Hello readers, Ruth here! Welcome to another interview edition of MN-made comedy series The Groomsman, featuring two Minnesota filmmakers, Nick Hansen (writer/director/actor) and two producers Lindsey Kolar Martinson and Anne Hansen (who also co-wrote the script).
The Groomsman is a rom-com about the perpetual groomsman. We’ve all seen movies about the perpetual bridesmaid…always the bridesmaid, never the bride… well this time it’s told from the male perspective just as he finally finds the woman of his dreams.
Check out the trailer:
Episode 1 of The Groomsman is now streaming on Hieronyvision or HV for short, a subscription-based space with content by indie artists.
Interview with director/co-writer/
star Nick Hansen
Q: First, can you tell me what The Groomsman is about?
Nick: Will Knight is the perpetual Groomsman. He has been in all of his friends and family’s weddings, over 15 of them. He has always been The Groomsman, and never the Groom. He has finally met the woman of his dreams, Courtney, and now he just has to propose. And that is where we pick up our story.
Q: I’m always intrigued by what creative people are inspired by. How did you came up with the idea for the series?
Nick: I went through a period of being a groomsman in a ton of weddings and Lindsey Kolar Martinson is my cousin and she was at a lot of those weddings. Eventually we started writing down all kinds of ideas about a possible movie or tv show involving weddings. We talked about it for about five years and then finally saw our opportunity to make it and teamed up with my mom Anne Hansen and talented filmmakers and crew from the Institute of Production and Recording and actors from the Twin Cities and went to work.
Q: Why did you decide on a tv series format vs a feature? Was the original idea always been a serialized storytelling?
Nick: We decided to make it a tv pilot because we originally made it to submit to the Catalyst TV Festival. Making a twenty-four minute tv pilot was a tremendous amount of work but was more manageable then an entire feature. Eventually, we came to realize that it works better as a pilot and we are looking forward to making more episodes.
Q: Tell me a bit about your character Will Knight, how much of your own persona is depicted in his portrayal?
Nick: I don’t think much of my own persona is depicted in the portrayal but I think the one thing we have in common is looking for love, and that’s universal, and I believe that’s what the audience has been connecting with.
Q: What do you like most about playing Will? Who are your comedic/ dramatic inspirations?
Nick:I had a phenomenal time playing Will, I usually get cast as a drug dealer, or bad cop, or someone on the edge in some way, so it was amazing to play an average guy trying to make his way through the day and find love. Ultimately, I feel like the audience connected with this character more then any other because of the relatability. My comedic inspirations are Dick Van Dyke and Jim Carrey and my dramatic inspiration is Kate Winslet.
Q: As a writer/producer/actor, what’s been the most challenging part about making this pilot happen?
Nick: The most challenging part about this one is that we decided to start filming in early april and it was due to the Catalyst Festival I think on June 1 or July 1 of 2019 so it was a very compressed timeline-this made it exhilirating, but certainly stressful at times!
Q: I always enjoy filmmaking trivia, can you share a particularly memorable bts snafu that you can still laugh about today?
Nick: This is actually quite sad, but we filmed a scene at Lola’s on the Lake, the restaurant and gathering area on Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis. It was an amazing location and we were happy to film there, but it burned down about a week later in a terrible fire. Hopefully it will be re-built and when we are through this pandemic it will be returned to it’s former glory.
Will wooing Courtney in Episode 1
Interview with producer
Q: When did you come on board as a producer? Did Nick pitch you the idea or were you involved from its inception?
Lindsey: I was involved since inception!! However, our idea was for The Groomsman as a feature. I was on vacation in Florida when I got a call from Nick and Anne pitching The Groomsman as a tv pilot and they would like to start ASAP since we would have a tight deadline to enter into the Catalyst festival. I was happily onboard with the idea!
Q: How’s your own profession as a small business owner prepare you to do this producing role?
Lindsey: I feel as a business professional I had many strengths to bring to the table as a producer. Due to my work background I am very organized, work well under pressure, I can easily figure out logistics of a day for scheduling and have the foresight to know when different tasks need to get done to move us to the next step. I also work well with others and am able to adapt to most situations.
Q: What did you enjoy most about working on The Groomsman and what’s the toughest part?
Lindsey: What I enjoyed most was working with my cousin Nick and Aunt Anne. They are both so talented and I felt so grateful to be apart of the team. We created memories I will never forget.
The toughest part for me was having to let go of not having some of the scenes be as perfect as I wanted. I quickly learned there is a lot that goes into shooting the scenes and can’t just be easily redone if you don’t like what you get on the first shoot being that you only have access to the actors and locations for limited amounts of time.
Q: Does this experience make you want to make more tv/movies
Lindsey: This answer is easy. YES! The whole time I was thinking why I am not doing this for my career. I love the work as a producer! I felt it was very challenging and exciting. I did have the best mentor..my cousin Nick who paved the way. I learned a lot from him!!
Q: What’s your fave shows and actors?
Lindsey: Too hard to pick just one! I love Friends. I think the writers are brilliant! I have seen all of the episodes so many times it’s always just as funny as the last time I watched it. On a whole other genre I love Peaky Blinders and would love to create something similar. I love the cinematography, the music, the actors…I just think it’s the coolest show! I also love Vikings and Game of Thrones!!
Q: What’s next for The Groomsman?
Lindsey: We are working on episode 2! We feel people want to continue watching Will Knight…will he ever find love?
Brief note from producer/
co-writer Anne Hansen
I am Nick’s mother and Lindsey’s aunt. I’ve been involved from the beginning! Since Nick made his first feature film in college, I have been involved in many of his filmmaking endeavors in various ways. The Groomsman was my first time, though, as an official producer and writer. Lindsey, Nick, and I have been compiling lists for years about ideas for The Groomsman. We had always planned to make it into a feature length film, but never found the time. When we finally decided to make it into a television pilot, we were off and running with it immediately.
The Groomsman is definitely a family affair. Working with Lindsey and Nick is a dream come true. Nick is the artist and Lindsey and I are pragmatic perfectionists. We make a fantastic team!
Lindsey (with the clapper board) on the set of The Groomsman
Click to see a larger version of the photo
The filmmakers are editing episode 2 now and will be filming episode 3 this summer!
Hello all! Welcome to another interview edition featuring the award-winning writer/director of the critically acclaimed ArbitrageNicholas Jarecki. His sophomore film CRISIS has just been released in select theaters and VOD. Check out my review of the film if you haven’t already. It stars Gary Oldman, Greg Kinnear, Evangeline Lilly, Armie Hammer, Luke Evans and Michelle Rodriguez.
Synopsis: A drug trafficker arranges a multi-cartel Fentanyl smuggling operation. An architect recovering from an oxycodone addiction tracks down the truth behind her son’s disappearance. A university professor battles unexpected revelations about his employer, a pharmaceutical company bringing a new “non-addictive” painkiller to market.
Set against the backdrop of the opioid epidemic, their stories collide in this dramatic thriller from writer/director Nicholas Jarecki.
In his acclaimed feature debut, Arbitrage (starring Richard Gere, which I gave a high rating in my review), the NYU graduate Jarecki set a suspense-thriller about love and loyalty against a backdrop of fraud and murder in the world of high finance. With Crisis, the writer-director now turns his attention to the opioid epidemic.
