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Interview – Director Ben Cura/Actress Andrea Deck (Creditors)

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1) A source material possessing such a rich complexity, perhaps ahead of its time. How did you become acquainted with August Strindberg’s play? 

ANDREA: I became familiar with Strindberg’s play after reading Ben’s adaptation, so I suppose I came at it with a rather unique perspective, both uncovering the original source in and of itself but also comparing it to my first exposure to the story, which was through Ben’s screenplay.  I remember being distinctly impressed with how faithful Ben had been to the original text, as well as fascinated by the character of Tekla/Chloe.

BEN: I was very lucky to be able to see the revival of the play at the Donmar Warehouse back in 2008. Alan Rickman directed it, Tom Burke played Adolph, Anna Chancellor played Tekla, and Owen Teale played Gustav. The three were absolutely breathtaking and Alan directed an extremely sharp, funny, and stylish version of the play. I left the theatre profoundly marked by that evening, but didn’t actually give an adaptation any thought until two years later. That’s how long it stayed with me before I started deconstructing and reconstructing it in order to make it into a film.

2) Translating a theatrical piece to the big screen can often be unfortunately stilted in its execution. Were you very self-conscious of this during filming and in the development of the script?

BEN: Yes, avoiding that was always the challenge from the very earliest stages of my work on the script. It was about finding the visual representations of endless pages of dialogue and monologues as they are beautifully constructed in the stage play. I always find the often-referenced idea that adaptations are a  “cut” down version of the original play to be slightly inaccurate for that very reason: a good stage play adaptation, or a good translation to the screen, isn’t cut down, it’s distilled, compressing a three page monologue into a look, or extending a silence in one scene as a way of communicating what three pages of dialogue between two characters would on stage. You’re not getting rid of things, you’re giving them a different form. You’re dealing with film, so you’re also given the freedom to travel backwards and forwards in time, in no particular order, in and out of spaces, and to explore the lives of these characters before we meet them. At a granular level, the economy of text, and the pacing of scenes, was always tied to wanting to maintain the sharpness of the dialogue as it is in the play, whilst whittling away as much spoken information as possible, in order to turn it into visual information.

3) The monochrome aesthetic and stylish production is steeped in nods to classic Hollywood, particularly film noir. What were the key influences behind such an approach?

BEN: Once we decided on Spain as the location for the main narrative of the film, I felt the building we used for the hotel, as well as the church, and its surroundings, would work well in black and white. The film itself is claustrophobic and oppressive, even when characters are outside in a wide open-space, and the use of black and white can accentuate that, and I believe it does in the film. When I told Ben [Hecking], the film’s DOP, that I thought we should film in black and white, he immediately set out to make it “proper” black and white. As in, contrasting, deliberate. Not a wash of grey or a desaturation of footage shot in colour. Everyone else within the rest of the departments then sat down with me, and showed me what they wanted to do in order to make this black and white truer, to explore it fully, and to take advantage of it as much as possible. Kara [Colbeck], the costume designer, brought me all of these costume options which were not about colour anymore, but about texture and patterns. We chose these carefully so that each character’s journey was reflected throughout the movie in that way. Make up, too, was approached differently, as certain colours read very differently when shot in black and white. Ultimately, whether intentionally, or unintentionally, the film has a certain timelessness, which I am very happy about, whilst owing a certain feel to the cinema of the 50s and 60s.

4) With this being your (impressive) directorial debut, were there any particular aspects of the process that initially daunted/intimidated you?

BEN: I think it was Robert Frost who said that “the best way is always through”. I had so many things to worry about throughout the whole thing; producing, making changes to the script as the writer, directing my actors, crew, myself and, also, learning my lines an hour before filming a scene (of which there were many in a day as we shot the whole thing in less than fourteen days). Most scenes were five pages long, too. You would think having written them myself would make memorising them easier. It didn’t. But this incredibly intense way of working somehow made it so that I didn’t actually have time to sit down and be nervous, intimidated, or worried. Whenever I sat down, I fell asleep. Every time I think about it I remember the whole experience as edging very close to complete insanity – but I also want to do it again.

5) Immersing yourselves in this industry. Who/what have proved to be the main idols/inspirations for you both?

ANDREA: Hard work.  Absolute dedication to what you want.  The ability to constructively collaborate and be part of a team.  Those are all traits I find absolutely inspirational, and anyone I come across that has any of that in them I really admire and strive to learn from.  In terms of actors, Charlize Theron is someone I admire a great deal.

BEN: You work with people who are passionate, gifted, hard-working, but who are also genuine human beings, who are kind, attentive, and who won’t hurt others because they lack in self-confidence. Those people are my biggest inspiration, and I try my best to stick to those principles on a daily basis.

Andrea+Deck+Tom+Bateman

6) Creditors boasts a terrific ensemble. The seasoned experience of Christian McKay and Simon Callow particularly. Were your hearts firmly set on such casting? Any difficulties?

ANDREA: We were incredibly lucky with the casting.  Of course this ‘luck’ was very much a result of Ben’s clear vision for what he wanted in combination with the strength of the script, I believe.  That and the fact that we were just flat out crazy passionate young sprites.

