Interview: Elina Street and Lana Boy on ‘My Best Friend’

A lot of people believe that friendship and intimacy are different. But friendship is one of the most intimate relationships we can have. In human relationships, the boundary between friendship and romance is often clearly defined, or so we believe. In Elina Street’s short film My Best Friend, the filmmaker chronicles the journey of two people who explore their sexuality while being friends. This unexpected twist forces them to confront their true feelings and the depth of their emotional connection.

My Best Friend explores the fine line between love and friendship, the risks of vulnerability, and the possibility of discovering a deeper bond than they ever imagined. If you have followed Elina Street’s previous work, including 2 episodes of The Lesbian Bar Project, you would know that she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to telling stories about women, especially queer women.

But in her latest project, she gets deeper into a subject that has the audience consider whether they, in some way, had a similar kind of relationship to the characters in My Best Friend, Clara, and Léa. It’s not easy to show these emotions on screen, but when you have a talented actor like Lana Boy with you, you don’t need to worry about anything. The actor plays Léa in this story.

Over Zoom, I had the chance to talk to both Elina Street and Lana Boy about the short film. Read ahead for our full chat.

The Interview with Elina Street and Lana Boy About My Best Friend

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]

Aayush Sharma: Lana from a set designer, to a director and now an actor, you have done it all. I mean, you have, you are Jack-of-all trades. So, how’s your journey been in this industry?

Lana Boy: It’s been amazing and really fun. I’m really grateful for all the steps I’ve been able to explore. I think that for me, at the end of the day, it’s about storytelling. And I think what’s been really fun is, as an actor, I just want to tell stories, but as a set designer, that’s the same. So, it’s like, what does a mug say about a character or one of the colors that about a character? What is the placement of things, say as a character, and then with, Elina, it’s been really fun, because we’ve been working together for so long that she knows me really well. So together, we’re very comfortable and exploring what the visual looks like for our character, but what like, the inner world looks like as well.

Aayush Sharma: What is about Elina Street that you keep on coming back to collaborate with her?

Lana Boy: She is my best friend. (laughs) I think that, um, I moved to New York in 2016. We had known each other as kids in like, a summer camp in Paris and we didn’t really hang out that much during the summer camp. But once I moved to New York, we connected on Facebook, which is actually funny, because I’m designing a Facebook event right now. Um yeah, we had like dinner. Oh, we had tea, really quickly. Yeah. And we were both like, Oh, my God, we’re both just like these French-American girls excited to be in New York, we want to make cool things. It was just, I don’t know, love at first sight or best friends at first sight, I don’t know. But we found home and each other. So I think that’s what it was, is that like, we were very overwhelmed and overstimulated by New York. There was something familiar about us being both like French American and the same age, into the same thing.

Aayush SharmaYour storytelling focuses on female and non-binary representation. What drives your commitment to these themes, and how do you ensure authentic representation in your work?

Elina Street: Well, I think, for me, the best storytelling comes from the heart. And it comes from familiarity. I really want to tell the stories that need to come out of me at a certain time in my life. I have always been very committed to telling the stories of women, because they’re still so far and few between, and, collaborating with the right people is, really important in these situations. And my collaboration with Lana has just been really important and wonderful, because it’s from like reality to the screen. I think, why not use that, you know, it’s the power of storytelling is also from the heart and from the truth.

Aayush Sharma: It’s story about two people, you know, one is actually exploring her sexuality. Meanwhile, the other one is overcoming the heartbreak and is vulnerable. So, Lana, I wanted to know about your character, what were your feelings about the character? And how did you approach playing it?

Lana Boy: So it’s really fascinating because the story is inspired by things that I’m very like, connected with. And I think for me, it was mostly about being truthful to the things that I recognize in myself, and then the character and kind of leaning into that. So my character is very excited about exploring her sexuality and kind of like biting the apple like fully. I think that curiosity was something that I really leaned into with her. I’m curious about what things feel like within space, like what things bring out of her. And it was really easy to do that because curiosity, I think, brings a lot of courage and vulnerability, and I’m able to do that around Elina really well because she is my friend, creating like a safe environment to explore curiosity is really, really important. I think that’s what I prioritized and focusing on.

Aayush Sharma: How did you develop the characters of Clara and Léa to convey their emotional journeys, especially through the breakup and evolving friendship?

Elina Street: Well, for me, it’s always very important to, yes, you know, this is the story about a moment in time in these characters’ lives where they’re completely in synchronicity with each other. But I spend a lot of time with the character development in the past, the present and the future, really thinking about what brought them to where they are now. So that’s why the character of Clara has a very concise background. And that’s why she alludes to her breakup. And that’s where she’s coming from. That’s what is also making the synchronicity happen with Lea’s character because of what she’s been going through.

