Aet Laigu is the founder of an independent Estonian production company METEORIIT and a
film-maker (alter ego, Al Wallcat). She holds a business degree and MA in Film and TV Studies from the University of Warwick (UK). Aet has previously co-written three feature films,
including Kadri Kõusaar’s “Ema/Mother” (2016), which was Estonia’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award.
Q: Please introduce yourself and your project briefly.
A: My name is Aet Laigu and I’m an independent producer and filmmaker. “Modern Mermaid” is my documentary debut. It is a film about joy.
Aet Laigu, photo from private archive
Q: Why this film? What is your most important motivation?
A: The initial motivation was Heather Reynolds, a top-lawyer-turned-mermaid, who I randomly met on a vacation in Hawaii and who is one of the characters in the film. I was blown away by her courage to listen to her true self and act on it, without any false shame or fear of being stamped ‘abnormal’. Since, ‘normal’ people have always frightened me, I felt l have to explore this potentially alternative normality.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in making this film?
A: Creatively, it is how to do justice to my characters. How to convey the playfulness of the subject matter and the tone of joy and freedom that the film’s characters represent. In my vision, it will also demand a great deal of creative freedom in regards with the genre and techniques. Logistically, of course, the ongoing-COVID madness could prove a hindrance to be able to meet and film my characters.
Q: What would be the most frustrating/troubling part of filmmaking (as a woman)?
A: In my experience, the biggest problems always rise in the financing stage, as women are still expected to be the weaker side and if they are self-aware and assertive in defending their project, it is seen more as a negative trait rather than a quality. A woman must be kind, right?
Q: And the most rewarding one?
A: I can make a film about a female character and I actually know what I’m talking about.
Q: How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your work as a filmmaker?
A: It has put the project on hold regarding any further filming, but luckily I had a chance to take part in the CIRCLE Women’s Doc Accelerator, so I could continue developing my ideas and I think I have a much stronger package now to present to the potential financiers and partners.
Q: What inspires you the most in your creative journeys?
A: Anything unexpected that happens and when I see passion and love in people towards whatever they do.
Q: Can you compare your experience at CIRCLE with other similar platforms that you have been part of?
A: Not really, as I have never been part of any platform where there are just female filmmakers. Also, the entire event was very intimate with a small number of international hand-picked projects that worked well as an ensemble and supplemented each other in various workshops. And last but not least, the group of experts was very passionate and dedicated to helping each and every filmmaker, which would be hard in a less intimate and personalised setting.
Q: What were the most important benefits from being part of CIRCLE program?
A: My project was one of the projects selected in the earliest stage of development. So, for me personally the biggest benefit was to really start on focusing on what I really want to make the film about and how? To find my voice, but also courage as a first time filmmaker and realise that even the sky is not a limit.
Q: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
A: For a long time it used to be Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”, as at the time I hadn’t seen a Hollywood film that depicted a form of female intellectual loneliness so well as the character played by Scarlett Johansson. Now there are much more to choose from and I couldn’t pinpoint just one film, but I could say that I admire the works, also TV series, of Jane Campion and Alma Har’el among many others.
Q: Do you have a favorite documentary film? Why is it one of your favorites?
Again, I cannot say that there is just one film that is my absolute favourite. I find fascinating bits and pieces in various films like “The Act of Killing”, “Amy”, “Honeyland”, etc.
Q: What is the most important thing for you as a spectator? What do you search/expect to find in films?
A: What I personally want to take away from a film is an emotion, but also seeing something new and thought provoking or visually and imaginatively unique.
Q: What advice do you have for other (female) directors?
A: Never give up on your dreams, even if it feels like you’ve hit the rock bottom; find a diamond and dig through the rock.
Still from Aet's film Modern Mermaid