TCFF 2014 Interview with Bradley King & George Finn for sci-fi thriller ‘Time Lapse’

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Twin Cities Film Fest picked a truly awesome film for our closing night! Time Lapse is one of those mind-bending sci-fi gems that delivers big impact on a shoestring budget. Director Bradley King and actor George Finn were in attendance and participated in the Q&A afterwards. The theater was packed and the audience gave a loud applause when the credits rolled. I thought it was really well-done, a character-driven piece with a nice blend of humor and suspense.

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FCInterviewBannerI was lucky enough to be able to chat with them at the Marriott Hotel in the afternoon before the screening. It was just the three of us in this huge lobby, and there was no time restriction and no other interviewer present, which was very cool indeed!

George_Bradley_TCFFInterviewThis is yet another impressive directorial debut I saw at TCFF, perhaps even the best. If Time Lapse is any indication, I sure hope this is the first of many from Bradley King. I sure hope the big studios take notice, because if he could do something THIS good on a small budget, I’d love to see what he could do with something that has ten times its budget.

This could be the big break for George Finn as well, who displays a strong screen charisma as well as acting range, seamlessly alternating between a grungy slob to a sly & sinister young man. It’s truly a pleasant surprise to see him channel his dark side convincingly, as the actor I met earlier in the day is so affable and charming … not to mention devastatingly beautiful. A native of Tbilisi, Georgia, Finn is tall, with striking blue eyes and tousled jet black hair, he looks like a cross between Cillian Murphy and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.

Ok I could go on but let’s get to the interview, shall we?

Ruth: So Bradley, how did you and [co-screenwriter] B.P. Cooper came up with the story idea?

Bradley: Well I wish I could take credit for it but actually it’s Cooper who came up with the idea for the machine. He actually had seen a movie where someone put a camera inside a machine. So we thought well, what if the machine and the camera were the same thing? So I kinda took that and thought well, that’s awesome but how could we do that and make it into something that’s low-budget in one location, so I guess that’s how it came out of. It’s a practical beginning really, how about if we make a low-budget sci-fi movie, I mean we both love science fiction so this is really what came out of that idea.

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R: I know you came out from short films background… I mean you’ve directed a lot of them. So what make you decide that this is going to turn this idea into a feature film?

Bradley: Yes I’ve directed a lot of features and Cooper has produced a few features, so I guess we’re both were at a point where we wanted to make a movie together and so we’re consciously looking for a film idea that we can do with the means that we have. So once we came up with this we soon realize this would fit the bill.

R: And how was the casting come on board… I mean how did George come on board and all that?

Bradley: Well let’s hear George’s story on how he came on board and I can help fill in the rest…

George: Well, Rick Montgomery who’s the producer of Time Lapse is also a well-known casting director so I read with him a few times and he sent me a pitch packet with a script and the entire layout of what the time machine look like and kind of a storyboard almost. So I read the script and I fell in love with the character Jasper. I remember when I was first reading it, I completely understood who he was. I mean there are certain individuals who sort of resonated with me and I was really getting into it. And the more I read it I found myself getting lost in the story and was really hooked. So by the time I went to read with these guys [pointing to Bradley] I really wanted the part. I met them and in this room there were a lot of storyboards and some yarn lines kind of telling us what would happen after what … I think it was sort of a prototype of the big room. And so I met with them and luckily, it worked out.

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George Finn, Danielle Panabaker, Matt O’Leary in ‘Time Lapse’

R: This film reminds me a bit of Chronicle, which is also a small-budget sci-fi. I mean it’s different plot-wise but it also have three young people dealing with having some kind of superpowers, whilst the people in Time Lapse discovered a machine that’s supposedly have some kind of powers. So is it kind of a cautionary tale about when someone gets a certain power, how the human nature comes into it?

