It’s the final day of Twin Cities Film Fest and there are tons of great films playing today! Here are some of the highlights:
I had the privilege to chat with some of the talented filmmakers/talents of two of the films playing today: Ink & Steel and Time Lapse! I shall have the interview with Bradley King & George Finn from Time Lapse sometime this weekend.
In this upstate New York drama, when a turf war engulfs the city, aging mob enforcer Michael retrieves the Don’s troubled son from his college partying. After they survive an attempted hit on the road home, Michael seeks refuge at a rural farm, imposing on a single mother and her teenage son living there. As violence escalates in the city, Michael is ordered to wait it out, keeping the boss’ son safe while coexisting as unwelcome house guests. But, when dark pasts threaten to collide, Michael, a man more comfortable solving problems with force, must find a way to keep the peace, and decide if he should break the Don’s son free of the cycle of violence which has haunted the family for generations.
It was quite a whirlwind day Thursday night. A half hour before the Kumiko: Treasure Hunter screening at 8:30, we managed to squeeze in a quick interview with the filmmakers and actors of Ink & Steel up at the ICON lounge. Directors Jonathan Ehlers and Patrick Ward-Perkins and actor Tyler Noble had just arrived from L.A. that late afternoon, but they were both so gracious and totally game to chat about their film. It’s so awesome to see Molly Ryman again, whose film Things You Don’t Understand premiered here in 2012 and she won Best Actress Award for her performance!
Q: So Jonathan/Patrick, how did you come up with the concept of the film story?
Jonathan: Well, it came out part creative desire and part necessity. We had this wonderful location in Upstate New York at a farmhouse and we knew we wanted to shoot something there. Having grown up in NY, there’s that I know a guy who knows a guy and I knew a few guys growing up and that sort of inform the voice of the characters. We felt it was important to sort of take a soldier archetype and take this aging mob enforcer and put him into this unique set of circumstances where he’s not equipped for, which is to show compassion and take care of this young man. And we sort of rolled from there and built this world where this sort of mentorship would happen. It’s just a strong character piece that we believe in and again it’s sort of a necessity thing as we knew we wanted to complete a feature film and this story sort of make sense and we have the means and location to do it, and we wanted to find talented actors out of NY and we put this together and this is what we came up with.
Q: So Jonathan and Patrick, do you know each other before? How did the decision come up that you wanted to work together?
Patrick: We knew each other long before we made this film. Jonathan actually came from NY to LA and we met up there. We worked together screenwriting for about seven years and we wrote this Ink & Steel script together a while back with another guy Jason Radspinner and we knew this would be an exciting film we want to get off the ground so Jonathan and I got on the directing chair and made it happen.
Q: Tell us a bit about the casting process for the film, did you have to hold auditions to cast the actors?
Jonathan: Back in 2006 before I went down to LA I studied w/ an acting teacher, Robert Modica. Modica is a bit of a legend, he’s a revered acting teacher in NY as he taught alongside Sanford Meisner. He taught actors like John Turturro and David Duchovny so when we knew when we wanted to cast actors from NY for this film, we knew his acting school would be the place for us to find the great pedigree of talents. I had a fun memory of being there and so we went over there and sat in on some classes and that’s how we found Richard Fiske who played Michael and also Jason Beckmann who plays Noah, the son of Vanessa’s, the single mother [Molly's character] also came from there. The fact that I’m transitioning from music to film and wanting to be a serious director, I got a lot of out his teaching there, so it’s really gratifying to sort of go back to that great school. We had a reading in NY and Molly and Tyler came highly recommended from friends of hours.
Q [for Molly]: Tell us a bit about your role here in Ink & Steel.
Molly: Sure. I played a single mom who rents a farmhouse from a gangster but she didn’t know they’re gangsters. She’s got a past that she’s leaving and she’s starting over and raising her son and so these gangsters show up… For me, this kinds of wakes her up. She’s sort of stuck in her life a little bit… she doesn’t have a lot of hope for a beautiful, full life, she’s sort of living for her son. So these gangsters show up and change her life a little bit. And her relationship with Michael… y’know, I don’t want to say that he’s a father figure per se, but that he’s umm, terrifying but also represents a good man and to remember that men are good and Jimmy [Tyler's character] is like life for her, there’s something about him that she can relate to, there’s something between them that gives her hope again for a possible romance.
Q: How about you Tyler?
Tyler: Jimmy is the son of the mob boss whom you never see. But he has nothing to do with the mob, he’s the odd man in the family, kind of like Al Pacino in Godfather 1. He doesn’t get respect, so he’s kind of the dorky artist in the family so nobody understands him. Between that and his family being in trouble and stuff like that, he turns to drugs when he’s up at college experimenting . Then things got to be too much for him and he got too deep into it. So he’s struggling to get out of that and he’s helped by these two unlikely figures. One is this mob enforcer uncle who doesn’t know how to deal with this issue and then there’s Molly Ryman’s character [Vanessa] who’s very nurturing and sweet and gives him the piece that he’s missing, that love. It’s almost motherly… father is like the father that he needed and Vanessa being the mother figure. So maybe this is like Tyler going from being a boy to a man.
Molly: I feel that Both Vanessa and Michael helps Tyler realize that he doesn’t have to be tied to what his past is, what his family is, so he can move on. And they’re both rooting
Tyler: Yeah, for the first time in his life, he’s getting support from people. He gets love and support for his own strength and that he doesn’t have to follow the path of his family.
Q [for Jonathan & Patrick]: How’s the experience of working together like? Y’know like the Coen Brothers work together a lot. So what’s the strength and challenges and the dynamics of working together?
Molly: I want to answer this as I never get to talk about this [laughter] Well it’s like a dance… I’ve never worked with two directors before but it was flawless. They spoke a language that only they understands, there’s no conflict, at least not visible to the actors. They might have something going on behind the scenes, but from they show to the talents, they each kind of have their scenes.
Tyler: They have such great respects for each other.
Molly: Yeah and they’re such a team. And there are some things I need to go to Jonathan for and some I need to go to Patrick for…
Tyler: I’ts like Voltron, remember Voltron? [laughter]
(For those who don’t know, is an animated television series that features a team of space explorers that pilot a giant super robot known as “Voltron”)
Molly: So it’s definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I mean they’ve now become dear friends but as professionals and on the set, it was amazing. And we moved so fast, nobody would ever know how fast we moved and it was because of them that despite that, filming was still flawless.
Q: Ok, so in relation to that, how long was the shoot. Was it shorter or longer that you had anticipated? Was it on schedule?
Patrick: Well we couldn’t afford not being on schedule. So the answer is yes. For how long the film is, we shot in 16 days. I mean it’s a drama over 2 hours, and there are gunfights, there are small car chases so there are a lot of things going on. The pace that we have to keep up was unbelievable.
Q: Now, I’m wondering which one is harder, the action stuff or the more emotional, quieter moments. Which on is harder?
Jonathan: Well that’s a tough one. I would say, there’s definitely two parts to that answer. The action comes more naturally to us, but under the time and budget constraints that we had, it was more of a physical challenge, the cold and the discomfort of being in this barn in the Winter time in upstate New York. When you’re outside in the elements, you’re worried about people’s comfort and safety. So it’s more of a physical stress because planning the fight scenes is second nature to us… so like Molly said, it’s like a dance and we had that down. But to capture the sensitive, emotional scene, the micro-dynamic of what’s going on, it’s more of a mental stress.
Patrick: Yeah, in a way the physical scene and action scene are challenging partly because of budget. Typically you have a bigger budget and you more time to shoot these things, whereas the challenging emotional scene is more of an intellectual challenge where it’s really more about for our actors to have the time and focus to get to the correct headspace to get into their characters. Some schedule allow us to do two of such scenes and at times we have to do five, and so you’re talking about going from one headspace to another.
So knowing that limitation, we try to make it as easy as possible for the actors and so we shoot everything as chronologically as possible so at least we have an anchor. I mean our crew was so small that we can’t tell them, ‘ok so we’re gonna shoot this scene from this part of the script and now your character is in this place.” But instead we all knew instinctively deep down where we were because as much as possible we stay in order.
Jonathan: What I’d add to that is we shot to edit. We knew we’re going to do the post-production of the film ourselves. So as long as we’re committed to our decisions in the action scenes, we can sort of in a way cover what we miss with sound design. We can always make fight moves more interesting in post production. But when two people are baring their souls, you can’t just necessarily cut around that. So there’s a lot of pressure to capture those scenes…
Patrick: Yeah, so to capture that moment. So when we’re on the set, when we’re done filming a scene, we’d glance at each other after a take. We know each other so well that we’d know if this is the one. We’d know that if we have time we can shoot a few more but if we don’t, we can move on. So that’s the tipping point that we know we can move on. Otherwise, editing won’t save anything.
Q [to Tyler & Molly]: How about you guys as the actors, in regards to emotional vs. action scenes.
Tyler: I think more people are learning to put together stuff on a smaller budget so an actor’s job is changing as well. So it’s an actor’s job to remember continuity, how the hair was. You have to step up to the plate and do as much as you can. Whether it’s holding a dog or holding a mirror to make sure your beard that you trim it the right way the next time. I think for the emotional stuff, a lot of the preparation is done beforehand. Whether it’s a song [gesturing wearing headset], whatever it is I can use to get to that headspace… for some reason, when that song is playing, it hit me really hard to get to what I’m supposed to feel, so I play it and let myself sink. They [the directors] usually give me a few minutes beforehand to prepare… so that stuff you can prepare beforehand.
Patrick: Our crew is so small that everyone had to pull a lot more weight than what they’re used to. Jon and I have done a much bigger budget production where there’s bigger crew, and you see that everyone has a very defined role that you could be spending 60% doing that task and 40% doing nothing. Whilst on our set, everyone was doing 100% of the day, sometimes more than that as some days are really long and hard. Even if all that you’re doing is moral support. Say, the crew is spending their time filming in the woods, and you’re at base camp, you’re making sure sure that there’s soup when they get back. When another crew work extra hard, you gotta make sure that you’re there for them and make sure that they’re ok. It’s such a familial experience.
Molly: It’s such a family experience, because in a bigger budget and you have people taking care of your wardrobe, etc. so much work is done for you. I mean you shoot your scene and you go away, but here you’re living together in this house, or hotel, all day long we’re together doing everything so it’s so amazing, it makes for an amazing family. It shows in the film how passionate we all were in making this happen.
Check out the Ink & Steel featurette!
Ink & Steel
Sat Oct. 25th, 5:30pm (followed by Q&A w/ filmmaker/cast!)
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, guys!
Hope you enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for more reviews and the Time Lapse interview !