Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law (2015). In 2021, she started the independent film production company Cipher Cat Films, LLC. It was our pleasure to speak to her regarding the making of her short film.
What was the inspiration behind the making of your film?
Actually, when I started Cipher Cat Films, my initial intent was to produce a feature script. But I didn't feel ready to take that on by myself or have anyone to work with on it. So, I wrote a ton of short scripts, on a number of different topics, that I knew could be shot at a no-budget, resources-available range. Of all of them, "11:11" felt most like what I wanted to talk about first given the importance of the issues involved and my personal experiences with them. What's funny is, I don't even agree with the message of the feature script anymore. I wrote it from a dark, cynical place. So, oddly, despite "11:11" being intended as a stepping stone, producing and directing this script, about how certain relationships alter our path in life and lead us out of dark spots, led me away from putting out a film that I now feel was a bit too dark itself. What is the most challenging aspect of working in this particular genre?
I don't know that I think drama is particularly challenging if you have the right actors and crew. To me, drama is just about reality and truth. I do think short films, of any genre, are extremely challenging. If I could make every film three hours long, I would. But I also know that the less time I need, the bigger audience I'll get.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created as a director?
"11:11" (short) is my first. And I don't know that I ever had a realization moment. I've been a writer for a long time under the name L.E. Flinders. I have a novel released in 2017, and too many unpublished manuscripts to count. But even though my writing has always been very visually based in my own mind, I'd never seen it in a visual, watchable, medium. And I felt a strong pull to do that. So I did.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of the film and what was the most challenging aspect of production?
Katie Walker, my cinematographer, I approached early on because I loved her prior work and her reel. Everyone else I met through holding auditions and posting job notices. For the crew, I wanted people who I knew I would enjoy working with on set and had enough experience that I didn't need to worry about my lack of it at the time. For the cast, I needed two actors who could make me feel something in their reading of it. It's rare that an actor can make me genuinely feel something, even if extremely talented. So when I see that, it's everything. And L.A. and Fadhia were both beyond skilled at that and brought the perfect amount of warmth and conflict to the roles from the first time they read.The most challenging aspect of production was the flock of local wild parrots that decided to force themselves into the film by camping out in a tree next to where we were filming and refusing to leave. But despite the delays and stopped takes, they did end up giving some beautiful sound effects. So I can't complain too much.
What genre of filmmaking fascinates you as a director and which genres do you prefer to work on? I love any film that either has something to say that benefits society as a whole or can make me feel something, no matter what that feeling is, comedy, horror, drama, documentary, etc. I think both those things really define art to me as a whole. So if it can do either of those two things for me, preferably both, I would love to work on it, in any genre.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema does that whether we want it to or not. The media that we take in, of all types, has a direct impact on how we feel, think and view the world, individually and as a whole. Cinema, whether fiction or nonfiction, does that with specific intent, in different ways. And because it's subtle and enjoyable, it can be a lot more powerful than direct forms of influence.
What is your next film project as a director?
I have an LGBT romantic drama short film in post-production right now. It's coming out either late this year or early next year, titled "Walking in the Wrong Direction" that gets into how refusing to express our true feelings, even with the best intentions, can harm us, and others.