SFF DIRECTOR SPOTLIGHT: Exclusive Interview with NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING Director Devyn Waitt!
Florida film school graduates represent! Both the director and producer of Not Waving But Drowning graduated from the Film School at Florida State University and portions of the film were shot here in Florida. So what's this one about?
Not Waving But Drowning is a chronological look at growing up, formed from two different stories. The first is based on the short story The Most Girl Part of You by the acclaimed American author, Amy Hempel. In the days after his mother commits suicide, Big Guy and his best friend, Amy, begin to see each other in new ways. Dark yet sweet, the story brings rushing back the excitement of those moments when you know childhood is gone and your real life is just about to begin. The second story is less about growing up and more about growing out. Growing out of old friendships, growing out of your skin and growing out of who you thought you wanted to be.
The stories are connected by the characters common discovery of the American dilemma: the tear between longing for the past and the desire to explore.
NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING screens Monday, April 16 at 6:00 PM and Wedneday, April 18 at 5:00 PM with Director Devyn Waitt and Producer Nicole Emanuele scheduled to attend after-screening Q&As.
THE INSIDER: What inspired you to tell this story?
DEVYN WAITT: A lot of experiences and ideas that felt unique and urgent followed by a time of feeling really lost and needing to take up space. As the project gained traction I think I came up with different reasons, and reasons why this film was different, but for the most part it is just a collection of stuff that felt important to me.
THE INSIDER: Tell us a little about the way the narrative is structured and why you chose to tell more than one story in the film?
DEVYN WAITT: In addition to the film containing two totally separate stories, the main story is also a collection of vignettes that work into a larger narrative. I wanted the film to feel lyrical and lifelike, and to me that doesn't happen neatly and in a three act structure. The turning points don't necessarily feel obvious, the same way you can't feel yourself changing day to day. It's only when you look back that a bunch of small decisions transformed you, and will continue to do so and you are only mildly aware of that change as it is happening.
Some people might find it strange that a character as important to Adele as Adam isn't introduced until an hour and ten minutes into the film. To me, it just felt most natural this way. People come in and out of your life at different times, you can know someone your whole life and they don't change you and you can meet someone briefly and they can affect you profoundly. This one time I was at an airport and an old lady was in front of me trying to get her bag up onto the thing to be weighed. She was really struggling and everyone was just sort of casually watching, I stepped ahead to help her lift it. Later, in the airport I saw her being pushed in a wheelchair and it almost broke my heart, like the exertion had made her give up her independence or something. Then she signals to the woman to wheel her over to me and when she arrives she stands slowly and grabs me tight for a hug. She felt so tiny in my arms and her perfume was so strong because of aging nostrils and she whispered in my ear "thank you, thank you, thank you". I think about her all the time and forget the name of my first kiss.
THE INSIDER: Why did you choose to include THE MOST GIRL PART OF YOU, based on the story by Amy Hempel, as the opening to Not Waving But Drowning?
DEVYN WAITT: I guess the most obvious answer is they are both about transformation, transformation over a summer or in a single night. I think more than a specific connection though, that the stories are really complementary. I wanted both stories to feel feminine and lush but in different ways, and from different places. Amy is very internal and I think Not Waving But Drowning is told from a more external point of view — that sort of duality is a recurring theme in the film. I feel like the best way to answer this question would have been to just draw a yin yang and a butterfly.
THE INSIDER: What was the atmosphere on set? Your actors have delivered really lovely, natural performances. Was there an element of improvisation?
DEVYN WAITT: I'm not too sure. I think it was different for everyone. I personally felt like I was gonna throw up for two months. There wasn't too much improvisation. Even though it is a movie made up of very small moments, they were all very thought out. I think that is one of the cool things about making movies, the significance you can give even the smallest details. I think the most improvisation probably happened between Vanessa and Adam. There seemed to be an honest playfulness between them that I didn't want to trample by trying to perfect or shape.
THE INSIDER: What do you hope audiences will take from your movie?
DEVYN WAITT: I hope they feel connected, and present in their lives. I hope the movie helps in the ongoing battle against becoming isolated islands.
THE INSIDER: What's next for you?
DEVYN WAITT: After this interview I think I am going to take a nice long walk while the white petals are still falling from the trees.
NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING is Devyn Waitt's first feature film. Devyn graduated from The Film School at Florida State University. She is a transhumanist, an oneironaut and an Aries.
The film is produced by Nicole Emanuele. Originally from Rockville, MD, Nicole graduated from The Film School at Florida State University. At FSU she concentrated in screenwriting and producing and was selected a Top Ten CocaCola Refreshing Filmmaker Award finalist. Currently, Nicole works as a Content Partner Manager specializing in TV and Film Content at YouTube/Google. Previously, Nicole worked in sales and finance at Cinetic Media, and in operations with chefs Frank's Falcinelli + Castronovo. Not Waving But Drowning is her first feature film.