Matthew Heineman has made a name for himself over the past few years hawking visceral documentaries in some of the world’s most harrowing war zones. In 2015, he brought Cartel Land to the screen, a story about drug smuggling and vigilantism that put the documentary filmmaker in the midst of fire fights and in the bellies of meth labs and torture chambers. He’s since set his sights on ISIS and a group called RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughter Silently), a guerrilla band of civilian journalists committed to exposing the horrors that have taken place since ISIS seized their hometown and made it into their de-facto capital. City of Ghosts follows the members of RBSS as they flee the omnipresent threat of ISIS, contend with the reality of their family’s being tortured and killed and still continue to do all they can to rally support against the terrorist organization dead set on dismantling everything they care about. Read More
The Artist was an unprecedented film. Movies don’t come in black and white anymore. And no one would think to make a silent black-and-white film in 2010.
When you chat with the brains behind the film, it makes sense. These are incredibly French, reserved folk who speak in hushed tones. I’ve spent a lot of time in France (my Grandma lives in Paris) and I’ve grown up all around their culture. For me, Paris is the Seattle of Europe: people are a little cold and abrasive, but witty and intelligent. The French tend to keep to themselves, but they’re warm at heart.
Michel Hazanavicius and Berenice Bejo started collaborating back in 2006 when she starred in Michel’s OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies alongside Jean Dujardin. Since then, they’ve made three more films together and along the way won plenty of awards for their 2011 silent black-and-white The Artist — including Oscars for Best Feature and Best Director for Michel. Both are incredibly talented, humble, quiet and fairly unflappable — Michel wasn’t impressed at all when I told him that he went to school just 20 kilometers from my Grandma’s apartment. They’re married with two kids and the fame doesn’t seem to have gotten to their heads. I got a chance to chat with them both (in French) at SIFF Cinema about their lives after the Oscars, their upcoming film The Search (a remake of the 1948 movie about war-torn Chechnya), and their filmmaking progress.
Q: First off, how have your lives changed since The Artist?
Berenice Bejo: Well, it certainly helps assure producers and directors, so there are more offers for projects. Of course, when you make a successful film, you become more ‘bankable.’
Michel Hazanavicius: Like she said, people — financiers — trust us more, so we’re a little freer to make films that aren’t necessarily block-busters. Certain people like you better than they did before and some less, but in our day-to-day lives nothing has really changed. [Winning awards] doesn’t give you talent, things don’t get any easier.
Q: But things must be at least a little easier…
MH: People trust you more, yeah.
Q: Is that why you both took on the challenge of making The Search?
Q: So why did you choose to do this film over maybe something else?
MH: Well it’s a true story that took place close to [France], in Chechnya. 300,000 people were killed from all across the continent. I wanted to do something, I wasn’t exactly sure how or what, but voilá, it’s a movie that’s enormously impossible to make and it’s really the Oscar that made it possible for it to be right cinematographically. Ultimately, I was just really interested in this film.
Q: Bérénice, how was it making The Search?
BB: For me, as an actress, to make an engaging film with a point-of-view that involves tragic events that are relatively recent, I think it’s a great thing to be involved with. As someone who has the potential to help people other than just themselves, I was happy to make this film along with Michel.
Q: Do you guys like working together?
MH: [laughs] Absolutely.
Q: What about Jean Dujardin, was there not a role for him in the film?
MH: Jean is immensely talented and I’d always love to have him in any movie I make. At the same time, we’ve worked on four projects together: two OSS 117 movies, The Artist and a recent project called The Players. I think it’s always good to diversify who you work with and what you’re working on.
Q: I remember the first time I saw OSS 117 was with my Grandma in Paris. It’s really interesting because — well, to be honest —I hadn’t seen The Artist until I heard we’d be doing the interview. I never would have made the connection that you both were involved in the two films. OSS, The Artist, and now The Search are such different movies with different themes. Why have you chosen to make such a broad range of films?
MH: Well, some nights you want to eat chicken, others you might be craving fish. For me, with films it’s the same way. I love comedy. I think it’s a really, really noble genre and I’ll certainly make more comedies in the future. But, I also have other desires. Just because you want to eat chicken one night doesn’t mean you want it for dinner every night. I’m lucky enough to be able to follow my various passions.
Q: Bérénice is it different as an actress?
BB: There are different rules in every genre. When you make a comedy, I think there’s a rhythm to it that’s vastly different from when you’re acting in a realist war film. There are slight differences, but the principal is always the same: to understand your character. You have to be subtle — you don’t want to try too hard to be funny to make people laugh when you’re making a comedy, and you don’t want to cry or try to make your audience cry when you’re making a drama. The most important thing is to just be the character, and if you do the job right people will laugh or cry.
