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An Interview with Sarah Jayne and Ivan Malekin, Directors of In Corpore

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2021

Films directed by Sarah Jayne on (re)Search my Trash

Films directed by Ivan Malekin on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie In Corpore - in a few words, what is it about?


In Corpore can be summed up as a contemporary relationship anthology drama that explores four different unions around the world, what happens when one person's expectations change and deviate from that of their partner's, and basically that communication is key to any successful and solid relationship.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing In Corpore, and is any of it based on personal experiences?


A few different aspects were the inspiration, and yes personal experience was also part of it as we are both from traditional European upbringings, hence in Malta Anna’s feelings of spiritual confinement was the easiest to write storywise. Also we were inspired by personal stories of our peers, and we observed what was happening around us, plus other mumblecore/ improvised filmmakers from the 2000s have always been inspiring to us in the filmmaking aspect.


The mumblecore movement encapsulates the stories we like to tell as they were usually about couples working stuff out, breaking up and finding their way in the world. Filmmakers and directors who experiment with unconventional processes – be it in pre-production while working closely with actors to build character through an improvised ‘rehearsal’ process or on set when improvising dialogue for naturalistic performances – play a huge part in our inspiration and we keep seeking out work from these directors to watch as we love what transpires.


Particularly Joe Swanberg's Netflix show Easy [Joe Swanberg interview - click here] – we are fans of his work and also other relationship drama films and shows about coupldom and characters exploring sexual and spiritual connection, first love, and alternative stories of people following unconventional paths in life. Plus films and shows like The Girlfriend Experience, Blue is the Warmest Color and Drinking Buddies all inspired us when looking at character motivation and personal desire for In Corpore.


Since you've been known for working with improvisation in the past, how much of In Corpore was actually scripted, how much improvised?


We never work with scripts for our feature films these days – we write lengthy story outlines which break down the plot scene by scene so we have some control initially over the direction and how we want the drama to unfold. From this written concept we break down each scene into dot point form or story beats so we know, and the actors know, what is happening in that scene. Since filming Friends, Foes & Fireworks (our one-night New Years Eve feature film back in 2016/2017) we have been working this way for features and our micro-shorts, and we are always learning something about ourselves and the technique.


The four segments of In Corpore take place in four different corners of the world - so why is that, and what kind of a strain did that put on the production?


The main reasons for this are that firstly we wanted to make an internationally flavoured film and set it in four varied countries to have a mix of culture and perspectives in terms of our characters' views on the world. 


Secondly, we wanted to make a film with Clara Francesca while she was visiting Melbourne from New York and we were also living in Melbourne at the time. We tossed around ideas and eventually settled on the idea of splitting the stories featuring Clara’s character Julia into two parts, set in Melbourne and New York. We were also planning to move to Malta ourselves after the Melbourne shoot, so filming a chapter in Malta made sense. From there, we only needed one more country to complete the film and we chose Berlin. Overall, we wanted to cover a wide range of contemporary relationships to make it a broad view of what kinds of relationships are out there, yet we only touched the surface in honesty. 


Of course, it was financially straining as Ivan and I self-funded the film as we went along, and of course it was very challenging to organise shoots in different countries, particularly if we didn’t already have a network of contacts in place, as was the case in Malta (we filmed the Malta chapter as soon as we arrived in the country) and Berlin (which we organised while not even being in the country). Luckily, we had Clara based in New York to produce that chapter, and we had years of experience and relationships built up in Melbourne to draw upon for that section.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


Our directorial approach to our story at hand for our latest feature films, including In Corpore, is very much vérité, so identified by fluid and free flowing camera movements following the action, thanks to the fact that we use improvisation and natural lighting. As we use this directorial approach our films make the audience feel like they are a fly on the wall, somewhat documentary in feel. We want to make the audience feel like an eyewitness to the lives of our characters unfolding. Some would say this can be confronting, or use that fact as a negative, especially in the intimate or even heartbreaking scenes when lovers quarrel, due to the fact that there is so much rawness, human vulnerability, and emotion coming from the actors’ performance thanks to improv as the actor has no other choice but to be in the moment. Our directorial approach with any film is also to be adaptable to the ebbs and flows brought on by the improv style and what unfolds. We, like the actors in our films, discover the truth together.


