Ahead of the release of his latest film, Liselotte Vanophem sat down with Lorcan Finnegan to talk about Vivarium, filming techniques and the future.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Lorcan, how are you?
Lorcan Finnegan: Yeah, I’m fine. Busy with the interviews.
LV: Congratulations on the film. How did you come up with the story for this film?
LF: Well, in 2011 we made a short film called Foxes and it was a supernatural story about a young couple who were trapped in this ghost estate in Ireland that was left abandoned. Apart from them, there was nobody else there. That was more of a supernatural story but the stories and ideas of that film were something that we wanted to expand upon more metaphorically in a sci-fi, ‘twilight zone’ type of film. That’s what we develop into a long feature film. Vivarium is different from Foxes but it has some similar ideas.
LV: The cast consists of big names such as Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots but the actor who’s the most amazing one in this film is without a doubt Senan Jennings who plays the boy. How did you come across him?
LF: Getting the right actor for that part was always going to be challenging. We thought we were never going to find a little child who could do all of the things that we wrote about in the script. We got a bunch of self-tapes coming in and then I saw a lot of the actors as well. We were very lucky that we got Senan cause when he sent in his tape, it was so good. I asked him to do some other parts of the film and then he sent in another tape and again it was brilliant. We were like ‘ok, he got the part’.
He was great to work with. He was seven but when he read the
script, he completely understood it. After we told him that he got the part,
his mom said that they were going to supermarkets to watch people and copy
them. He just loved it.
LV: In this movie, Senan’s character shouts and screams a lot. How was it to make him do that on cue?
LF: Well, he just loved it. At some points, we were just trying to make him stop. I was worried about his throat and that he would lose his voice. He had no problem with it at all and he just went for it. That was another thing that he showed us during his auditioning tape.
LV: During this film, Imogen’s character needs to choose whether to let the boy live or die? What would you have done in that situation?
LF: I would save him as he’s still a living creature after all but it rationally also makes sense to not save him.
LV: How much input did the actors have regarding the lines and the script?
LF: Well, we talked a lot bout the script before shooting and made some changes to dialogue and we also cut some dialogue and scenes. We also wrote a few new scenes. When you’re developing a script, other people are involved and everyone has a few notes here and there and some input. Once we came to shoot it, we all kind of trusted each other and if the scene didn’t feel right then we would just change it and try something different.
LV: What was the first scene that you shot between the couple and the child because that probably must have been a very crucial one?
LF: It would probably have been the bedroom scenes during which the audience sees the boy for this first time. I remember Jesse saying that Senan was exactly as he imagined from the script but he never thought that we could find a kid who could do it.
LV: The houses in Yonder are the same. Green, neat and almost to perfect. How did you film them? Was it a green screen or on-location?
LF: Well, it’s a mixture of things. We’ve build sets with the facades of threes, houses, footpaths, gardens, and roads. Then we shot sets of that same thing to expand it to the back and then the set was scanned and made into 3D. A lot of it was 2D map paintings, sometimes it’s CGI and sometimes it’s 2D plates that are being composed together. It was a lot of different techniques that came together.
LV: What was the hardest part for you to film for this movie cause it’s a very complex movie technical wise it seems?
LF: Yes, it was indeed a very technical film to make and a bit tricky as well. The trickiest scene was probably the one in which they’re trying to drive out of the place. We only had a certain amount of sets and then we had to switch to location as well. Trying to make the lighting the same. The aerial shots were also shot in a different location again. Then we combined all of that to make it feel like one sequence. That was something that we have been working on for a long time.
LV: If you look back on the film now, what’s the scene that still gets you the most?
LF: I think it would be the last scene between Imogen and the boy. I also like the scene very much during which they’re talking about the clouds. Also, all the scenes with Jonathan Aris were so much fun.
LV: What do you hope that people will take away with them after seeing this film?
LF: Well, I hope that they will think it’s the best film they’ve seen in their lives. In this film, there are a lot of metaphors that are wrapped in a sci-fi story. Some people seem to enjoy it as a pure sci-fi movie and other people see parts of their own lives in it. I enjoy getting to know people their interpretations of the story and how they relate to the story. I just hope people will enjoy it.
LV: One last question: What’s next for you?
LF: I’m working on a film called Nocebo which a supernatural revenge thriller about fashion and the exploitation of the east by the west. I’m also working on another project called Goliath which is a reimagining of the story of David and Goliath and is set in the dystopian near future. It’s about creating monsters, starting wars and stealing resources.
