Aisling Chin-Yee on Her Directorial Feature Debut ‘The Rest of Us’

Aisling Chin-Yee had been working as a producer on documentaries and shorts for 15 years, telling stories that focused on women and marginalized groups, before taking the filmmaking reins herself.

“That’s where my creative desires needed to be explored,” Chin-Yee said of her ambitions to write and direct more.

Her big break behind the camera in her feature directorial debut came in the form of a script titled “The Rest of Us,” handed to her by Babe Nation producer Katie Nolan, a longtime friend.

“I loved the characters and the script,” she recalled.

The Rest of Us” follows Cami (Heather Graham), a single mother who takes in the wife Rachel (Jodi Balfour) of her ex-husband Craig after they find out he’s passed away. The story, dealing with grief, tragedy and complex issues, was something that immediately appealed to Chin-Yee.

“Those were all themes that I wanted to pursue in my work,” Chin-Yee said.

Chin-Yee threw her hat in the ring and approached Nolan and the producers about directing the story.  She ended up shooting the film in 20 days on location in Ontario, Canada and relied on natural light. While collaborating with production designer Thea Hollatz and cinematographer Daniel Grant, Chin-Yee discussed shooting locations from a 360 point of view.

“We wanted to be agile,” she said.

Chin-Yee co-edited the film with Véronique Barbe. Her main objective was to make the film more than just one note, one tone and one emotional experience. She wanted it to be more reflective of life, rather than a depressing experience, especially as she was dealing with family, grief and tragedy.

“There’s always humor,” Chin-Yee pointed out. “If you’re going to go into a scene that has so much tension and it’s emotional or there are tears, you have to end it with a joke.”

In accomplishing that, Chin-Yee takes the audience right into there with the characters, their conversations and we experience what they’re going through from their perspective.

“Every scene always starts with a point of view, and that allows you to switch from one character to the next,” she said.

She does make an exception, she said, for a scene when the camera is behind the car as Talulah (Abigail Pniowsky) throws Craig’s ashes out the window.

“Every other shot during that moment is inside the car and you’re with them, but this time, as she’s tossing the ashes, we wanted to take a step back so you can see what they’re doing,” Chin-Yee explains.

As the characters are finally able to move forward and put the complexities of Craig behind them, Chin-Yee chose to shoot the film’s closing scene with Cami dipping into a swimming pool, using it as a metaphor for where she is in life. It serves as a reconciliation for the women, as Rachel and Cami can move forward with their friendship and relationship, rather than Cami being on her own.

“It was almost this baptismal dip,” Chin-Yee said. “She’s starting this clean slate, escaping from writer’s block, she’s at peace and she has this new family.”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    IATSE Estimates Up to 95% of Its Members Are Out of Work Due to Coronavirus

    As many as 95% of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) below-the-line crafts workers are currently out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The figures come as over 3.3 million Americans have lost their jobs and filed for unemployment benefits. In an email to Variety Monday, director of communications Jonas Loeb said, “Estimates are [...]

  • 20190702_788LCDP_S4_tamaraarranz_DSC_9303.nef

    Spanish TV Industry Adjusts to Harsh Realities of the Coronavirus Crisis

    The Spanish TV industry has been shaken by the dramatic impact of the coronavirus crisis, but it is fighting back. Industry players have reacted fast, pushing forward with development, post-production and other business activities using online tools, and with the expectation of supporting funds from both public and private initiatives that will mitigate the effects [...]

  • His Dark Materials HBO

    'His Dark Materials' Costumers Make Scrubs for U.K. Medics Fighting Coronavirus

    Costumers behind the Bad Wolf-produced HBO and BBC fantasy series “His Dark Materials” have united to make scrubs for medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic in the U.K. The initiative, titled “Helping Dress Medics,” brings together a number of staff in the series’ costume department in Cardiff, Wales, and around the U.K. to stitch garments [...]

  • The Pennybox LTC Sandra Pennington

    How DIY Gear Is Helping Camera Crews Get the Job Done and Changing the Industry

    Cinematographers and their camera crews often tweak equipment to fit their needs. Sometimes it results in Garrett Brown inventing, designing and building the Oscar-winning Steadicam, or Nic Sadler developing the Artemis Director’s Viewfinder, which earned him an Engineering Emmy. But DPs and camera assistants regularly create tools and accessories to help them and their colleagues become [...]

  • Charm City Kings Movie

    How 'Charm City Kings' Cinematographer Throttled Up the Realism

    Puerto Rican director Ángel Manuel Soto stuck with his decision to bring on cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi for Sony’s “Charm City Kings” despite the studio’s desire for someone with more experience. Though Arizmendi’s credits included just a pair of indie features, Soto knew that her use of naturalistic light with touches of heightened realism were ideal [...]

  • Crip Camp

    How 'Crip Camp' Allowed Co-Director Jim LeBrecht Tell His Story of Representation

    The new Netflix documentary “Crip Camp” centers on Camp Jened, a summer camp for those with disabilities. As told in the doc, it would go on to spark something of a revolution in the disability rights movement. Filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht (who had worked with Newnham as a sound designer on her projects) [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content