Janine Sowerby is a local Cantabrian who works full time as a city planner but still manages to find time to engage in her passion for writing. She is a published author who typically writes poetry and short stories but has recently decided to turn her hand to short films.
“Son’s Return Home” is the working title of the script that has been chosen as one of seven stories that made it to the next level of the Paerangi Project, a Script to Screen initiative. Funded by both the New Zealand Film Commission and Screenrights Cultural Fund, the development programme seeks to find and support “fresh, distinctive, and authentic voices across Aotearoa”.
‘Son’s Return Home’ is a powerful WW1 script about a soldier who comes to visit the family of another soldier whom he met during the Battle of Passchendaele. It’s a confronting story about grief, loss, and the inability to communicate one’s true feelings. Though set during WW1, the story has a great deal of application today.
Screen CanterburyNZ has sat down with Janine and asked her a few questions about this great project.
What was the inspiration for this project?
I was watching 1917 and thought the film was powerful and effective. However, there was one moment that didn’t resonate with me and a story sort of wove itself together in my mind from there. I couldn’t get it out of my head and I kept coming back to it, so I decided to give that story a voice and wrote the short film script that has now become Son’s Return Home.
So it just wouldn’t leave you alone?
No. Ideas can come from anywhere but the ones that hang around your ankles like a dog looking for a bone are the ideas that seem to resonate with people, in my opinion. The images I had of the story wouldn’t go away; I had it in my head for months.
How did the Paerangi Project come into play for you?
It was the impetus I needed to get started. I have so far received a great deal of education and support, so it really helped me to find a focus for this story and for what I want to achieve as a writer. I’ve also met some great people along the way. I have Kim Georgine on as director and Nick McLean as Director of Photography. Amanda Jenkins will produce and the mentor I’ve been given, Dianne Taylor, has been outstanding. She is a fellow writer and has been instrumental in helping me to learn how to translate my writing skills into film language. It was a pretty big adjustment in some ways but she has really supported me - and the script is so much better for it.
What are some of the things that you’ve learned?
Show don’t tell. I think as a writer of short stories and poetry, words are absolutely needed to convey the story. It’s critical. In film, it’s 3D or even 4D. It’s important to leave room for actors to perform and for the shots to tell the story. Letting my story breathe proved really important. I had to take out a lot of dialogue as it became less and less necessary. Less words, more visual.
What are your long term goals?
I’ve wanted to learn about filmmaking by doing it. I didn’t have the opportunity to when I was younger. I want to get involved in my projects and other people’s projects as much as possible. I want to keep writing stories and be a part of bringing them to life. I was thinking to focus more on this when I retire, as I’m a single woman with a mortgage to pay. However, I’ve decided I want to bring this forward and get started sooner rather than later.
Finally, any parting advice?
Yes. You have to make it happen, it’s not going to come to you. You’ll find that there are some wonderful people out there who will be willing to support you but make the first move.