The world needs Felicia Pride's creative voice in cinema. Her breakout short film tender explores an intimate and dreamy world of Black womanhood, one stylized with warm light and subtle glances. Tender does exactly what a great short film is supposed to do: It pulls you in, makes you feel something deeply, and leaves you craving for more.
I asked Felicia Pride to answer a few of my questions about the artistry of her aesthetics, and how she entered the world of directing in a uniquely subtle style...
1. What films (or scenes) in recent years have found a way to linger in your mind long after the credits ended? Did these films influence your style, perspective or inspire you in any particular way?
Moonlight haunted me in the best possible way. That film stayed with me days, months later. It’s so beautifully quiet and powerful and intimate. Beautifully shot. And you can tell that Barry Jenkins cared for these characters to the point of wanting to present them so fully - from script to screen.
I loved Lulu Wang’s Farewell. Such an exquisite film. Personal. Specific. And what struck me was how much Lulu expressed in her frames. Such full blocking and composition. Loved.
I also was struck so tenderly by Numa Perrier’s Jezebel. This film is special and has so much heart. Numa showed us how we can tell a hearty story without the big budgets, which is no easy feat. I loved its natural feel. And loved the opening shot of Numa. Like I need that on a poster.
And I recently watched Tayarisha Poe’s Selah and the Spades and wow! That film literally haunted me. It was dark and harrowing and beautiful. And such a unique blending of genres. And so damn well composed. Such intentional filmmaking.
2. In the tender case study Q&A, your DP said that you used "light to create an emotional bubble." Was the lighting meant to be a central character of its own upon the inception of the film? Because how tender is shot is very much part of why the film feels so good. Could you please talk about your relationship to lighting aesthetics-- What technical aspect was the easiest (or hardest) thing to visually convey in your short film?
Our DP Ludovica Isidori is amazing! And along with our gaffer Guy Pooles, they really captured the mood we were going for. And lighting was a very big part of that. All the technical aspects were hard for me because I’m not well versed in them! Working on that. So I communicated the vision to Ludovica in terms of story, tone, mood, and feeling, how the characters are feeling in each scene. My lookbook also included inspiration for lighting in certain scenes. Since the film takes place over the course of the day, from the morning to night, we talked about what that transition would look like across scenes. And across intimacy, because as the movie moves from morning to night, they get closer. So Ludovica really thought about how that could be shown via lighting. She translated the vision technically and accentuated it. 3. Asha Santee, who worked on the soundtrack, described the music as a journey "about the silent conversation you have with someone in a room." What were the silent conversations that you wanted your characters to have in tender? And how did you go about conveying that to the actors? I love that description from Asha! Asha Santee, along with the group BOOMscat, which Asha is a part of, are the artists behind all the music in tender. I’m not sure if I thought about them as silent conversations initially, although I am now! But I did think about entry points across the film where they each made space for the other, allowed the other in more, let down their guard more, became more vulnerable, showed that they cared about the other. In terms of working with the actors, the fabulous Farelle Walker and Trishauna Clarke, I worked with them in isolation so the other wouldn’t know what was coming. In isolation, I’d ask each actor about what they wanted, what they wanted the other to do and how they wanted the other to feel. Then we talked about how they would go about doing that. And across takes, we’d switch those strategies up through adjustments. Both Farelle and Trishauna were able to drop into their power and vulnerability so seamlessly, which is a tribute to their craft. Quick plug, if you dig the music in tender, Asha and BOOMscat curated an extended soundtrack which you can find at www.tendermovie.com.
4. You mentioned that tender explored the theme of "what it is like to be intimate with yourself" - as in the characters mirror each other, as two versions one just further along in her personal growth-- in queerness, and womanhood. What does intimacy look like to you as a creative... What conversations would you have with your younger self about the craft of filmmaking? And if you could hear from your future self, what essential piece of advice, perhaps something that you find tricky now, would you hope that your future self has mastered? I think the conversation would be very similar to the conversation that Kiana and Lulu had in the film about their dreams - the notions of permission and validation. Just two years ago, I told myself I was not a director. I couldn’t direct. I didn’t see as a director. All these harmful and limiting narratives. I’d tell my younger self that you give yourself permission and you validate yourself. No one else. No other entity. No festival. No program. No financier. No fan. No friend or family member. You. And you are enough. And my future self would validate this same message. Because I think as we continue to push ourselves creatively, we can still hear those voices that want us to limit ourselves or look outside ourselves for permission. 5. For the ultra indie filmmakers who watched your short film, many who fell in love with your style... What did you shoot tender on? What lenses were used? Any filters? Any tips for those hoping to create a similar lush and intimate visual aesthetic? We shot on an Alexa mini and also used a lot of haze. I’d say it’s important to be intentional about the intimate aesthetic you’re going for. While I’m not as well versed on the technical side of things, I was able to articulate what I was going for with our DP Ludovica Isidori and that was soft and intimate. I created a lookbook and Ludovica also created her DP lookbook to communicate the vision to the crew. 6. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Thanks so much for this interview and a platform to talk craft! Means the world. We’re looking to turn tender into a feature and have lots of exciting updates coming in the next few weeks. Folk can stay updated by following @tendermovie on IG