Bianca Juliette O’Neill

Bianca Juliette O’Neill, is an actress, writer, producer and aspiring director. Her love for film began as a little girl watching all sorts of films with her Nanna. Her writing began when studying Drama at The University of Pretoria (2006-2009) ranging from theatre and film. After few years in the acting field. She decided to produce own work with other independent collaborators and also began writing live action. She Was a writer for a SABC children’s series Rivinonigo (2014) Wrote a part of the multi director and country film Breath Easy (2015), a short film fantasy “Jacob and the Stolen Tooth” (2016) and a comedy sketch web series “Sketch -a Month” (2018) and now recently Yellow Daisy Butterfly (2024) and counting upcoming animation short films, which are still in development.
1. Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?
Yellow Daisy Butterfly is a 10-minute short animation that follows our young protagonist, Cheri-Lee’s metaphorical journey of the stages of grief after the loss of her beloved Nanna (grandmother), juxtaposed with the life cycle of the butterfly. I began writing the script a few months after loss of my beloved Nanna (Irene Bowyer)  at the age of 79 in August 2018. The loss was so profound for me and I needed an outlet to express my grief and also the honour the woman who helped raised me. The main protagonist Cheri-Lee is named after my late friend Cheri-Lee Oelschig and the film is in her honour as well as another friend Nombuso Mbebe. The lovely ladies were taken away from us too soon.

What are your ambitions with your project?
The most exciting factor which I didn’t even realise was an ambition of mine was the film being seen by people from all over the world in places I did not even know about, even though I consider myself quite clued up on geographical locations. That the film gets to be seen by those also experiencing some form of grief and the film can resonate with them even though we speak a different spoken language.
Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
The journey of making of this animation was certainly a roller coaster ride. I had mostly worked with live action before this film and this was my first real experience of writing and producing animation. Also, this was the first time working with funding rather than my own money which brings another stress related factor into the process as you want to impress those who have trusted you. The most pleasant surprise is all the talented people who came on board and brought on their specialities into the film. I was extremely fortunate to have the best of the best working on this film. The very talented and creative from South African animation. I wonder what I did to be so lucky.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
I would say all ages as the content is family friendly and relatable with all ages but to be specific the visuals and animation will catch the eye of the young audience and the motif of the film will most likely resonate with the older audience.

Why should distributors buy your film?
The streaming services and distributors need to look more into streaming and showing short films as modern-day audiences pay more attention to short timed content. For example, many scrolls on their phones and usually on a streaming service as before going to sleep so watching a heartfelt and feel good film like Yellow Daisy Butterfly will take 10 minutes to put their mind at ease with a happiness as they go to sleep. Therefore, only make sense that distributors, networks, and streaming services need to look more into short films. Cinemas could show several short films for a very reasonable price to get audiences back at the cinemas.

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
My work is very personal but will hopefully resonate with many. At this stage it is animation that follows metaphorical journeys of very real content. Mostly passionate about writing what relates to me and get to share with other going through the same journey.

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I feel in love with films as a little girl. As I write this, the cinema that I used to go to often in my formative years, Sterland in Pretoria, is facing closure soon. This is a bit heart-breaking as this is where I feel I fell in love with films and become interested in the idea of being a film maker. I held onto this dream for many years getting lost in films and wanted to become part of the phenomena. I come from a very creative family from my Mother’s side (many artists and dancers in that family) and unfortunately none got to really live their dreams and therefore I believe it is important to carry the dreams on their behalf after all the sacrifices they made for me.

Who is your role model?
I have various role models for different reasons. My childhood role model up until present day is Steven Spielberg because not only is he a visionary he is also a great portray of character depth in his films. He manages to finely balance of all the elements of images, story, plot and character. The most recent is Greta Gerwig because her films resonate with me the most these days as a woman in her late 30’s.

Which movies are your favourites? Why?
My absolute favourite film is Steel Magnolias (1989) with Sally Field and Julia Roberts. The film has a full cast of strong women without making it obvious. The level of character and arches for females in this film is an inspiration plus the actresses are on top form. Some other films are - A League of Their Own, Barbie, The Truman Show, Shawshank Redemption, How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Beethoven, Chicago, to only name a few. I
appreciate great filmmaking but my favourites are those that resonate with me.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
My films these days are my diaries of my emotional journey of what is happening in my life albeit past, present or a wish for the future. The films reflect my feelings and how I respond to a context. I have taken several writing courses and met some lovely fellow writers and we have inspired each other within these lessons.

Which topics interest you the most?
I always say I go through phases with what interests me. I have always enjoyed comedy and in particular romantic comedies. Today, I would say the topic that interests me the most is how women around my age are navigating the modern world and embracing their own empowerment.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
Presently my current film, Yellow Daisy Butterfly doing the runs in various Film festivals. I was very naïve and scarred with my past films that I produced to ever enter into festivals and regret not trying to enter even if the response would not have been as positive as with Yellow Daisy Butterfly. It would have been great experience and also more of an acknowledgement to all those who worked on those films. This has been a great opportunity to thank and appreciate all members involved in the film.

What do you consider most important about filming?
The character development plays the most important part even before the script. Characters need to be well defined and holistically developed before even thinking of starting the script. The development of characters will always be a bar to measure the strength of your script.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
At this stage I am still figuring out my niche.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I think it is very exciting. It is more available than ever before and more global so get to see stories from various parts of the world.

What can disappoint you in a movie?
There is plenty that can disappoint that is why filmmaking is such a delicate process. An undeveloped script is the most frustrating because you could see that the movie had potential but the script was either rushed and a half-hearted attempt.

Who supports you in your film career?
I am so lucky. My Nanna was my biggest supporter and I truly believe she is my guardian angel that as helped me spiritually the last few years. My Mom has always been a massive support. She has always helped me in my self-funded films with administration, catering and other ways that plays a big part of getting a film made. My friends have always supported me. Whether getting them to be in my films, to dragging them to my premiers, to asking them to vote for a film they are always there for me and with me every step of the way. They are always cheering for me.

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