A Teenage Girl Confronts Her Inner Demon in ‘Sports Day’

Lin Tu’s superb and unravelling Sports Day brings a familiar concept into the modern day. Echoing everything from Cat People to Carrie in its portrayal of society’s uncomfortable response to female sexuality, Sports Day highlights the key difference between men and women in our perception of early sexual encounters. It’s tricky territory to handle but Lin Tu and Sol Ye have pulled it off with real grace and understanding, and without letting up on the uncanny. Twelve Cabins caught up with the director and producer as Sports Day arrives online to talk the importance of creating art that generates conversation.

What made you want to tell the story of a young woman confronting an inner demon?

The entire life experience of being a woman is closely related to horror, in my opinion. You are anxious about your appearance and if it fits the society’s beauty standard; you’re scared of being assaulted when you walk alone at night; you’re cut open when you give birth. So, I looked back at my experience and recalled the anxiety me and my friend had going through puberty, first starting our sexual explorations as teenage girls. The fear and the complications.

It reminded me of Carrie in how you dealt with difference between female and male sexuality, was this something you were looking to confront?

Yes, although later I did realise my thought on female and male sexuality is also a sort of a generalisation. My guy friends came to me and talked to me about their troubled first-time experiences as well. So, I’m sorry I didn’t know that before. What I had was that young men seem to be able to explore their sexuality and physical pleasure better, whereas young women see the loss of virginity more as an identity shift. Fewer girls told me that they had sex for the first time to enjoy sex, but they did it just for the sake of it, under some invisible pressure.

Is that the kind of conversation you’re hoping Sports Day stirs up?

I don’t care if they say that they understand it or not. Sometimes things that confuse me stuck with me for longer time. I’m glad to hear all kinds of conversations actually, and I have the feeling that Sports Day is a film that is good at stirring up conversations.

Why did you choose to tell this story within horror, what was it about the style and conventions offered in that genre that allowed you tell the story you wanted?

I think horror is inherent here in this story. The so-called conventions in this genre is great at visualising the inner struggles we have. I always enjoy a good psychological story, and horror can push it to the extreme.

In terms of actualising your vision, could you walk us through the production, did you encounter any issues along the way?

We took three days to film on an Arri Alexa mini. Every production is chaos, but I think the problems we ran into are considerably minor. On day one, we shot the running tracks sequence and the mirror sequence. I remember the Director of Photography fell off the little cart during the very first take. On the second day it was some scenes we eventually deleted on the editing station. In the script I had the girl and the boy being stared at by unfriendly strangers as they walk back to the room, but the extras we got weren’t natural enough and it kind of dragged out the film too much too. We also shot the sequence where she started to feel the eeriness in the room.

On day three, we shot a conversation the boy and the girl have which was in the place of the opening voice-over but, again, wasn’t very natural, so we cut the image eventually. The most difficult sequence for me to direct was the intimate scene which was shot on afternoon of day three. I remember I didn’t even know how to the turn on the walkie-talkie on the start of the first day, since it’s the first time I’ve shot a film. So, in general it was a success.

What are your favourite horror films, what films have scared you the most?

Carrie is exactly one of my favourites. Also Psycho, Night of the Living Dead, The Night of the Hunter, The Babadook, The Witch. The most scary experience was probably watching the Alien series when I was seven or eight.

What can we expect next from you both? 

We are trying to push forward a debut feature project. We have one female-driven thriller that we’ve been developing for years and some other options. Hopefully to make more genre films, short or long.

If you’d like to either send us your film or contribute some writing to Twelve Cabins, contact james@twelvecabins.com for all the details.

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