Cast totally on Instagram, Everyday I Walk the Same Way Home follows a girl’s walk home from school and her fight to break the monotony of everyday life
“My whole life I always felt like an outsider,” says Brighton-born, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Jesse Heath. “At the moment, most of my work seems to revolve around that theme, at least to some extent. I’m interested in creating work for and about the underdogs, loners and dark horses.”
Heath’s latest project, a short film titled Everyday I Walk the Same Way Home which is premiered here, is about just that – a shaven-headed school girl called Mackenzie and her journey home. Because of problems she’s experiencing at home, our protagonist prolongs this journey, which the director describes as a “slice of freedom”.
Heath, who emigrated to the US when he was 19 following the death of his best friend, used to make films as a child and now, at the age of 25, is focussing all his energies on his directing work. For this project, he didn’t use professional actors but novices – all of whom, including Mackenzie, were cast on Instagram to ensure a real authenticity to the film.
Here, the director discusses this process, the pros of it and the symbolism of Mackenzie’s walk home.
What is this film about?
Jesse Heath: Everyday I Walk the Same Way Home is a brief glimpse into the life of our protagonist, Mackenzie. While following Mackenzie on a routine walk home from school the piece subtly illuminates her difficult home life and uneasy adolescence. By the end, it’s apparent that this everyday, solitary practice is a way of coping with her troubles and is a small but profound act of self-preservation. By delaying her arrival home, she keeps her problems at bay and gives herself time to contemplate the world around her and her part in it. The film is accompanied by the narration of Mackenzie’s inner monologue. She, like all of us, seems to be looking for something to believe in. Mackenzie’s faith in the world is shaky, but she can’t help but grasp for connections and symbols.
Can you tell me about the protagonist, Mackenzie?
Jesse Heath: I had the idea for this film a year ago, but I was just waiting for the right girl. The character needed angst and sensitivity, along with that special kind of resilience and fortitude that comes with youth. When I met Mackenzie she just had the right combination of things. She can convey gentleness and innocence, but she’s very powerful looking. I think being tough and kind shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive. Also, being from England, I’m drawn to a certain aesthetic. I love the factory girl look Mackenzie has.
“Mackenzie’s walk home is an ode to the small ways in which we break away from the monotony of everyday life” – Jesse Heath, director of Everyday I Walk the Same Way Home
What gave you the idea of making a film about someone’s journey home?
Jesse Heath: Structurally I liked the simplicity of it. Also, a walk home is something everybody can relate to. So many things can happen and some of my favorite stories begin with ‘I was on my way home when…’ When you are a kid or teenager a walk home from school can offer a slice of freedom, but there is potential risk and vulnerability in the act, especially done alone, and I wanted to exploit that tension. At that age, freedom and fear coexist so readily, everything feels high-stakes because the process of self-determination is beginning.
What does Mackenzie’s journey home symbolise?
Jesse Heath: I liked the idea of creating a simple story on the outside that showed complexity on the inside. That’s how most people live – we experience ourselves and the world around us through a flood of internal impressions and observations, and yet so often in storytelling the plot trumps the narrative voice. I wanted Mackenzie and the lads to reveal that intimate, inner reality. These characters don’t necessarily have easy lives, but much of their strength comes from their questions and conclusions, their bursts of imagination, and where and how they assign meaning to their own experiences and environment. Mackenzie’s walk home is an ode to the small ways in which we break away from the monotony of everyday life.
Can you describe the process of creating the film?
Jesse Heath: The film was entirely self-funded so everything was run-n-gun. When it comes to filmmaking I’d rather seek forgiveness than permission. The crew was super bare-bones; just me, the DP and the stylist. We had these amazing locations and we just had to bang them out one after another and be careful to not be too blatant about filming.
You used Instagram to cast it. Why did you decide to do this?
Jesse Heath: We shot the film in LA and in order to give an authentic experience it was important for me to call upon local talent. I’ve got mixed feelings about Instagram but if you do some searching you can find some truly original people on there who might not be from the right background or social standing to otherwise have a platform.
What were the pros of doing it like this?
We could’ve definitely had more hands on deck but I wanted the performances to be really natural and authentic and I think that gets more difficult the more people there are running around. None of the cast were actors so I knew in order to have things go smoothly everybody would have to be super comfortable with each other. In these kinds of situations, I’ve generally found that talent and crew work hard together, putting all they’ve got into it. There’s a lot of camaraderie. Shoot time is so limited ‘cause everyone is working for free, so there isn’t room for bullshit.