With a film enjoying local and international successes, Unitec Screen Arts grad Paloma Schneideman is on the roll! This time, her student short film Jasmin and Jerome is nominated for Best Undergraduate Feature in this Saturday’s Uni Shorts International Student Film Festival happening at Unitec Mt Albert campus.

Hi, Paloma. Thanks for agreeing on doing this with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I graduated from Unitec in 2014 with a degree in Performing and Screen Arts. Since then, I have had a flourishing career in the arts… just kidding! I’ve been working in fashion and have been travelling the globe, trying to find some inspiration for my next works. When that’s not happening, I listen to Bjork, enjoy good quality rap music, and write children’s books.

Congratulations on being nominated for Uni Shorts 2016 with your film, Jasmin and Jerome. What is the significance of this nomination and this film to you?
It’s unexpected but a nice surprise! It’s always encouraging to know people enjoy your work or see its potential. That film was made as a sort of provocation, to talk about representations of characters we see in NZ film. Perhaps it was a bit tongue and cheek so I’m glad people can find the humour in it but I also hope it’s more than that. Like it will get people thinking about what messages we are sending and about how we represent our people on the big screen.

Your other film, Mine, has been screened locally and internationally on film festivals. Both films are created while you were a student at Unitec. What are the three key lessons you learnt from your studies?
1) Follow your intuitions; they are a blessing.
2) Be aware of who you are making your work for. If you lose sight of that, you lose the meaning.
3) Collaborators are crucial. Find someone that cares about the work as much as you do. That’s my first consideration when choosing a crew, skill comes second.

Tell us what kind of films you wish to produce.
I really couldn’t define that. I guess I want to make films that mean something. Films that are tragic, but laced in comedy, much like how I see the world.

Any individual or group of people that inspired you to take up filmmaking?
I think when I saw Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time. That really transformed my entire way of thinking. I couldn’t believe a film could have such a visceral impact on me. It really got under my skin. I thought, ‘I want to affect people like that. I want to change the way people think!’ Also, anything Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola, or self-aware, new sincerity kind of films.

Do you see yourself doing more female-led films in the future?
Sure, only because, that’s the most honest route for me. Authenticity is really important to me as a storyteller and I only know about being a woman. I think New Zealand women are really unique and have a fascinating history; perhaps their stories have been overlooked for some time. I’d love to help provide that voice.

Tell us about your unforgettable memory on set (filming).
There was a moment when we were filming Mine, our film about nature vs nurture and a story about adoption. We were filming a scene in a bookshop and I was talking with two of our main actors who are real-life mother and daughter. At that very moment, I noticed a children’s book, faced up entitled, Why Was I Adopted?. It was the only book facing upwards. Everything else had its spine facing us and I just thought that was too crazy to be a coincidence. It felt like there was some divine presence with us while we were filming that work. Maybe that’s why it was as successful as it was. Maybe we were blessed?

Any projects you’re currently working on?
I’m finalising a script that Script to Screen has given me some support with. If all goes to plan, we can put it up for funding from the NZ Fresh Shorts scheme. It’s a dialogue heavy, realist story about a middle-aged couple trying to buy a bed. Tragic and funny. I think a lot of people can relate to it so here’s hoping!

Where can we have a look at your works or get in touch with you?
Facebook: facebook.com/paloma.schneideman

Uni Shorts International Student Film Festival has been hosted and run by Unitec Institute of Technology since 2012.  The idea for the festival came from a group of Unitec Screen Arts students who highlighted the lack of platforms to showcase their film work. You can get your tickets to see Jasmin and Jerome, and the rest of the student films, here.

INTERVIEW BY MIGUEL EFONDO. PHOTO BY CHIA HSU.