Bradley: Yeah I think pretty early on, we knew things weren’t going to end up well. I’ve always liked cautionary tales especially in sci-fis. We had other potential endings y’know, but it just, the theme of people being obsessed with the future that it sort of ruin their present is something that both Cooper and I can relate to. I think a lot about the future. I think I’d be more like the Finn character [played by Matt O’Leary], I worry a lot about what my next project’s gonna be, whether the next idea show up or whether I’m gonna sit here and stare at a blank page for y’know, however long. So yeah, I used to think that you could decide the theme first then write the story out of that, but usually it’s the other way around. You start writing the story then as you’re writing it, then you realize that ‘oh this theme seems to be strong’ and at the end, usually it becomes clear. Then you go back and see if we could adjust to make that theme even clearer and stronger. So we rewrite things a little bit after you realize the “meaning” of it is. At least for me as a filmmaker, I don’t know that everyone who watches it would take that away but for us, but for us, that’s definitely a strong theme.

R: One of the reviews of the film that I read talked about the visual and the sound kind of give the audience that claustrophobic feeling, you know, being in a small set. So can you talk about a little bit about filming in such a small space and how you got it down to how you wanted it to be.

Bradley: I’d be happy to, but I’m curious how George feels about acting in such a small set and how it affects his performance.

George: Yeah I think it enhances everything in the sense that because we’re all there and we’re kind of so close, we all fell into our roles. It was easier to develop our relationships and figure everything out. And when you’re watching the film, you mentioned the word claustrophobia, you really… umm, I’m trying to find the words on how to describe it… well the claustrophobia adds and intensifies everything.

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R: Cool. I mean you kind of want the environment to be part of the story, don’t you? 

Bradley: Yeah I was worried y’know, as a filmmaker, would it stay interesting? Would it be too claustrophobic? I mean you’ve seen some movies set in one location and you get bored, y’know and by the end, you’re like, I’ve seen this wall a thousand times already. So y’know, so it’s a challenge for everybody. We talked to the DP y’know to keep the lighting fresh, do we want to add more contrast towards the end, darker, or whatever and I think Jonathan [Wenstrup, the cinematographer] did a great job keeping things fresh. I mean yeah, we wanted the film to feel claustrophobic because they kind of trapped in this weird little bubble. Not just in the apartment but the complex itself, ’cause everything happens right there. We’re very lucky that we got this 20s-style series of bungalows that we could take the whole place over. People could do things and move around outside but they never really left, I mean they don’t even know what city they’re in. I like it as a creative limitation. Once we’re able to find the place. Cooper said it was a nightmare until we found it as we spent weeks and weeks trying to find that stupid location.

George: I think one of the coolest things about that location is the fact that where we were, right across from us you actually the camera. The location is exactly what it is. I mean there’s this one movable wall but everything that’s there is really there.

Ruth: So you don’t have to imagine things?

George: Yeah I think as an actor I feel that because of that, it made it a lot easier to understand the character and get into ’em because in that world, we got to really immerse ourselves into it and be comfortable in it and explore all the fun things that we did get to find.

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Time Lapse Concept Art

Source: Howie Things Blog

R: So how long was the shoot?

Ah, the actual shooting was 27 or 28 days. We’ve been giving both answers during Q&As [laughs], Cooper knows exactly how long, but I think even he’s been giving both answers. So it’s like 27, then we had to add one more day, so 28.

R [for George]: You’ve done some films and a few TV work, I know you’re in The Mentalist [season 6 final episode: Blue Birds]. So is this your first sci-fi genre?

George: Yeah it is. This is my first sci-fi film. I mean I couldn’t be more proud of a film, I think [laughs]. I’m really, really happy. I mean, I got to see a lot of Danielle’s and Matt’s stuff, but there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t get to see. So when I finally got to see it, I was able to remove myself enough to really appreciate it. From the feedback we’re getting and things I’ve heard, I know I’m really proud of it.

R: Last question for you Bradley. Who’s your filmmaker inspiration?

Bradley: Oh boy, that’s tough as I don’t think I have just one and it changes depending on the project. As we got into this one a lot, now I’ve been a big Hitchcock fan and this movie has a bit of Rear Window tone to it. I certainly study him. There are so many others that the list would go on forever. I think it’s easier for me to point to movie influences in this one. We also took a look at films with relationship dynamics where there are three people who are really close and things go really bad. So we looked at Shallow Graves, that was the one we watched a lot, and also A Simple Plan. We also revisited Time Crimes, Back to the Future, and Twelve Monkeys. We just wanted to make sure just what are the rules about time travel, even though there isn’t really time travel in our movie but there is that time themes so you know, we just want to make sure we handle this in a way that’s palatable for people who like this sort of thing. So I guess those are the main influences.

