Insomniac Film Festival
Insomniac Film Festival
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SABRINA CARRIZO SZTAINBOK, when you weren’t looking (2019)

Adam: Hello, we’re here with Sabrina. Can you tell us your name? I guess I already said it…

Sabrina: [Sabrina leans very far in] My name is… why don’t I move closer?

Adam: But then you’re on a Danger Storm.

Sabrina: Ok. My name is Sabrina. I have a film called when you weren’t looking, it’s like two minutes long. Um… what were the other questions? Is that it?

Seb: Adam said “you’re on a Danger Storm”.

Adam: Thoughts about being on a Danger Storm?

Sabrina: I feel really dangerous.

Seb: Worst kind of storm. Also, we’re talking about a manhole cover that says “Danger Storm”.

Adam: Weeda, when you transcribe this, make sure everyone knows that we’re talking about a manhole cover.

Seb: Your film makes me afraid of society. Is the film at all about paranoia for your neighbours?

Sabrina: Kinda. I did move into this fancier neighbourhood and everyone’s way more unfriendly. Oh shit, now I’m just shading my neighbours. I guess I’m just kind of into creepy things. To me it’s kind of exciting if something totally outlandish were to happen, or subtly outlandish that’s almost possible but impossible were to happen. So I think it’s actually more exciting to me as opposed to me being afraid, but I definitely am kind of paranoid too, so…

Adam: I think both of those come across. There is an excitement in the mystery of “what the hell is going on outside of my window?”, and you can feel a little safe because you are removed from it while inside of your house, but the paranoia is still there any time I’m looking outside of my window.

Sabrina: Yeah, totally.

Seb: More practically, a lot of the colour in the movie lines up with parked cars and stuff. Were you in any control of that or were you just matching your costumes to what was already there?

Sabrina: I did have in mind that I wanted to have three distinct characters. One person in red, one person in yellow, and then I looked out the window and I saw that there was a red and a yellow car. There also always is a red car in my neighbourhood, but anyways, I kind of took advantage of the cars there. So it was not fully planned, but still I was looking out the window and trying to make something work with the surroundings.

Adam: In a couple works of yours you like to play in representing yourself in these various different forms, like in this film we have these three distinct characters all played by you that have very different ways of navigating this one block. What’s interesting and exciting for you in representing these varied versions of yourself?

Sabrina: Part of it came from a practical stance, like I’m too shy to get anyone else involved so I might as well just use myself to be every single character and film it and do everything. I don’t view any of the subjects of the film as being like me, it’s more like I’m just different characters, and that’s also exciting to me, being able to be like anyone or inhabit these weird scenarios.

I can totally see how you could view them as having distinct personalities - I think I feel different when I wear different costumes, different clothing, but I didn’t let myself think too much about it.

Seb: That’s cool if that’s even like, not subconscious, but when you wear a suit you automatically act a bit differently, and you can document that in the film. 

Sabrina: They’re not outfits that are super costumey or anything, they’re just supposed to be like an elevated me or like a slightly more cartoonish, or a slightly more logical me. It’s obviously curated, but they’re all made up of regular things like a raincoat from Dollarama, or some random suit.

Seb: Was the sound design something you always had in mind or was it something you worked on after you saw the footage?

Sabrina: I knew that I wanted to make my own soundtrack, so I made the film and then I did the sound. I had heard some interview with Christopher Nolan and in Dunkirk he used the ticking of a clock throughout the film, and I was like “that’s kind of cool, I want to do something that’s a sound that just gives you anxiety”. So I was going for a heartbeat and also a breathing noise. 

Adam: There’s a section in the middle where the guitar comes in and I’m like “are we gonna get some reprieve from this tension?” And then you suck us right back in.

Sabrina: It had to be working to something so I had the heartbeat and the breathing start out, and then to contrast that I had these harmonies. They keep building, so it’ll be like the main line and then I’ll do a harmony on top and then a harmony on top until it came into something else. That something else had to be the guitars.

when you weren’t looking  (dir. Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok)

when you weren’t looking (dir. Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok)

Seb: So that’s the third floor of your house? Is that a view that you’ve looked out before?

Sabrina: Yeah, I feel like I’m always looking out that window. I’m kind of obsessed with this idea that I want something to happen, and wouldn’t it be crazy if something were to happen? Instead of waiting for it I’m like “okay, I guess I should just go out and make it happen in some way”.

Adam: That’s cool that you brought to life that imagination of “what if some crazy thing actually did happen outside of my window?” In that last image, everyone starts to look up at the camera and it’s all these different versions of you together. How’d you come to that idea?

Sabrina: I’ve done a lot of photograph series in the past that have been about the person in the photograph noticing the photo being taken, because it’s kind of an issue that I’ve had - like who is holding the camera when I make these fabricated scenarios? Who is behind the camera and are they acknowledged or is it just like a camera floating in space? And so for me the resolution is always yes - there is someone holding the camera and the person in the photograph knows. The entire film, the characters are always looking up at the window, like this hypothetical person is always being noticed and there’s sort of this relationship with all the characters to that person.