We sat down with the Jenna Suru, writer, director and lead actor in The Golden Age (L’Âge d’Or), a French-language period film about two lovers who head to St Tropez, France in the ’60s to embark on an artistic project.
Invasion Planet Earth (formerly Kaleidoscope Man) is a crowdfunded British Sci-Fi film from writer / director Simon Cox. The film follows Thomas Dunn (played by Simon Haycock) a man who has lost his faith, following the death of his young daughter. On the day he finds out his wife is pregnant again, aliens invade the Earth. We caught up with Danny Steel, who plays Floyd, in this Sci-Fi adventure to let us know what to expect and more about the film’s remarkable journey from a crowdfunding campaign to the cinema screen.
Presh Williams: The Kickstarter for the film campaign received phenomenal support (backed by almost 200 people). As an independent film production, how does that support make you feel about the public wanting to see this story come to life?
it’s so amazing to see the phenomenal amount of public support for the project – it shows there’s a huge audience for Sci-Fi and independently made cinema and encourages me to want to do more. There have been waves of support from all around the world, ever since I was involved I’ve met people passionate about this project! Simon (Cox) and I were talking about this and we spoke of how countless times we’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of people wanting to see the film to fruition.
PW: A lot of the film, as is the case with Sci-Fi films, relies on CGI. How was is it like working with writer/director, Simon Cox, to act out those scenes without actually knowing how the final cut of the film would look like?
I’ve worked in CGI previously and knew how it worked, however, I had, and have, a lot of faith in Simon and his vision. I knew from the moment we met over a coffee and he spoke of how he wanted ‘Invasion’ to look, I had 100% trust in him – I had a fair idea of how it could end up and having seen the final film, it has over achieved my own expectations!
PW: What was your favourite scene to film?
DS: I’d have to say the part where Europe is slowly being destroyed – we are watching it happen high up from the Spacecraft. None of us spoke, there was no dialogue in the scene and as the camera pans across all of us watching this horror down on Earth, in instinct I reached out and held Samantha’s (played by Sophie Anderson) hand. It wasn’t in the script that I do that but felt absolutely right to do that. There is an eerie silence as this was happening. We did this several times and I was allowing myself to go deeper each time. I was thinking about how relevant the scene is now in this awareness era of climate change and political uncertainty to show how it affects us all from a macro to a micro level has never been more important.
PW: Invasion Planet Earth does draw a lot of influence from 70s/80s Sci-Fi, what can people expect when they see the movie?
DS: Ha! I think people can expect to see homage’s to certain well-known films both in the style and narrative of ‘Invasion’. If you love these certain films (not mentioning any names here, you’ll love this one basically). Like any good story, ‘Invasion’ is a story of connection, of resilience and the power of a shared collective.
PW: You’re follow up film that you are co-starring is quite different to Invasion Planet Earth, it’s called L’age D’or and based on 60s St Tropez. Can you tell us more about that film?
DS: In ‘L’Age D’Or‘ I play a French-speaking British musician who arrives in St Tropez in 1967 wanting to set up a band and explore life in the South of France. My character is an essential part of the narrative. The film is very big on the musical numbers and 60’s cover songs feature heavily throughout the film – as a huge music fan, this was great to film and be a part of (although no CGI was used this time!)
I’m also very excited to be in pre-production on a new horror ‘Creaks’, directed by award-winning director Joe Camereno and written by Anne-Sophie Marie, I play an eccentric Ghost Hunter we are looking at making this next year..watch this space!
Invasion Planet Earth will be in cinemas on 5th December 2019 at select cinemas within the U.K.
Writers, directors and stars Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe create a hilariously deadpan hellscape of competitive suburbia with a boldly stylized absurdist chain of events that unfurls with increasing fervour after one soccer mom gifts another her infant daughter just to be polite.
We sat down with the hilarious duo to discuss their latest film Greener Grass. watch the full interview below:
Comedy-Horror, Little Monsters, starring Lupita Nyong’o, tells the story of a washed-up musician, who teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
Little Monsters‘ writer / director, Abe Forsythe had a chat with Big Picture Film Club’s Liselotte Vanophem about his latest film discussing Lupita Nyong’o, Taylor Swift and working with children.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Abe, how are you?
Abe Forsythe: I’m doing fine, thank you. Been doing interviews all morning.
LV: Congratulations on Little Monsters. How did you come up with the peculiar story of this film?
