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An Interview With… Kyle Cooper #Locarno71

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In his speech on the Piazza Grande at Locarno Film Festival, Kyle Cooper said that he ‘had been giving credit to everyone else for 30 years and now it was time for him to enjoy it’.

Kyle Cooper was the recipient of the Vision Award Ticinimoda awarded to those whose creative work behind the scenes, as well as in their own right, has contributed to opening up new perspectives in film.

As one of the most respected title credit designers and directors, Kyle Cooper has worked on over 300 movies, including the likes of Goodfellas, Se7en, Spider-Man and TV Series such as The Walking Dead and American Horror Story.

It started again with Se7en and it’s like people had forgotten main titles could be something, and then you came up and broke that wall open. So are you in any way regretting what you did because suddenly you kind of opened the door and everybody came barging in. 

No, I think that it’s interesting, you see Saul Bass talk about these “studio trends” where people get tired of main titles and they say let’s just do Woody Allen main titles, we don’t need to spend the money and they can’t do anything for the film and then they forget that it’s the beginning of the movie. I mean sure we could put them all at the end- which is another trend- but it can become the perfect beginning to the film. It can dovetail whatever the live action is, whatever the director’s already intended to do, and the title designer, if they do a good job, for example, I was working on Goodfellas when I was a kid and I wasn’t solving Martin Scorsese’s problem and he said ‘I want something like Saul Bass, remember Saul Bass?’ and I said well, Saul Bass he’s still around, they’ve got an office around the corner! And then Saul Bass did Goodfellas and then the lesson I learned was, Martin Scorsese knew he wanted Ray Liotta to open the trunk and say “I always wanted a gangster” and he wanted the music to kick in, and that was all still there because Saul Bass saw what Scorsese had and  looked at the beginning and thought well they’re in a car, so I’ll have this type come by like passing cars and I was thinking as a young person, I need to think of a metaphor for the gangsters of Italy, I don’t know, the Italian flag? And no, he looked at the beginning and figured out how to integrate these nasty credits into the beginning that Martin Scorsese had, and the beginning wouldn’t be the same without the typography integrated and I would maintain that the movie ‘Se7en’ wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t begin the way that it began and so, again about Saul Bass- when he did ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ people had gotten kind of complacent about main titles and everybody sat up and said gosh, here’s an opportunity, here’s a bit of real estate, where we can do something creatively interesting, so you know, a lot of good work came out of that-  it sounds a bit arrogant if I say that Se7en did that but since you said it… it kind of woke people up to the potentialities of what a main title sequence could to for a movie and the best thing that it can do is set the tone and become the first scene of the movie and the last people that were here just asked me what I thought about the Netflix ‘skip title’ button, and I think you have to make the distinction of a film title sequence and a broadcast title sequence and the reason I say that is, if it’s a full feature, many times the main title is setting up something expositional that’s crucial to that particular film. Whereas the Netflix button- the title sequence isn’t intrinsically linked to the first scene of the episode. 

What would be the different functions and different uses of those titles – opening the movie, setting the tone are there other purposes in some way?  

Yeah- for a film title, a lot of times the studio will stream the movie and realise people don’t understand a certain thing, or they’re missing a point and they say how do we fix this? What shall we do? Oh, let’s talk about the serial killer in the main titles. I shot this thing for a movie called Identity and people didn’t understand the pathology of the plot and so we tried to make sense of that in the main title. So the other things that it can do- it can set the tone – I mean the titles that influenced me and the titles sequences that made me want to be a main title designer when I got out of graduate school were Altered States, Alien and The Dead Zone, and I think that those perfectly set the tone for those movies. They are minimalist and simple, but the music is impeccable and wonderful and it just makes you feel the way you’re supposed to feel at the beginning of that movie. You want to set the emotional tone for that film, you want to elicit an emotional response from the audience.  

How did you get into title design in the first place? 

I was a graphic designer and where I was working at the time, this man brought in a reel of movie titles and I saw some of Richard Greenberg’s work – Altered States and The Dead Zone – and that’s when I realised main titles combined both my interest in film and in graphic design and that was in 1985.  

