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An Interview With…Celyn Jones

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Conducted By: Darryl Griffiths

So, Dylan Thomas the renowned poet. A fellow Welshman yourself Celyn, just how familiar were you with Dylan’s body of work beforehand?

He’s our Shakespeare so pretty hard to ignore. I’ve been familiar and a fan of Dylan since a teenager. It was the first poetry that really got me excited and that I first got something from and when I saw the image of the man looking like a rock star or punk comedian I was sold, gravitating towards his work, the stories (apocryphal or not) and the man. ‘Under Milk Wood’ was instantly accessible with its humour and pathos just made sense to my young mind. But with this film I discovered more and more riches and like Shakespeare it takes on whole deeper meaning once spoken out loud. I’ve been preparing for this role for a long time sometimes consciously and sometimes not.

Firmly established as a character actor across the entertainment spectrum, were there any unlikely influences as you immersed yourself into the role of Dylan Thomas?

Apart from all the necessary Dylan research there is also an imaginative process that I relish as an actor. There isn’t any moving image of DT in an archive or recordings of his conversational voice, just his performance voice. So an imaginative process twinned with anecdotal and photographic evidence was my entry point. We talked about the fun and wittiness of Dylan being like the Odd Couple or Marx Bros as clowning is very influential to my process and because Andy Goddard is a huge music fan & film fan we would often pool our influences and inspirations into a reference pot of popular culture ‘it’s like that scene in that….’ or ‘that lyric from…’ lots of conversations like that. So a lot of influences going in and out. And then it’s about giving yourself over to your fellow actors to see what they bring out of you and this film has a role call of great talent and of course the chemistry between Elijah and I is one of the strongest influences in completing the character, Elijah is great. Andy Goddard had a fantastic grasp on what I can do or could do and conveyed that so deftly, we all trusted each other.

Of course you co-wrote the script with Andy Goddard, the film marking his directorial debut. Working on the likes of Downton Abbey and taking into account the aesthetic of the film, do you believe he proved an ideal fit?

Andy and I committed to each other and the film we wanted to make and its a relationship I’m very proud of. Andy is a punk film fanatic and music enthusiast who just happens to have directed Downton Abbey. He burst onto the film world with his shorts and , like me, then spent the majority of his career in TV. Those elements were essential for us to complete this film because in TV you are up against with time and budget and you have to solve problems and move fast so that experience worked for us. Also the crew who came on board with similar experience made us a well oiled machine. The TV and Film divide isn’t helpful as there is room for both and both can benefit from each other, while still being remaining brilliantly different.

The stylistics and values of the film at first look are deceiving of its modest budget. How would you describe your approach in achieving your admittedly audacious aims, considering such financial constraints?

It’s all about the talent. This film was shot in 18 days, in Swansea (pretending to be New York) and for a very modest budget. The fact it looks like millions of pounds is absolutely down to the talent who gravitated to the project and made it happen. Chris Seager’ masterful cinema photography , Edward Thomas’ genius design, the Amazing cast and all the other departments that brought their talent and ingenuity to make this work and be special. And then there’s Gruff Rhys and his incredible music score. But this is the film we had in our heads and dreams, we wouldn’t change a thing with the film… just maybe pay people more. Our producers Andy Evans & A J Riach (Mad as Birds Films) were essential in protecting this project and in supporting it to what it could be against all odds. What is a audacious is that this film was all our debut’ director, writers and producers.

A Middle-Earth veteran. Yet an underrated indie chameleon in the likes of Maniac and Grand Piano. How did you get Elijah Wood on board?

Seriously we finished writing the script with Elijah in mind, his agent read it and liked it and he read it and felt the same. So he met Andy in LA and then we Skyped and that was that. Lucky lucky us and I’m well aware it doesn’t and shouldn’t work that way. Andy G just saw the two of us together in his mind and on the screen. Elijah is a great man and fab actor, available and knowledgable with a great sense of humour too. He has an excellent instinct on set and you can see that directing a film is not took far away for him. He’s an Indie-film guy.