Just like Michel, I like to watch comedies and movies that are a little more dramatic, and I really enjoy the opportunity to make both instead of just being categorized as an actress that only works in certain types of films.
Q: Do you guys ever want to try swapping roles: Michel working as an actor and Bérénice as a director?
BB: No, no.
MH: I’ve been an actor on two different occasions recently, working for friends in some small roles. It was fun but to work as an actor you have to be really invested in it. I’ve done it but it wasn’t serious. It’s not something I would want to do full-time.
Q: Michel, I’ve watched some of your interviews and I’ve noticed — primarily when you’re interviewed in English — that you like to say that certain aspects involving a film aren’t “your job.” As a Director, what is your job, what’s your goal in your work?
MH: As a director, my job is to be the writer and to direct. Beyond that, I think my goal is to tell stories and to be in charge so that everyone who is working to tell this story tells it the same way. My work is kind of as “decorator.” I make sure the cinematographer and the musician are on the same page, and the actors and the crew all work together so that everyone can do their job. It’s almost like an orchestra, where everyone has to play together. Everyone has to have the same tempo.
Q: I haven’t seen The Search yet, but at least in the trailer it seems that a large part of the film is in English. The Artist was acted in English as well. Why choose English over your native French?
MH: In fact it’s for the realism of the story and the characters. The Artist takes place in a specific time period, the 1920’s, and I realized that there were certain words that were universally familiar and the audience could recognize in English. In French, it’s not the same. We chose English over French because it was best for the image, for the film. You can’t have a character in America who’s speaking French.
In The Search, she speaks English and French equally, because English is the international language. When you’re working with Italians or Danes or Spaniards or Russians, everyone speaks English, but it’s an international English: not an American English or a British one. It’s an English everyone can understand.
Q: I want to be like Ben Affleck: I want to act, I want to write, I want to direct — I’m just not pretty enough. But it’s really hard to go from pre-production and the idea you have in your mind to actually making it, and then to come out with a finished product that is like what you originally intended. What’s your process, either as an actress like Bérénice or a writer/director like you, Michel, and how do you put all the pieces together?
MH: To start off, it has to come from the desire to film something. There has to be a spark, an idea that makes you think “wow, I really need to make this.” After all, the process is to direct everything to a common point where the intuition you had originally can be realized.
Writing’s hard because everything is possible when you write. Writing doesn’t cost anything, you just need a pen and paper and you can come up with any idea you want. Then, you’ve got to raise money, cast, hire crew, get equipment, find producers, voilá. That part is far more rigorous, and you have to be sure that everything you’re trying to do is possible and not too out there or impossible to make. At the same time, you have to work at a level where you’re not asking too much from the audience. You have to take your idea and craft a film that’s realistic, that’s watchable.
Acting’s different, because it’s not the way I express myself. What’s nice with Bérénice is that we’re working together from the start and we’re crafting the idea together, so the process is at least somewhat easier.
Q: Last question: who’s the real ‘artist’? Is it Jean Dujardin’s character or is it you Michel?
MH: It’s the character. I didn’t come up with the title, the producers did. It worked well with the film because it’s a silent black-and-white film so it’s got an “artsy” side. For me the idea of being an artist or not being an artist doesn’t really come up. I consider myself a writer and a director and I have a pretty artisanal view of this type of work. I don’t perform. Actors perform. The Artist kind of represents all of us, but if it had to be Jean then it would be just as much Jean as Bérénice.
A little bit uncomfortable in his armchair and quite obviously neurotic, Charlie McDowell may have been overshadowed by Mark Duplass, the star of his film The One I Love, but there was something to Duplass’ confidence in the man that made him stand taller, that made his shoulders broaden. For a first time director, working with established talent like Duplass, Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Ted Danson is not always an easy task, especially for a piece as minimalist and ambitious as The One I Love and yet McDowell managed to massage all the limited resources at his command to his complete and total advantage, delivering one of the most surprise hits of the year.
I spoke with Charlie about working with Mark and Elizabeth and how their confidence in him kept things running smooth. And though our conversation was brief, it gave a glimpse into the mind of a might-be auteur filmmaker. One thing is clear, The One I Love is a must-see and I can’t wait to see what he delivers next.
Charlie, I really like the minimalism that you work with on this set. You’re really only working with two people. Danson’s got a scene but it’s all about Mark and Elizabeth. Did you end up running into any issues where you were like, “Wow, this is actually a lot more challenging just working with only these two people?”