Writer/director Nicholas Jarecki on the set of CRISIS
I had the pleasure of chatting with Nicholas (Nick) Jarecki over Zoom to talk about his film, from the process of making CRISIS, casting, acting in his own film, and the personal crisis of Armie Hammer and how it affected his film’s release. Read on:
Q: Why did it take you so long from making Arbitrage (released in 2012) to this one? It’s almost a decade long.
A:Yeah, it was two years ago now. Because of the pandemic. We had to wait to bring it out. Yeah. I suppose, you know, making these films, these kinds of serious drama type films that ask questions, provocative questions, there isn’t as much support for that as you might expect.
But you know, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. So you’ve got to get it done. But it just requires a lot of tenacity.
Q: I learned that you had lost some people who are important to you, to this epidemic, to this opioid crisis. So is that the driving factor for you to make this, or was there any other inspiration for you to make this film?
A:Well, you know, I mean, look, you always want to make a good film that’s entertaining. First and foremost, it’s my job to entertain you. Write me your seven dollars and you want to have a good time to see something interesting, most dramatically interesting. But you know, what I would say is with this film, I had lost a friend many years ago to opioid abuse, gotten into pain pills and then went to heroin.
And we didn’t understand anything because he was such a nice, bright young man. Good family and all that. So I filed it away in the back of my mind. And then about five years ago, I think there were some reporters from the Los Angeles Times I teamed up with. And and they started to look into the role of opioid manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies in this issue.
What did they know or what didn’t they know? You know, was the product perhaps more dangerous? People had been led to believe, because now you see we’ve had this terrible epidemic in the country. You have these regular, normal people who are getting addicted in record numbers, hundreds of thousands dead. You know, they took a pain pill that was prescribed to them. But the way their body reacted, the way they developed independence, those are things I thought that was worth exploring.
Q: The way these big pharmaceutical companies were being portrayed in the film, it’s as if there’s so much at stake in terms of profit that they even didn’t care when they’re told their product were not ready to hit market. All they cared about was the bottom line. Is that based on your research?
A:I mean, I think we wanted to look at that. You know, this film is very based on real events, real and very heavily-researched. So that is how drugs are developed and tested on mice. And, you know, it’s a fascinating world. And obviously, you know, I don’t think anyone set out to make a harmful product. So that’s not the issue here. The issue is, you know, were these pills overprescribed? Were they over-marketed? Were questions about their safety ignored? And so I wanted to put that into a thriller context, really see what Gary Oldman’s [character] eventually did, Armie Hammer’s and the rest of the great supporting cast… Michelle Rodriguez, you know, all these people. How do these drugs interact with our society? And, you know, looking at it from these different perspectives of the user, the criminal criminal smuggler, and the manufacturer inside.
Q: So it was originally called Dreamland, is that correct? And then it was re titled to to Crisis. What was the significance of that first title?
A:It was a working title. There was another film called Dreamland, so we couldn’t use that one. But, you know, we don’t want it to be confusing. But I might I just kind of like the idea that, you know, we were all sort of living in a fantasy. I think that’s a very American thing. I actually like that title, but I do love CRISIS. I think it’s very strong. And I like these one word titles like. I believe there hasn’t been a film with that same title since Cary Grant’s crime thriller in 1950.
Q: Now, in terms of timeline… how long did it take from, when you were writing the script, like, how long did it take you to work on this film, as there was a lot of research that you had to do. So how long is that process?
A:I wrote this pretty quickly. I wrote it over the course of about six months in 2017. So about a little over three and a half years ago. And then, you know, I had met Gary Oldman and I took him the script and and he liked it right away. He said, OK, let me let me come on as a producer and help you put the film together.
And then the film came together pretty quickly and took, you know, maybe six months to to get the other actors together, and then we started shooting in 2019.
Q: And then so that was kind of that’s a good segue to talk about casting. Since you met Gary Oldman when you already finished with the script, are you one of those writers who have somebody in mind when you were writing the script? Because I feel like he’s so perfect in the role of Tyrone. So did you have someone in mind when you were writing this?
A:So I met Gary and then I was writing the script at the same time. This is kind of how this happened with Arbitrage. And so the character started to take shape a little bit in my mind. When I’m writing, it’s sort of like you only just see shapes, black, black box, you know, kind of shadow figures because you need the actors to bring it to life. So it’s kind of you know, it’s a strange process.
It’s a bit of an alchemical process, I would say. And but then, you know, once I have finished the draft and I gave it to him, then I really could see only him. And we worked together on this quite a bit, to tailor it. And I like to do that with all the actors. I like to rehearse for a few weeks, really get their perspectives on the character, get kind of deep into the research with them, go to labs, you know, with Veronica Ferres playing the [Pharma company] CEO, Armie and I also went with the undercover cop to go look at these pill mills, etc.
Q: OK, so how did the Evangeline Lily came about? Did you you know her before making this film?
A:No, I didn’t know her. I sent her the script. I had been a fan of hers since I had watched all of Lost. I was obsessed, just like everyone else, with that show. And what I saw in her was she was an actress with a great range. She had really showed so many different sides of the persona, and I think she gives a tremendous performance in this film though she hadn’t really done dramatic work in a while.
You know, she had done she had a little part in The Hurt Locker, but she then kind of got into this Marvel world. Yeah. And I think she said that she really wanted to stretch her dramatic muscles again. She really came came hard on the film, and she went very deep into the characters, kind of method and, you know, she had to go to some very dark places to give you that performance.
Q: I didn’t even know that was you who played Stanley the DEA agent (Armie Hammer’s partner) until I looked up my IMDb. So what makes you want to be involved in front of the camera? Because I’m not sure that’s hard to be directing and acting at the same time.
A:Well, you know, it’s all you have to blame. Lenny Kravitz, the musician. Four years ago, he was making a music video in California and he wanted to cast a director, a real life director, to play a director directing him and going crazy. Yeah. So he cast me and and then we did it. And I had such a great time. People were saying to me, like, hey, you were really good.
And and I thought, oh, my God, it’s like maybe that could be something fun to do. So we’re doing this film and I didn’t have anyone for that part. It’s kind of a comic relief type part. And so then somebody said like, well, how are we doing with that casting? And I said, you know what? And I thought, here’s my big moment. And, you know, I said, well, maybe I would do it. Well, there’s one less person to cast anyway, so you save some money. And then they were like, okay, great.
Q: I have to kind of bring up this elephant in the room. Surely you know about the personal crisis in regards to Armie Hammer. Did his involvement affect the reception of your film? How do you feel about the whole issue?
A:The thing is, you know, in terms of the audience, I think the film has been extremely well received. We’ve been number one rented movie in America when it was iTunes for two weeks. We opened up in 216 theaters. We were the number one independent film, the country, the number two per screen, second to Tom and Jerry. The number one film in limited release on less than a thousand screens. So audiences really sought out the film and continue to seek out the film that were opening around the world. We were doing, I think 900 theaters in the Middle East, we do a couple hundred in Australia this week, Canada. So, and audiences have rated the film very highly, we’ve had some very nice reviews, but we did take some heat from a lot of critics.
And it was, it was frustrating because I think you can look at something through lenses and you can say, okay, well, I appreciate where this is coming from. And you know, no film is perfect, it’s got its issues, whatever, but you can also really rip into something. And I think, unfortunately the timing of Armie’s personal problems, which I really know nothing about, I mean, he’s not my brother, he’s an actor that I hired to do a role and he did a great job. But you know, I think that [his involvement] may be colored some of the media. It’s frustrating, but I think, you know, all things have their moment. But I think people are starting to discover the film audiences are discovering the film and film writers are discovering the film and have been reacting more positively to the film.