Dylan Thomas coming across as a tortured soul whilst John M. Brinnin sees him as this inspirational figure. From personal experience, have you ever had underwhelming encounters with your own ‘heroes’?

In a way it’s John’ fault for putting all that expectation onto Dylan. Yes people have disappointed me at times and I’m sure I’ve disappointed people but that’s just life. Saying that I do believe there is always a way with people and once you tune into each other there’s an understanding and with an understanding you can work together. I learnt that from my father who said ‘Treat other people the way you want to be treated and you won’t go far wrong’ , then working as a barman and then as a teacher it broadened my capacity to listen and engage with different personalities. And after all that and they’re still an arse….. give it to them straight and move on.

The business is a complex beast and follows no real structure or formality as it’s made up of too many parts that constantly change, a new universe with rogue atoms.

As an actor you put the world onto other people’ shoulders where your dreams and ambitions lie at the feet of strangers, that’s just crazy and no other professional would do that at the risk of their lifestyle and the lifestyle of their dependants. I’m not waiting for the phone anymore, if they call they call then that’s great and if they don’t…. well i’m dialling the numbers myself and saying ‘Want to make something together?’

Collaboration is everything.

Particularly in a beautifully played scene with ‘sharing’ of horror stories, the Thomas/Brinnin two-hander seems to thrive on pushing each other out of their ‘comfort zones’. Would you deem their relationship easy to define?

Thanks for saying that, Elijah and I worked really hard and Shirley Henderson and Kevin Eldon are just splendid actors. This sequence is the fire in the crucible of the film and it actually happened too. Andy and I discussed this sequence thoroughly and I have to credit Andy for the horror stories as they’re entirely him, beautifully performed by Elijah and Shirley. Re-relationships and their relationship I’d agree that yes it’s tricky to define as it is so new and they are so different, which makes compelling viewing and why we were drawn to tell the story. This film would not be a film had it been the smoothest of rides. As an actor I had the opportunity to throw everything into Dylan and at John and Elijah beautifully/skilfully dealt with the hurricane and hit it straight back to me.

Playing such an esteemed literary figure here. Is there anyone else of considerable stature you would relish portraying on-screen?

Maybe Hemingway in the literary world as he fascinates me and comedians intrigue me the way their minds work and hearts operate. I’m going to play a comedian at some point. You should find the monster in the man and the man in the monster. It’s the personalities i’m drawn to that excite me to play. Dylan is tragic and funny and brave and frustrating and vulnerable who is also a great artist, it was very personal to me and a gift to play.

I was chatting to a writer pal of mine today who’d seen the movie and was very moved and affected by it he said ‘Don’t forget what you did in this film and how you did that role because that’s the cream… when you put everything in and dare to fail’, he’s right. I’m so grateful that this is all happening now at this point in my life and not in my early 20’s, I’ve worked like a dog and been bitten enough to know I’m now ready. I’ve pulled back the green curtain and seen that it’s not a wizard at all, just a bloke like us who’s making it up as he goes along….. and i’m cool with that.

Thanks for supporting the film, c.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

Interviews

An Interview With… Steve Hodgetts & Arabella Burfitt-Dons (Love Possibly)

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In the mockumentary, Love Possibly a documentary film crew follows the hopelessly romantic, Alex, on his quest for love. Following their wins for “Best Feature” and “Best International Feature” at the LA Edge Film Awards and Catalina Film Festival, Che Grant and Michael’s Boccalini’s new feature is now screening at the Raindance Film Festival.

Lead Actor Steve Hodgetts and Producer Arabella Burfitt-Dons sat down with Movie Marker’s Marion Donnellier to talk about Love Possibly

Q. Steve, your transformation into “Alex” is impressive. How did you prepare for the role?

SH: Alex is very different from any character I have played before. In terms of research, I watched a lot of youtube videos to try and master the lisp as best I could. Alex is a very anxious and socially inept person so I tried to remember certain traits people tend to have when they are nervous. For instance, he uses his hands to mask his face and dances his eyes around. These are all different traits I took from people I have met. Also I think everyone deals with anxiety to a certain extent and I just tried to amplify my own anxiety x 1000.