Charlie McDowell: I think we really thought about that before making the movie, so it wasn’t something where we got on set are were like, “Shit…” But it was a mixture of a bunch of things. A lot of discussions between Mark and Lizzy about character stuff and sort of where they go and how they arc. And then for me, the visual side to it, the property, I sort of viewed as its own character and really treated it that way. I made sure I had a visual plan of how this film arced visually. It was always a concern of how do we keep the audience’s attention and keep them moving forward and trying to figure out what’s going on. As long as we were all aware of that in the plotting standpoint and the character standpoint then we felt pretty good about where we were going with it.
When you were doing scenes that involve two Marks or two Elizabeths, were you shooting that with extras and then you would go in and fill it in?
CM: [Redacted] … For a fairly low-budget movie we had a shit-ton of effects.
Tell me what it was like working with the both Elizabeth and Mark?
CM: We were incredibly lucky to have Lizzy, especially for me as a first-time director. To have both Lizzy and Mark as two of the most collaborative, giving people, I was just so lucky and blessed to have them as my team. Specifically Lizzy, it was really funny— she was down to play games and have fun with the crew and laugh— and then the second I yelled “Action” it was like- [claps] – snapped right into the character. It was almost sort of jarring for me because, I almost wasn’t prepared. I couldn’t snap in as a director quick enough. We were laughing and joking and then we were rolling and “Action” and just zones in and those big blue eyes. “Oh my god.” She’s been doing it for a while and she just has that organic, natural, God-given talent.
I made no secret of my admiration for director Richard Linklater. Over the course of 25 years, the self-taught auteur has been responsible for some of the finest, most human pieces of film to grace the silver screen. From his hauntingly perfect Before series to his most recent – and most ambitious – masterpiece Boyhood, Linklater is not a guy who plays by the rules. Where traditional films zig, Linklater zags. Read More
Bold move Mr. Steven Knight, bold move. Making a movie that takes place entirely in one car over a series of blue-tooth enabled phone calls doesn’t exactly pop out as exciting but it does lay the groundwork for a phenomenally restrained performance courtesy of Tom Hardy while showing an avant-garde approach to what cinema can be. Even though I didn’t find myself completely bowled over by Locke, I appreciate how off-the-cuff Knight’s film was – an ode to the everyman forced to reckon with real life decisions. Maybe it was the early morn of a Sundance 8 AM screening that found me drifting in and out of interest but I was always captivated by Hardy’s turn. Talking with Steven did imbue a further appreciation of the film as his earnest sincerity and boldly esoteric approach certainly makes the film different, if not entirely enticing.
Join me as we talk about Tom Hardy being the best living actor (in his opinion), the allure of the open road, Eastern Promises 2, being a writer versus being a director, and, well, cement.
In the production notes I read something that said that from the inception of the film you thought of it as more of an installation piece that you’d see at an art gallery than a film in itself. Now, having completed the film, would you say that that ideology also reflects your thoughts on the final product?
Steven Knight: Yeah, I’m sure you’ve read that we camera tested film before, and we shot from moving vehicles just to test the sensitivity of the cameras and I thought it was very hypnotic and beautiful. But then I thought that we’d turn that into a theater and have an actor in there and shoot a play with that background, all the time not worrying about the continuity of the real motorway. I wanted there to be Tom in his bubble of life trying to make everything rational and fixed and solid and around him is just this swirl of life that can’t be controlled. I said to the director/photographer in the beginning that I hoped that it would also be possible to turn the sound down and just look at it and wonder what it is; do you know what I mean? I think we achieved that; I mean Harris achieved that. He’s the DP and he worked wonders on how the thing looks.
You said that he was actually doing all of the driving. Were there ever any situations where there was maybe any kind of problems on the road?
SK: I think we did six nights where the car was on the low down flatbed truck, wheels off strapped to it. Two nights we took the back seats out of the car and the cameras were in the back and that’s when Tom was driving for real. I think there was one occasion when he got a little bit…because we had a sort of a convoy and we were taking an exit and it went a bit wrong.
When you’re doing something like that, are all the other cars on the road hired guns?
SK: No, this was real stuff. It was quite late at night so we weren’t gonna hit traffic jams but it was sort of between 10pm and 4 am.
I also read that Tom signed on for this over drinks with you before there was a script, basically right in the very fledgling stages of the project. What did you say to him to get him to sign up?
SK: I told him the story of the moving images and shooting it in a particular way and also saying that I wanted someone to play the most ordinary man in the world. That was the original concept. He’s a rational ordinary man, married with two kids and nothing is out of the ordinary. As he said himself, he’d never played a straight role before. He’s always been monsters or crazy men. This was the total opposite, which intrigued him as well. We were talking about doing other projects and I mentioned this in November, wrote it over Christmas, and we shot it February.