But then when we get to post-production, my editor was a bit Stanley Kubrick fan and so we talked about him. I mean, we didn’t want to make this machine alive but at the same time, it is sort of this Hal-like thing across the way where he’s watching people and in the end, it’s like y’know, the last man standing. And also, once the composer came on board, we started talking about Bernard Herrmann, and sort of going back to Hitchcock and how to deal with a score that could be an old school suspense vein but also feels modern.

R [for George]: And you worked with your brother a lot … [Nika Agiashvilli] So what’s next for you? You have a project you’re working with him right now, correct?

George: Yeah we have a project that’s in early pre-production. It’s a bit of a passion project of ours. We finally getting close to how we wanted to make it. It’s called The Short Happy Life of Butch Livingston. That’s most likely going to be next. I’m also working on another one with Ron Perlman called Savage Mutts, it’s a gritty revenge thriller. It’s a lot of fun, we’re excited about that so whichever one of those shall be my next project.

Ruth: Well, thanks so much guys. I don’t really have any more questions. So do you have anything to add about the film?

Bradley: Ummm I don’t think so, how about you George?

George: Well, go see it! [laughs] Thank you for having us here.

Ruth: No thank you! It’s been fun chatting with you both and I’m super excited to see the film!

TimeLapseCameraDuring the Q&A, someone asked Bradley about the design of the Camera Machine itself, here’s his answer:

Bradley: Up front I knew that I wanted it to feel retro and a bit steam-punk-y. I worked with a concept artist named Howard Schechtman, and I made it clear I didn’t want any LEDs or lasers or computer chips etc. He started coming back with great sketches, and probably the 3rd one is the one we went with. At that point we didn’t really expect the physical machine to end up resembling these sketches (because of budget, it just seemed improbable) but then we discovered this fabricator named Dave Mendoza, and he and a scenic artist Thibault Pelletier worked together over the course of the shoot to build the machine as you see it in the movie. They were sourcing parts from all over the place – an airplane junkyard, hardware stores, some parts even came from the abandoned apartment complex itself. By the end of the shoot they had really captured the magic of the concept sketches, and I was extremely pleased.


Congratulations Bradley & BP Cooper + the entire cast for Time Lapse winning the Indie Vision: Breakthrough Film award!

George Finn & Bradley King accepting the TCFF Indie Vision Award
George Finn & Bradley King accepting the TCFF Indie Vision Award

 Check out Time Lapse‘s trailer


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Bradley & George!

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Hope you enjoyed the interview. Has anyone seen Time Lapse? I’d love to know what you think!

TCFF 2014 – Interview with Ink & Steel Filmmakers/Cast

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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.

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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.

FCInterviewBannerIt 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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Richard Fiske & Tyler Noble
Richard Fiske & Tyler Noble

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.

Jonathan [left] and Patrick [right] filming Ink & Steel
Jonathan [left] and Patrick [right] filming Ink & Steel

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! 

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Hope you enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for more reviews and the Time Lapse interview !

TCFF 2014 Day 5 & 6: Reviews of ‘Evil, Enemies & Aliens’ Shorts Block + Solitude

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I love the variety of Twin Cities Film Fest lineup, year after year. One of the film formats I don’t get to see often is Film Shorts, but thankfully, TCFF offers five set of Shorts broken down by themes. I missed the first set but last Monday I got to see the second set, you can see a sneak peaks of them all in this video below:

Evil, Enemies, and Aliens (Shorts Block)

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Disturbing and deadly conflicts aren’t unique to large scale wars or terrorism. They can be found around us in our everyday lives. This shorts block takes a look at retaliation, murder, fishing, sacrifice, and bare knuckle fighting to illuminate the beautiful, but uncertain world around us.

