The NGFF team caught up with Jessica Flood, writer-director of QUPID (Australia) and discussed the making of QUPID, how the film communicates the issue of LGBTQI sexual oppression, and how the lack of women leads in action films helped shape an idea into reality. Read on!

A brief introduction of yourself and your film QUPID

QUPID is a short film with a simple premise: you can’t force love. It’s not a love story though. As a lesbian filmmaker, I wanted to talk to people about how psychologically detrimental sexual oppression can be.
This is my first short film as a writer-director, and I treated it as an opportunity to talk to an audience that mightn’t usually engage with the issue. Although Australia is a fairly progressive society when it comes to LGBTQI people, there’s still a long way to go. Particularly as even here there are ‘correctional’ facilities, which aim to correct same-sex attraction.

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QUPID has a strong focus on the characters Quentin and Roo, can you talk about the casting process, how important was it to get the casting right?

We cheated when it came to this. Sally Dulson (Roo) and Paul Wilson (Quentin) both knew one another from their work in physical theatre and clowning. Sally and I developed the story together, and although the role of Roo wasn’t conceived with her in mind, it became obvious during the writing phase that Sally was best for the role. We held auditions for the role of Quentin, but it was very obvious that Paul and Sally’s already existing relationship would lend itself well to the intimacy required of them on screen. Coupled with the fact that both were able to do their own stunt work, because of their theatre backgrounds, the pair were perfect together.

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Quentin and Roo character’s oppose each other in telling the story of sexual oppression in today’s modern society, where did the decision come from to relay the “warning” presented by the film through two specific characters?

Human beings are sexual beings and when we repress this side of ourselves there are destructive consequences. I didn’t want QUPID to be a literal exploration of the issue. There have been many films, particularly drama, that have already done this. Unfortunately they often preach to the converted.

I wanted to access people who mightn’t usually sit down and consider this idea. Instead it operates as a fable, with Quentin heteronormative society personified, attempting to control and direct sexuality, and Roo his antithesis, a healthy and stable woman, who resists society’s pressure to define her sexuality.

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How does the landscape of rural Australia reflect the issues raised in the film?

For most of us, rural Australia isn’t home. It’s the concrete jungles and sprawling suburbia to which the majority of us belong. Nonetheless, this is the landscape many writers and filmmakers use as a backdrop. It’s a traditional image, and so works well as a setting for a story about conservatism in the arena of sexuality. That, and many famous Aussie horror and thriller films are set in the outback / rural Australia, such as Wolf Creek and Wake in Fright. The DOP, Meg White, and I were keen to reference these films, playing with ideas of agoraphobia and claustrophobia to amplify the dangerous isolation of the characters.

How have films inspired you or motivated you to create films like Qupid, especially with such strong female characters?

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There aren’t enough action films with women as the leads.

We thought up this concept a fair few years ago – before the likes of Hunger Games hit the big screen. For all its faults, that trilogy is great. However, like many other films where women are the heroes, there’s a love triangle, or some male on whom the lead female depends. We wanted to subvert this. There’s two men in the paddock with the hero, Roo, and a syringe supposedly pumped full of love, but it’s far from your typical triangle. When it comes to what films have inspired me as a filmmaker, a large number of them would fail the Bechdel Test – La Haine, City of God, Amores Perros, Birdman, Inglourious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs. There’s references to some of these throughout QUPID. Think of Quentin’s posturing in a gangster outfit and choices we made in the choppy edit to pull you in.

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Thanks so much Jess!

QUPID (Australia) will be screened at No Gloss Film Festival 2016.