Cannes Film Fest 2019: Pippa Bianco’s Share

Pippa Bianco world premiered her debut feature, Share, at the 2019 Sundance Film Fest, where it won two prizes, one for Bianco’s script and another for her actress (special jury prize).

Earlier, at the 2015 Cannes Film Fest, Share had won the Cinefondation prize for best short, and this year she’s eligible for the Camera d’Or.

The indie feature tells the story of a young girl named Mandy (Rhianne Barreto), who wakes up after a boozy party to realize that a compromising video has gone viral.

Origins of Story:

PB: I had friends who’d been involved in something similar as perpetrators, men who’d made videos.  One in particular was a good friend, who confessed to me that he’d done something similar. The sex was consensual. It wasn’t the same as the situation in the film. But he wasn’t someone who fit any kind of stereotype of the kind of person who could do such a thing.

I was struck by how easy it is to be outside yourself when you’re behind a camera, and how easy it is to dehumanize somebody else, and objectify them—to be so distanced from your own ethical decision-making. Why does it happen so frequently? That question stuck in my mind: how does someone who loves women, how can that person do this to someone they care about?

Girl’s Point of View

It’s much easier to see a way into a story about a perpetrator than a victim, because they’re much more active—they do something.  It’s much easier to structure a story around someone who’s an active protagonist.   But to me, the interesting thing was the person on the other end of that equation–to tell the story from the perspective of the person who is experiencing it without using any kind of artificial device, like a revenge story or a detective story. And from there I began interviewing a lot of people who have gone through a similar experience.

Finding People?

PB: I made the choice to only seek out people who had already been looking for public platform. There were obviously people whose cases had been publicized, but who wanted to remain anonymous, and I didn’t think it would be ethical to approach people who wanted their privacy.  When I made the short, there were fewer girls willing to do that, but obviously the world changed quite a bit once I was making the feature.

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Getting into Filmmaking  

PB: In college I’d gone for fine arts, studying painting and photography. But I was like, “I’ll be working alone forever.” Because you shoot alone, you print alone, you show alone—it’s a very solitary lifestyle. So I thought, What’s an artform that involves more people? One I can actually do, because I’m not musical. I thought filmmaking has a lot more people. I like being in a team. So I applied for some PA jobs on Craigslist, and that was it. I really fell in love with it.

From Short to Feature
PB: I had two images. I knew how the film would end, and I knew how it would start. The start I kept from the short, so I had those two things intact. But the middle I didn’t have. Still, I knew who I wanted this person to be. And I had the guiding principle that I was not going to use any elevated devices to make this a more interesting, or more entertaining. I forced myself to find active choices in what people might often dismiss as passive choices. She was not going to go after this guy, or kill herself, or become a detective.

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Casting Rhianne Barreto

PB: I met some 500 girls, and I just couldn’t find anybody, especially in the U.S. There’s so much pressure from the star system on young actresses to be models-pop stars-Instagram influencers, and so I find that often young people look and perform in a certain way. My casting director Avy Kaufman said, “For what you’re looking for, you’re going to find the talent in the U.K., or Australia, where theater is the underpinning of the craft, not fame.” That was definitely true, and Rhianne came out of that.

Getting Work Visa

PB: We tried, we had three appeals. We applied for the work visa, each time she was granted it based on her qualifications, and then when she went for the interview her heritage was at issue. Her father was born in Iraq, and they said things like, “You don’t look British to us. Do you speak Arabic?” She was mysteriously denied every single time we tried.  By the second or third appeal we had Congressional support. We had letters from Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren—all the New York senators. Which was incredibly kind of them. But even then we were denied. We appealed all the way up to Homeland Security and were denied. 

Moving the Shoot to Canada

PB: I did try very hard to shoot in America. But then it was like, are we going to fire Rhianne and penalize her for the way she looks, and where her father was born? Or are we going to figure it out in some other way? It became a much more complicated production, but everybody felt like, “Well, if we don’t support this kind of immigration policy, we shouldn’t cave to it.” Luckily, Canada gave us all work visas, and it worked out fine in the end.