AF: Well, it was based on my son’s first year of kindergarten. My son has multiple life-threating food allergies just like Felix in the movie. Before he went to school, he had never been out of my care. It was a terrifying thing when it happened. I had to trust his health and safety to someone else. Luckily he got the most incredible kindergarten teacher who wasn’t only able to look after his health but who also opened up his eyes to the world for the first time. It made me realize how important teachers are, specifically kindergarten teacher.
The story was also based on the time when I was on a school excursion with my son’s class and his teacher. It was me, the teacher and 25 five-year old children going to a zoo.
There was something that happened during that school excursion that gave the idea of “what if the animals were zombies?” and “if it was a zombie, how would you save those little children from a zombie apocalypse?”. Questions like “how would you stop them from being eaten?” and “how would you stop their mind from being corrupted?” also popped-up. The characters and the story of Little Monsters grew from there. It’s a love letter to my son and everything he taught me about the world through his eyes.
LV: He’s probably young to see it?
AF: Way too young. He’s eight now. He played a zombie in the movie and had a great time doing that. He saw parts of the film already and keeps on asking why he can’t see the full film. The whole point of this film is shielding your children from the horrors of the world.
LV: After you finished the story, how did the cast come together?
AF: I’ve worked already together with Alexander England, who plays Dave in this movie. I always knew that he would be the right person for that role and was cast first. We had nine names to play the role of Miss Caroline and a lot of them were really good. We just started pre-production and had seven weeks before shooting. My US casting agent was confident that we would get one of those people. We had to think about the one we really wanted.
For me, Lupita [Nyong’o] was the first person that came to mind. We weren’t fully confident that we would get her for this but we thought we would try. We did send the script to her agent. Timing-wise it was perfect because she was looking for something different. She wanted to do a comedy. Her agent put the script in front of her, she read it and responded. 24 hours later I was talking to her and 24 hours after that she was on board. It happened remarkably fast. She responded to the truth of the character and not because she wanted to go to Australia and do a zombie movie. It was an amazing turn out of events.
When she said yes, it was unexpected but so affirming for me and the crew because she responded to the things that I wanted to say with this movie. Both my cast and crew were incredible and of high calibre. For example, the make-up team who did the zombies already won an Oscar. We didn’t have a big budget by any means and people were just there because they believed in the movie.
LV: How many extra cast members did you have? Because by the end of the movie, there were a lot of zombies present.
We made the call for zombie extras and despite they weren’t getting paid for it, they got full zombie make up applied by Oscar winners. We reached out to people during a zombie walk through Sydney and some crew members went to hand out some flyers.
In the end, they were way better than some extras we paid because they just wanted to play a zombie in this movie. For me, it’s so much better to work with people like that because they gave it 110%. We got thousands of zombie extras in this movie and so we wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay a tenth of that.
LV: In this movie, Shake It Off from Taylor Swift is used many times. Whose idea was it to use that song?
AF: This song was part of my son’s kindergarten “end-of-the-year” show. A ukelele band and some children came out and they played that song on the Ukelele. I had never heard this song before or at least not like that. I remember turning to one of the parents and asking what that song was. They were like “Oh, it’s Shake It Off. A Taylor Swift song”. I went home and I put it in the script. It was so specific and it worked great for the story, especially hearing it being played on the Ukelele.
We tried for six months to get the rights of that song but we couldn’t get it through her either. The record label came back at some point and mentioned that using this song would cost a certain amount of money. We weren’t able to afford that. It was just a nightmare. When Lupita came on board, she mentioned that the song was one of the elements that appealed to her. It was also a very significant song in her life at one point. She, just like me, mentioned that she didn’t want to do the movie without that song in it.
Lupita said that she met Taylor once and that she was going to write her a letter. She wrote Taylor this e-mail and 24 hours later we had the rights to the song.
It was amazing! It just felt like it came all together: Me hearing that song at my son’s show, the connection I had to the song and Lupita coming on board. We wouldn’t have the song if it wasn’t for Lupita.
LV: There are a lot of things elements in this film: The many extras, the difficult make-up, etc. What was the hardest part of making this film?
AF: It was working with eleven five-year-old children. That by far was the hardest part. Though as well, that was also the whole point. We had to protect these children and engineer the events in this movie in a way that they could react to something that they saw for the first time. All the reactions are authentic and there are very few “take 2’s” in the movie.