Q. How much of your personal experience did you use?

SH: I think there is a little bit of Alex in everyone. I just tried to remember my own anxiety and try to magnify it as best I could.

We all know someone that looks like Alex.

SH: Absolutely. I think Alex is just very socially unaware. Especially due to his speech impediment, I don’t think he’s had an easy upbringing. I think if I’d met him, I’d be mate with him.

ABD: I think the idea behind the character of Alex is that everyone can relate to him in a way, whether it is because of his anxiety, loneliness, finding love or heartbreak. Because the story is mainly based on the cast and crew’s own experience, we hoped that people could relate to it.

Q. Such as in Alex’s favourite film, “Sleepless in Seattle”, modern rom-coms all have a similar structure. How do you think the character of “Alex” would fit in one of them?

ABD: I think it would be very interesting to put him in a very conventional rom-com and to see how it would play out. I think it would be very beautiful and would resonate with the audience of a normal rom-com.  It is kind of what we tried to do here. It is a spin on a rom-com ,which is a recurring theme throughout the film. It is meant to be an non-conventional and ironic rom-com. I think if we put him into a character in a normal rom-com, it would probably achieve a similar thing and would be relatable to the audience.

SH: I think a way it would be slightly better because he is quite relatable. He is more of an “everyman”.

Q. You mentioned most of Love Possibly was improvised. Was there a point while shooting when the story or tone deviated from what was originally intended?

SH: The directors knew the narrative they wanted to achieve from the start. The plot never changed as a result of the improve and it only allowed a couple of changes in scenes. I would say 75% of it was improvisation and brought a certain realism to the film.

ABD: Although the narrative is still very close to Che and Michael’s original vision, we stripped everything back in post production and started from scratch in terms of brainstorm, how to plot out the story and how to piece it all back together. At one point we were brainstorming without even referencing the footage that we already had just to see what came up. Whilst we pieced it back together, because it is improv and always very open, we managed to pull together the final edit. Improv opens up opportunities of changing the storyline in a positive way as well as being, obviously quite difficult.  It is exciting as a filmmaker because it allows you to take your story in another direction and it still works.

Q. How do you choose the project you want to work on? What’s the most important factor(s)?

ABD: Script! I really enjoy spotting upcoming talents and really enjoy working on under represented art forms. That is the beauty of working in independent films, you get to see such incredible and varied projects that wouldn’t normally get made by the big studios. Personally that is something I like and catches my eyes.  I also enjoy projects that really connect with the audience and with me. And obviously amazing talents as well. Working with filmmakers, directors and actors that are incredibly talented and helping them bring their talent to life.

SH: Always the script I would say and interesting characters. In terms of acting, I would definitely rather play someone that is widely different than a character that is similar to me because it wouldn’t be very challenging. Which is why Alex was always so fascinating, because he is so different.

Q. What did you learn from Alex?  

SH: Always think before you say something. Probably not to worry as much. He makes situations worse because he is so worried.  In some situations, Alex is the normal one and surrounded by crazy people. His mum is very out there and her boyfriend is nuts.

ABD: Expending on the anxiety theme, I think when you make a film that highlights and showcases a difficulty that a lot of people have, it resonates with you as a filmmaker. Everyone has anxiety to a certain extent in this day of age. There is statistic that was release recently that shows significantly high number of millennials suffer from anxiety because of the nature of the period with live in. I have learn from Alex character because I know anxiety but seeing it in that form, makes it all the more relatable.

Q. We don’t see many rom-coms dealing with mental health. Most films are either entirely focus on the topic or omits it entirely.

ABD: I would like to see it more in characters in bigger films and that is why I wanted to explore it in that film. I think when films do cover that topic it tends to be all about the anxiety but what is nice about “Love possibly” is that although it deals with that topic there isn’t a massive emphasis on it, it is just part of it.

Q. The film was financed through Kickstarter. Do you have any advice on how to run a successful kickstarter campaign?

ABD: A lot of it is about the talent behind it. Pulling together a very good pitch that justifies what you are trying to do. Show that you are serious about it. Show that is a serious project as well as a passion project. Put it out there to as many people as you can, there is no better way than to kick-start the project.

SH: Find someone that has a lot of twitter followers or lots of money!

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Interviews

An Interview With… Selena Tan (Crazy Rich Asians)

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

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At the time of writing Crazy Rich Asians has grossed $166,791,962 at the Us box office and $55,100,000 overseas for a Worldwide total of $221,891,962. Audiences are not only flocking to repeat viewings but also turning this movie with no big stars into something of a cultural phenomenon.

The film is being credited with reviving the near dead rom-com genre and boosting tourism to Singapore. Importantly, the film is also being celebrated for bringing to the Hollywood forefront an ethnic minority group that is not aggressively pushed by the media and in advertising.

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

Q: You started your professional career as a litigation lawyer then moved into the entertainment world. That’s a brave leap. What made you make the change?

A: I had dabbled in theatre and singing since I was at school. From the age of 14 I had been involved in community theatre. It never occurred to me I could do it full time or make a living from it. So I did a law degree and qualified as a lawyer when I was 23 but I soon realised that I had been performing for 10 years and was a way more experienced actress than a lawyer. But law is demanding and it consumed all my time for the first 2 years. But after a while I began to get the itch to perform again. I started doing some theatrical work on the side but really it was like having two careers at the same time. I was constantly exhausted.
So I sat down with my parents and said, I can always go back to the law but I have a real passion for acting. It gives me room for expression the law doesn’t. They were supportive and that’s when I started thinking about what I could do in the entertainment field and how I could best connect with an audience as an artist.

Q: What is a Dim sum dolly?!

A: (laughs) It’s an idea I developed in 2012. Three very different girls performing together; different sizes with different talents and capabilities. I wanted to create a cabaret/comedy/musical act that was socially aware and politically topical. In particular I wanted to tackle taboo subjects. We put on a lot of makeup and that seemed to help us get away with controversial topics because we made people laugh. It was like being able to serve a fluffy cake with a raisin in the middle!

Q: Was Crazy Rich Asians as fun to make as it is to watch?

A: More so! I really lucked out with that movie. But you know, I initially turned down the audition. I’d just finished a big production with my company and had a holiday booked in Phuket. I really needed that break and took it over doing the audition. Fortunately, I was offered a second audition when I returned from holiday because they hadn’t found the right actress for the part. The stars aligned and it all worked out for me. I thought it would be great because I could just be an actor and not worry about the directing or putting the production together.

Q: What was it like on set?

A: Like a resurrection! A total new injection of zest and life. It was like I’d been jump started. I was surrounded by so much talent from around the world and everyone was so passionate about the project. I got to make wonderful new friends and show them my country, its places, its people, the food. Since the film came out I’ve been approached by so many people, including old friends from my past who have all been touched by this movie and what it’s done for our country. Young people tell me they now believe anything is possible. Tourism will go through the roof. It’s just a beautiful film about my country. It’s a love letter to the country actually. Until now people used to say, ‘Singapore? Which part of China is that?’ Now they know who and what we are.

Q: The film has been praised as a step forward for more diversity in cinema but it has also faced some criticism for focusing on one group in Singapore which is multi-ethnic. What do you think the film offers the push for diversity?

A: The push for diversity is a movement. A single film can’t do everything and yes, some people have asked, where are the Singaporean Indians and other groups in this film. Yet the spirit of representing minorities is being embraced by our film and by all those around the world who are going to see it. Certainly , there is a need for an ever more diverse Singapore to be showcased, including people on the fringes of society.
But, you know, the film has already inspired so many people around the world. I have a niece in the UK who suddenly feels that, yes, there might be opportunities for her now in the acting field which she didn’t feel before. She’s excited that maybe she could be like auntie Selena and that thrills me. Young people in India, Malaysia are watching the film and being encouraged in their ambitions. At the same time we’re reaching audiences in LA and New York. It’s mind-blowing!

Q: The success of the film has been tremendous. Of course fans want to know, will there be a sequel?