What was your approach to directing him in this? Working with only the one actor, aside from the various voices through the phone, I would be led to assume that you have to be quite an actor’s director. Would you describe yourself in that way?
SK: I’m definitely primarily almost exclusively interested in capturing a performance which is why we wanted to shoot it the way we shot it, which is beginning to end with as few breaks as possible. I think actors thrive when they can calibrate their own performance instead of stopping and doing takes. The conventional way is to turn up one morning and you have one scene you have to get done that day. With this, you’re shooting the whole thing, you know you’re gonna get it wrong somewhere different tomorrow and you’re gonna get it right somewhere different tomorrow. You can play around a little bit more and be a bit more free. That’s the thing that I’m most interested in, getting the performance on the screen. I hope that there is an audience for that, where they just want to see the performance.
So I know that in Spike Jones’ ‘Her’ for instance, when they were doing the voices of what ended up being Scarlett Johansson’s character, at first it was Spike Jonze doing it then they had Samantha Morten doing it and then they went finally to Scarlet Johansson. When you were filming your scenes was it always with the voice actor on the other line?
SK: Absolutely. All the calls were for real because we had a phone line from the conference room where they were into the car. So Tom would take the call and the conversation would begin because I didn’t want to change any of the actors. I think people can tell whether it’s subliminal or not and people can tell if it’s not real.
Did you require them to be on set, or rather, where were they calling from?
SK: They were in a conference room in a not very good hotel near to the motorway with red wine and biscuits from 9pm to 4am every day. They would be there on call and obviously they’d be hanging around a bit and then they’d come and do their calls, would stop to have a breather, and then we’d shoot the whole thing again. We tried to shoot it twice at night.
So I know this was filmed over a very abbreviated period of time and yet Ivan (Hardy) pretty much spent the entirety in this one car-bound scene. How many of the shooting hours did Tom Hardy actually have to sit there scrunched in?
SK: Almost all of them! Without him there was nothing to shoot so he was there about 100 hours.
Did he ever get cramped up?
SK: Well there’s a couple of things. First of all he’s an actor that’s prepared to physically put in the performance that’s right. Also when you’ve got a short shooting period people bring absolute enthusiasm and energy to it because they know it’s going to be over soon. Even if you get no sleep, people are completely full-on for that period and I think that shows on the screen.
At one point I read that the reason you sought Tom Hardy out was that, in your opinion, he’s the best actor working today. Which performances in general made you feel like that?
SK: Inception was the one that got me, the reason being that he walks into that film with lots of brilliant actors around him and takes it over.
I remember watching Inception and going, “Oh who is that guy!?” as if you’d known him forever and yet he was totally new on the scene. I thought that was extraordinary. Speaking of extraordinary, you just said that this is a film about an ordinary man living an ordinary life and the circumstances he’s put in are not extraordinary but they have extraordinary significance in his life. Now, did you feel that there was a slight possibility of maybe alienating an audience who do expect the extraordinary in movies?
SK: The point of making the film was to say we’re not gonna point the camera at kidnap or murder. We’re gonna point it at an ordinary man who has this night journey that changes his life and hope that the audience that sees it sees elements of themselves and their own lives in it where they wouldn’t in a fantastic Jason Bourne movie; no one feels themselves to be Jason Bourne but I think people can identify with Ivan Locke. The reaction we’ve been getting which I find the most heartening is that when the lights go up it’s often the people who’ve been dragged to the cinema, who didn’t wanna go. They have seen something of their own life in it. They’ve forgotten that it’s an experimental way of making a film and they’re now engaged with the story and with the characters so I think that vindicates the method of doing it this way and not choosing some dramatic events.
Sure, can you talk about some of the risks of making a film that is about ordinary events?
SK: Yeah, there are many risks and it’s almost deliberate to pile on the risk because he’s an ordinary man, there are no car chases, he works with concrete, you know, he’s got a beard, and he’s got a knitted jumper, and he’s not an action hero. It’s almost saying to an audience, “that’s what it is on paper but come and have a look and you’ll be surprised”. People who’ve seen it say that very thing. They say, “When I came in I thought one thing but now I realize it’s something totally different”. It’s very difficult to convey and the only way to do it is by going and seeing it.
You just brought up that he’s a foreman at a cement factory. I read briefly about the symbology behind concrete representing building a foundation and the significance of getting the pour right the first time. Can you talk in a little more detail about that symbology?