It was important for me that the children were all five years old because that was the age my son was and it reflects how five-year-olds react. How and what they see in the world. We couldn’t fake that with children who were seven or eight who might look younger. When they become six, they just start to change.
LV: The schoolchildren you had for this movie was it a real class?
AF: No, we did ensemble the kids separately. We saw over 700 kids for those eleven roles and the casting took three months. We had those big workshops with them to prepare them to work on the movie and also testing their patience. Over those workshops, we just would lose kids because they didn’t the focus.
During the filming, we could only get the kids for four days and five hours each day. There also had to be a break in between those hours. Between nine and ten in the morning was when their focus was the best. They’ve woken up and had something to eat but they hadn’t been distracted yet by a lot. After that, we would gradually lose their attention. At the start of every day, we needed to be ready for that hour’s timeslot and just get everything that we wanted for them in that hour.
LV: Your son is in this movie as a zombie. Are you in it as well just like in your previous film Down Under?
AF: Oh no way! The only reason why I was an extra in my previous film is that it was a scene involving someone that never acted before. He has down syndrome and is also in Little Monsters. During one of the key scenes in Down Under, someone has to abuse this down syndrome character. The only reason why I put myself in that scene was that it would make him feel better as it was only his second day on set. As supposed to some stranger who you just met and who has to abuse you right after that. It was more out of necessity and I would never do it again.
LV: Let’s say that if your son comes to you in ten years or so and mentioned that he wants to be a filmmaker. What would you say to him?
AF: I had very supportive parents and were very encouraging me to become a filmmaker. I would be happy for my son to do whatever his passion takes him to. If you want to work in the film or entertainment industry, you have to be prepared for work long hours and also being broke. I’m trying to get my son into coding because he’s very interested in that. I always tell him that that’s going to be the future. I’m trying to push him into that area but at the same time, you also have to let them do whatever they want to do.
LV: So where did your passion for the film come from?
AF: Especially from the early Peter Jackson films and his Bad Taste. Basically everything before Lord of the Rings. I was like “That’s what I want to do”. It became an interest and now I don’t want to do anything else. As hard as the film industry is, it’s so much fun to get people together to work on something and to have a common goal. It’s working on projects that you’re passionate about instead of just doing it for the money.
LV: So how does it feel for you to see people their reaction after they watched your film?
AF: It just feels amazing! I was very proud of the last film I made because it was the exact kind of film I wanted to make. Even when you make something that you do believe in and you’re proud of, it’s still luck of the draw. To be able to travel around the world and share your film with people is just an amazing experience.
The fact that people are responding in their way to the universal things that my son taught me is just been wonderful. The point of making this movie was to show the best and the worst of human behaviour. I couldn’t show one without the other. Ultimately it’s a really sweet movie. I’m so very lucky to be in this position and I never take it for granted.
LV: Do you already have other films coming up?
AF: Yeah, I’m doing something that we will hopefully start shooting next year in Australia. It’s a sci-fi film but with characters that shouldn’t be in a sci-fi film. We use that genre to make a statement about how the world is right now. We have a bigger budget for that than we had for Little Monsters.
Following the success of “I, Daniel Blake”, director, Ken Loach and writer, Paul Laverty team up once again for their latest film. We joined them and the rest of the cast and crew at the UK Premiere of Sorry We Missed You.
The film, starring Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor, tells the story of Ricky and his family who have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver.
Sorry We Missed You will be released in UK cinemas 1st November.
Are you familiar with the Ann Freedman case, the $80 million forgery scandal that shook the art world? No? Well, then you should check out Driven to Abstraction the first chance you get. We sat down with director Daria Price and talked about this incredibly fascinating case, her new documentary, the art world and Price’s her love for the film industry.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Daria, welcome at the Raindance Film Festival. How do you feel about your film being screened here at the lovely festival?
Daria Price (Director): It’s very hard to know at festivals whether people will come to see it or not. I know a certain amount of people who are coming. I tried to get the word out to everyone. It’s very hard to do that when living in New York. I was trying to get the word out to art galleries and to places of which I thought they would be interested in seeing this film. I hope some strangers will come as well. One of the composers of the film just flew in from Padua and I have a few other friends coming as well. One of the participants in the film is going to be there as well.
LV: How did you become aware of the Ann Freedman case?