Do talk about In Corpore's key cast, and why exactly these people?


We don't audition – we meet our potential actors, our key cast, and we go off intuition as well as making a choice of who we want to work with after speaking to them about the overall idea for the film, its themes and the character they are going for. For In Corpore we had a mix of methods when it came to casting and choosing the people who would bring our characters to life. 


It was wonderful to work with Clara Francesca again as always, as well as Frank Fazio in Melbourne. Both actors we have worked with before on our short film Zina, many moons ago back in Melbourne. They are just really talented, both have a lot of charisma, they draw people in, plus they know each other off set and they have natural chemistry, which shines on the screen.


In New York again Clara was our main actor and also alongside her was Timothy McCown Reynolds, who Clara brought in to play her husband Patrick. We didn't audition Timothy, as his work in theatre and his presence and natural talent spoke for themselves – plus we didn't have a long rehearsal process for the New York story, so Clara and Timothy worked on their story a fair bit alone, and we trusted them as they both had worked together before in theatre. 


In Malta we had the challenge of having to cast people we did not know as we were new to the country. Naomi Knight, our lead in the Malta story, came from a theatre background and had studied at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, plus she had some training in improvisation, so she was very experienced in the technique we were using and ready to tackle the complex role of Anna. Also having studied and worked in London was Christopher Dingli playing Manny, Anna's husband, and he approached us wanting to discuss the role only a few weeks before we were set to shoot, which was amazing as he has such a profile in Malta in theatre, comedy, radio and also international and local films.


In Berlin the lead went to Kelsey Gillis, a Canadian-Irish actor who we cast from an international call out. We spoke to Kelsey online about the role and she was chosen out of a handful of hopefuls. Kelsey was new to Berlin at the time and up for a challenge of working on a very multifaceted character and with improvisation. On the other hand we already knew Sarah Timm who plays Rosalie, as we had worked with her before in Melbourne on another feature called Choir Girl, and we really wanted to work with her again as she is incredibly talented.


A few words about the shoots as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Loads of hard work, but loads of great people on set void of egos and full of professionalism and a love and passion for what they do. It was very much a grassroots indie set, every story, every country we filmed in had good vibes as everyone was working together to get a powerful result. We feel blessed to have met so many amazing individuals and shared this special experience with them.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of In Corpore?


The reviews have been more positive than negative, however I think a lot of the mainstream audiences and reviewers who are critiquing the film may be finding it a little intense for their palette and they are missing the point of the strong sex scenes and instead taking that on face value, which is a shame as in reality a huge part of human interaction is sexual and this is a truthful film about contemporary relationships. 


Hollywood films shy away from positivity portraying women's sexual pleasures, adultery on a woman's part, and women in a position of control, it's not the norm, nor is nudity or realistic looking sex scenes, however violence is very much accepted.


In one review the reviewer made the point that In Corpore could be a film that 'ushers in social change', which is exactly what we as filmmakers think we need more of in cinema, be it mainstream or micro-budget indies. As Clara was informed in an interview – it's not a When Harry Met Sally romance. We didn't set out to make this film for a mainstream audience, and what I have learnt from marketing it and from speaking to liberal minded people and to Clara in New York, where there is a big acceptance for films with stories and female characters like the ones we have put forward in In Corpore – sex-postive, bi-sexual, open-minded, polyamorous and so forth – these people are enjoying the film. 


It is a film that has many layers and main characters some would find unlikeable because of their choices and how they communicate their wants and desires to people who don't understand them and suppress them. Our audience is very much open-minded, sex-positive, liberal thinking people who like complex films that are going to leave them thinking about their own motives and actions.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Sure, two films actually that we shot in 2020 during the pandemic. First, Cats of Malta, a documentary about the stray cats of Malta and how they connect the island. We also have a psychological drama/horror called Machination which is about a woman who has an undiagnosed mental illness and how she copes in a pandemic with the situation and the monsters in her head. The latter is improvised and very much a character piece. Both films were shot in Malta and they will be released in 2021.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


We also teach improvised, micro-budget filmmaking online and we have a new course out through Indie Film Hustle Academy called The Art of Improv Indie Filmmaking. Check it out to go much deeper into our improv filmmaking methods. Here is the direct link :


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD