I LOVE seeing directorial debuts of up and coming filmmakers being represented in TCFF. And one of the screenings today is an indie drama that’s ripe with lots of food for thought to ponder afterwards.
On the morning of a young woman’s engagement, a stranger shows up and begins to debate the meaning of life.
If you love great dialog on film (and who doesn’t?) you wouldn’t want to miss this! One of the lead actors is the talented and most prolific Minnesota-based actor Charles Hubbell. Surely you’ve seen his work even if you can’t tell his name, as is the case with a lot of skilled character actors. Check out my Q&A with director Samuel Hathaway and Charles Hubbell who have kindly shared their insights and experience in making the film.
TCFF Screening Time(s):
10/24/2015 (2:15 PM)
Check out the trailer:
Interview with Samuel Hathaway
Q: The idea of the story, how did you come up with that?
A: Well, there are a couple of inspirations. One is purely financial, I was looking for something I could tell in one room. As a first time filmmaker, it’s an experiment that I could control, it was a project that I could manage well. But also it’s full of a lot of the questions that as a young, angsty person, I often ask myself so it was a way for me to explore some things that I had been thinking about growing up.
Q: That’s a very philosophical premise, and the first thing I thought of is how would that premise translate cinematically, how would that translate well on screen? So when you came up with that idea, did you think about how you would shoot this?
A: Great question. Because in many ways, it’s not the most visually-innovative project out there. I came from an acting background more than an official filmmaking background. I studied for a while as an actor, I did some work in that area. So my interest going into this, it’s not so much be an interesting visual experiment but working with great actors. To me, being able to watch an interesting story being told by a very engaging actor is riveting. It’s different than having a huge explosion on screen, but given my acting background, that’s what I count as an interesting performance, so that was really my focus in this project.
Q: Funny you said that, because for me, I’d rather watch the opening of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ where it’s just two people talking in a barn. I mean, there are other more action-y stuff in the film, but that particular scene is what I remember most because it was well-written and well-acted. I’d rather watch that than some Michael Bay explosion scenes. I think you can make anything look cinematic from camera angle and what not.
So, the casting of Charles Hubbell, how did you come to cast him?
A: It actually happen by accident. I was working on a promotional trailer on a project that I was trying to get started and through a mutual connection, he agreed to be in this very small weekend project that I worked on. So we met very briefly and he made a great impression of course, and time passed. I think it might’ve been about a year and a half later when I was working on this project. I mean, he has such a strong presence. He has this strong, intelligent impression on you so as I was writing the script for this, obviously trying to tell a compelling story but also a project that I knew I could do, Charles came to mind as a person whom I have access to and someone who’s very involved with a lot of art projects, so the more I started to develop it, he just became more apparent that he’s the perfect person for the role of Lou, the mysterious stranger.
Q: What’s the significance of the title The Old, Old Story?
A: To me, what I’m trying to get at, is that these are the kind of questions that every human being has to grapple with in some way. I hope that the ending is ambiguous enough that I’m not telling people what the answer should be. But I think each of us, as different as our lives are, we essentially ask the same questions. It’s this very human story, so that’s what I’m trying to get at. There is this old story that every human being has to grapple with. Y’know, what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth loving, what’s real, etc.
Q: So are those the questions as opposed to ‘where do I come from, why am I here in life?
A: Well, you know, you end up on this planet and you have to figure out… y’know, if say you have 80 years before you die, some people think there is something after that and some think there isn’t. So how does that affect your life day to day and how does the end answer affect how you live now.
Q: This is your project as a director but you came from an acting background. How does that help you as a director?
A: Y’know, it limited me in some ways in terms of the technical aspects. I can’t run a camera, I don’t work with lights, but then I had the privilege to work with a phenomenal crew. So then that freed me up to work more with the actors. I hope that if they had the chance to speak about the project, they’d be able to say that it was a good place to be an actor and that they felt they had the freedom to explore and that my direction was actionable. I mean we only had eight days, we shot it in eight days and no rehearsal beforehand.
I certainly don’t credit myself of that fact, but I had but we had some really talented actors and my background as an actor and working with actors allow me to help facilitate a really efficient shoot and interesting performances. Because ultimately, we’re asking some heady questions but nobody wants to listen to a textbook for an hour and a half and so the trick was making it human and relatable.
