Making a Splash with Anna Mouzouri
What do mermaids, a trans boxer, adoption, and gender reaffirmation surgery have in common? These are the subjects of our 2022 Diverse Film Fund: Queer Lives Today films. We have four amazing filmmakers this year bringing these stories to life that will each be spotlighted over the coming weeks.
Our first filmmaker is Anna Mouzouri, a London based filmmaker who spotlights amazing women and queer lives in the UK for presentation on accessible platforms. Anna has been commissioned by the BBC to create the short comedy Fruity, and Bristol Ideas and Encounters to create An Ode to my Commute.
Her most recent film, Mermaids Really Do Exist, is a fun and touching documentary following the aquatic escapades of two queer mermaids: Kaia and Caitriona, as they compete in mermaid relay races and attend mermaid conventions. Expect amazing hairdos, fabulous outfits, and under-the-sea action as you sail through an amphibious world causing a real splash.
Together TV sat down with Anna to learn about her process, the benefits of the Diverse Film Fund, and future plans.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Together TV: Walk me chronologically through the experience. How long has this idea been percolating with you?
Anna Mouzouri: I've wanted to do a mermaid film since 2018. I was on a Merpod Facebook group and I thought this is just the most interesting thing because they’re girls finding a community through a mermaid thing. I saw Together TV’s Diverse Film Fund, and I knew these lesbian and non-binary mermaids. I was like, Oh, this is perfect. It got in one minute before the deadline. When I heard that I'd been successful, I was shocked.
TTV: How was making the film? What were some challenges?
AM: The actual process was fun. It was just hard to get the ball rolling. I had so many setbacks - like whenever I tried to go film in Glasgow with mermaid Cat. The first time I tried to go, the train was on fire. The second time, there were train strikes. I tried to go again and there were train strikes. I went but it took double the time. The whole point of the film was small towns and LGBTQ+ communities outside of London, so I wanted a small crew. I thought that would be better. In some cases it was, but in terms of creating, there's just a lot of issues. If you want water, or to get someone to sign a contract, it had to be me. Eventually, that was fixed, but not for the relay race. There were so many mermaids! I had to get all their release forms while trying to catch their conversations.
TTV: Can you talk a little bit about working with Together TV?
AM: I found working with Together TV really, really good. I've got more confidence. Having other people around you that you can refer to is great because you can learn a lot more. The webinars were so much more specific because there were only five of us. With the John York webinars, we got to make loglines with him, which is just so cool. Oh, and the other filmmakers - we started a group chat straightaway. Then you have advice from Together TV, the other filmmakers who are in the same boat as you, and your crew.
TTV: How has your experience creating this film inspired you to make more films in the future?
AM: The future is bright. I feel inspired to make more films, specifically documentaries. I know what I want to focus on: queer lives in the UK, specifically queer lives in small towns. There are so many communities out there of people who can't find other gay people, so they find these really niche communities.
TTV: What do you hope audiences will take away from watching it?
AM: I hope that audiences will watch my film and, number one, be like, mermaids are hardcore. I hope they also take away, especially LGBTQ+ people who are in small towns, that there's a community out there for you. Found family is really important for queer people. If there's no one around, you can feel like you're never going find that. But anything you're passionate about, you can find. I also hope that people who aren't LGBTQ+, or don't know any LGBTQ+ people, watch this film, and fall in love with the two mermaids before learning they’re LGBTQ+ and still be in love with them.
TTV: Any advice for people who might be thinking about applying next year? Especially for junior filmmakers without much confidence in their ideas?
AM: My advice for people applying to the next scheme is to just do it. I applied one hour before the deadline after writing stuff in my notes app. I've learned so much, and I've got a film that I'm proud of. So just do it. Don't be afraid to make loads and loads of extra visual sheets and mood boards. Try and understand your film really well because then in an interview, when you're asked about it, if you're passionate about it, and it relates to you and who you are, it'll show through.
Mermaids Really Do Exist premieres Monday, 7th November on Together TV. You will be able to watch on Freeview 83 and on +1 channel 92, Sky 170, Virgin 269, and Freesat 164.