Lauren Vandenbrook on Her Short Film Good Hands

Spiritual Cinema Circle

Lauren Vandenbrook is the writer and director of Good Hands, a short film on our July DVD. We emailed with her a few weeks ago about making the film:

First, please tell us a little about yourself and your career.

I started as an actor. I trained at a renown conservatory program, graduated, got an agent, and worked for many years in the industry. I wanted to direct since a young age, but always found the statistics of female directors to be daunting and dissuasive. Thankfully we’ve entered a new time where women are being emboldened to make these moves and I was finally ready to dive in. This is the first project I’ve ever directed, but it didn't feel that way. I’ve realized that my 10+ years of working as a photographer has been an incredible training ground for directing, so the transition has felt very natural.

You’re a working photographer as well as a filmmaker. Is there a common goal in your work?

Totally! Well, I wouldn’t say there’s a goal - there is a common curiosity. Being able to witness & capture people (in this case, actors) in pure states of being, where they are fully present and vulnerable, is such a beautiful thing. Learning how to create the conditions to make this exchange possible is one of my greatest interests. I’ve been on many sets as an actor where the environment has been totally unconducive to delivering a great performance, and I’ve learned a lot from those experiences about what kind of a director I want to be. At the end of the day, I as the director am not responsible for an actor’s performance or lack thereof, but I sure as heck am going to do everything I can to set that actor up with conditions they can thrive in.

I love the way you build suspense in the film. How exactly did you achieve that?

Thank you! The element of suspense is really the driving force in this film, and I had a great team to help me execute it. A huge part of this was the brilliant score composed by Antonio Naranjo. I absolutely love working with Antonio because he really understands how to communicate the inner life of a character through music. Another big part of this was my editor Sydney Cowper, whose instincts with pace and timing are incredible. I think it also helped that I was not at all precious about cutting footage and tightening the scenes - I think this is really important if you want to keep the momentum of the film going and keep the audience engaged.

With a cast of one and no dialogue, it’s crucial to have the right actor, which you do. How did you find Ms Santos?

Bea was absolutely the perfect choice for this film. I had worked with her multiple times before, through photography. Because the film has no dialogue, I knew that so much of the performance would be riding on the actor’s ability to communicate through their eyes, and Bea’s eyes are incredibly revealing. I also wanted to keep the set very intimate (we had a very tiny crew of 5), comprised of as many familiar faces as possible, so knowing Bea previously was a big asset for this reason as well.

What were some of the production challenges you faced?

I don’t know if anyone who’s ever made a film has had a completely smooth process. I think that’s the nature of filmmaking - being able to think on your feet, make decisions quickly, and roll with the punches - and I love those elements of it. We didn't secure one of our main locations until a couple of days before the shoot, we weren’t able to access particular gear that was essential to executing certain moments in the script, we lost our gaffer the morning of the shoot, the list goes on. But it still felt like luck was on our side in so many ways, particularly with the weather - we had a warm day in Toronto in the middle of February! All of us were very grateful for that.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently in the development process for a feature film script, based on the life of my Grandfather. As well, I’m working on a photographic portrait series using the old technique of overpainting. And! I recently purchased a home out in the country that has an old barn in the backyard, so I’m dreaming up all the creative ways I can put it to good use.