Seb: Now that you say that it makes me think, whenever we do something, we’re sort of trying to impress ourselves, or like our shyest most private selves. Like in our rooms we dream that we’re going to go out and do something fun, and then when we do something fun we’re kind of looking over our shoulder like “oh, is this the real me?”

Sabrina: Yeah… I totally relate to being a shy person.

Adam: Do you ever think you’ve been the person on the street where someone’s looking out their window and been like “woah, what’s happening over there with Sabrina?”

Sabrina: For sure. I had done a different, really really short looping video and to film it I had to go out and walk around my street. And because I was just standing for a car to pass and because I didn’t have my phone or anything, this guy came up to me and was like “are you lost?” No! I’m just standing on the street, but suddenly that’s really suspect. Just standing on the street without a phone or anything. It’s really bizarre.

Adam: I guess it is weird to just stand on a street.

Seb: You’d think it should be the most neutral thing.

Adam: “What’s that person doing?!?”

Sabrina: “Nothing at all?!”

Seb: “Must be planning something.”

Sabrina: I was just waiting for his car to pass so I could make my weird video!

Seb: It’s really cool that we never think that it could be us doing the fun thing, and then you actually made your film about that - about the process of going outside and actually doing something.

Sabrina: Although it doesn’t feel very fun. It’s kind of an isolating experience because it didn’t involve literally anybody. It’s just me being like “okaaay, I’m gonna stand in the middle of the street and jump, and walk around or whatever”.

Seb: Are you not fully comfortable with how it was just you making the film?

Sabrina: I don’t know. I kind of like that, but I don’t know if I’m having the most fun ever.

Adam: You make music too, and do it with people. Playing in a band, obviously you’re trading ideas, but then to do this where it’s completely solo - what’s the difference like?

Sabrina: I feel like that stuff I’ve already been doing for so long and I’ve already found people to do it with that it’s super easy, but when I’m doing my own solo music too it’s a struggle. It’s different. There’s still a different kind of music that I make when I’m by myself as well that feels different from the music that I make with other people.

Seb: I think everyone’s looking for the balance between their collaborative selves and their solo selves, and it’s interesting that your movie appears to be a collaboration on first glance but all the characters are you. How do you feel about collaborating on others’ films? Like relinquishing some of that control and being an actor?

Sabrina: It’s fun, because I don’t have to worry about anything. I like when people tell me what to do. I like telling myself what to do, and I like people telling me what to do. 

Seb: Do you think you’ll do a film with an actor or another collaborator? …That sounds passive aggressive…

Sabrina: I think most of it is that I’m like, really shy and nervous and I’m just like “ahhh, I guess I should just use myself cause it’ll be easier, and because I know when I’m available, and I’m free right now”, but my background is in photography so I’ve definitely done a lot of things with other people as the subjects. Turning the camera on myself has been kind of a recent thing. It’s still something that I’m exploring, but I’d like to collaborate with other people. I’m just scared.

Adam: People will say yes to working with you. People love Sabrina. We told Franci [Dimitrovska, dir. of Limbs - screening at Insomniac 2019!] that we were going to interview you and Franci was very excited!

Seb: Our interview has actually been interrupted twice by people who want to talk to Sabrina.

Adam: It’s true.

when you weren’t looking  (dir. Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok)

when you weren’t looking (dir. Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok)

Adam: Who is your dream collaborator?

Sabrina: I have this weird obsession with Colin Morgan who played Merlin. I don’t think I’d want to collaborate with him, but…

Adam: He played Merlin? Like the Wizard?

Sabrina: In the show. He carried that show... I need a better answer.

Seb: No, that’s a great answer.

Adam: Colin Morgan: two first names. Have I told you about my two first names theory? I’ve told Seb this before, but anyone with two first names - they’re going to the top. LeBron James. Michael Jordan. The list goes on.

Sabrina: Wait, yeah… I’ve always assumed I’m fucked because my name is Sabrina Carrizo Sztainbok. Anyone with two Z’s in their name, like I dunno…

Adam: Two Z’s and only one first name!

Sabrina: And two last names non-hyphenated. 

Adam: I haven’t added the two last names into the equation yet, I don’t know what’s gonna come up… uh, wrapping up now, do you have anyone you want to shout out?

Sabrina: Yeah - me, me, me, me, me. And my editor: me. Mixer, masterer: me. 

[Everyone laughs]

Sabrina: I’m in a band called Tange. So, also me.

Adam: That adds two more people to your shout outs!

Sabrina: Shout out to me. Shout out to the band I’m in.

Seb: What’s your latest release?

Sabrina: We have an EP called Tangible.

Adam: Great EP.

Sabrina: Ye.

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