A: At the premiere in Singapore Warner brothers did say they want to do a follow-up. I certainly want to be in it!

 

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Interviews

Behind Closed Doors with Harley Di Nardo

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Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with actor-musician Harley Di Nardo to talk about his latest movie ‘Dead Envy’.

Can you tell us about your early beginnings growing up, and how you transitioned to life in Los Angeles?

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I got into hairdressing at a very young age, and it came in handy when it was time to style my bands hair. Their image was in my hands… literally. I always cut hair to make a living in between touring. Now I own a salon in Malibu, and I used to own salons in New York. All this added up. Movies, Hair Industry meets Music World. I had to come to Los Angeles, before it was too late. So about three years ago, I sold that salon in New York and drove West alone. It took me four days, and I documented the trip on Facebook. I just hit the ground running. I scraped together all the funds that I could, and we made a movie. Now it’s about to come out and here we are. I’m very excited… I now live in Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard. I love it… I just go into Hollywood for meetings and if I have an event there, it’s a reason to make a night of it and stay in town.

Harley Di Nardo

You have had a successful music career so far, what inspired you to take the writing-acting-directing journey?

Since I was a kid I always had my mom film me doing like Karate moves etc… hehe. Then I wrote a script when I was about ten years old. It was called the Golden Glove, a story about an Italian boxer who fights for his girlfriend’s honor. I still have it. Anyways, I loved making stories… until I got into high school and met a friend that was in a band. Rock and Roll took over.  I forgot all about movies. That turned into an obsession that saw me moving to New York City and making two albums for major labels. It was quite a ride. I wrote music every day for about five years. I knew that I would want to take a shot at filmmaking. I’ve always had a passion for it. Everyone tells me I’m a walking movie quote. When someone says, or does anything, I’ll relate it to a movie. It’s just the way I see the world. Through movies. It’s always had such an effect on me. About ten years ago I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. I studied Method Acting and Script Development. From there I started making short films, music videos, anything just to get some experience.

Your latest feature, ‘Dead Envy’, is set to release next month.  Can you tell us about the movie?

Sure. It’s an independent film filled with psycho stalker moments and some dark humor. It’s the tail of a musician/hairdresser (just like me) who enlists the help of a strange drifter to help stage a comeback… and then it all goes horribly wrong. I wrote what I knew. For one, I already knew how to look and behave like a hairdresser/rock n’ roller. I think that really comes across in the film. It’s all very natural. The script has been with me for some time. I had to get it all out. I had to get this hair and rock movie out of my system. The next one I’ll play a doctor or something…

Can you tell us about the music in the movie?

Yeah… There really isn’t any score exactly. I just used a few of my songs that fit into certain parts of the film and also used friends’ songs. Great songs that never got the proper push that they deserved. We just signed a soundtrack deal with Artisan Fire Records. They are excited, and I am excited. It’s been a while since I’ve released music. The soundtrack will be released the same day as the theater release, August 24th. Available on all digital outlets.

As the director and lead actor in the movie, how did you approach one over the other?

Well, it was a learning experience, that’s for sure. It’s hard to see the frame when you are in it. So, I think the next one I’ll take a much smaller role and direct the hell out of it! I always want to stick myself somewhere in the film. I want to be there like Woody Allen or Lena Dunham, but I think a smaller supporting role will be enough. I’m making the film… I just wanna be in it. I love acting.

How close is your character, David Tangiers in the movie to your own personality?

Well, it’s pretty much me. I am him, he is me.

What else can we expect from you over the next few months?

I am writing a paranormal thriller about a young, widowed mother of two, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by an incubus. She takes matters into her own hands by hiring a YouTube ghost hunter that is pitching a show for Bravo. I might be playing some gigs to promote the film and the soundtrack.

Thank you, Harley for taking the time to chat to us at Movie Marker. We look forward to seeing more of you on the big screen!

To learn more about Harley Di Nardo visit: www.cine-museproductions.com
Follow Dead Envy: www.deadenvythemovie.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/deadenvythemovie/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeadEnvythemovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadenvymovie

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