Backpedal: Dani Pearce Goes to Sundance and Flickerfest

January 7, 2020
Before her film unspools at Sundance, the young filmmaker is excited about bringing the film to her hometown.

“Being able to be economic and purpose driven with storytelling is fundamental to me,” says Sydney based filmmaker Dani Pearce, whose first narrative short, Backpedal has been selected for the prestigious Sundance and Flickerfest film festivals. “My filmmaking is my voice and so, I feel as though that means the work must be succinct and highly incisive.”

Dani Pearce

Pearce’s interest and background in photographic storytelling saw her seek out a poem as source material for the 5 minutes long Backpedal, which stars Brenna Harding (Puberty Blues), Tom Wilson (Home & Away), Michael Sheasby (The Nightingale) and Anni Finsterer (Wentworth).

“I found the poem on YouTube and reached out to the poet, Olivia Gatwood somewhat immediately asking if she’d be interested in adapting the poem, Backpedal, to screen and having me flesh out the narrative into a screenplay. In this process, we ended up talking about how many ‘Australianisms’ can be felt within the story too – and how in fact, it does speak to a more universal experience of womanhood,” Pearce says about the American writer.

Backpedal is my artistic rendering of Olivia’s true-life experience. Olivia wrote Backpedal about her teen years in New Mexico – it is a post-coming-of-age story that recounts the murder of her childhood best friend. And while the poem is centred upon this very specific event, the film itself is intended to be a thematic tapestry of loss, grief, sexuality, gender and hometown. The most powerful works are those that intricately intertwine the personal and the artistic – I like to think we achieved that with our film.”

Embracing her interest in photographic storytelling, Pearce enlisted DOP and photographer Christopher Miles (Mr Inbetween) to collaborate on the project. “I needed our images to be able to elicit a tone, emotion or story beat within a still frame,” she says. “I decided that a more photographic approach was integral to the film. Christopher had a lot of incredible ideas about how to bridge these formats. Photography is such an evocative, concise medium – I wanted the visual identity of Backpedal to be reminiscent of that sentiment.”

Backpedal is Pearce’s second short film (following Nursed Back two years ago), although she considers it her first narrative short. “Making this film has exceeded my expectations – it has been so internationally well received and I believe that is a testament to the unique style, individuality and tone of the film. I’m beyond inspired to keep pushing stylistic boundaries, and continuing to make original work that is true to my voice and my perspectives.”

Next up for Pearce, she has another short and a feature in development. “I’m also extremely passionate about non-fiction and with that, I’m beginning to flesh out my first documentary outline. We are off to Sundance at the end of January with Backpedal, so I am sure that will present a whole spectrum of opportunity that may determine what is next.

“I’m so excited for the film to be hosted by such a prestigious platform,” she says of the film’s upcoming Flickerfest bow. “It’s very meaningful for Backpedal to be screened in my home town amongst our incredible filmmaking community. Can’t wait.”

Backpedal screens on Wednesday, January 15, 8.45pm at Flickerfest International Short Film Festival.


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