Films in the Evil, Enemies & Aliens Short Blocks:

  • Gone Fishing
  • Windage
  • Trapped
  • Alone Together
  • Knuckle
  • One Armed Man

I’m only going to do a mini review of the two that I like most – both happen to be under 8 minutes each. I think the rule of thumb for a good short film is that it shouldn’t overstay its welcome. I guess that should be a rule for any kind of film, but most especially for shorts because to me, that’s part of the appeal. Having a shorter time frame forces filmmakers to be more innovative and creative storytellers and I think these two films illustrate that.

Windage – by Dan Delano

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A city is torn apart by war. On the outskirts of town, two lone snipers cross paths and pin each other down.

War is such a universal theme, but so is the concept of kindness and altruism. Windage mixes those themes well and the gritty Winter setting adds to the sense of isolation and abandonment. Both leads, Kari Ann Craighead and Danny August Mason, gave a believable and affecting performance as well, they did a nice job acting with just their eyes and facial expression. The film as a whole is very minimalistic, with barely any word is spoken, yet the ending provokes such a big emotional impact.

… 

Alone Together – by Blake West

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A man struggles with his past, only to find out it is his present and inescapable future…

Similar to Windage, this film is economical and minimalistic in its approach, with just two leads telling the story. There’s a deep sense of mystery here that is played out nicely right up until the end. Louis Mandylor is the main lead who’s present throughout. I recognize him for some of his supporting work on films and TV, and he has such a melancholic face yet somehow keeps you guessing. I like films that play with our expectation and keep you guessing just who the main character is and the woman who follows him to the ocean. I really didn’t see the twist coming which is always nice when that happens. The film is well-shot and has an eerie feeling that works well for the story.

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Now, since we’re still on the subject of Shorts, I want to give a shout out to filmmaker Conor Holt, who happens to be TCFF’s Social Media Coordinator this year, as his short film A Better Life that premiered here last year. His award-winning film is now out on Vimeo!

It’s one of my fave short films, it’s a well-crafted sci-fi that’s really thought-provoking. Check out my chat with him on the making of the film this post.


And here’s the review from Day 6 …

Solitude

You know how when someone tells you not to do something it just makes you want to do it more? Solitude, the horror flick making its world premiere at the Twin Cities Film Fest, is like that. Spanning 75 years, it takes place in a mysterious town where evil recurs in six segments. Directors Taylor Scott Olson and Livingston Oden are obviously inspired by old movies such as “The Exorcist” and “The Nightmare on Elm Street.” We first meet James Erikson (Armin Habibovich) going through an old storage locker filled with family artifacts after the death of his mother. Five more vignettes follow, shot to appear as they take place in 1939, 1961, 1977, 1986 and 1999, and include odes to “Frankenstein” and “The Blair Witch Project.”

The random clues in a single box found in the locker lead to an old Native American tale of a monster that has been killing those who dare to trespass on this land. A native woman tries to warn each set of intrepid adventurers but of course, none of them listen to reason. That’s about as serious as this movie gets- it’s really just campy fun. (Early scenes reminded me of recent spoofs of the 1936 film “Reefer Madness,” including a musical where a flamboyant Jesus dances around with life size pot brownies to warn teenagers of the dangers of the “evil weed.”) If the cast’s aim in the movie was to spoof terrible acting in old horror films, they succeeded.

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One of the fun things about a film fest is getting to see movies before anyone else. The theatre was packed on Tuesday night and it was clear from the cheering in the audience when people’s names came up in the opening credits that there were a lot of cast and crew present. Afterward, a Q&A with directors Taylor Scott Olson and Livingston Oden revealed that the movie was shot in Minnesota- the “Solitude River” in the movie is actually the Rum River. When asked why they chose the title, Olson said that he originally thought of “Solace” but didn’t want confusion with the upcoming Anthony Hopkins movie. He settled on “Solitude” because when you hear that word you think of a peaceful, serene place- the opposite from what the movie actually is. An entertaining show that doesn’t take itself too seriously mixed with behind-the-scenes insight…I can’t think of a better way to spend a night at the theatre.

