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Director of Dreams for Life, Anna Kannava

Writer and film director Anna Kannava talks about her film Dreams for Life, and her favorite books…

Recently I attended a screening of Anna Kannava’s film, Dreams for Life, in Brisbane.

The lead actor, Maria Mercedes, attended the screening and answered a few questions from the audience.

I was struck by how different Maria Mercedes was in person from the character she played in the film.

I realise she’s an actor and everything, but still; her character was melancholy and fragile, but Maria Mercedes was up-beat.

In Dreams for Life, Maria Mercedes plays a 39 year old recluse, Ellen, who lives in Melbourne.

A series of dreams prompts her to revisit her old neighborhood, and while there she runs into Martin, the younger brother of Ellen’s former lover.

Ellen used to babysit Martin (played by Dai Paterson) when she was a teenager.

Now Martin is a young man, and falls in love with Ellen.

Dreams for Life was a visually stylish film and a good love story.

Occasionally, various novels would have cameos in the film, too – being read by a character on a tram, or being checked out at a library.

I wondered if these were the screenwriter- director’s favorite books, so I asked Anna Kannava about her reading.

READERSVOICE.COM: I noticed that there were several books throughout your film, Dreams For Life, including a Christina Stead reader, Love in the Time of Cholera, and My Brother Jack.

Were these your favorite books and if so, why? If not, what would be your five favorite books of all time and why?

ANNA KANNAVA: The fiction writer I admire the most is Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

He has such an incredible imagination. One Hundred Years of Solitude would have to be one of my favourite novels.

In Dreams for Life there are always references to a happy ending and the possibility of love; the character of Ellen watches two old lovers walking by etc.

Love in the Time of Cholera was an easy choice, as was My Brother Jack.

The character of young Martin is constantly comparing himself to his older brother, so that’s the book he reads.

Christina Stead was a quick choice. I ran to my bookshelf and grabbed a ‘suitable’ book for the tram scene – it was one on her.

I thought Ellen would enjoy reading about her.

My five favorite books? It is a difficult question because I forget the novels I have loved over the years.

Thinking quickly then, it would have to be the old Russians.

I very much enjoyed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers which I read not long ago, and Disgrace by J.M Coetzee.

Martin Amis makes me laugh – Money or The Information, and I have always loved the classics Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gasby.

RV: How did you construct the plot for Dreams For Life, and what sort of techniques in plotting do you like to use? How did you learn to plot?

AK: I don’t do things consciously, so I can’t really talk about constructing the plot.

The story comes to me. In this case there were dreams I kept having which I then found a story for.

My technique would be: I wrote and wrote for years to teach myself writing.

These days I just think about the beginning and how I should end a story, and then I sit down to write in order to find out which way I will get there.

I try to take the road less travelled, I guess, and see what happens.

RV: Can you talk a bit about your relationship with film funding bodies? What are the pros and cons generally of getting funding from someone like the Australian Film Commission?

AK: The AFC has been good to me since I was a young filmmaker.

I was someone they thought had a voice who was not necessarilly going to be mainstream, but needed nurturing and support.

I’m grateful for the organization.
I just get a sense of fear from it these days, like they are under extreme pressure to create successful filmmakers who will produce the kind of films that make money or get into prestigious festivals. What are they?

In the old days it was about developing filmmakers who had something to say and who were willing to push the boundaries and be creative.

Being safe will not result in good films.

RV: I saw that one of your film funders was Dixons Recycled Records. How did you hook up with them?

AK: The producer Aanya Whitehead knows David and she talked him into it.

He’s a wonderful man and was happy to help us. It was like a favourite charity, We were tax deductible.

RV: What was the total budget for the film and approximately what was the funding break-down of the budget?

AK: I don’t deal with the budget enough to talk about the breakdown.

The total was $400,000 which is tiny, especially as we were working with film.

That’s where most of the money goes – developing, processing, stock etc.

RV: Can you talk a bit about how your film was made seasonally?

AK: We shot in summer and autumn; in Melbourne that is going through all of the seasons. Autumn was very important to the film.

Continued… Copyright Simon Sandall.