Elina Street: And Léa and her (Clara) are like totally on the same page at that very moment. But they weren’t yesterday, and they will not be the next day. And actually, another thing I really enjoy about, which is working with Lana, as an actor is that she puts a lot of thought into her character background.  I mean, it’s just amazing, because I’ve seen, I’ve worked with actors in the past who really wait for full guidance, which I love giving as well. But the collaboration is so essential. And like Lana and I had a full discussion about her character, what happened to her character in the past. Lana does this amazing thing where she’s like, I always want to know the astrology signs of my character that will help motivate me and my intentions. I was like, You’re brilliant. And I, I just love that I value that so much. And it’s just magical, you know?

Elina Street: So, and again, I think it brings so much to the story. And it brings so much to the screen, even though it’s the unseen. I mean, it’s not something that’s like written in, you feel it, there’s an integrity about it. So in terms of their arc, I always wanted to focus about that moment in time. I think that’s the beauty of short films is that you can be very ambitious, but a lot of the times I think the best short films are about a moment in a character’s lives, because you don’t have enough time to cover everything. So it’s all about planting those seeds very strategically to give context, but also really concentrate on that one moment.

Aayush Sharma: The story explores the boundaries between platonic friendship and romantic intimacy. What inspired you to tackle this theme, and what message do you hope to convey through it?

Elina Street: I am really fascinated with intimacy on the screen in general. I often think that intimacy on the screen is very performative and very often depicted through the male gaze, as if everyone were on a stage. This is why I captured the intimacy so closely as if you were in bed with them, sort of leaning over the shoulder in this intimate moment, and also, really selecting the moments in between the main action of the intimacy, those real moments where you’re awkwardly trying to move into a position or you’re laughing.

Elina Street: And Lana and Marie, were so courageous, and generous, because we shot that scene for a very long time. And it wasn’t easy. But I tried to explain. And now we finally like now we’re like, okay, we get it. But like, I needed to do that in order to get those in betweens. So, you know, we got it, but it took a long time. But in to come back to your question. I think that intimacy in love and intimacy in friendship is there and we don’t really talk about intimacy and friendship. So it’s very exciting to do that.

Elina Street: To really explore that, that those boundaries because, I mean, we another great collaborative thing that Lana suggested when they’re like playing around in front of the cage, and they’re talking or they’re sorry, and Clara painting the cage. And we had this moment where I was like, well, they’re friends, right? So they don’t really have bound like, why maybe one of them can like fart like, you know, they use that friendship. You’re just so comfortable. You wouldn’t necessarily fart in front of your partner, but you might do that with your friend, so we laughed about it. And then it turns out that when they were, you know, having when we were filming the sex scene, like there was the boob fart that happened. So that was like a shadowing of overshadow, which really works out well. I mean, that was a happy accident. But all of these things to me really ties back to that intimacy question where it is different. And with friendship, you can really like go all over the place.

Aayush Sharma: Lana, the scene Elina is talking about not just conveys the emotions, it actually also shows, just like she said that there are no boundaries between friends and you know, you can go to a very good distance with your friend. But still performing that scene in front of the camera and making it look like authentic, how challenging was it for you?

Lana Boy: I have had experience in the past doing intimate scenes in other projects. But this one was definitely the most challenging one because it was the longest one we did. The fact that we had an intimacy coordinator made everything just a lot more relaxed and felt a lot safer. Not only just in a sense of like, being vulnerable, but also where our bodies are being placed, and how we’re going to create these movements, like literally safer in that area. And the fact that it was mostly an all women crew that created just like an environment for me to really be comfortable in.

Lana Boy: It was really demanding in the sense that it was like we were shooting for at least I think seven to eight hours, which is a really long time to perform like an orgasm and in these very demanding emotions. But the fact that we were very supportive and also in like the best container possible just allowed us to keep going and to honestly just communicate when we had enough. And it was funny, because when we did have enough, that’s when and we’ve mentioned it, we’re like we’re over it. That’s when we kind of even relaxed even more, because we felt safe to just express how we felt in that moment. It allowed us to be even more authentic on camera after like eating a snack or something.

Aayush Sharma: This short actually tackles another very important aspect called open relationship. Even though Lea is in an open relationship and it might just be a one-night thing for her, for Clara, it was much more than that and that is beautifully conveyed through her emotions. I really want to know why you decided to have one of the characters be in an open relationship rather than someone who was looking for a genuine relationship.

Elina Street: I thought it was very interesting because well, I think that intimacy and relationships, we have a tendency to put a label on them. But it’s never really about the label. So it was interesting and exploring in that moment what that felt for Léa’s character, but also, maybe the open relationship a month later would have been something different. Again, it’s about that synchronicity and time what that meant for her and how that actually worked. Because it was, she thought it could work, actually, but it didn’t. And, you know, maybe it would work again. So I think it’s really interesting to explore that. What does it really mean?