That’s really the goal with this film. We just, we wanted to make an entertaining movie, uh, thrilling movie that you feel and captivate to with some great performances. And I think we did that, but then secondly, we really wanted to get this issue out to the public and get people talking about what are the responsibilities of these pharmaceutical manufacturers? How should law enforcement be done? How do we treat addicts? Do we treat addicts as the enemy, or do we treat them as our brother and sister our, you know, and understand that this is crossing all walks of life. It’s like a category five hurricane. And what we really need to do is to have some understanding, put some money towards treatment and to de-stigmatize and take away the, ‘oh, they’re bad people’ mindset.
Q: Now, in regards to the multiple narratives. I feel like all these different three different distinct story, but yet related could be its own film. What was the biggest challenge for you to try to tell their stories in just two hours and make sure the story is coherent?
A: And it was, uh, it was a very interesting question that, I mean, I asked myself all these questions, you know, two of the stories, me, one story doesn’t mean, but in a way it does, because you understand that Gary’s up here, you know, it’s like almost like he’s fighting with the gods on Mount Olympus and whatever decisions are made in that room, in that board room or in the lab, then they come down and they touch these other lives. So for me, you know, it was, it was valid to have a metaphorical connection or an allegorical connection as opposed to ‘Oh, they’re students in his class or whatever, something that would have felt totally unrealistic.’
I liked the idea, you know, that the characters are struggling and then they can all help each other in some way. Gary helped them by the fight that he gets into, they help each other. So, certainly editorially putting all that together, a lot of time and effort went into that because you need to see, well, how do these stories inform each other, how do they touch each other? You know, how do we make a connection? That’s both for image based, story-based, you know, we move scenes around and, you know, take the script and I take some scenes and montage them and use these kinds of pre-lab dialogue. Like Robert Altman used to do or later Steven Soderbergh, they’re kind of the masters. So, some of it is trial and error, some of it is your instinct… it’s a kind of dance. And then also what is the footage and what are the actors, what are they giving you? Sometimes they can do things you don’t expect that are very beautiful.
Q: My last question relates to the theme in your films. It seems your previous film deals with the wealthy, powerful people, and that’s also the case here both in the Pharma company and also the privileged school trying to maintain their place in society. I notice that power is kind of a running theme in your stories, so is that something that you like to explore more in your films? I was wondering maybe there is a third film that you’re doing, that its almost like a trilogy with these kind of similar theme going on.
A:Well, I think you pick up on that very well. Um, I mean, I think I’m interested in looking at, you know, there’s, there’s certain moral questions in here, right? And then there’s also like a balance of hearts. So Greg Kinnear, who’s been a friend of mine for many years, I asked him to play this role and he plays the dean of the university. And he’s obviously in conflict with Gary Oldman’s character, because he has discovered what he thinks is damaging information about this product and he wants to go public with it. But then he’s agreed not to do that. And this could really hurt the university because the pharmaceutical company provides the university endowment. So you can really see his point of view… and I said, we got to have Kinnear because he’s such a sympathetic person.
So to see the dean in this conflicted situation, you know, I like those moral gray areas. It’s a balance of and saying, okay, are you sure you’re right about this thing? You know, maybe it’s science who knows, maybe you’re not right. Uh, you know, maybe it’s that experiment translates here on the, on the animals, but it doesn’t work for the humans. I mean, these are all complicated questions, but what you are going to do is you’re going to endanger the university and the university is serving its community of students. And it’s got tens of thousands of students that I’m looking out for. And I have responsibility to those people. So in the balance of harms, this may not be the one to do. And by the way, I don’t think you can win. And then, you know, whether or not (Gary’s character) Tyrone does win or not in the end, we have to leave for, for your viewers.
I like exploring the corrupting role that capitalism plays in the American society because it has, it’s so great and it encourages innovation and all that, but you know, when we go too far away, when we get to free market and we do whatever you want, well sometimes that encourages bad behavior, you know, safeguards. It’s like, you know, you have a runaway train, right? You’re supposed to have some circuit breakers, make sure the train doesn’t go off the tracks. And I think that’s the role of us, the public. So that’s part of why we make the film is to say, Hey, take a look at what’s going on. You know, maybe you don’t want to do anything about it, but at least you should be aware of it.
Check out the trailer:
CRISIS is now available on Video On Demand. It’ll be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the USA on Tuesday April 20th
On its 10th anniversary, more than 60% of Twin Cities Film Fest’s 2019 program are driven by female filmmakers. It’s something I’m happy about of course, but I wish the general statistics about women in Hollywood is something to cheer about. As of right now, according to Women And Hollywood stats, women only make up for a mere 4% of directors.
So naturally I’m intrigued by documentaries that highlight women filmmakers. I featured the doc Be Natural about Alice Guy-Blaché (the Mother of Cinema). This time I had the privilege of chatting with Cady McClain, the director of Seeing Is Believing: Women Direct.
It’s a documentary film which emphasizes the opportunity for women to use their voice through media to change the social and political landscape and achieve full equality. Focusing on inspiring and uplifting young female storytellers through the mentorship and leadership of four diverse directors, Seeing is Believing: Women Direct opens the conversation up to ask “What is the broader role of storytelling in our society and how can women use filmed media as a unique opportunity to catalyze progress?”
The best documentaries are entertaining, insightful and fascinating. Well, this is one of those documentaries and then some. I love that there are clips from their projects along with the filmmakers’ interviews. I also adore the the stunning animation by Chilean artist Xaviera López that supports the themes of the doc.
I learned that Cady McClain is planning of turning this doc into a podcast series with female filmmakers and I really hope that would happen!
Check out the trailer:
Q&A with Director, Producer, Editor Cady McClain
1. What triggered you to make this film as your first feature? I read that it had started off as a 28 minute short, then an 58-minute version before this one (84 min) doc feature?
I actually started out with the idea of doing a feature. But there were two other women who wanted to make a similar feature and we each have our own vision. We all wanted to support each other but also wanted to have our own journey of going about it, which is kind of crazy but that’s how it turned out. So I didn’t want to compete by making another feature, so I thought I’ll make a series. So the short was supposed to be the first episode, the pilot. So I sent it to Soho Film Festival and they called me and said, ‘you should make it into a feature because they think it would be really competitive in their feature doc category.’
When a film festival called you, it was the encouragement I needed. I mean I never made a documentary before, I’ve never trained in documentary, but at least the short helped me understand what documentaries are. Plus I could build it from there, and the 84-minute film ended up winning the Audience Award at Soho International Film Festival which was amazing.
Then we also had a distributor come around who said, this isn’t long enough for iTunes (because it was under an hour). Now I have a little more understanding of how to make the doc feature I had wanted to make in the first place. So I went back and added more women [filmmakers] that I had wanted to but I hadn’t figured out how to fit them in. It’s like weaving a giant quilt to form a certain pattern, and you’re making the patterns as you go along.
2. Out of the filmmakers that were interviewed, I particularly love Lesli Linka Glatter, Li Lu and Sarah Gavron… I love their stories and the way they tell their stories. So how did you choose your subjects?
A lot of it was happenstance. It was who I knew and who people I knew knew… you know, how certain people connect me to certain people. Suffragette [movie] happened while I was making this film, one of my friends who was a member of the DGA invited me to that screening and I was so blown away by it that I wrote to her agent. She said she was too busy touring for this film, but if you fly to London she’ll make time. So I flew to London to interview Sarah Gavron. I was also so inspired by the careers of the people I interviewed.
