Interview with Juliana Carpino, Director of Noah’s Truck
What inspired you to become a director?
I’ve had two inspirations actually. When I was working as an actress, I had booked a role on a feature film and met the director that day. She came over to introduce herself, and I almost fell over when she said she was the director because of how rare it is to have the opportunity to work with female filmmakers. I was 16 at the time. My second inspiration is and always will be Reed Morano, who was a Director of Photography turned Director and has worked on shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale and features such as The Rhythm Section, I Think We’re Alone Now, and Meadowland, starring Olivia Wilde. I love everything she creates and her visions for storytelling. I study her work hardcore.
In your short film, you choose to follow three different family-themed narratives, all of which, at the time, are going through a domestic crisis—parents with children facing mental disorders, abuse, alcoholism, and disease. What propelled you to bring attention to these specific storylines?
One specific storyline, Noah’s, was inspired by a true story. I really wanted to shed light on life events that need attention because I think being able to make a film and use that as a platform to speak on behalf of kids or families going through these same scenarios is a small way of helping. Specifically, I think a lot of these topics aren’t really discussed because we’re always hearing the reaction “Oh, if it deals with kids, I can’t handle it.” But these problems are happening everyday, and in terms of the child abuse story, there are kids who aren’t being helped. So I wanted to show the reality of what it can be like to hopefully encourage people in the community to be the voice that those children need and put an end to what should have never started. Believe me when I say that it wasn’t easy to shoot because it was obviously more visual on set than it was on the page.
All the storylines focus on the more painful side of parenting from the view of the child—what prompts you to explore the darker side of family life and to do so from that perspective?
I think while growing up, you don’t necessarily understand to the fullest degree what exactly it is that’s happening around you. I know that I grew up pretty sheltered in a small town, and it was almost like it was unheard of to see a family struggling in any way. And then when I would go into the city, it would always fascinate me as a child when I saw kids being dragged around behind their parents; it almost confused me. While I was writing the script, I was studying children whom I have close family or friend relationships with to see how they react in certain scenarios. So I sort of wanted to shift gears with this so we could really hone in on the effects that it has on a child and what their perspectives are or what they could be.
As a woman director, what sensibilities do you believe come across when exploring these types of domestic issues?
It was definitely hard to digest. I think it’s hard to separate from these storylines emotionally just because of that sort of maternal instinct you have as a woman. I think a good way to explain it is simply helplessness. As much as I wish I had the resources or abilities to do more, I know that I can’t. So this was my way of expressing my support for the victims of similar situations as those featured in the storylines.
In your direction, you used the camera to keep the viewers’ focus very close upon specific parts and/or items—the truck, a boy’s eye, a young girls’ red coat. It really drew me in quickly to the strife of the character and what issues they may face. What role do you see these items as playing in the film?
I mainly wanted to have specific colours to subconsciously play a part in defining each main character. For Noah, I kept him in the blues and reds to show his calmness and inner love. For Franki, I kept her in the reds and greens for health and the war she experiences while fighting to survive. And for Jacob, in the darker tones—more blacks and dark blues to help explain his fear in the dark contrasting colours. I chose to focus on closeups to isolate the characters, to bring us into their world so we felt like that “fly on the wall.” It was important for us to be there with them because they all had such little dialogue.
What does Noah’s truck serve metaphorically to Noah? How does it function as a prop?
Marcus, who played Noah, was a child diagnosed with autism. Someone with Autism has the tendency to gravitate towards certain objects that they take a liking to and almost have an obsession with. I chose it to be this truck because it was a simple toy that a boy his age would play with. Specifically in the scene when he gives it to Jacob, the other boy with the black eye, it was his way of being empathetic. I think a lot of people who are diagnosed on the autism spectrum are sometimes dismissed when it comes to reacting to situations, so I wanted to show the human connection; there wasn’t a better way to do it than by using the truck.
You’ve seen a lot of the world. How do your travels change your focus as a director?
Immensely. I think traveling is very useful when it comes to finding and gaining inspiration, but I think for me, it’s almost more of a shell shock. I realize that a lot of the stories I write and create are actually not just imaginative, they are very real for people stretched all over. So to have those opportunities of seeing it first hand, there’s nothing like it.
Is it important for you to see more women creating films and on screen?
Absolutely, 100%; yes yes yes. I think people see the film industry to be very cutthroat (for a lack of a better word), with people always being in competition for work. And yes, I guess that’s true when it boils down to a female and a male competing for the same job, but as for women, it’s more of an empowerment. I’m over the moon when I know that a woman got a job even if it was against me because that one job helps us move in the direction we should be moving. I know how strongly I feel about trying to shed light on females in film because I can’t help myself when it comes to wanting to work towards helping the next generation so they don’t need to experience what we are experiencing right now.
How did you go about funding your film, and what advice do you have for others wanting to fund their projects?
I got crowdfunding for it. I reached out to a few organizations that work with people who are or have experienced similar storylines. It ended up turning into a lot of word of mouth and support from friends and family. I think the only advice I have is to believe in your project because once people see how passionate you are for something, it’s surprising how many others want to help make that dream come true!
What advice do you have for women filmmakers in general when starting their own projects?
To run with it. Keep in mind that you are making something for someone else to feel something, in any way. Take advice from people who want to give it. Therefore, always respect what the script is asking for from you as a filmmaker. It’s your job to do what it needs, not always just what you want it to be.
What upcoming projects will allow us to see more of your work?
I’m currently in post-production for another short film that I’ve recently shot, which is about a dark secret being brought up between two stepsisters while stranded on the side of the road. I’m hoping for it to have screenings at both international and domestic festivals! I’m also in pre-production for another short about a boy setting out on a backpacking trip across America with his service dog and my first feature film about a young family re-meeting for the first time after one of them was in an accident that left them with long-term memory loss. I keep my website and Instagram page up to date, so it can all be found on there.