DP: Well, I’ve read an article in the New York Times from Patricia, who becomes one of the main characters in the film. I’ve always followed art forgery cases. I wrote a screenplay many years ago. One of the characters was a restoration expert and the two others were painters of which one of them was a bit of a forger. I had done an enormous amount of research because of that and it was like I already knew a whole lot about forgery. My eyes always fell on articles regarding art forgery and so I started to read multiple of those.
I always clipped articles. Something that my whole family does. I thought the story of Ann Freedman became a crazier and crazier story but it was a very difficult story to figure out how you would get into it. There’s always that “is she guilty or not guilty?” question. More than that, it was such an embarrassment for people in the art world, including completely innocent people. That’s what’s interesting about this case. Whether they were consciously tricked or whether it was just a sort of conspiracy. I became more and more interested in it and the story didn’t make a whole lot of sense in some ways. Then you find out that it wasn’t only Knoedler but also more of esteemed art galleries.
LV: As you said, some people didn’t want to participate in this film. Who was the first person you contacted that said yes to this?
DP: I’ve already been collecting for a couple of years articles about this case and then I started to do my own research so I could find out everything about it. Any filmmaker I knew said, “Do not make this film. It’s a great and fascinating story but you just can’t make it because everyone is going to run away if this would be true“. I went to speak with Patricia from the New York Times, who dug into the story and knew a lot about it, and when she agreed to participate that’s when I went “Ok, I should make this”. At least, it meant that I had a way in.
LV: In this film, we also see Ann Freedman’s attorney. How was he?
DP: It took a long time to get him. It wasn’t like he said not but he just wasn’t available. He’s a very busy and successful lawyer. When I interviewed with him, he became the spokesman of that side of the story. I think he did a very good job. Lawyers tell the story that they want the world to believe. Many things didn’t end up in the film. We could have easily made another film about how an attorney can spin a story. He did have an answer for everything.
LV: People told you “maybe you shouldn’t make this film“?…
DP: Well not because they think it wasn’t a good idea but they just thought that it was impossible to make. Raising money for a documentary and getting access to the right people is a very hard thing to do. I wasn’t going to get access to some people because they were under indictment. Ann Freedman was another story because she was under a lot of legal threats and she ultimately didn’t want to go on camera.
LV: Were there any moments you thought “Ok, maybe thee’s people are right. Maybe I can’t make this movie”?
DP: I think as a filmmaker you always have those moments. You’re going “what on earth am I doing?”. The work kept going on forever and I was going broke. I tend to finish things I started. It’s maybe insane. I think that there were people that were kind of glad that I was making this film. Those people weren’t guilty of anything but they’ve been to Ann while her (fake) painting was sitting there. It wasn’t their job to say “hey, is that a real one?”. That’s not what happens in an art gallery. You’re sitting in Knoedler and so you’re not questioning whether something is real or not. Some people like it that I was making this film but they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to participate. It wasn’t going to them any good. It wasn’t also that they were so heroic that they were going to do it for history. I think in the end I got interesting people to talk about interesting situations.
LV: Before making this documentary, you were already collecting articles about this case. While filming this documentary, what was the biggest surprise for you regarding the case? What was something you didn’t know beforehand?
DP: As I started to interview people who also knew other things, I was learning more and more about it. Why wasn’t it so unusual that these art experts would not raise a red flag. Some of them did so it would be wrong that say that they never did it. People don’t buy houses for 15 million dollars without having a lawyer coming around and checking it out. These collectors were buying paintings for millions of dollars. A painting that has no papers attached to them. Anonymity is what every buyer wants and then sadly they pay the price for it. They would have that people don’t know that they just bought a fake painting for a lot of money. What happens then is that no one’s talking about that topic.
I think the biggest surprise was this whole thing with Ramiro Gonzales. She wasn’t even someone I was trying to get because she was under a lot of indictment. She wasn’t going to go on camera. She was sort of the least ambiguous character because she had admitted guilt. Then it turned out that she has been beaten up by her boyfriend. Things like that do change your attitude towards her. At first, people were angry at her because they thought that she had ruined the art world but eventually she was just another woman abused by her husband.
LV: This documentary now premiered at Raindance. Are you going to take it to other film festivals after this one?
DP: Yes, it goes to the Haifa International Film Festival in Israel and then we’re taking it to upstate New York to the Film Columbia festival. In November, it will be screened at the Fort Lauderdale Int Film Festival.
LV: Do you have any paintings from famous artists yourself?