One was Joanna Kearns (best known for Growing Pains), who was an established actor before she became a director. Some people said it might be easier the fact that we started off as actors, but it’s still very hard to make that transition and to earn your place [as director]. And also with Lesli Linka Glatter, there is a lot of happenstance that comes in any one’s career. As she said in the film, if she hadn’t met that one man in the coffee shop in Japan, she wouldn’t have gone into directing. I learned that no career is a straight line. It’s helpful for me because intrinsically, you don’t just go to film school and then have a film career. It’s a lot to do with the people you’re in school with, the connections you made there, what’s being made now, what are you inspired to make, how you craft your forward movement, etc. Nothing is guaranteed And if you didn’t go to film school and want to be a director, you really have to look around you, what resources are available to you, who are the people you know and what stories you’re inspired to tell. You really have to work with the circle you have around you instead of thinking it’s out there or you’d have to come to LA and expect things to happen.
3. How has your background as an actress help you as a director?
I feel like I could help comfort the actors, even when they push back. Some actors could get very insecure and some deal with their insecurity by becoming very tough. I learn not to take it personally, and just read it as total insecurity as that’s all it is. They need me to be the one in control, to be the strong one. If I’m not the strong one then they get afraid and nervous, ‘oh she’s not in control.’ So they need to know that ‘I’ve got it. You can be nervous and I’m holding the line here for you and I’ve got your back. Everything’s gonna be fine.’
4. Seeing the grim statistics about women in film, what do you think, from your perspective as a female filmmaker yourself, needs to be done in the industry level?
I think there is a comfort factor for the guys. When they work together there is a code of behavior, I don’t know if I would call it a pack mentality, but there’s an unspoken code of behavior. They call it the ‘Boys Club’ for a reason, it’s like in an athletic club you know, if you think about it like that, there is a code of behavior that’s been long held that they’re comfortable with. So when you introduce a randomness, which is the female into that space, they’d have to get into a learning curve. So is this a friendly person, is she going to judge us for our code? What’s their take?? So as a female leader, I feel like I have to be kind about that, and not be like ‘I’m coming in to blow your game away.’ The way I’d do it is to say, ‘I’m coming in to make your show great, to respect the work that you’ve done thus far and respect your set up here, but now I’ll bring in my intelligence, my talent and ability to the story.’ It does take a certain kind of crafting in that conversation, so we can move from a gender conversation but more about ‘let’s talk about the work.’
5. I’m glad you included Alice Guy-Blaché in your film. I watched her doc Be Natural last year and I felt so guilty that I hadn’t heard of her. So who’s been your fave female filmmakers, or those who have helped path the way for you as a filmmaker?
I saw the film ORLANDO, directed by Sally Potter and I was so blown away by it. It’s such a huge production and it’s a stunning story about gender… a person, a being, moving through bodies, through time… yet there is something so inherently similar no matter whether she was a male or female.
There was a glimmer of me ‘Could I do that? Is that possible?’ I was trained intensely by my mother that no, it isn’t something I could do. ‘She [Sally Potter] was British, it’s different over there.’ That old argument… You see, my mom was, you know the 1950s mentality, where if you’re going against the patriarchy if you will, the consequences would not be small. You’d have to have a lot of resilience to buck the status quo. I don’t think she felt she had that external or internal support, she was fighting different battles. She wants us to be safe, you know, she wants us to be happy, to survive. Unfortunately, her understanding of the world of what is possible is so limited. I think for her, standing up for what’s right is more satisfying for her.
What’s next for you? I saw you’re in the process of directing two dramatic features (Paint Made Flesh and Journey to Now)?
I’m afraid I can’t say anything about the projects I’m working on, but yes I’m definitely excited to be working on a narrative feature. Storytelling is what I’m about. Although I enjoyed making a documentary, I don’t want to be branded that I’m only doing certain type of things. I like to jump from medium to medium, I’m glad that these films found me and it resonated in our conversations. It worked out, they like me and then I got attached, so now we’re in long conversations of developing something into being. It all came about in a happenstance way, someone I met while making the doc recommended me for one, and someone else I met through the the process of finding more women directors recommended me as a female director, ‘hey think about Cady McClain.’ I think people who saw the documentary thought ‘oh she could tell a good story.’
Last week, one of FlixChatter contributors Laura Schaubschlager got to meet the two lead cast of Dora and the Lost City of Gold (thanks Allied Global Marketing!) Read below on Laura’s conversation with Isabela Moner & Eugenio Derbez
The stars of Dora and the Lost City of Gold want you to know that this isn’t your preschooler’s Dora the Explorer. Okay, maybe it is. But it’s definitely for other viewers, too.
“I think it appeals to a broader audience,” mused Eugenio Derbez, who plays Alejandro Gutierrez, during a brief round-table press interview before a meet and greet event at the Mall of America.
“I really think that it speaks to everybody, especially my generation that really, like, grew up with Dora,” added Isabela Moner, who plays the titular young explorer.
While the movie is obviously aimed at a younger audience, with its source material stemming from the nearly 20-year-old educational Nick Jr. cartoon, it’s also an action-packed adventure film, something both actors were thoroughly excited about.
“For me, it was a dream come true,” Eugenio said.
“I grew up watching Hollywood action movies and I always wanted to be part of them. I never thought it was going to happen, but it happened, so I was really, really happy.” – Eugenio
But being in an action movie is obviously physically demanding, which Eugenio and Isabela weren’t shy about talking about.
“It was scary, it was very demanding-it was the most exhausting film physically that I’ve done,” said Eugenio. “We went through all the cardio. The underwater scene, the quicksand, everything was real. The log, also, we were inside the log.”
Isabela clarified, “We did, like, a simulation-type thing, so it was in a sound stage, so they had a trunk rolling but we were inside it. Someone threw up. We don’t know who, but we know where!”
The underwater scene was especially challenging.
“They taught us how to hold our breath,” explained Eugenio. “They wanted us to hold our breath for two minutes […] they trained us for like a week and finally we did it! But it was really hard. And also, before the scene, we had to be treading water for a few seconds and it was very exhausting.”
“Yeah, it’s hard to breathe fully and take a full, deep breath in when you’re already treading water,” added Isabela, who had a particularly harrowing experience filming the underwater scene.
“Everyone’s kicking water up and we’re all ‘choking’,” she explained, miming the actors pretending to choke on water, “But I actually started choking and we were already rolling and they were like ‘3,2, 1,’ they’re going to pull us underwater and I couldn’t tell them I was choking because I was choking and then they pulled me underwater.”
“They thought she was acting,” chimed in Eugenio. Isabela remained positive about the ordeal, though.
“It was pretty scary, but things like that happen. I think it’s great; I hope they used the original take!”
The action isn’t the only thing Isabela was excited about in the movie. Being of Peruvian descent herself, she was especially looking forward to Peruvian culture playing such a prominent role on such a large platform, even learning Quechua, an indigenous language spoken primarily in the Peruvian Andes and the highlands of South America, for the role.
“I had a voice memo to work with from San Marcos University in Peru, and that was all I had.”
“It’s an unwritten language, right?” Eugenio asked.
“Yeah,” Isabela replied. “They use a thing called a quipu, which is like knots on a rope, and the knots mean different things…it’s crazy. Usually you just learn it from hearing other people speak it, so a lot of my older relatives knew how to speak it, so I would call them if I needed an extra translation of something.”