SK: First of all an ordinary man can have a very dramatic day in their work. Lots of people who do lots of different sorts of jobs actually have high drama in their work, which is not reflected usually in films. I worked briefly on building sites when I was younger and the arrival of concrete is a big deal that day. The foreman’s job is on the line, Millions of dollars are on the line, and you have to get it right. You don’t get a second chance, it has to be poured. It also was great for me because it sort of represents Ivan Locke’s approach to life: It’s concrete, it’s solid, and it’s hard. You shape it and you make it right. You don’t make mistakes because if you do make a mistake the whole thing is gonna collapse and that is so perfect for Ivan’s Life. He has a very concrete solid life but he’s made a mistake. The cracks in the film… we’re watching the cracks of his.
I like that. So obviously you’ve had a bit of a parabolic rise as a writer and then director, ’cause the last couple movies you’ve done you’ve been directing, and yet scoping out the page you have on IMDB, I don’t see any further directing credits pop up immediately.
SK: I’ve been doing my day job which is writing. There are a couple of my films that are coming out.
It makes me wonder, as having directed now, is that something that you’re maybe shying away from? Or have you just whetted your interest?
SK: I’m hoping to shoot the next one in January with hopefully a good cast of British actors, again doing it quite experimentally with a shooting period of 21 days. I think Tom may be in the cast of that one too. We’re looking forward to doing that one but again the day job is writing. Now when I write, I give the difficult part of directing to someone else.
As a writer, how do you find that affecting your directing and vice versa? Are there certain approaches that you’re taking to writing now that you had not before?
SK: Being the writer of something you direct is fantastic because there’s a sure talent you can use in yourself and you don’t have to explain something sometimes that is unexplainable. You can just do. In terms of the directing affecting the writing, I think one of the tangible things is trusting the actors more because you know that some of the lines you’ve put into a script are not necessary because the actor will do that anyways. Also, whenever you write, the film is in your head. You see the film in your head completely and I suppose it’s not necessary the best thing but you do then start to adapt it because you know what’s possible and what’s not possible. You start to make it a little more possible to do.
Having done both, what are things you prefer about one over the other?
SK: Well, the writing process is great because you’re not getting involved. It’s warm and dry and you’ve done your job when you deliver the script. However, directing is better after the fact when you look at something and you know it’s yours. When there’s something wrong it’s your fault and something good is down to you. It’s much more of a complete experience.
Would you ever consider just directing something?
SK: No, I wouldn’t direct someone else’s stuff. I can’t imagine it. Having been the writer and having the director take it off you and changing it, it’s not great. I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I’d take someone else’s dialogue and direct it. I can’t conceive of it.
Obviously the other way around is fine for you? You’ve worked with some really great directors. What are some things that you learned from directors such as David Cronenberg that have influenced how you direct on the set?
SK: Lots of things, both subliminal and practical. Before I started directing redemption I went to the directors that I had worked with and asked them for specific advice. They all told me different things but really practical things. No one gave me vague advice, it was all very specific. One director said if you get a good take, do it again but faster; so simple but straight forward. Another said on the first day stand on a chair and yell loudly, “Shut the fuck up”. I didn’t follow it. I learned the importance of getting the performance and everything else can sort of look after itself.
Having worked with David Cronenberg on Eastern Promises, that was a project that for a long time there was speculation that there was going to be a sequel. Can you give me an update on that?
SK: It’s been dead and resurrected so many times but it’s something that I think would be better than the first one. But like Locke, most films take a long time to be put together financially and getting the actors in their right place. But I think it will get made eventually.
That’s good news. Speaking of sequels, what is your approach to writing a follow-up? This will be the first and only sequel you’ve ever done. What do you think of the sequel culture that has been dominating Hollywood?
SK: At first when someone suggested an ‘Eastern Promises 2’ I assumed it was a joke. It’s not the sort of film that you have a sequel to. It’s not a franchise by any means. But some people said it had been left open on purpose which it was a bit. Looking at it again I thought it was a good experience so what I did with the second one was sort of finish the first one in the opening two minutes and then start the new story with the same characters. It goes in a different direction but I think it’s worth it.
In terms of how saturated the market is with sequels, do you think from an artistic standpoint that that’s a negative thing or a positive thing?
SK: It depends on the sequel. You take your template as ‘The Godfather. There’s nothing better than that.
Final question: do you have a dream project in mind?
SK: I want to do a western at some point
What’s your hope for that?
SK: I just want to do a western. I’ve got some ideas. Something like ‘The End of the West’. ‘The End of the Frontier’.
Miles Teller has gone from zero to hero in the last few years. With roles in films like Whiplash, Rabbit Hole and The Spectacular Now, Teller has shown an intriguing dramatic side that all but evens out the heap of not-so-inspiring (read: disastrous) broad comedies he’s participated in, take for example 21 and Over and That Awkward Moment. Looking towards the future, Teller has a lot of promise so long as he continues to involve himself in solid project while he’s busy paying the bills with mainstream crud. With The Fantastic Four on the horizon, the only question is how high will Teller’s star rise?