DP: No, but I do have a lot of friends who are painters. A lot of the paintings that are in the background of the interviews in this documentary were made by my friends. There’s a certain look that a lot of documentaries have now and it’s a very beautiful look and very sophisticated but sometimes I have the feeling that where the interviews are being taken place has nothing to do with the documentary they’re making.
I wanted to give the people the feeling that they were always in the world of art. Not necessary in the world of the masters in the art industry because those paintings might have been fakes anyway. I wanted to put authentic work painted by contemporary working artists as the background of those interviews. You will get the feeling that you’re always surrounded by paintings and art. For me, it was really about creating the environment.
LV: Do you already have other projects coming up?
DP: I have other ideas. Making this documentary and promoting it is so time-consuming. After spending a lot of time making a film, you’re becoming your sales-person. You’re doing the festivals and you’re trying to find a distributor. I have no time to start making another project.
(This interview was written as part of Big Picture Film Club’s coverage of the Raindance Film Festival 2019)
Hilda, the newest film from writer/director Rishi Pelham, recently got its premiere at The Raindance Film Festival. The movie is an incredibly emotional, moving and relatable story about a teenage girl going through a rough phase in her life. We were able to speak with Pelham himself and with leading ladies, Megan Purvis and Yasmin Al-Khudhairi.
Liselotte Vanophem: Welcome to the Raindance Film Festival. Excited to be here?
Rishi Pelham (writer/director): Yes, but also nervous at the same time. It’s our first time here at the festival and this is also a debut film for a lot of people in front but also behind the camera. It’s the first time that we show this movie to an audience, so it will be interesting to see how they will react. The nerves are always slightly high when things like this happen.
LV: Where did the idea for the story come from?
RP: It’s a weird thing. I was on the tube on one point and it was rush hour. There was a line of these people in business suits who all had a horrible expression on their faces. There also was a young schoolgirl who looked like she didn’t have fewer problems than any other person on that train. However, she had her headphones plugged in and it sounded like there was metal music coming out and she was just dancing along on her seat. All she needed was the music and her imagination. I couldn’t get that image out of my head for a very long time. Somehow the story for this film evolved from that.
LV: It’s a very emotional story. How did you prepare for a role like that?
Megan Purvis (“Hilda”): We did a lot of build-up as a team before filming. We had loads of workshops and improv sessions in character. We were also getting to know everybody, so then when we arrived on set and when we were doing the emotional scenes, we just played them as a character rather than thinking like “Ok, now this line and then that line”. It was more being in the moment and seeing what that character would do in certain situations. The preparations we did months before shooting, which was also the first time I’ve ever done those, was great because most of the time you don’t get that process. I think it really paid off in this film and especially in the friendship between Hilda and Ayala.
LV: Was this also how you experienced it, Yasmin?
Yasmin Al-Khudhairi (“Ayala”): Yes exactly like that. For me, it was the backstory of my character that was the main methodology that we used. That was new to me as well. We could have made a whole new film with all the backstory for my character that I got. When I was reading the lines, I wasn’t focussing too much on the lines but just wanted to get all the emotions coming out. I had all of that backstory information, and for me, it was all about how my character would feel about Hilda and the relationships she has.
LV: Does that backstory help with processing the verbal abuse in the film and not to take all the [characters] words personally?
YA: Yes definitely. Sometimes it’s hard to separate things and I remember that when we finished a scene that I wasn’t in the same mindset as before for a few moments after that. I guess that’s when I knew whether I did a scene right or not. If I didn’t get the feeling after a scene then I felt like I had to do the scene again. When I felt that I was still angry or upset just like my character for a long time after the scene, I knew that we got it right.
MP: When I felt like I had nothing more to give, I knew that I did Hilda justice. That’s when I felt like I was satisfied. Luckily for me, I’ve never been through the experiences that Hilda has been going through but being in that moment and playing in that way allowed me to let those emotions go when we were offset. They didn’t linger for too long, for me that was nice. It was weird because we worked with a lot of music, especially for Hilda’s scenes, and I kind of adopted that as an actor. The music became the escape or how I got into her mindset. Rishi gave me Hilda’s iPod and we listened to it. All those things were something I took on board as an actress. It was the music that would take me in or take me out off. That was a big help for me for these emotional scenes.
LV: How was it for you to see your story come to life every day on set and then to see the finished film?
RP: It felt weird actually. It was a privilege working with these two actresses and also with the other cast and crew. It was a strange thing. We worked on this film for three years. Mainly due to the lack of funds or how long it took to finally being able to shoot the movie. There was also a lot of time during the workshops.