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Individual tickets are on sale now at twincitiesfilmfest.org


Have you seen any of these films? What did you think?

TCFF 2014 Interview with Rik Swartzwelder, Writer/Director/Star of ‘Old Fashioned’

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It’s just four more fun days to go before Twin Cities Film Fest wraps, so the fun is far from over! For the past week, I was fortunate enough to be able to meet some truly inspiring and gracious filmmakers/talents. One of my favorite moments covering the film fest is the wonderful chat I had with Rik Swartzwelder, writer/director/star of Old Fashioned, a classic romantic drama that rarely get made anymore in Hollywood. I really think Old Fashioned should inspire both teens and adults as the two characters in the film, Clay & Amber, attempt the impossible: an “old-fashioned” courtship in contemporary America.

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FCInterviewBannerI met Rik straight after work at a coffee shop near the Showplace ICON Theatres. I knew right away we’d get along great as soon as I met him. Despite being such a talented filmmaker, a triple threat no less being able to write/act/direct, Rik is so gracious and humble and chatting with him is such a joy!

Unfortunately I hit yet another snafu with my iPhone recorder, wouldn’t you believe it? It turns out that I did find my taped convo with Haley Lu Richardson after all, but I somehow lost my conversation with Rik 😦 Yet he was kind enough to answer my questions again via email (bless his heart!). I’ve gotten a new voice recording app that hopefully works better that this won’t happen again. So check out the insights into the story idea of Old Fashioned and making the film:

Q: What inspired you to come up with story of ‘old-fashioned’ courtship?

A: I was looking to craft a story that reflected the lives of a lot of single people I knew at the time —just a bunch of normal guys and girls, most in their 20s and 30s, looking to fall in love and find a life partner and all that good stuff.  They also all very much believed in God and wanted to honor God in their dating lives. None of these people were perfect, but they truly were looking for something beyond the hook-up culture and wanted to date in ways that didn’t add to the romantic damage and brokenness overwhelming many singles.

It got me thinking that there might be an opportunity here to explore some pretty counter-cultural ideas in an entertaining way.  And that’s when I remembered a story I’d heard years before about a married man that made a promise to never be alone with any woman that wasn’t his wife.  He did this to safeguard his marriage from potential infidelity and also to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.I thought that was such a unique and strong choice that it could open up a lot of possibilities for a character in a contemporary love story.  And what if some guy made a promise like that and wasn’t even married yet? What would that look like? Definitely not the norm. It seemed like a good launching pad for a lot of interesting conflict and debate.  And that was the beginning of the rather odd and curious character that eventually became Clay Walsh in Old Fashioned.

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2. Please tell us the casting process and how you ended up choosing Elizabeth as your co-lead.

We spent a lot of time casting the film… looked at well over 1,000 actors. And, since we were shooting the film in Ohio, it was important for us to cast as many local actors as possible. We wanted the film to feel authentically mid-western.

Plus, there is so much amazing talent out there that simply never gets the chance to shine.  We really took our time and were able to discover some remarkable local actors. And to me, one of the best parts of indie films is that discovery of new talent.

This is especially true of Elizabeth Ann Roberts. She gives a star-making performance in Old Fashioned and I’m so excited for the world to see it. She’s based in Los Angeles, actually, and I saw her on tape very early in the casting process. She blew me away, made me literally cry… on tape.  She was Amber.

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But, as often happens, we kept looking at other actors for many months. At the end of the day, no one came close to Elizabeth’s audition. After meeting in person, I was sold. And she was an absolute joy to work with. There’s no doubt, casting her was one of the very best decisions I’ve ever made.
 
3. You said this film was not a religious per se, but it’s a story with faith in it. Could you elaborate on that a bit?
 
It’s a love story about broken people struggling to figure out a different way to look at romance in a very hedonistic, confusing era. These are real people; they aren’t perfect, they make serious mistakes… and one of these people also happens to take his faith in God rather seriously, to a fault almost. The faith elements in the film are very organic to the character’s journeys and are set in a very real-world and relatable environment.
 