BEN: Simon was a very important part of the adaptation process for me. He’d read drafts I’d send him, then we’d have dinner, and discuss them at length so that I could go back to them and improve them. I initially wanted him to play Grant, but as the film organically drifted towards a younger set of characters – not to mention Simon is constantly busy so availability was an issue – I offered him to play a part unique to the film, that of Chloe’s literary agent, John Allen, who facilitates Chloe and Freddie’s adultery. I met Christian when I was visiting a film set in Austria, and spoke to him about the film. I gave him a copy of the script, telling him to look at Grant, and a few months later, we shook hands over drinks in London. I was thrilled to have him on board. Our casting director Annie [Rowe] then helped us complete the rest of our cast.

7) The film’s backdrop captured with such fondness and style. What was the attraction to setting Creditors in Madrid?

BEN: Initially, it was mostly a financial and practical decision. We’d shot quite a lot of the flashbacks on Osea Island, but filming the whole thing would have been prohibitively expensive for the budget we ended up with. Locating the action in Madrid gave the film an interesting flair, certainly shifted some of its aesthetics towards a more Spanish tone but most importantly, it added a layer which informed the relationship of the characters. It’s something I’m sure you’ve noticed when you travel. If you meet a fellow Brit, American or [insert nationality here] when you’re abroad, you instantly strike up a conversation. You might not even say hello to each other if you were in your own home turf, but being in a foreign city, surrounded by a foreign language, that brings people with a common background closer. And so Freddie and Grant become very close, very quickly.

8) The intense psychology of these characters that plays out proves compelling. Are there any shared personality traits or experiences that Freddie/Grant/Chloe undergo you could distinctly relate to?

ANDREA: Chloe is one of the most human and honestly fleshed out characters I’ve ever come across.  I’ve had a lot of people ask me “How could you possibly make sense of someone so manic and dysfunctional?!”, but I can only say that it’s those characters that I die to play, because there’s a little (or a lot) of that in all of us, whether we want to admit it or not.

BEN: I guess that’s the most attractive part of the original play. It does touch on so many points, that all relationships can go through, and which you may find yourself reflected in. Hopefully this happens in the film as well. You may side with one of the characters only to find yourself rooting for the other one later on. But that’s because all three of them are flawed, all three of them have been hurt, and all three of them have hurt, or end up hurting, each other, in some way. I don’t think anyone who has watched the film has done so without subconsciously superimposing some of their experience(s) with those of the characters on screen. The intriguing part will be watching the film again years down the line, and seeing if your perception of the characters’ struggles changes because of what you’ve experienced during that time. Certainly the cast and crew all had their opinions on the subject, and we all had different backgrounds, ages, and experiences.

9) In Creditors. It’s all about the fragility and emasculation of the men. The fierce elegance of the independent woman. Gender politics is a hot topic in cinema, particularly in Hollywood. Where do you stand on the issue?

ANDREA: It’s very interesting for me to hear you define Creditors as being ‘…all about the fragility and emasculation of men.  The fierce elegance of the independent woman’.  I can’t agree with this statement, and yet it thrills me to hear that this is what you took from it.  I suppose it means in some way we’ve done our job as a production, so thank you.  

BEN: It’s actually more than that. It’s about women still being trapped in this in-between world where they’re told they should be given the same opportunities, and validation, as men, which is a no-brainer, but this in-between world is also one where societies struggle to reconcile, and recognise, that a woman can be strong, independent, intelligent, sexually open, without being a threat to men. Equally, we struggle with recognising that a woman who is strong, independent, intelligent, sexually open, isn’t more “like a man”. She is just “a woman” who happens to be strong, independent, intelligent, and sexually open. It’s almost like men are expected to have these traits, and women who have these traits need to be able to justify them every time they’re recognised in them. For some reason, anything that resembles strength and freewill is immediately seen as being a masculine attribute. If I open the door for a woman, am I being chivalrous, or disrespectful? Is it wrong that a woman may wish to be dominated in the bedroom by a taller, stronger man, and yet be a powerful, driven woman outside the bedroom? For centuries men, and women alike, have romanticised the female form as being beautiful, sure, but also fragile, and in need of protection (see the statue Freddie is working on, or Francesco Hayez’s painting “The Kiss”, both in the film). Women have always been seen as muses, the inspiration “behind” those men who are actually the ones who “build” works of art. I find this is not only wrong, but crippling, because it limits how we see, and can see, ourselves as men, and logically how we see women, and in this case, how Chloe sees herself as a woman. She switches, almost bipolarly, between self-confidence, and existential desperation through external self-validation, and the decisions she has made, and makes, in the story, are a symptom of someone who cannot seem to be able to make up their mind as to who they are, and what their place is in the world. Can she exist by herself? Or can she only exist in the validation offered by men? I think societally, we are still at that cross-roads. It’ll take a while for us to unravel this. This topic cannot advance if we men do not question our own conceptions of what it means to be a man, what we mean when we say a man is being “emasculated” (literally, to have the masculine removed from you). Words can encapsulate powerful, and crippling, concepts, which are then passed on through the ages without us even noticing.

10) Aside from Creditors working the festival circuit. Are there any other passion projects you’re currently working on?

ANDREA: Aside from my acting, I would very much like to make a documentary about Diabulimia.

BEN: I have a stage play called “Fish”, which is currently looking for a theatre to take on board and develop. I am also finishing a film script whenever I’m not filming Hans Rosenfeldt’s “Marcella” for ITV here in London, which I’m involved with until March. I can’t say much about what I’m writing at that at the moment, other than it’s set in the 80s and has something to do with the Falklands…

(Screen+Cap)+Ben+Cura+Christian+McKay

 

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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