Over the prattle and coos of preteen girls, Teller and I had a chance to chat at the Seattle premiere of his latest, and largest, film yet: Divergent. But we only talked briefly about the YA wannabe sensation, to preference some of his more serious roles. We touched on drumming, the recurring themes of his fledgling career, his trajectory since college and what makes him an all around bad ass.
So I caught Whiplash down at Sundance. Loved the movie, with the way it was edited, you looked like you were just slaying on those drums. So, tell me what you were doing for preparation for that? Have you always played?
Miles Teller: I’ve played for like 10 years, I got a kit when I was like 15. Never played jazz before and then just kinda started taking some lessons, took like lessons for a few weeks, like four hours a day, four times a week.
Obviously some of the stuff you were playing was like off the charts and some of the best drumming, do you have a guy who is like subbing in and you were body doubled?
MT: I did, like I did do pretty much did all of it, you know what I mean? Like, there’s a couple of things, like the director would shoot some stuff for his hands. Like anything that’s like a real close up is probably not me. But, a lot of that is just me crushing it.
Another film that you were great in was The Spectacular Now, and now you’re doing another movie with Shailene Woodley. How is it working with her again and what’s your guys’ relationship?
MT: Yeah, man she’s great, I think she’s a really natural actress, she’s really easy to play off of, but this was easier, I mean in The Spectacular Now we’re like falling in love and I’m like breaking her heart and stuff, and in this movie I just beat her up.
So you get to get your hands on her in a different way in this movie? You wrestle her to the ground, etc.
MT: Yeah, definitely more violent.
So you’re a villain in this. This is obviously your first bad dude role, what was that like?
MT: Yeah, I mean obviously I wanted to make him likeable. That was a big part of it for me. It’s nice playing somebody where I didn’t have to make everyone laugh all the time.
The line for this movie is like, you know, “If you’re different, you’re dangerous…”
MT: You just turned around and read that off the poster.
Yeah, I did… but I’ve read the book like eight times.
MT: Yeah, me too…
What makes you dangerous, what makes you a badass?
MT: I think the mind. I just think if you outsmart somebody. You gotta be a couple steps ahead of the next person. If you’re in control you’re pretty relaxed in the situation. So I’d say relaxation is key.
What got you into acting in the first place?
MT: I did some plays when I was a little kid. And then, I just played sports and played in some bands in stuff. In high school we got a pretty hot drama teacher, so then I was very into drama. One day my best friend who drove me home everyday said “we should audition for this play” and then I got into it for the last two years of high school. And then I went to NYU and spent a lot of money.
You went like right from your senior year to being in the movies, yeah?
MT: Senior year of college. The first movie I booked was this movie called Rabbit Hole, and so I did that. I booked that like two weeks before I graduated.
In a lot of your movies – Rabbit Hole, The Spectacular Now, even Whiplash – you’re always a character who’s involved in a car crash.
MT: Yeah and in real life I was in a car crash.
Is that a little too surreal for you, do people typecast you for those kind of roles?
MT: I don’t think I get cast as a guy who gets into car accidents, I’m just taking all those roles right? It is weird though, it is a theme in my career so far.
That and alcoholism.
MT: So you said you went down to Sundance? Did you get a chance to see any movies down there?
Yeah, I saw about twenty movies. Did you get a chance to see anything?
MT: I didn’t get a chance to see anything. I got to meet Phillip Seymour Hoffman, that was the coolest thing.
You shot 21 & Over here in Washington, over at UW. What did you think of that?
MT: I dug it man, we shot in August, there wasn’t that many kids around. When you’re walking arouatt:nd in a tube sock and there’s like Summer Session going on. It was cool, man, the Square is like Hogwarts, it’s very nice looking.
What did you think of NYU and what kind of advice would you give to young aspiring actors out there?
MT: Yeah, I really loved it. I think, whatever is good for you go for it. I think New York does propel you forward, it is a city where you can’t really just stay stagnant. People are always doing stuff and it inspires you to create. Also, I just think it’s the best city in the world.
Is that where you’re living now?
MT: No, I live in LA now, because that’s where all the things happen at. There’s a lot of TV in New York though.
After winning the special jury award for Best Narrative Feature, Fort Tilden saw a little bit of backlash from the critical public, many of them unconvinced that it was necessarily a deserving winner. But this can be expected of a noncommittal culture, more suited to complaining after the fact than making a decision. But this is neither here nor there (although I personally rather enjoyed the film) and the decision can be chalked up to the fact that a committee of only three are responsible for selecting the winners for any given category.