We wanted to throw the audience right from the beginning into the action, into that metal club. At that moment, Hilda is already at a certain threshold in her life. We wanted to spend time to understand how all characters would be feeling at that same moment. There were certain times during the shoot where, after I’ve written something, I didn’t know if it came from certain memories or my subconscious. I would be looking at it afterwards with assistant director Michael Honnah (The Yellow Wallpaper) and then I would remember where that idea for that scene came from.
closer together as a team while we were working on this project and we all
reached pushed each other the give the best of ourselves.
LV: So you, Yasmin and Rishi, knew each other before making this movie?
YA: Yes, indeed. We’ve known each other since university. I auditioned for one of his plays at university and that’s how we became friends. A lot of people on the team were friends of Manchester University and that was very nice to have. Then Meg came in and at first, she was like “Oh, you’re all friends” but then she auditioned and we became friends as well.
RP: During the auditions, I wanted to cast the main cast first before finding the rest of the crew. Especially the roles for Hilda and Ayala. We didn’t have any money to rent out some audition space so we found a tortilla restaurant and we were inviting actors to come to that restaurant and to do their audition next to the kitchen. I think that might have turned a lot of people away when they saw the context of how we would do our auditions. Megan came in and she just gave a performance that got us locked in. As a result of that, I think we became close friends as well. I think that’s how we all came to know each other.
LV: Was it one of the scenes you had to do in that restaurant?
MP: The first one we did was one that isn’t in the film. It was one where I was in a club and dancing. The second scene was one that I didn’t see before the audition. It was a surprise one and it was the one in the film in which my baby brother is being given water by Ayala and my character gets rather upset with that. I like to have my lines in advance and I like to know them beforehand so that I can forget them during the scenes. When I was being handed the script during the audition, I was like “Oh my god” but I was trying to pretend that I was cool with it. When we were doing it, I noticed that it was quite wordy and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to remember it. I literally threw the script away and just went for it like that. I was thinking about what would be said in a scene like that. Michael was playing the role of Ayala during my audition and I just threw words at him.
When Rishi gave me the script, and I read it, although I’ve never been through what the character was going through, I could see her. I knew what she was thinking. When he gave me that script during my audition, I just put it aside because I knew what she was going through and what she was thinking. I remember that there were a few high fives after my audition and it felt like it was the best audition I’ve ever given.
LV: What was the first scene you (Megan and Yasmin) had to do together?
RP: Well, they met for the first time when they were in character.
MP: It wasn’t during a scene. It was during one of those workshops.
RP: But they didn’t speak to each other then.
MP: No, true. I didn’t know what Yasmin looked like. I was in Manchester and I had never been to Manchester before. Rishi would be like “Ok, she’s standing next to the supermarket at the corner”. I was like “Ok, am I going to greet someone randomly?”. Obviously, I could see where they were filming the workshops and so I thought “Ok, yeah it must be the girl standing in front of the camera”. That’s where we did our first improv.
RP: That workshop went on for about five hours. We ended up in a Jazz club and did Hilda her night out during which the girls discover their love for dance and music. That’s what we wanted to create during that first workshop. We started at that street corner, went to the club and ended up in the park where we played our music.
MP: In terms of filming on set, we did most of it chronologically. I think the first one was the sneaking out of the bedroom one.
LV: Who created the dance routines you have to do in this movie?
RP: That was Justyna (Szymanska) from Manchester. Apart from being a dancer, she’s also studying for her Maths degree. Michael sent me a video of Justyna performing and we’d seen a lot of fantastic dancers around that period and they were always trying to make the dance look very impressive and all about the show. Justyna is one of the best dancers I’ve seen in my life and she was the only person who understood that this wasn’t a dance film and that it wasn’t about the best dancer in the world. It was about someone who just loves dance and was trying to find her style. Justyna took that on and worked tirelessly while also getting a degree in Maths and doing her dance projects. She worked very hard on this film. Megan also had to work incredibly hard to embody these crazy routines Justyna came up with. Justyna really was the brains behind how Hilda expresses herself through dance. Hilda is a character that isn’t very good at talking to people and who can’t vocalize things. Somehow, when the music is playing and when she’s able to dance, she knows how to express her emotions. Without her, this film wouldn’t be what it is today.