Q: Who in the industry inspire you?
A: My inspiration haven’t really been specific people, though I do love the Coen brothers, more because they could tell some really unconventional stories in a way that audiences can relate to. So that interest me, so to me they’re like outliers because they can tell non-cookie cutter stories in a way that even though they’re odd but they still connect with people nonetheless. I also admire Robert Rodriguez whose first film was El Mariachi and he also did the first Sin City. I feel that he’s quite an outlier also. I feel like the film industry has become this real monster of an industry. But there’s a period of time for independent filmmakers who were working in a time when it was unique to be an independent filmmaker, but now there are a ton of them. So you have to compete as viciously in the independent world. So how do find a creative way in this industry which is already very cutthroat. Like you have to find a niche within a niche market. So like Robert Rodriguez, he could make like a $3000-feature film. How do you get a way with stuff like that? So it’s always fascinating to me to see people who could work through the back door so to speak.
Q: So how did you get funding for your film? Did you do the crowd-funding route?
A: I did a Kickstarter for about half of the funds we used for the project. It actually birthed out of that weekend project I mentioned earlier. We couldn’t raise sufficient funds to make that movie. But I got in touch with a lot of the people who supported that project and I said, ‘look we could turn into a project that we can do but it’s going to look different. They were very gracious in letting us use the funds for this new project. So this project was birthed out of the ashes of that other project, but yeah primarily we worked with Kickstarter.
Interview with Charles Hubbell
Charles is a professional actor and voice artist based in Minneapolis/St Paul. He’s a prolific and versatile performer who are working in stage, TV and film productions. He’s got no less than 75 TV/film work under his belt according to his IMDb page. He also appears in the short film Clean Cut, part of the Land of 10,00o Stories Shorts Block at TCFF.
1. What drew you to this role of Lou and how do you prepare for that?
Lou is the skeptic, the doubter, the curious one who questions and dares to say what I’m thinking. The character shoulders disappointment which colors his view of the world making him more human. This is what engaged me in the script. Much of Lou’s voice was my own. Preparing for the role required the usual script work, learning the lines and finding the truth in the lines. For me as an actor the challenge is to constantly find the authentic place in lines so that I can support and give as much as I can to the other actors and to the story telling.
2. How long was the filming process? What’s it like working with director Sam Hathaway and your co-lead Tiffany Cornwell?
I think it might’ve been a couple of weeks. I’m not clear on that but it was a very quick shoot. I’m grateful for that because we could keep up the momentum and the energy to make the story as active as possible. There’s a great deal of philosophy and dialogue in the story which requires a different energy of story telling than a story focused on physical action. Sam is a thoughtful, sensitive and insightful director. Just like his writing he is curious and intelligent. I leaned on him heavily during the shoot because I wanted to help him tell his story. Tiffany was playful and light which was infectious and helpful on a self reflective, heavy dialogue project. She was focused and determined and a real pro. She and I had some heavy lifting in this one.
3. You’ve done a variety of work – TV, theater film, voice work, etc. – what got you into acting in the first place and which medium are you most passionate about?
I’ve been acting most of my life. I was inspired to entertain and perform by my uncle and my grandfather. Most of my extra curricular activities, focused on acting and the theater. During high school I added music to my interests. I was in numerous rock bands in high school and college. When I got to university, I stopped music completely, and focused on literary studies and acting. I’m most passionate about movie and media work although a close second would be working on the stage. Voice work and commercials are fun and another way to make a living but those jobs are not constant and there is a race to the bottom when it comes to valuing an actor for their work in those fields. I try to diversify my work so that I can support my family and still do the work that sustains me.
4. You have nearly ten projects either in filming process or post-production. There are a variety of genres from romance, drama to horror that you’re involved in, I’m curious what’s your favorite genre to watch as well as to act in?
My favorite story telling is one that engages authenticity in human relationships. This makes the horror or the sci-fi or the romance engaging. Admittedly, I tend to consume more horror and sci-fi no matter how good or bad it is. The drama genre usually gets to have all the authenticity, it is real life “heightened” so if that can be injected into the horror and sci-fi, that’s where I can’t get enough.