This dedication to cultural detail meant a lot to both actors, along with the importance of Latinx representation in Hollywood overall.
“Representation in Hollywood, especially now, it’s really important,” said Eugenio. “Latinos, we’re being charged and harassed very much lately, so the timing is perfect. It’s good to tell our people with the Dora movie that being Latino is cool-to tell the kids that speaking Spanish is okay, is a good thing. So I’m glad the movie came out in this very moment where we need that kind of support.”
“Yeah,” agreed Isabela.
“We need to unite–we need to support each other more than anything because in the industry, at least in my point of view, there’s not many Latinos or Latinas. I see the same people at every audition, and it’s the same kind of roles, the same kind of dialogue, and the same attitude, and it would be great to see some diversity, or at least some roles that are ethnically ambiguous but are given to a Latino.” – Isabela
In addition to starring in the movie, Eugenio was also an executive producer, and he used his position to make sure the cultural representation in the film was done right.
“It was so great with Eugenio producing this, because it was authentic,” said Isabela. “It wasn’t like ‘Google Translate’ Spanish in the script, and he made sure the dialect was correct. There were no stereotypes like that, because I’m sure he’s faced many of them.”
With such talented, motivated, and passionate individuals as these two in the industry, hopefully we’ll continue to see an increase in more thoughtful and diverse cultural representation in film.
You can catch Dora and the Lost City of Gold in theaters now.
Thank you Isabela Moner and Eugenio Derbez for talking to Laura from FlixChatter!
Hello readers, Ruth here! Welcome to another interview edition featuring two Minnesota filmmakers, Frank White (writer/director) and Jason P. Schumacher (producer).
For those of you loyal FC readers, you might be familiar with Jason’s name as we’ve featured him before when I interviewed him for his short film This Is Home, and he’s also the director of Hearts Want which I wrote and directed.
Corporate researchers go behind the back of their mysterious employer to test the telepathic abilities of a traumatized girl and her father.
The Chairman is a retro sci-fi/horror short about the intersection of business, media, and the supernatural, created by Minnesota filmmakers Frank White and Jason P. Schumacher, and featuring an original analog-synthesizer score by UK composer OGRE Sound. Frequently compared to the works of David Cronenberg and Paul Verhoeven, The Chairman is an attempt to dig below the surface of the late 20th Century retro aesthetics currently marbling popular culture, particularly when it comes to the horror genre. Instead of mere nostalgia for the analog era, the 20-minute short film seeks to explore how it underpins a mythology for our digital present.
The Chairman premiered at Cinepocalypse 2018, where it took home awards for best actor and actress. Other awards from its ongoing festival run include best editing and VFX from the 2018 Northern Frights Festival, and best horror short at Motor City Nightmares 2019.
Q: Where do you get the idea for this film that deals with a telepathic experimentation?
Frank: I’ve always been fascinated by ESP and the paranormal, in spite of being a skeptical person by nature. When Jason convinced me to make a short of my own, I combined that with a roughly sketched thriller I had been working on about a father being forced to watch horrible things happen to his family over CCTV. The evil corporation angle came from yet another unfinished story, so the core of the story is very much a family of orphaned stories. I don’t like to let an interesting idea go to waste.
Q: This is your first time directing. How’s that experience been for you? How has your background as a writer/editor assist you in directing?
Frank: Directing with a full crew is certainly intimidating at first, but we had a talented and enthusiastic bunch of people who made it a great first time experience for me. Plus we got extremely lucky with weather and locations, so I was able to focus on filmmaking rather than solving problems. Having edited narrative shorts before, I was familiar with most of the nuts and bolts of putting a scene together, and since we had a leisurely pre-production phase, I was able to do a great deal of planning for the shots I wanted, while also leaving some room for improvisation when circumstances demand it or a crew member comes up with a great new idea to try. The most helpful thing about being an editor is having some experience with struggling to put scenes together that didn’t get fully shot, and in the end I only gave myself one problematic scene as a director that I had to get creative with to put together properly as an editor.
Q: There’s a particularly intriguing scene in the film involving a bunch of extras in a lake. Would you tell me a bit about shooting that?
Frank: The big lake-ghost tableaux in the middle of The Chairman was a combination of careful planning and fortunate conditions. We had a series of ghost extras for other shots, which gave the make up artists time to get people ready one at a time, and since the ghosts don’t follow the usual laws of filmmaking continuity, we didn’t have to worry about keeping their positions constant between shots. It had been a wet, gloomy day for the shoot, which was ideal for our mood and lighting, and also had the bonus of keeping passersby away from the beach. I had a stockpile of towels and foil blankets on hand to keep people warm, but the water was surprisingly pleasant. (I spent a good portion of the day wading in it myself.)
Once we had all the extras ready, the weather decided to give us a perfect cloudy sky complete with shafts of light, and the camera crew hustled to get the jib ready just in time to get the shot. The hardest part of the shot ended up being keeping the kid ghosts focused, so it did take a couple takes to get everything right, but I couldn’t have asked for a better end result.
Q: There’s a vintage 80s feel to the film, even the grainy texture of the look. Is that deliberate and what’s the reasoning behind it?
Frank: The Chairman has a vague period feel of somewhere around 1990, which is mostly rooted in the movie’s analog media motif. There are a lot of CRT television screens and VHS equipment in the background, and the period look let us have a lot of fun with costumes and production design. ’80s aesthetics are always popular with millennials (and I have a soft spot for them), but we wanted to be a little subtler about it than most retro productions. So rather than loading the script up with references or going way over the top with period costuming, we tried to shoot it more like an ’80s movie, which meant things like using a lot less camera movement than we otherwise might; with the exceptions of one jib and two steadicam shots, everything is shot entirely on tripods. After that, we used color correction, artificial film grain, and an analog synthesizer score to enhance the retro feel.
Q: You also wrote the script for this. Was there anything that you had to change for the film that would make it work better cinematically?
Frank: Since I wrote The Chairman from the ground up for myself to film, it was all ready to go from the shooting script. Some dialogue got axed while editing for pacing reasons, but otherwise it’s all on screen as intended. It was quite the journey from the first draft to that shooting script though. I initially wrote without any thought towards budgetary concerns, but fortunately a lot of the stuff that would have been wildly expensive to make (there was a biomechanical monster at one point) was cut out while streamlining and focusing the narrative.
Interview with Jason P. Schumacher
Q: I saw on IMDb this is your 11th short films you’ve produced? What is it about this project that set it apart from the other projects you’ve produced?
Jason: I’d say, the scale and ambition of it. We had to create our own evil corporation and the marketing for two of their products. It is also a period piece with period appropriate locations, costumes, and technology. I’ve done a few period pieces before, but not with this many characters and locations. The biggest difference from previous projects though, is that The Chairman has various supernatural elements that we had to use special effects and cinematic language through editing and camerawork to convey. We had to figure out how we wanted to portray ghosts and psychic energy in the world that that we were creating.
Q: This film is a horror/sci-fi, are you a big fan of this genre? What’s your favorite sci-fi/horror films?
Jason: I love any good film that makes me feel like I’ve just had an experience. Frank really introduced me to a lot of horror films and directors in college when we were roommates. One of the first movies we probably watched together was John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), which is a masterpiece. It has incredible and disgusting practical effects but it also has equally compelling scenes of characters just being paranoid and suspicious of one another. I’m a huge fan of the Polish horror fairy-tale musical, The Lure (2015). It manages to be this completely weird fusion of things that still hits me on an emotional level. The Orphanage (2007) scares the heck out of me and also manages to be a soul crushing character study.