YA: The moment where I had the feeling that I understood my character is when I did a workshop with Justyna. It was just a moving workshop and was all about the movements and music. Justyna was doing these different workshops with me and made me understand that’s not all about Hilda and that Ayala also has her own life as well. Ayala isn’t just someone on the sideline. Thanks to those workshops I was able to come to terms with who my character was and how she moved. After that, I found it all so much easier.
LV: Will Hilda have further screenings after its Premiere at Raindance?
RP: Of course we would love for this film to reach as many people as possible. The feedback that we got is that this film is very relatable for people, even if they’re not going through the same difficult time as Hilda. We do believe that the film could have the potential to do that. What we’re going to try to do is, hopefully, have a good festival run with this film and get it seen by as many people as possible. Getting people speaking about it.
LV: What’s next for you guys after this?
RP: When working on this film, someone said to me that before I go to the festivals with this film, that I had to know the next projects I would be working on. This film is the first one of the production company that I and Tomos Roberts founded. We’ve always helped each other during various projects. Sometimes I had to do lighting for a play that he was doing or then he might need to be a gaffer for a play that I was doing. We filled in each other’s roles. Tom did an incredible job producing this film but he also has other projects of his own. I’m thinking about some other projects myself and starting to write my next feature.
YA: For me, it’s just auditioning. I’m quite new to the acting game so I hope this might open some opportunities for me. I’m hoping just to focus on acting soon and do whatever I’m trying to get into. On the lookout for new and interesting roles. Ones that are a bit different and in which I can play the character in the way that other people might not play it.
MJ: I’ve got a couple of films coming out so I’m going to see how those go. I’m waiting to hear back from some auditions. I’m really hoping that this festival will open some doors for us and for people to see what we can create and to see our talent. We can take on projects that we want to do because we want to dedicate our lives to being in the film industry. We’re hoping that Raindance really will help us do that. It’s a festival that celebrates independent filmmaking and it really does do that. We’re excited to get our film and our talent out there and show the world what we can do.
“People who gaslight tend to use psychological manipulation to make you believe their reality.”
Written by and starring actor Tatjana Anders and directed by Top Tarasin, the short film explores the use of gaslighting within a relationship. The film follows Alicia (played by Tatjana Anders) who meets Mark (played by Kyle James) at a coffee shop after he kindly offers to pay for her coffees. On their first date, we see a glimpse of Mark’s manipulating ways when he insists she was late. His behaviour quickly escalates to controlling her, isolating her from her friends and we begin to see how subtle the control and manipulation can be.
It was writer and actor, Tatjana Anders’ mission to raise awareness on the topic of gaslighting after having read an article, it clicked that a friend of hers had experienced something similar and she did not know what it was until she saw the term existed.
Tatjana explains she read books and talked to therapists about the topic which helped shaped the story. A crowdfunding campaign to raise funding became an awareness campaign when unexpectedly she began receiving messages from people who shared similar experiences.
The short doesn’t allow us to explore the many layers to this topic but does builds the characters and is set up in a way that could very well see it as a full-length feature which is exactly what the plan is for Tatjana.
What’s the main thing she wants people to take away from this? “Sharing the message – provoke people to ask questions – what’s the cause? Do I know someone who has experienced this? Have I experienced something like this?”
When director Top Tarasin first read the script he thought it was great.
“It broke the format in that it doesn’t feel like a short film. All the elements in a short usually lead to one point like a gimmick or punchline, whereas this was atmospheric, it felt like we were in the middle of a feature, it took it’s time.”
-Top Tarasin, Director
Interpreting the topic for the big screen had its challenges, Top had to limit what he wanted to say, “there are so many angles to explore – abuser, the people around the situation. We needed to focus on one thing – the perspective of the victim, everything had to enforce that perspective and this, in turn, informed the visual language. The choices we made were made from one perspective.”
Not a topical director, Top is more into universal themes: humans, love, revenge. The topic of gaslighting was different to his usual work, it’s very specific and the focus was the humanity of it, which was a person suffering.
He adds his own perspective of the topic to the film: “the profound sorrow that comes with the loss of time: how did I get here? This is what I wanted to inject into the film.”
Your Reality will be released online in September.
Big Picture Film Club recently held its latest Big Picture Talks event featuring none other than investigative journalists, Ben Zand ( BBC’s World’s Most Dangerous Cities) & Seyi Rhodes (Channel 4’s Unreported World).
You can watch parts 1-7 of the event where both of our guests discussed a variety of topics, from their biggest challenges to ethics when making a documentary.