Q and A with Jeannie Donohoe at the Raindance Film Festival

If you haven’t seen Jeannie Donohoe’s GAME yet, you really should – preferably on the big screen. This year’s Lexus Short Films showpiece is not only an extremely powerful and entertaining piece of cinema, it is also incredibly pertinent, at a time when
gender stereotypes is a hot topic of debate in this country.

As an extension of the Lexus Short Films project, Lexus is the main sponsor of this year’s Raindance Film Festival. It’s the perfect tie-up for a company that is all about exciting new ideas, creativity and quality. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the event, which has devoted itself entirely independent cinema.

With the tagline ‘Discover. Be Discovered’, Raindance is the perfect platform for GAME,  which had the honour of being screened on opening night before the main feature, Oh Lucy! Jeannie was in good company on the red carpet, mixing it with Hollywood stars including Josh Hartnett and Dakota Blue Richards.

Jeannie Donohoe, director of GAME, on the red carpet at the Raindance Film Festival.

We managed to grab a few minutes with the Los Angeles-based director to discuss GAME, and how crucial Lexus Short Films has been in helping to make her
vision a reality:

How does it feel to have your film shown at the Raindance Film Festival?

It’s really exciting to have GAME screen as the opening night short at Raindance, especially in this 25th anniversary year of the festival.  I’m very honoured!

How significant is it to have your film shown in London?

I’m thrilled to see the film with UK audiences, and as a part of this renowned festival.  I gather that basketball isn’t as big a sport in England as it is in the U.S., so I’m curious to see and hear how British audiences will respond.  A friend from London recently sent me an article about Maia Bouchier, the first girl to play on the formerly all-male cricket team at Rugby. So, I hope the topic and themes will resonate beyond the specific sport.

What was the inspiration behind GAME?

A few different experiences and interests inspired the story of GAME. I’ve played a lot of sports and have had jobs and roles in which I’ve felt and observed big differences between women’s and men’s opportunities. I wanted to talk about this topic of gender inequality, but to do it in a character-driven, action-packed sports film.  I love basketball and working with young people, so it was a combination of a lot of interests and passions.

How did you come to be commissioned by Lexus Short Films?

I made a short film called Lambing Season (shot in Ireland) as my thesis film from Columbia University’s MFA program. It played in festivals internationally and on PBS. I entered it into the Lexus Short Films competition when submitting for festivals on withoutabox.com. Candidates had to write a treatment for a short film with the prompt “anticipation.” So, I wrote a two-page description of what would become the script of GAME.  I was shocked and really excited to be selected for the opportunity to make this very high-level production with Lexus.

How instrumental has Lexus Short Films been in helping you to produce GAME? What support did you receive?

I think it’s safe to say I never would have made this film the way I was able to without the support of Lexus Short Films.  The Lexus sponsorship allowed for a substantial production budget, which meant a high level of professionalism in everyone working on set and behind-the-scenes, as well as great equipment and locations.

How has your film been received so far?

GAME has been very well received!  It’s been an honour to be selected at over 60 film festivals internationally so far. In terms of audiences, our production team on GAME (including people who gave feedback in the editing stage) was pretty diverse, so I think I got a sense from the early stages as to how people from different cultures seem to take in the film. It always boils down to the story and the character’s journey, more than anything that’s more culturally specific or sports-centric.

How long did it take to produce GAME?

Making GAME was a relatively quick process, about 4 months from beginning the writing stage to its premiere. Total immersion in the process.

What lessons did you learn when making GAME?

I learned so much!  On a very literal and practical level, I learned how to film basketball – and how challenging it is!  Obviously, things move very quickly, and there’s also a big height differential between the basket and the players, so capturing both requires specific camera approaches. I had never made a sports film before, so I watched about 50 sports movies as references and watched a lot of live basketball with the camera approach in mind.  I realised how important it was to me to film real basketball action, as opposed to cheating the shots or doubling the actors.  That priority drove the casting, blocking on set, and shot choices. I also learned what it’s like to work on a very large-scale production.  I feel confident after this project that I’m able to work at this much bigger level, and that I’m ready and eager to keep going!  I also learned from and experienced terrific collaboration on GAME, and I’m very grateful to everyone who made it possible.

How do you think filmmaking aligns with the Lexus value of (Takumi) craftsmanship?

I think filmmaking is an art and craft that requires intense training and constant learning over time.  And as a director, you collaborate with people in each role or department who are also studying and advancing within their craft.  I find it to be an intriguing, revealing pursuit that keeps you on your toes.

If you couldn’t make it to the Raindance Film Festival, you can watch GAME here.

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