Regardless of this odd rocking of the boat that Fort Tilden has ushered, it’s a wonderful picture of big city ineptitude. From our review,
“Unfit for a seemingly painless journey such as this, watching this odd couple mess their way through the “rough” spots of the city is co-writers and directors Sarah Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers’ condemnation of an incomptent age of the e-tarded. Destitude without their iPhones, never able to look three steps into their futures and wholly lost without an aiding stranger, Allie and Harper are the bane of the millenials.”
Fort Tilden is at its core an absurdist, girls running amuck in NYC dramedy and is the product of directorial duo Sarah Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers. Here to talk about millennials, discovering the actresses and getting naked at the beach, read on to see how Tilden came to be.
Can you talk a little bit about how you collaborate? How do you divide up all of the duties?
Sarah-Violet Bliss: There isn’t much division of our responsibilities. We sat at the computer next to each other writing all day. It wasn’t one of those, you write five pages and then show it to your partner. You have your every day, nine to five, writing jobs, and on the side, two people with the same thoughts, and also some different thoughts that would collaborate in a way that gave the film a voice of its own.
Charles Rogers: I don’t think it would have been possible to co-direct, without having co-written. I think the process was inseparable. In that way, we both knew what the vision for the film was, even though we might have had a different angle on it, they were angles that would inevitably come together. We both were always on the same page. Otherwise, I don’t know what it would have looked like.
Had you worked together before?
SVB: No. This was our first collaboration.
CR: We’ve been friends, but this was our first collaboration. Nine months ago, we didn’t even know necessarily that we were going to be making this film. We had the idea at the very beginning of the summer, and we wrote it in six weeks, and we produced in that amount of time.
I loved it. Obviously, you guys won, so it’s a great film. I laughed through the whole thing. You guys are older than millennials so how did you get in touch with your qualities of millenials? What do you think they are and how do you represent them?
SVB: I’m technically Generation-Y, but I think I’m friends with millenials. There’s a blend. I’m kind of on the cusp, so I feel like it wasn’t too hard to tap into that.
CR: A lot of it was stuff that we were thinking about in our own issues. Our own issues ended up working their way into the film and that’s sort of what’s hard in the writing process, if you know that going in to it or not. Also, just drawing from friends and people that we knew. We have a lot of friends who do absurd things and I guess there’s a particular kind of absurdity that comes with the millennial generation. That wasn’t hard to draw from, when it’s all around you.
Tell me a little about the production in New York. It looks great. Were you just stealing shots? What kind of channels did you go through and were there any challenges or tricks?
SVB: We tried to permit as much as possible. We had our things covered for a lot of it and then there were a lot of things that we had to steal. There’s always a lot of great stuff to put in front of the camera but that also comes with a lot of challenges.
CR: We met so many characters along the way. The type of people who would come up to me, they were always very specific to the kind of neighborhood that you were in. So the girls go on a journey from home and we sort of also went on a journey. There’s just a lot of different kinds of neighborhoods and every day was a different flavor because of that.
I was just wondering about the two actresses. Were they a comedy team?
SVB: They had never met before we cast them. Ally, the blonde, is one of my best friends from college and she’s been in a lot of my short films and we work together a lot. We discovered Bridy Eliot, who plays Harper, and we took them to dinner when she was in town and it was really good chemistry. We all really got along. They worked phenomenally together and hopefully they continue to. This was their first collab.
When you say you “discovered her,” how did you discover her?
CR: She was concussed on the side of the road and… Bridy Eliot is a comedian and performer in the Upright Citizens Brigade. It’s a major comedy theater in New York. She has a presence in the comedy world but she hasn’t really been in a lot of films. This is both their sort of break out role. It was great to find out on the first day that we cast right. We knew it going into it, because we felt, but when you’re on set there’s that first day where you’re nervous. Getting to see them perform on the first day was like, “We don’t have to worry about this!”
Do you guys want to talk a little bit about your background before you came to this film?
SVB: We both went to NYU grad film school together. We’re still there. That’s where I’ve been making my shorts, through film school. Before that, I was a theater major at Oberlin, which is where I met Claire. I’ve been writing plays and stuff for a really long time. After I graduated, I was actually more interested in film. I became more of a filmmaker than a playwright.
CR: I went to college here and then I went to grad school at NYU. I’m not from New York necessarily. I do a lot of comedy and improv and standup in New York, which is cool because I want to do a lot of comedy and I get to know a lot of the talent pool in New York. I feel like it’s nice when you can see all of your worlds coming together. I feel like this film did that for me.
What were the themes that were most important to you about this idea of challenging friendship or friendships that indicate more about the challenges that you have yourself with your actual relationship that you have with the other person? Were there certain ideas that you hoped would carry throughout the film?