It’s not a Pollyanna approach to complicated issues or propaganda offering a point-by-point “how to” when it comes to dating.  It’s an old school, deeply heart-felt romance that asks some hard, honest, and refreshing questions about love in modern America.
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4. This film is going to go against Fifty Shades of Grey, was that a deliberate decision on your part?
 
To be clear, when I first got the idea for Old Fashioned I had never even heard of Fifty Shades… in fact, it was years before the author had probably even thought of the idea herself. I wasn’t creating Old Fashioned in reaction or response to any other book or movie; I was seeking to tell a different kind of love story that reflected the lives of singles I knew at the time.

That said, by the time we actually raised the money and actually got Old Fashioned made, Fifty Shades had become a cultural juggernaut. When they announced they were going to open their film on Valentine’s Day 2015 as a date-night romance… that’s when we got the idea. It seemed like a unique, possibly once in a lifetime kind of opportunity to offer alternating views of love and romance on the same day. We know it’s David v. Goliath here, we’re not naïve. But, we also very much believe it’s a cultural discussion worth having and are very grateful for the conversations that have already begun since we announced our release date.

And look, let’s be honest, finding your audience remains one of the biggest challenges for truly independent cinema. Our release date against Fifty Shades has already raised our profile to the point that folks interested in an alternative love story like ours are now having a much easier time finding us. And they are letting us know, in growing numbers, that we are definitely not alone in believing that there is indeed a more beautiful way to approach love and romance. And that is very, very encouraging.


Old Fashioned has two screenings at TCFF. One was last Saturday 10/18 at 2pm and the other one is later today at 4:30pm. It’ll be released in theaters on Valentine’s Day, 2015.


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Rik.
I wish you & your project all the best!

Me_Rik_OldFashionedMovie


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews tomorrow!

TCFF 2014 Day 2 – Interview with Haley Lu Richardson

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One of my fave parts of blogging for TCFF is the opportunity to meet talents whose films are playing at the film fest. Most especially when you meet someone as talented, vivacious and gracious as Haley Lu Richardson.

She has two VERY different films, one is an apocalyptic thriller, The Well, and the other is a teen pregnancy comedy, The Young Kieslowski. That alone is a major accomplishment, but even more so the fact that The Well is her feature film debut. Now, I have seen the latter and no doubt the 19-year-old is a talented young actress poised for stardom.

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Haley in The Well and The Young Kieslowski

Screen charisma is not something an actor can really train for and Haley’s got that in spades. What impresses me most is her versatility, which is what every good actor should have in their arsenal. So check out how Haley got her start and what role she’d like to tackle on next.


FCInterviewBannerI arrived about 10 min early and she was already there as her previous interview got done early. Even at 9:30 in the morning, she’s already looking fresh and bubbly that I immediately feel comfortable chatting with you. I knew it’d be a fun interview, but of course life is not complete without snafus once in a while right? Well, I might’ve had too much fun chatting with her that for whatever reason, either I didn’t turn on my iPhone recorder properly or I accidentally deleted our conversation but that’s what happened. Ah well, so I had to do my best transcribing from my notes and memory 😉

Q: So Haley, ow did you get into acting?

A: I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, got into competitive dancing and was into that for a while. [per IMDb, She was a member of Cannedy Performing Arts competitive dance company for 8 years and has won prestigious titles such as ‘National Dancer of the Year” and the ‘Peoples Choice Award’ at the Young Artist’s competition.] And with dancing, there’s a bit of emoting required as you’re performing, which makes me think about going into acting. So I had a long talk with my parents over the dinner table. I even made a Powerpoint citing the pros and cons about going into the acting business, etc. Fortunately they’re quite supportive and in 2011, my mother and I moved to LA so I could pursue acting. I was also lucky that I was able to secure an agent that got me into some projects. I did a TV movie called Christmas Twister and a few TV projects before I got the chance to audition for The Well.

Q: How was that audition process go for The Well?

A: Normally the audition goes through casting agents and/or through a talent agency but at the time I was so hungry for work that I submitted my tape to an online casting site and though they normally don’t go that route in finding talents, somehow they found me.

