Bill Badi is a director based in South Africa. I recently had the privilege of interviewing them about their upcoming short film Tiny Apocalpyse. We discussed their process, the beauty in mundanity, and everyday dilemmas that feel apocalyptic.
First of all, introduce yourself.
Hi! My name is Bill, I’m a director from Johannesburg, and I make movies with my friends.
What inspired you to make Tiny Apocalpyse? What is your process like?
I have a scattered yet methodical approach to writing. I’ve got a folder with about thirty documents, each dedicated to a different movie idea. Every day I write at least one sentence in one of these documents (though I usually end up writing more). For example, I might open the document called “Untitled Hyperpop Movie” and write “This film should feature a character dancing and crying like I did while listening to Jackie Extreme this morning.” So, one day my friend Alex hit me up about wanting to collaborate. I said I’d write a film for him to shoot and for me to direct. I got my friends Serole and Leché on board as actors, and Leché connected me with Reze. I spoke to the cast and crew about their interests, and based on their answers I went to my folder, stitched together ideas from different films I’d been planning, and wrote a script that would fulfill the cast and crew’s interests. So, my inspiration for the film is incredibly scattered. I enjoy this approach because each of these scattered ideas comes from a personal place, but allowing for influence from my cast and crew pushes my work into areas I wouldn’t think of exploring alone. Alex ended up getting a job in England, but we were excited about making the film happen, so he stayed on as a producer while the rest of us continued working on the project in Pretoria.
Your film follows three people in somewhat stressful situations, but despite what they are going through, you emphasize the beauty in daily life. Were there any underlying themes or commentary you wanted to highlight?
You hit it right on the nose regarding themes and commentary. I wanted to explore small, relatable, and beautiful moments in daily life: chasing deadlines, pulling all-nighters, struggling to find friends in a new town. I’m emotionally compelled by small stakes because I understand them and deal with them daily. On the other hand, big stakes are fun. So I thought, what backdrop can I use with big stakes through which I can explore these moments with small stakes? And I landed on an apocalypse, in which the stakes are massive. Counting down to the end of the world is intensely thrilling; abandoning your social life because of a work or school deadline is painfully relatable. I love that combination.
Elmari (Leché Joubert) is an art student struggling to meet her sculpture deadline. While trying to find materials to form the sculpture she talks about ancestry and family ties. Another character, Kelsey (Reze-Tiana Wessels) waits for her older sister to arrive. What is the significance of family in this short, whether or not they make on-screen appearances?
I love this question because family wasn’t something I actively thought of while writing, but it’s clearly a large part of the film. For better or worse, our families are often large parts of our lives, so I think this happened naturally because of my focus on the small moments of daily life.
Kamo (Serole Makweya) is a software engineer who believes the technology he is creating will change the world. Despite circumstances beyond his control, he is ultimately an optimist. Part of what is so refreshing about this film is that the hardship people experience day-to-day is not minimalized. There’s a certain poetic beauty in seeing things as they are, and as they are possible. Was this optimistic outlook something you wanted to communicate throughout the film?
Yes! Viewing the world through an optimistic lens is easy when life is going well. Staying optimistic is much harder when things aren’t going your way. I wanted to emphasize how devastating it feels when seemingly small things don’t go our way because sometimes the smallest failures feel the most significant. Pain in life is unavoidable. I wanted this film to acknowledge that in a way that felt honest, while also asking “How do we look beyond our pain?”
In Tiny Apocalypse, music seems to be a central focus. It feels almost like another character, a breathing cinematic element. Was there any intention when you were brainstorming the film to make music such an essential part?
The dance sequence was a central element to the film’s conception, and I clearly wrote much of the dialogue with that moment in mind. I chose Locket because the song has this cute, nostalgic vibe to it, which is important for Reze’s character and her relationship with her sister. I also think the song does a good job of adding to the film’s worldbuilding. I love how that section turned out, so I’m super thankful to Ava for letting us use the song. As far as the score goes, I only got a clear idea of how I wanted it to sound once we were already in post-production. Since this film occupies domestic spaces while counting down to the apocalypse, I wanted the film to feel big and small at the same time. One day I was listening to Galen Tipton’s goddexx, one of my favorite albums, and I had this eureka moment: goddexx is a loud, in-your-face, bouncy album. On the other hand, her work on carepackage is soothing and intimate. I realized her mastery of producing “big” and “small” sounds made her the perfect choice for composing the film’s score.
