Hello Erin, thank you for this wonderful short film. Would you say that cinema is your favorite form of expression?

Hello ! Thank you very much for this interview. Cinema has always been a way for me to explore and express myself. I think the magic of cinema is to recreate life using your imagination. Sometimes it’s hard for me to communicate an idea in words, so cinema is a space that allows me to illustrate what’s going on in my mind.

I fell in love with cinema as a child, and little Erin would certainly be proud that I’d created my own little film. I used to shoot a lot when I was younger, random things, and edit the footage on iMovie and Windows movie maker. I didn’t plan much, I just let it happen. Over the years, I’ve acquired new skills in filmmaking (and will continue to learn), but I want to retain the passion and simplicity I had when I was younger. I think it’s important to feel free when practicing art. If I think too much, or worry too much about what the audience will think, it takes some of the joy out of it. That’s why I try to recapture that childlike state of mind, while writing and reflecting on subjects that interest me.

Although making a film is cathartic and allows me to explore who I am, there’s a risk that audiences won’t like the concept. You’re letting your vulnerabilities show, and what seems important to you may seem insignificant to the public, so there’s a certain risk in writing about something personal.
Sometimes I daydream, then think about how that moment might work in a movie. I am strongly inspired by events. You know, those crazy little magical moments that happen when you least expect it, something you’d see in a movie. Sometimes I see things as if through the lens: patterns, metaphors… You can really write about anything and explore almost anything; that’s the magic of cinema!

Your story seems to ask questions without providing definitive answers. Do you agree with this statement?

The discourse on technology, smartphones and social networks is constantly evolving. There are real-life people and online characters. It’s a bit confusing, mixing the real world with online personalities, which are supposed to reflect our real world. But how much of it is true? It’s largely a process of selection and omission.

Technology has made communication more efficient, and it’s incredible to see how far it’s come. It has become an integral part of our lives, and we can’t imagine life without it. We’re not even aware of our habits. The_Fishbowl allowed me to explore how these habits affect our daily lives. I don’t find social media or smartphones “bad”… If it’s a problem, it’s not necessarily going to go away, because it’s part of who we are today. However, I do think we should be aware of our habits and how they can affect our mental health.

One of our characters relapses after undergoing detox, which shows that this problem is permanent and that it’s really up to the individual to choose the extent of the influence of this online universe on his or her personal life. Can we really go back to a time before telephones? Can we even imagine it? I think our generation was pretty baffled growing up during this big change; adolescence is confusing enough, so adding this dimension to our lives definitely posed the question of “what is youth supposed to look like?” It’s easy for people to say “Oh, don’t go on your phone, go and experience the wonders of life”. That’s easier said than done, especially when you grow up in this online culture.

It’s as if this other dimension were somehow linked to ours, but didn’t physically exist (well… that’s another debate for another time, haha). There’s so much information in this little pocket-sized device. I simply wanted to explore these characters, their idiosyncrasies, and illustrate certain archetypes of social networking without trying to solve anything. I hope people can identify with them in some way. The characters who are admitted to the facility probably went there with the idea that they could live without their phones, that they would be “cured” of their addiction. I don’t even know what we’re supposed to do, where we’re supposed to go, but I think it’s important to be aware of the impact these little devices have on us. That’s what The_Fishbowl is all about, giving a glimpse of what’s going on.

Have you heard of young people going into rehab because of their addiction to their phones or social networks? If so, what can you tell us about their experience?

No, I don’t know anyone who’s been to rehab for such reasons. However, it is common for those undergoing detoxification to keep their phone use to a minimum. During my research, I also asked about technology-free retirement.

I’ve watched several movies in which the characters go to rehab and don’t have access to their phones, but that’s not necessarily why they’re there. In real life, I only know people who decide to go on vacation and not use their phone (usually not for very long). Personally, I’ve gone more than a week without social networking. It was really nice, but I was a bit anxious about returning to the digital world and having to catch up on everything that had happened. These days, I try not to take too long a break, because there’s more and more information on the Internet and I’m afraid I’ll miss something if I don’t check my phone. I think that’s the case for a lot of people. We’re not always aware that our little pocket devices contain so much power and information; we scroll through them as soon as we wake up, at bedtime, when we’re with friends, when we eat out, we take photos of everything we do and upload them to our pages.

Sometimes this information is too invasive and I feel like I’m not really “living”, like I’m stuck in a bubble, like I’m swimming in an aquarium. I have the impression that there are so many applications that it can become addictive. Publish what you had for dinner, over-analyze who saw your story, “Oh dear, I wonder what they thought”, when chances are they’ve skimmed it and moved on. We also have this problem with “seen” messages, where we can’t leave people on “seen”, without them imagining the worst. No, I don’t know anyone who’s had to undergo detox for this type of addiction, but I do know that the digital world is a cause of anxiety and depression in young people.

It may sound dramatic, but many people my age are plagued by anxiety over their phone use, and suffer symptoms when they wean off it. Social networks are perfect for communicating, finding inspiration and, of course, MEMES! But it’s a bit of a paradox: you can be so connected to people and share common interests, and yet feel so alone.

We learn that the story takes place in 2019. Why did you choose this particular year?