Frank and I both are excited about this new resurgence of arthouse horror that’s been happening; The Witch, Us, Hereditary, Susperia. We try to go see as many of those together in the theater as we can.
For Sci-Fi, I like a lot of the standards. Robocop, Arrival, Ex-Machina, and The Matrix all come to mind. I’m also a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone. Lately, I’ve been wanting to watch more animated Sci-Fi films because Paprika (2006) might be my actual favorite Sci-Fi film. Iron Giant, Ghost in the Shell, and A Scanner Darkly are also great.
Q: I know you have dealt with casting for most of the films you directed/produced. How’s the casting process go with this one as there’s quite a big ensemble?
Jason: Well, we held a big audition and saw a lot of people! I know a lot of actors in the Minnesota community but I actually didn’t know anyone that we cast before we met them for The Chairman. I’d met Tessa Meath (Samantha) briefly at another casting session and thought she had the most incredible speaking voice. I thought she’d be perfect for the part of Samantha, who’s needs to communicate a lot with few words. James Detmar (Vincent), I’d had seen in another audition where he was playing someone commanding and intimidating. His performance was so effective in that other audition that I was a little nervous reaching out to him, but he’s an incredibly kind and lovely person. All of our cold, cruel baddies in real life, are some of the nicest people around. There’s some very funny behind-the-scenes shots of them smiling and laughing in the abandoned office set, under the menacing lighting. I auditioned Jeremy Frandrup previously for This is Home and really liked him.
Q: You’ve collaborated with Frank quite a bit on short films. How much input do you have in this film in terms of the story?
Jason: Frank has been behind-the-scenes on pretty much all of my films and the other stuff we’ve created at GreyDuck. This was his time to jump in, direct, and lead a project of his own. I like to think my biggest input was just to keep asking him “When are we gonna make this thing?” But the story and script are entirely his creation. Earlier drafts of the script were longer and so we had discussions about what to cut. There was another supernatural experiment that survived many drafts of the script, but ultimately had to be cut because there wasn’t enough time to clarify what it was, without distracting from the main experiment that the story revolves around. Hopefully, in the future, we can expand the world of The Chairman and tell other stories involving Pantheon and their other products, either in a feature film or some kind of mini series.
Q: What kind of challenges did you encounter making this film and how did you overcome them?
Jason: The whole thing was filled with a lot of new challenges. But with how big and ambitious this film was, all the people involved, and all the moving parts, it was actually a joy to make. I thought the biggest challenge was going to be the lake scenes, but because we were so worried about them and planned so carefully, they actually weren’t that bad. The biggest challenge was probably the darn elevator towards the end of the film. There’s a moment where 2 characters exchange some dialogue while leaving the elevator and another character steps in and takes it to the top floor. The building that we used for the Pantheon headquarters was a highly secure building, so we needed someone on staff there to swipe their security badge for every single take. And, course, the elevator doors would shut automatically at just the wrong time. Everyone remained relatively patient and we got through it, but it all took far longer than anyone expected. Beyond fighting with an elevator, I just had to be really prepared and to help clearly communicate Frank’s ambitious vision to everyone involved, so that they knew what we were aiming for and could bring their own skill and artistry to it, to bring it all to life.
One of the perks of covering film festivals is discovering cinematic gems that I otherwise would not have come across. This is one of those sparkling gems I got to see at MSPIFF this year. Not only is this film speaks of a topic that is near and dear to my heart as a female film critic/screenwriter/filmmaker, Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché is eye-opening, inspiring, captivating and absolutely delightful to watch!
Pamela B. Green’s energetic film about pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché is both a tribute and a detective story, tracing the circumstances by which this extraordinary artist faded from memory and the path toward her reclamation.
‘Be Natural’ Review
Directed by: Pamela B. Green
Written by: Pamela B. Green, Joan Simon
Have you ever heard of Georges Méliès? The Lumière Brothers? Thomas Edison? Most likely your answer would be yes. But how about Alice Guy-Blaché? If you say ‘Alice who?’ then you’re not alone.
I remember feeling really guilty that I didn’t know who Alice Guy was, I mean I consider myself well-versed in cinema history. Or so I thought. But then the opening of this film asked that very question, ‘Have you ever heard of Alice Guy-Blaché?’ to a number of filmmakers working in the industry (i.e. Catherine Hardwicke, Jon M. Chu, Peter Farrelly) and many of them had never heard of her.
By the time Jodie Foster’s voice came on as the narrator, I was glued to the screen, captivated and deeply curious to hear more about this untold story of Alice Guy, the forgotten ‘Mother of Cinema’ who’s seemingly been absent from cinema history through generations. Pamela B. Green has poured her passion and admiration for Alice Guy-Blaché and it shows. She utilized her background in motion design (she’s the founder/owner of Pic Agency in Los Angeles) in her storytelling style. I love that the film goes beyond showing talking heads and an immense wealth of archival photos/footage, but it’s also a thrilling detective story. The animation/motion graphics helped convey the filmmaker and team’s journey in finding the right people to tell Alice Guy’s journey, including her daughter Simone Blaché.
It’s immensely inspiring to see a woman behind the camera in the late 1800s. Alice Guy is shown in various photos directing actors on set. By her own account, she made the first narrative films ever in 1896! However, despite having made over 1,000 films, it’s heartbreaking that Alice had to fight to get credit for her work. It’s also astounding that even a hundred years later, there’s still a huge disparity for women behind the camera. I’m SO glad I finally learned about Alice Guy-Blaché and her crucial place in the cinema history. This film is so overdue, yet it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. As more people are championing gender parity in cinema, this film would likely inspire to keep up the good fight.
I can’t recommend this film enough to anyone who loves cinema, whether you’re a casual movie-watcher or involved in filmmaking at any capacity. Check out where this film is playing next on their official website.
* Photo courtesy of Be Natural Productions
** Photo courtesy of Anthony Slide
Check out the trailer:
Quick Bio on Pamela B. Green
Originally from New York, Pamela B. Green lived most of her life in Europe and Israel and as a result, is fluent in English, French, Italian, and Hebrew. In 2005, she founded PIC, an entertainment and motion design boutique based in Los Angeles, California. Green’s work ranges from feature film main titles, motion graphics, creative directing, directing and producing music videos and commercials. She is known in the industry for creating titles sequences and story sequences using her knowledge of graphic design, animation, editorial, and archival rare stock footage research.
Q&A with filmmaker Pamela B. Green
As soon as I saw Be Natural film, I went on Twitter to share about the film and to thank Pamela for shining a light on such a cinematic pioneer & visionary who’s somehow forgotten/omitted from film history books. I then contacted Pamela via her official site and was thrilled that I got to chat with her over the phone last Wednesday. Check out my Q&A below on some insights into her filmmaking journey.
Q1: What inspired you to tell Alice Guy’s story and let the world know that she is the true #MotherOfCinema?
I saw a tv show about women pioneers in cinema which included her. The show mentioned Mary Pickford (who co-founded Pickford–Fairbanks Studio with Douglas Fairbanks) who’s also well-known as an actress. But the fact that Alice Guy had done so much and had her own studio, she stood out. I had never heard of her at that point, and the more people I asked, I realized that many people also had never heard of her. I did more research and talked to some people in the academics community who said ‘oh everyone knows about Alice’ which made me angry because that [statement] is not true. Only a small group of academics knew about her.