Lana Boy: I thought it was really cool that we’re like watching the film and even talking about it during the process of shooting. I think I mean, and I had a moment where I realized that, like, Léa’s character is very, like, look at this world, it’s gonna be great, we’re gonna have so much fun, very open and pulling Clara into a more like, relaxed state of mind. But in the end, the roles are actually flipped. Um, Clara is the one that’s guiding Léa into this like intimate world where maybe Léa’s just not used to being that vulnerable. And so for me, it’s kind of like, the roles are kind of flipped in that sense. And it can seem from like an outside perspective that Lea is the one that’s like the confident outgoing one, but in the end, it’s actually reversed.

Aayush Sharma: How did you craft the dialogue to highlight the nuances of Clara and Léa’s friendship and the complexity of their new-found intimacy?

Elina Street: So important, we rehearsed it a lot. It’s funny because it feels like it’s improvised, but it ended up really being scripted. Again, it was a great collaboration effort. There were some sentences that didn’t feel so natural to Lana and to Marie. So they said to me, ‘Hey, can we change it? Or can we try that?’ And, again, it’s really about thinking about, you know, what are we trying to say here? What are we trying to convey? Why is she saying that in that moment? And I don’t know, I’m just a huge fan of, again, it’s the prequel. It’s about what happened to her until she got here, or let’s do an improvisations. Let’s talk about something very different and then let’s bring it back. Let’s keep that in motion in that scene. So we did a lot of that. And again, I was super lucky with my cast. It’s at this point, it was like a collaboration.

Aayush Sharma: Elina, you are working with two of the finest actors. Lana and Marie are so perfect in this movie. Lana is a close friend, and you have collaborated with her. So you knew her. But what I would love to know about how did you cast Marie in the role of Clara?

Elina Street: So I actually worked with Marie in my previous short film, and she had a supporting role. And it was a much more defensive, angry role. And I really wanted to see her in someone who was a little bit more emotionally. Not tortured, but emotionally complex. I really wanted to work with her again. And because Lana is my best friend, I decided it would be nice to have someone who’s not my best friend, play the lead role, because then it gets a little too personal. And Marie, she’s based in France. And Lana is like me, an Expat. We share the bicultural element. But really, Marie really understood that and really respected that and was excited about that. So I love how natural she is. It’s interesting.

Elina Street: Marie often gets cast in very mainstream type of roles. And I think she really enjoys workshopping a script and the banter. And Lana had met her in the past. So we didn’t do an official chemistry test, but they knew of each other, and they have circles that have worked together. So that was also helpful to me. It’s and Marie was really looking up to Lana before meeting her. Marie had told me like, Oh, I really like her. I’ve watched her work. I’m really excited about working with her. And Lana also had said the same about Marie. So those things are so important, because you don’t want to force anything, either. If, it that had not been the initial dialogue, I would have cast someone else honestly, it’s really about that too.

Aayush Sharma: How did you use visual storytelling (e.g., cinematography, color palette) to reflect Clara’s emotional state and the evolving dynamic between the two friends?

Elina Street: So I have, so I want to give a shout-out to my incredible director of photography, Alexa Carroll, who also was present, actually, for a lot of the rehearsals, which I really appreciate, because she already got to know Lana, she got to know Marie, she got to know our intimacy coordinator. So we were all working together, just like one big language, communication puddle. But one thing we talked about, and this was, I guess, this is my second film that was really handheld. I usually, like a good still movie.

Elina Street: But this was not the type of movie this was not the type of story I wanted to tell. I want it to feel close enough. But I wanted to feel cinematic. And so I was very, in terms of the visual storytelling, I wanted to choose a good lens. I wanted to make sure that we were going to get close, not too close, but close enough to feel like we are with them in the room. In terms of Clara, we really open up the film, we start with her, we’re in her bedroom in her world, she leaves her world to go to Léa’s world. And they meet on this platform outside the boat, which is kind of, for me, this symbolic-ism of them coming together into this playground, which is New York, but then they’re entering another world in that other home.

Elina Street: So there’s really like a clear path here that you come back to at the end. So it’s like a full cycle in that way. I was very specific about wanting to have those locations to really think about because being an expat living in New York, for me, where I live becomes my home and it becomes my world. I really think that that’s what happens with them. It’s like their friendship becomes where they end up going to their playground and it becomes their world. So we’re very close to them. We definitely, you know, there are shots of Marie as she’s going through this on her own. And Marie is one of those just amazing actors as well. You just film her looking out to the horizon.

Elina Street: And there’s a story being told. In the end where she just walks and we follow her gaze, to me is a little bit of an ode to the end of Blue is the Warmest Color. I know it sounds very cliche, but I actually that final scene is fantastic. Except one thing that I think really lacks is when Adele turns the corner and disappears, and we’re just on her back. Literally, we’ve been with her the whole time. And now we’re like ending the movie looking at her back. I was like, this is such a missed opportunity because we’re disconnected from her. But I guess you know, maybe that was the intention. But here I really wanted to stay with Marie the whole time in that world of like, okay, now she’s back to being alone. And we’re back to being in her head.

My Best Friend recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Learn more about the short at the Tribeca website for the title.

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