I wrote The_Fishbowl in 2019. That’s when it all happened. When I pitched the idea, the story was to be set in the future, probably around 2021. But I wanted to stick to the times I knew. I knew that the film could be adapted in a few years’ time, even though modern culture is always evolving rapidly: trends, the language we use, fashion, music, etc., are all part of it. So it was important that the film accurately reflected the context in which I was writing (2019). If it were set a little in the future, there would have been the risk of the characters saying or doing things that would be perceived as outdated. I think it was an important decision, because one of the main aims of the film is to “remain relevant in society”.

What did you learn in the process of making The_Fishbowl that you’d like to share with first-time filmmakers?

It took me two years to make this film. It’s been a long process, mainly because the pandemic has made things even more difficult. I found it very hard to stay motivated. I would watch the montage for long periods of time and without receiving any feedback, I didn’t know where to go. I was too embarrassed to share the different stages with my peers. It’s important to remember that a draft is a draft, not the final version. I expected the first draft to become the final cut, which led me to procrastinate. I’ve learned that it’s okay to make mistakes, that things take time, and I’m glad I didn’t rush into anything. If you’re not making progress, take a break and come back later, or ask someone else to take a fresh look at the project.

The same goes for script writing and the pre-production process. When I was writing my first draft, I felt like I was trying to write a feature film, I had all these crazy ideas. I think it’s important to start small and work your way up, step by step. As far as the production process was concerned, I was very nervous about directing because I usually assisted my peers’ films. This time, they were assisting me and I was a bit overwhelmed, because we were making my film. Don’t forget that your team is there to help you, and if you’re a bit nervous, remember why you’re making this film.

In other parts of the world, we felt that the containment measures taken in Australia were particularly drastic. What do you think has been the impact of these measures on your generation, whether in terms of mental health or others (relationships of all kinds; use of social networks…)?

There’s no doubt that the confinements here have been radical. We had to adapt. I can only speak from my own experience.

Of course, there has been an increase in the use of social networks and a greater need to resort more frequently to our online personas to keep in touch with friends and family. Because we’ve been cooped up for so long, we’ve had to be very creative in the way we interact. My friends and I watched movies online and screen-shared. I’ve even attended virtual events and concerts. Even if these didn’t live up to the actual events, I find it quite impressive that people were so creative, with so few resources. During the confinements, I also felt I could slow down and be more creative in my writing. I had trouble editing my texts, but my friends were able to help me thanks to screen sharing and video calls.

During the confinements/pandemic, many people of my generation had to convert to e-learning. And it’s not for everyone. Not everyone wants to learn through a screen; some need real interaction. We were dependent on our phones and still use many electronic tools today. E-learning still exists, many people work from home, today you go to a restaurant and scan a QR code to place your order. The same goes for medical appointments: you can chat with your doctor via video, and he or she will send you an electronic prescription. Again, it’s not for everyone, but it’s great that there are options.

I feel that technology is one of those subjects where there are so many pros and cons, that it’s really hard to know what’s “right” and “wrong”, what’s “normal” and what’s not. It’s really different for everyone. Some things may work for you, but not for others. I think it’s essential to have options. Some prefer the QR code to place an order, others love to go out and interact. Not everyone can do everything online. We need to find a balance between real life and the virtual world.

Technology is fast-moving and constantly evolving, and this massive virtual change is complicated. Does anyone really know what is “normal”? I think there’s a lot of confusion because this is all very new to us.

What will your next film be about?

I’m currently writing several projects. A mini-series, a feature film. Very long-term projects. I hate forcing ideas, so I’m going to take my time. I’m still thinking about the long term, but I really want to make more short films!

I don’t want to “spoiler”, but let’s just say I’ve read a lot about the cosmos and the notion of multiple universes. I like to think about the world, but I also want to explore things that aren’t necessarily considered “possible” in this universe. I think that’s what’s fun about filmmaking: going off on adventures and exploring the “what ifs? “.

Briefly describe your vision of post-pandemic cinema. Do you think there will be any notable changes?

There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had a massive impact on the film industry and the arts in general. I think we’ll see more experiences and stories reflecting such a drastic period through cinema: there are lots of new ideas to think about.

The pandemic has also changed the context in which films are received. More and more people are watching movies from home or anywhere else.

In my personal experience of filmmaking, with my film The_Fishbowl, the pandemic definitely prolonged the post-production process. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to finish the film! However, it allowed me to slow down and not work in a hurry.


Erin Mackellin
Director & Writer

Director Erin Mackellin is based in Melbourne, Australia. As a child, she fell in love with cinema while filming with her Kodak Easyshare, and went on to make short films on small digital pocket cameras, editing the footage together. In 2019, Erin is graduating with a Screen & Media degree from Footscray City Films. Throughout her studies, Erin wrote, directed and edited her own short films.

His short film The_Fishbowl won Best Science and Technology Film at the CWFF and Best Original Story at the Los Angeles Film Awards. The film was also nominated for Best Direction and Best Editing at the Busan New Wave Short Film Festival, and for Best Sound Design at the Korea International Short Film Festival.

While developing her portfolio as a writer/director, Erin also works as a set designer. Erin designed the sets for the pilot of the web series Lucky Boy, part of the Official Selection of the Melbourne Festival, and the Lift-Off Festival in Sydney. Over the past five years, she has worked as head set designer on several short films and music videos, and as assistant set designer on short and feature films.

Her work focuses mainly on youth, nostalgia, drama and comedy, but Erin is open to experimenting with other genres.

ITV 2023

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