I kept asking people that I work with in Hollywood, those I do jobs for, studios, and nobody had heard of her. I decided to do something about it. At that point I wasn’t sure what it would be yet, but coincidentally I was working with Robert Redford on a couple of films. On a second film, I told him about Alice and he was shocked as well. He said ‘well what are you going to do about this?’ Then I said, well I think I should do a documentary because I don’t think there’s enough work has been done to really explore Alice besides the academic aspect, restoring her films, documenting what she had done, etc. but it wasn’t a full exploration of her.
Q2: How long ago was this, that this journey started?
Oh a long time ago. In 2011 I was talking about this. Then we did a Kickstartercampaign in 2013 which was quite successful. Then the head of Geena Davis’ institute [SheJane.org] found out about it and then she talked to a big producers Geralyn White Dreyfous, Regina K. Scully, Jamie Wolf who came on board. They’re not part of Hollywood, but people who often fund social issues pertaining to women. Hugh Hefner and Jodie Foster also came on board as executive producers. They’re all visionaries who understood right away why I had to make this film. Instead of having to fight the system in Hollywood, I went the other way and they really helped me.
Q3: Did you face resistance from people who try to maintain the status quo of cinema history?
Yes. I get a lot of resistance from France, the Academics, professors. And Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. I mean they participated but Hollywood didn’t fund this movie. It’s completely donation-based. The ‘wallets’ just wasn’t available I guess, so I got funding from social media and these wonderful women. Barbara Bridges from the Denver Film Society is one, basically a lot of women behind the men who helped fund this movie, a lot of philanthropist women helped tell this story. The film is also distributed independently, outside of the studio system. But I see it as a positive thing, I was able to make the movie that I wanted to make, and marketed it the way I wanted to market it. There’s not many ‘fingers in the pot’ while I was making the film.
Q4: I love that the film also plays like a detective story, and the motion graphics helped convey that so wonderfully. Was that a conscious decision on your part to tell the story that way?
Yes, from the very beginning. I wanted to have Skype interviews, contact people around the world. Some people in the industry said to me ‘It wouldn’t be aesthetically correct. Why would you do that? It would look bad, what do you know about editing, etc.’ So I got a lot of resistance and people saying that I didn’t know what I was doing while making this film. So it’s similar to how Alice Guy was treated and had to deal with, that is having people second-guessing her as a filmmaker.
Q5: Where can people see Alice Guy’s extensive work? Is there plans to make her work readily available to the public?
Our film opened at Laemmle’s Monica Film Center on Friday, April 19. Then IFC Center in New York on April 26, then slowly we’re opening in multiple cities in the US and internationally [check out the film’s official site for schedule].
As far as Alice Guy’s films, there’s the Gaumont DVD collection [available on Amazon]. Kino Lorber Distribution company has some of her American films which they’ve released as part of the Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers disc [available on Amazon]. I’m also working on doing her American collections available for streaming. There are about 150 of her films in existence and we’re setting up a foundation that would hopefully support that venture.
There are countless of stories of war that have been depicted on screen, whether narratives or documentaries. They are inherently fascinating to me, and I’m especially intrigued by stories of survival, especially when told by the survivors themselves, as in the case of this remarkable WWII documentary with a Minnesota connection.
Told by U.S. Eighth Air Force Bombardier Lt. Charles Woehrle, one of 10,000 prisoners in Stalag Luft III – depicted in the movie ‘The Great Escape.’ At age 93 this remarkable man, a gifted storyteller, relives his experiences with vivid detail. His personal account of being shot down, captured by the Nazi’s and surviving two long years of tremendous hardship is filled with grit and grace.
In the promotional material for the film fest, the film is billed as ‘saga filled with grit and grace.’ I couldn’t agree more after seeing the film, I feel that it was how the late Lt. Charles Woehrle lived all his life… up until he passed away at the age of 98. It’s truly a good thing that Mr. Woehrle’s niece Louise is a gifted filmmaker, as she brought her uncle’s story to life so beautifully.
Though this film depicts a harrowing story, it has such hopeful, uplifting tone, a certain quiet grace that shines through when the then 93-year-old Charles Woehrle told his story on camera. Director Louise Woehrle used footage from 13+ hours of interviews with her late uncle, and combined them with various photos, real footage, countless memorabilia, plus re-enactment scenes to tell an inspiring tale of survival.
Lieutenant Woehrle spent 22 months at Stalag Luft III prison camp along with other Allied officers. This film allowed him to provide the voice for his fellow comrades who couldn’t tell their own stories. There’s also a delightful story about how he received an unexpected gift from Patek Philippe, the luxury watch company from Geneva while he was a prisoner of war. I was so invested in the soldiers’ stories that when I saw the footage of General Patton liberating the Allied prison camps, I literally cheered. As a movie fan, I was amused to see footage of classic Hollywood star Clark Gable who joined the Army Air Force and was part of the 351st Bombardment Group.
This is a film told with passion and care. The amount of meticulous details is astounding, and they’re woven together seamlessly with the ‘talking head’ interviews and re-enactments to tell a cohesive story that’s suspenseful, thrilling, deeply-touching and inspiring. I have to mention the wonderful music which mixes the classic theme from The Great Escape by Elmer Bernstein, as well as those made specifically for this film. Great music adds such richness to the whole experience and that is definitely the case here.
I’m glad I got to see this film and learn more about a real life hero, as well as others whose stories are told through him. A brilliant showcase of the triumph of the human spirit. Lt. Woehrle’s and his comrades’ experience certainly gives me a whole new appreciation about life and the freedom we enjoy every day. …
Q&A with filmmaker Louise Woehrle
Q1. What sparked the idea that you wanted to tell your uncle’s story?
The idea was sparked after my dad died in 2006. I was still working on my feature documentary Pride of Lions (co-directed with my brother John Woehrle) so I knew it couldn’t happen right away. By 2010 when my uncle was age 93, I could wait no longer, and that’s when I got busy. I knew that even if my uncle passed away after I shot his interviews in the studio, I could still tell his story.
Q2. Sounds like you filmed this five years before your uncle passed (when he was 93), how long was the interview process with him specifically?
The interview process happened in 3 in-studio interview sessions, lasting 3-4 hours each. I had subsequent interviews at his apartment later.
Q3. Did you learn new things about his tale you didn’t know before?
Yes, I learned a lot of new things. The one that stands out the most is the watch story. We had been shooting at a Stalag Luft III reunion in Detroit. I was interviewing a PoW who was on oxygen. He was wearing a Rolex watch that was broken and he said he never took it off because he had it in prison camp. So, when my uncle and I were flying back to Minneapolis, I asked him if he had a watch in camp? He looked at me and said, “Let me tell you a story about a watch.” That’s the first time I heard about the Patek Philippe. I think it was never mentioned because his house was robbed in the 70s and the watch was one of the stolen valuables. He just moved on and did not talk about it. I knew, at that moment, what that watch meant to him and so began my search for the watch and ultimately a replacement watch from Patek Philippe.
The watch from Patek Philippe
The watch was specially engraved for Charles Woehrle
Q4.When watching the film, I was astounded by the amount of details of footage, photos, memorabilia, etc. that really makes for effective documentary storytelling. Would you share a bit about the research and process of collecting all of those items?
My uncle held on to his WWII documents, logbook, journal, artifacts, letters from home, Patek documents and the negatives from the photos he took at the end of the war with the Voigtlander camera that ended up in the Nuremberg Trials. I also attained scans from Col. Clark’s photo collection from the Air Force Academy Library. Those photos were taken with clandestine cameras by the PoWs. I also worked with the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley in Little Falls, MN. They provided uniforms, tin cups, red cross parcels, the French Box car and more.