What was it like collaborating with Galen Tipton to bring musical ideas to life?
I sent Galen a few scoring references, showed her a rough cut of the film, and told her I wanted it to feel like a fairytale based in realism. She immediately clicked with the type of dynamic soundscape I was aiming for. Not many people know this, but Galen has a background in film as well, which I think made communicating ideas much easier. She’s quite focused on the minutiae of sounds, so she’s not just thinking “How does this chord progression make us feel?” but also “How does this one individual note influence our feelings around this character doing a specific action.” She’s also quite interested in community, which is a major theme in the film. So, she was the perfect person to work on the score. Her new album, Nymph Tones, just dropped. It’s a wonderfully stimulating work of sound design with inspiration from ASMR, and you should listen to it right now.
Do you believe in minimalism or maximalism? Which do you like best as a director?
I love both! I love the space that minimalism provides for thought and reflection, and I love the onslaught of ideas that often comes with maximalism. I try incorporating both into my work depending on the project.
Who are your top filmmaker inspirations?
Takashi Miike and Sion Sono have bizarrely vast and diverse filmographies. I love the idea of bouncing around from one style to another in each film, so they’ve both influenced me greatly in that regard. Also, I finally watched Beau Travail this year and all my future work will be inspired by one particular scene in that film. I won’t mention the scene here, but anyone who reads this article is welcome to drop me a message, and I’d be glad to talk about it.
Who deserves more attention in the film industry right now?
I love A Gentle Night and She Runs, two gorgeous short films by Chinese director Qiu Yang. A Gentle Night won the Palme d’Or, so Yang is as successful as it gets in that sense, but I’d love to see more focus given to short films in terms of wider distribution, and Yang’s work is a great place to start. My favorite local short is Ons Albertinia directed by Chantel Clark. Knowing we have filmmakers like her gets me excited about the future of South African cinema. Lastly, I adore Best Summer Ever, the debut feature of Lauren Smitelli and Michael Parks Randa. I’m obsessed with the idea of making subversive, provocative cinema that is also loving and kind. I can’t think of a recent film that does this better.
Do other artistic mediums inform your work?
I’m constantly astounded by the creativity I come across in memes. The thought processes and philosophies behind shitposting invigorate me, and I’m excited about finding ways to transfer their magic into cinema.
Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
My first piece of advice is to make the movie that’s possible. With Tiny Apocalypse, I wrote roles specifically for Serole, Leché, and Reze. I wrote a film that takes place in an apartment. I wrote a film that required simple props. If I wrote a film starring a middle-aged bodybuilder who works as a firefighter, making that film would take forever because I don’t know any middle-aged firefighters, nor do I have access to a fire station. It’s a simple thing, but you set yourself up for success by doing what’s possible.
My second piece of advice is to make that film collaboratively. My friend Meg let us use her apartment as the film’s location. Without me asking, she already had some ideas for which character should live in which room. I realized she was invested in the film and had some really good ideas pertaining to space and decor, so I asked if she’d be down to be the film’s production designer even though she hadn’t done that before. I went with most of her ideas and even changed the film’s ending to match one of them. She did a fantastic job. It’s pretty intuitive, but people put effort into things they’re excited about, and one of the best ways to get people excited about an idea is to relinquish control and allow for a more collaborative environment.
Are there any insights you hope to leave viewers with?
I hope viewers who relate to the failure presented in this film find comfort in it and ultimately take a step back to seek friendship in their immediate communities. If you’re keen to see our festival journey, follow us on Instagram at @ tiny_apocalypse_film!
Update: among recent sexual assault allegations, Bill would like to renounce support for Sion Sono.
Contact Bill Badi: email@example.com
Iggy Oddity is the Editor in Chief of Cinema in Paradise. They are a multimedia artist with experience in publishing, film, music, and digital art.
Cinema in paradise is a fledgling online journal dedicated to celebrating film throughout time and the world.