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Bringing a dose of happiness: Filmmaker Helen Alexis Yonov

By Asis Sethi Tuesday, Nov 10, 2020 12:10: PM

As we go through uncertain times, there is a short film out there to lift our spirits with. Helen Alexis Yonov wrote The Gesture and the Word, a beautiful short which leaves everyone with a smile on their faces.

The Gesture and the Word tells the story of Gilbert, a lonely postman who secretly recreates postcards for a woman on his mail delivery route when her boyfriend’s homemade postcards stop arriving from his travels around the world. With the help of his friend Mr. Rostalle, a blind widower and retired literary professor, Gilbert learns to open himself up to the prospect of love, and in the process of trying to bring someone else’s happiness, he discovers it for himself.

Asis Sethi chats with Alexis, filmmaker to filmmaker.


Tell me a little bit about the theme surround The Gesture and the Word and why you wanted to explore the concept of love through a postman.  

I was living in Paris. I moved there in 2011. I just started watching people walking around. You imagine how people know each other. I started looking at the mail delivery men walking around. The idea of a postcard and people being in love – that idea just evolved naturally. I did not set out to do a movie about romance. A lot of the work I do does have a romantic nature to it. I just wanted to do something sweet and kind and it evolved that way. 


What I think is beautiful is the use of flowers as metaphors throughout the film. Where did that idea come from?

I think the idea came from a friend of mine. She did a burlesque show where she was Bella Beretta. She also had a flower cart in Portland and she used to tell me she knew the meaning of flowers. And so, being inspired by her – the movie honestly evolved and it was natural. The flowers just kind of came and one thing led to another. 

People in the Victorian age used to make bouquets and the bouquets would tell the person how they felt about them. Of course, I was talking to my producer and cinematographer and made it into a motif with the dress Ella Louise wears at the end, the credits, the flowers on the postcard. It evolved very naturally. I mean, it was very well-planned. I don’t want to take away from my costume or production designer. 


How many drafts did you go through on the writing level? 

The script had the same energy as the final draft but there was more development, more “oomph”. I had nineteen drafts. The last nine drafts – if I change a little bit, I make another draft because I want to make sure everyone was on the same page. But I would say I spent ten drafts really working on it from beginning to end.


What’s in store for the future?

I am working on a feature based on the short film. I wasn’t going to do it but so many people loved the movie – I think with the pandemic, I think this is the type of movie that people would like to see because it is so positive. People have told me they feel happy after watching the movie. So, I think there is space for it. 

I’m also working on another script which is right now titled, “The Time of the Wolves”. I was in Paris in 2015 when the terror attacks happened. I was in a café that was around the corner from another café that was hit. I wrote a script that was inspired by that experience – taking the idea of an attack in the future in Paris but now, it’s in Los Angeles. 

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