I was able to attain 2 film reels from the footage that was used in William Wiley’s 1944 documentary film Memphis Belle: The Story of a Flying Fortress. 16 mm reels from an archival film licensing online platform, Critical Past. I did a deal with them. If they sent me the reels of film, we would do the digital transfer for them. My colorist, Dave Sweet at Pixel Farm specializes in the transfer of 16mm and 35mm. Because we worked out an even trade, Critical Past did not charge for the use of the film. I also scored on the use of the B-17 from EAA in Wisconsin. That’s a whole other story of convincing them why they should work with me. All things led back to Uncle Charles and his true story. He lived it and we get to document that story! It was a 95-degree day when they landed for 4 hours at Anoka Airport. I had to rent commercial air conditioning units so none of our re-enactors would pass out from heat stroke with all that gear on.
Q5.I thought the re-enactment scenes were well-crafted and looked very believable. How’s the process of casting the actors and recreating those air battle scenes?
We used green screen while shooting the B-17 on the ground at the Anoka airport. The goal was to shoot as much as we could with the limited time that we had. VFX were always going to be a part of the equation but I had no idea how far we could take it. I saw this sequence as being critical to the film. I was working with one of my several shooters on the project, Alex Fournier, who also assisted in some editing too. He studied art at the Chicago Institute of Art so he had a real talent for learning VFX. Alex fell down the rabbit hole learning what he needed to make a bullet coming through the fuselage look real, taking a still image and animating it and creating a scene of jumping out of the B-17 look real. He must have worked for 3 months, straight. I was very involved in editing that sequence. I knew it had to have the right rhythm to work and so did Jim Stanger, my editor who seamlessly connected each piece. Splice came in and took the VFX to the next level with their contributions.
For the B-17 air battle sequence, I had to rely on Minnesota Military Museum’s help, specifically historians Doug Thompson and Charlie Pautler. I told them that I wanted young guys for the roles who were in shape and could wear their hair short. My historians delivered a great group. I also used some of the same guys on the forced march sequence. Three of the PoWs were family, my son Luke Enyeart (age 19), nephew, Dylan Woehrle and my uncle Charles grandson, George Kelly. Keep in mind, none of my reenactors were actual actors. The only true actor in the film was the voice over for Charles mother, Anna. That was voiced by veteran actor Sally Wingert. The woman who played the mother role, Joan Lambert had acted in high school and she was a mother, therefore, she could relate to the story. How I found Joan is yet another serendipitous event.
Q6. Did you make contact with any of Charles’ former crew that you’re making this film?
Actually, it was a family member of one of my uncle’s fellow crew members who contacted me. The daughter of Sgt. Charles Eaton (Top Turret) who is standing next to Charles in the photo of the 4 PoWs standing after they were captured. Eaton is standing next to my Uncle. They pretended they did not know each other. The daughter called me because her dad did not talk about the war and she hoped that Uncle Charles could shed some light on some unanswered questions. I arranged a conference call with Charles, the daughter and her sister and myself. They asked what their dad was like back then because the man they grew up with seemed fractured emotionally from the war. Their dad could never get over the fact that he could not get the radio operator to jump. The kid was too scared so he went down with the plane. After Uncle Charles told them about want a great guy he was and how you could always count on him, etc. they started to cry. Later they wrote to us and said how healing it was to talk to my Uncle and that it explained a lot. Uncle Charles also told them that their dad did everything he could to help the radio operator but had to jump at the last second to save his own life.
Q7. And was it Charles’ idea to honor their stories, as in providing a voice for those who didn’t make it?
Uncle Charles honored his fellow airmen, always. When he went to France as the last survivor of the crew, he took it upon himself to represent all his crew in the best way he knew how. He documented every part of the trip and put together books for each family of the crew and sent to them. He felt it was his duty as the last man standing. That’s just how he lived his life. So when you ask, was it his idea to provide a voice for those who did not make it, I would have to say yes. Was it my idea to include that theme in the film? Yes. The mission for Whirlygig Productions from inception in 2002: “Telling stories that help us see ourselves and others in new ways, promote healing and connect us as human beings.” I have shortened the tag line to “Shining a light on stories that need to be told.” For me, there always needs to be the purpose of a greater good that can come from a story. Uncle Charles lived his story, I was lucky enough to document it through this film.
Q8. Sounds like your uncle lives his life with ‘grit and grace.’ Would you share one personal moment of you and your uncle that you’ll always carry with you?
Yes – one day we were talking over dinner and I asked him who in the family reminded him of my Dad (his identical twin). I was thinking one of my 4 brothers, maybe my sons. He gently pointed his finger at me. I was moved. Uncle Charles and I were there for each other – at that moment, I understood our connection on another level.
Q9. The moment where Charles went to a Detroit Air Show is very moving, esp when he got inside the bomber airplane similar to his B-17. Please tell me one of your favorite moments making this film.
Well, that was one of my favorite moments because up until that point he was telling me there would be no way he would ever get into a B-17 again after all he had been through. So when the young captain on the tarmac asked Uncle Charles if he wanted to go up into the plane and he said “no, no, no,” and the guy driving the golf cart said “yes, yes, yes,” or something like that…something switched in him and he did it! I was blown away. It brought a lot of joy to not only him, but the rest of us watching him.
Q10. I love the music used throughout and you’re credited as the Music Supervisor. I noticed that you used the theme from The Great Escape film by Elmer Bernstein.
Thank you. Music is the bedrock of my storytelling. I studied music growing up and into college. I became a music therapy major at the U of Minnesota. Music is integral to every story. When we were editing the Stalag Luft III prison camp sequence my editor, Jim Stanger asked if we could use the music from the Great Escape movie to get us in the spirit of being there. Of course, I said yes but was worried we would get so attached that I would never be able to find music to replace it. Elmer Bernstein composed beautifully to the spirit of that film. Well, as I thought, I got attached to the music so much that I reached out to the Elmer Bernstein Family Foundation. They referred me to Sony ATV. It took 4 months of emails back and forth with detailed examples of how the music cues would work with the sequences. Finally, they said yes and allowed me to use 4 cues at a minimal fee. They understood this was an independent film about a pretty impressive man who lived the real Stalag Luft III. I am very grateful that they got on board.
Q11. How did you select the music for this film?
I have a good sense of what a scene or sequence needs emotionally and musically. I used that inner knowing when diving into the various music libraries. The right music sort of jumps out at me. I lost myself for days looking for various music cues. There were a few cues that my editors used to cut to that we left in too. My music editor Ken Chastain did a great job providing transitional music or creating certain classics, like Silent Night, Amazing Grace or tonal segues.
My son Luke Enyeart composed 4 cues after Uncle Charles capture and during his time in the cold and hardship in prison camp. Luke wrote a couple of the cues with his good friend Will Honaker. Luke’s primary instrument is the guitar. He has composed music for 4 of my film projects and possesses great emotional intelligence in his music. You can’t teach that.
Q12. Lastly, what would you want people to take away from after seeing this film?
I hope they feel like their hearts have been opened and tended to by the life of Charles Woehrle. I hope they can walk away feeling inspired by kindness, compassion, and love for our fellow man. I want future generations to know how much we owe the Greatest Generation and hope that my Uncle’s story starts a conversation and offers some healing for families like the Charles Eaton’s.