I caught up with director Kelly Fyffe-Marshall of the powerful short film Haven for a chat on film-making, story-telling, women in film and much more.

Haven begins with what is seemingly a very regular moment in the mother-daughter relationship (Tika Simone and D'Evina Chatrie): a mother brushing her daughter's hair. Yet, the 180 degree turn the film takes is effortless, terrifying and horribly real for far too many children and their parents. Fyffe-Marshall makes this turn in the narrative look incredibly effortless and natural with her directorial work, yet it truly leaves the audience reeling, confused, sad and outraged, all on positive levels. If you are not sad, confused, sad and outraged because of the nature of where this story goes, I would suggest checking your emotional pulse.

In taking this turn, there is really quite a bit that can be learned about the nature of tension and how to balance it deftly. Fyffe-Marshall hits all the right notes with in in Haven to tell a story that is all too common, yet all too untold.

Follow Haven here on Facebook and enjoy the interview below.

Hello Kelly! Welcome to The 405! I was wondering if we might be able to start by getting an idea of your history – what got you into film?

I've always been in the entertainment industry. I grew up in England in theatre as a child actor. Once I moved to Canada as a pre-teen the transition to film just made sense. My first film job was a co-op program through high school where I worked at Rogers Television. Film is all I know, I'm blessed to have always known that I wanted to be a storyteller and nothing else was an option. 

I love that singularity of purpose. How did you two come to work with your producer Tamar Bird?

Tamar and I met on set of a feature film about 6 years ago. We were both unpaid production assistants trying to get our foot in the door. We clicked instantly, our passion for telling stories gave us a long lasting bond. We didn't work together until 4 years later, and then a year after that we made Haven

Favorite films and directors? Which would you consider most influential on your development as an artist and story-teller?

I like films that display human stories, films that let us see the moments in between. What happens after the big moment? What does grief look like? What is love after the honeymoon phase? My newest favourite films are Stoker, Get Out, Three Billboards and Prisoners.

I also look up to trailblazers and risk takers. I am inspired by Ava DuVernay, Oprah, Issa Rae and Debbie Allen, they paved the road I am now walking on. My culture would be the "character" most influential in my development. Jamaica is a storytelling culture, everything is a story, everything is passed on with stories. As a director and writer, I want to share that with the world. 

That’s a fantastic answer. What makes a great film?

As a director and writer, if I can change the way you think once you've watched my film then I've made a great film. The audience should get lost in the world that you create for them, they should feel all the emotions of the piece. Creating a film that has all the elements of an environment you take for granted

What can the film industry and the larger culture do to get more women of color behind the camera?

Two main things that the film industry can do to get more women of color behind the camera is visibility and inclusion. I make an effort to be visible not only so my peers can see me but also so that young girls thinking about entering this industry can see it is possible. I remember the times as a young child watching the Oprah show, and movies made by Spike Lee I knew that my dreams were achievable.

It is also important to move away from diversity and move towards inclusion. Including women of colour in the process is necessary, our perspectives are unique and important. If the current people of power include women of color in the writing process, the technical aspects then it will snowball. It's hard for WOC to get experience in order to get experience, and so taking the chance on a WOC also helps her peers. I take every chance I can to get a WOC experience, I lift them up with reference letters, referrals and mentorship. 

D'Evina Chatrie in this still from HAVEN.

That reflects what other female film-makers have told me too.

Getting into Haven, my God your film packs one hell of an emotional wallup! And at only 3 minutes! I hate to say "well done" there because of the story's nightmarish nature – these are issues that no one, let alone a child, should have to go through – but all the same, you really executed on the power of this story. I hate to ask – again because of the nature of the story – but what was the impetus for Haven?

As a black woman, I sometimes feel helpless in the troubles of my community. I decided to use filmmaking as my weapon against the issues. I have the ability with filmmaking to change perspectives, heal and share love. Haven evolved from a conversation I had with my good friend and DP Jordan Oram. We spoke about making a powerful film that had just two characters in one room. That night I came home and wrote Haven. I thought about a picture that we don't see in film, a black woman and her daughter getting her hair done. For black children growing up this is a safe haven, I thought about what conversation would be born out of that. What deep secret would you reveal to your mother? From this Haven was born.

Haven did an amazing job of making a 180 degree turn in tone, and on a dime too. I think a huge part of that (besides the performances of the players) was the sound. The music and realism of the story has a almost hypnotic power over the audience. Until the story's crescendo and of course the diegetic sound that fills the film's end and credits. I was wondering if we could get a glimpse of the creative process that helped you arrive at that perfect tone for the film.

As a black child, getting your hair done was a weekly event. Sitting in between your mother's legs as she gets you ready for the week was a bonding experience that you both took for granted. I wanted to make this as authentic as possible. The key creatives of Haven were all Caribbean so bringing the authenticity was natural. Making the first two minutes feel like my childhood, allowed me to make people quickly fall in love with the characters and the environment because it was so genuine. It was also based on the immigrant experience without it being emphasized. Growing up in a Jamaican house-hold you hear music all of the time, reggae is the soundtrack to cleaning, gatherings, cooking and everything else in between. 

Absolutely fascinating. What do you hope audiences will carry with them most from the film?

After watching the film, most of the audience will be in shock. I want them to feel as though this is an experience they have been through. With campaigns like #MeToo and #TimesUp being so popular in current events, I want Haven to make a statement.

The only problem with those campaigns is they are focused on survivors, Haven stands so that we avoid survivors, let's stop it happening at the root of the issue. It takes a village to raise children and I feel like as a society we have forgotten that. I want the audience to look out for the children around them, be advocates for them and stand up for their well-being. 

Tika Simone in this still from HAVEN.

A great moral indeed. What were some of the challenges like?

The biggest challenge for Haven was finding the daughter character. I spoke to quite a few mothers and no one wanted their children to have to know the context of the film at such a young age. I finally found D'Evina's mother and spoke with her about the content. I told how carefully I would handle the subject matter with her daughter. She had never acted before and so it was a completely new experience. I spent four hours with her previous to her being on set. In such little time, I taught her about her period, sex and the experience of molestation and assault. I was one of her first sexual education teachers which is something I don't take for granted, I was fearful that I would introduce her to something she wasn't ready for.

The film was three minutes but the experience of making it would live with her forever. She handled it with such maturity, and we formed a bond that allowed her to depend on me.

I think that was really reflected in her performance too. Where will our audience be able to see Haven? And what is next for you?

We have submitted Haven to many other film festivals so now it is just a waiting game. We are aware that programing Haven is quite difficult but we feel like it is a film everyone needs to see. Both Tamar and I are in pre-production for two short films He's One Of Us and Marathon, as well as a web series named Parea