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Q: Your character Kendal rarely says what she’s thinking. She is a doer, not a talker. How do you come to approach that kind of character?

Tom [Director Thomas S. Hammock] and Jacob [writer Jacob Forman] and I had a long chat about the story and character, they really took the time to help me get into Kendal’s head. Plus the setting in a barren landscape of the Mojave Desert [about 4 hours north of LA] looks like a real dystopian place so that definitely helps me get into the mindset of a girl trying to survive.

Q: How much training did you do for the action sequences, was that hard to get to do all the fight scenes? 

Yes, it was pretty intense. I had never held a gun before in my life and it’s really quite scary. I had to practice in the shooting range and even though you’re shooting blanks, I’m still fully aware what a dangerous weapon it was. It’s also quite heavy and I had to shoot several rounds. Whenever I’m walking around though, I usually just carry the plastic thing, but when I’m filming a scene, I had to use a real gun with blanks.

Q: There have been several dystopian young adult movies produced over the last several years. Apart from The Well doubling as a revenge tale, what did you do to make sure The Well was different from the other projects?

I think there are definitely similarities in that movies like Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. deal with a young person being put into a situation where they have to fend for themselves. But I’d say that The Well is a quieter movie. There’s not non-stop action or explosions, but a lot of time for the character to reflect on things and the music is also understated to help set the mood. I think it’s a more intimate and even personal film, as it’s more about Kendal’s journey and how she must protect the last remaining well in order for her to survive

Q: Now moving on to your second film The Young Kieslowski, how did you get this part, did you have to audition for the role of Leslie Mallard also?

Fortunately, the same producer [Seth Caplan] that did The Well offered me the part as I was working on that film. And since the stories are so different, that appealed to me. I then met with the writer/director Kerem Sanga and he agreed to cast me, so that was great! Then it took some time for us to cast the role of Brian Kieslowski so it’s cool to be on the other side, the fact that I was already cast. So I had to read with these other actors. I don’t think I had much say in the casting of Brian but I think we knew early on Ryan Malgarini was perfect for the part. He had the right look, down to his hair and everything.

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Q: The Young Kieslowski is centered on Ryan Malagrini’s character, Brian. You are given significantly less screen time. Yet, you make Leslie as multi-dimensional as the male protagonist. What did you focus on doing as you played Leslie?

If I think too much about a certain character then I think it would screw me up. I don’t know that I’ve ever totally become someone else I’m playing, there’s always a bit of me in that character, even if I had never been in her situation, y’know, I never went to college nor have I ever been pregnant. It’s a pretty emotionally challenging role but I just tried to imagine what it’d be like being in her shoes, having to grow up faster than normal given the circumstances. 

The story is actually a personal one for [director] Kerem as his parents had him and his twin brother in college. So he definitely helps me a lot in processing the story and what he wants out of the character.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Q: How was filming that childbirth scene like? Were you nervous about filming that?

No actually that’s one of the main reasons I signed on to do this film. I saw it as kind of a challenge, wow I got to give birth! My parents and I actually watched all these real childbirth videos for research. Filming the scene itself was also a lot of fun to do. The woman who was helping me in the delivery room was actually a pediatrician so she helped me figure out what to do. My voice was gone by the end of filming as I was screaming so much, but it was a lot of fun filming that scene. 

One of the most challenging part is actually wearing the pregnancy suit as they weigh it to make sure it looks realistic. It was really heavy and Kerem had me go up and down the stairs so I get the wobbly walk right and everything.

Q: Ok, last question, but I’m curious that now that you’ve done a futuristic dystopian thriller, a drama and comedy, so what genre or certain role are you interested in tackling next?

A: I like stories that felt real, playing someone you can relate to. So not something too out of this world or improbable. I’d love to play a drug addict, a transformative role that I can really sink my teeth into. 

 


 Check out Haley’s Films at TCFF

The Well

Sat Oct. 18th, 8:30pm


The Young Kieslowski

Sun, Oct. 19th, 3:00pm


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Haley.
I wish you all the best in your career!

RuthHaley


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Stay tuned for Day 2 reviews tomorrow!