CR: We were drawing from different life experiences. I think one part of the millennial generation – the idea of this age – is that you get to this point in your life where you start to evaluate all of your friendships. Before this point, your friendships are out of convenience or commonalities that are more trivial. And the older you get, you begin to sort of focus in on what’s important to you and what actually matters to you. You begin to realize that the people you thought mattered to you, there’s issues there. Before this age, I don’t think that you necessarily evaluate those things. I was drawing from some difficult relationships that I had, but also there were people that I love, and don’t want out of my life. All relationships are really hard.
SVB: The themes are stuff that we really discovered while writing and developing what we were writing originally. We thought it would be a funny idea to have two characters who were trying to get to Fort Tilden, except their not really good at stuff. As we were writing, we really discovered more of what was actually very compelling to us and about what it means to be 25 right now… and how the older generations, the parents of these millenials, feel like, “Oh you can be whatever you want to be.” And not really thinking about their responsibilities and pursuing that in a really hardworking way, just expecting that it’s going to happen. You get taken by surprise, when you realize that you’ve got to take some control over that.
Sounds like you might know some of these people.
You keep bringing up the comedic elements of this, but there was also a lot of drama to this story. Did it start out as a comedy and then you kind of found these dramatic beats? Or did it start out as more of a drama but then developed into a comedy?
SVB: The original idea we had was: “This is a funny idea.” All the work that I’ve done in my past at least – Charles too – there’s always some more dramatic depth to it. That’s what I think makes the comedy better and the drama better. They are opposites that flatter each other. Really it was just about making something truthful and making the story richer. We never were like, “This is a COMEDY.” It develops into what it develops into. That’s my favorite kind of work to create.
CR: I think the fact that it started with characters, rather than an idea about the tone or the genre, I think it got both funnier and sadder. I don’t think it necessarily started out as one or the other. The more we understood the comedy, the more we understood how that related to drama. I think that the fact that it gets sadder makes it funnier and the fact that it gets funnier makes it sadder. These characters, ultimately, are very flawed. The comedy comes from that, but also the struggle has to come from that too. So I think it sort of started in a simple place, then everything layered outside of that.
I love that they all had their tops off at the beach. I wondered who’s idea that was, or if they actually do that out there.
CR: It’s an unmonitored beach, so a lot of people do end up taking their tops off.
SVB: Knowing that that’s a place where people go to be cool and free or whatever, and then the idea that someone would be put in that situation and feel uncomfortable by feeling like that’s the cool decision to do.
CR: Our actresses were very comfortable with the toplessness. Everything was consensual.
In an interview with IGN, Harrison Ford has confirmed that he and Ridley Scott have been in preliminary talks around an as-of-yet unnamed sequel to Blade Runner, a much anticipated follow up to the 80’s cult-classic. Ford, who has been a household name since George Lucas’s wildly popular Star Wars films, originally played the lead in Blade Runner as Rick Deckard, jaded hunter of an fugitive androids known as replicants in the gritty and high-tech future of the movie.
Given that the book the original film was based off of, Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?“, has several sequels with the second happening only months after the first, it is unclear whether or not this sequel will have Ford reprising his role. Further, the official silence and thus rumor surrounding the sequel make it difficult to conclude what this interview could mean.
Ford revealed that he had Ridley had been “chatting about it” when asked whether or not he would reprise his role, but when pressed about his sometimes acrimonious relationship to the first Blade Runner, he responded, “Everybody has an ambition when they come into a film and that everyone’s ambition may not be so focused on the same thing. I truly admire Ridley as a man and as a director and I would be very happy to engage again with him [in] the further telling of this story.”
A script for the project is currently being written by Michael Green, who wrote the screenplay for 2011’s Green Lantern along with scripts for TV series like Heroes, Everwood, and Smallville, along withHampton Fancher, the writer of the screenplay for the original Blade Runner. Previous details to emerge are that this sequel will probably take place years after the original and feature a female protagonist, although nothing will be certain until the screenplay is finished.
Scott, who will follow upcoming film The Counselor debuts will religious drama Exodus and potentially a Prometheus sequel on his plate before he starts work on the Blade Runner sequel, has confirmed none-the-less that the sequel will be coming up in the future: “It is happening.” About his talks with Ford, he remarked, “With Harrison Ford? I don’t know yet. Is he too old? Well, he was a ‘Nexus-6’ so we don’t know how long he can live.” Given Scott and Ford’s production schedules and the dearth of much more information regarding Ford’s likelihood of being cast, or any of the other potential casting decisions for that matter, the rumor mill will no doubt keep turning for a while to come before more tangible information about this production is released.