Increasingly we are seeing almost little films at the beginning of the movie where the title sequence is- even animated when the film is live action or whatever –  I wonder if the internet has been an influence on that where you can see on YouTube, particular segments of a film- whether that’s changed the status of the title sequence? Like trailers for example, they’ve become an art form and people review trailers and I’m wondering if title sequences, in a similar way, have they become a discreet theme?  

I agree with you yes, and people talk about them and review them independently and I think it’s good but it shouldn’t be separate from the movie somehow I think they work better if they are the actual beginning rather than this disembodies music video – I could be wrong. Elvis Mitchell said in the New York Times, that the Dawn of the Dead title sequence was better than the movie and I felt bad, I felt because I’d never got to work with Zack Snyder, one of his associates said that was insensitive to him , but I would never set out to do that. The trailer is different because the trailer is made up of parts of the movie. 

What is your take on the current main-on-end, because I know you’ve done a lot of them yourself, but the whole thing of the main title is to set the movie up, even if they come a little later than the beginning but the tendency now is to have a small sequence at the beginning and let everything role at the end of the movie to an emptying room, Is that demeaning to your work, is it another challenge you have to overcome? What is your take on that?  

I don’t think it’s demeaning, to work on a main-on-end, I think a lot of times I have worked on them, they want the audience to leave with a spring in their step, they want the audience to dance out of the theatre –like in Iron Man or in both Sherlock Holmes movies – let’s remind them what they’ve seen, and have them leave with a good feeling, so in that sense there is a necessity to them. The first Sherlock Holmes movie felt like that, it was kind of a celebration of what you had just seen and it worked visually and it was okay. Marvel does it all the time, I don’t feel like it’s a lesser job but you’re not really setting a tone, if the movie ends on a dark tone, they usually decide to have white-type over black. You could have a dark movie and you could set a dark tone at the beginning, but you can’t do that as much with a main-on-end. Maybe your options of what you could do in a main-on-end would be limited.  

So in regards to your creative influence at the start, does a director give you a strict brief, as you said, Martin Scorsese guided you to the idea of what he wanted for Goodfellas, so how much freedom do you have in creating these titles? 

I’m so interested in getting information, and finding out about what the movie is and what everybody’s intention is, and if the director gives me something to go on, I don’t mind having the box I have to work within be smaller because specific perimeters have been provided because I feel like an idea is only as good as its execution, for example, I shot money burning for the Hughes’ brothers for ‘Dead Presidents’ a long time ago and they had that idea. I don’t mind if the idea comes from the director and I’m just executing it, but I still try to execute it in a way that I think is visually sophisticated myself. I’ve been in situations where it’s completely my idea, and I’ve presented boards and they’ve been approved and I get the director telling me, or giving in notes on what I created. The director always has to approve what I do, I am a graphic designer so I have a client but they have to like what I’m doing. 

Is there a director you look forward to working with again? I know you’ve done a lot of work with Terence Malick, there have been directors who have come to you more than once- but is there anyone that you really feel- wow, I’m really looking forward to working with them again! 

People ask me if I have to make choices on what to work on, and if I’d choose to work on a movie that wasn’t a good movie or work on higher profile things- the truth is my choices right now are more about the people that come back and I like to work. Is there someone I’m hoping comes back again? I had a nice experience working with Scott Cooper on Black Mass and on Hostiles. Ben Stiller is my friend, he wanted me to some work for him, the last thing I worked on with him was Zoolander 2 and that had a bit of trouble so I don’t know if I’ll work with him again- I’d like to. I liked working a bit with Ridley Scott on Exodus and Prometheus and I think not really. I like Gareth Edwards, the first Godzilla director and I usually have a pretty good relationship with who the director is and if the come back, I try to help them. There isn’t anybody that I’m desperate to have give me a job that I can think of. But rather than pitch on new business and compete against other companies to get new business, I’d prefer to work with someone who knows who I am and knows what I bring to the table. 

What is your favourite Saul Bass title sequence? 

My favourite Saul Bass titles are- The Man with the Golden Arm, Take a Walk on the Wild Side when the two cats fight and I kind of like Casino – like the idea behind it.  

Some people have started to remake old movie posters- is there a title you would like to remake a title sequence to? A classic movie maybe?  

The Thing by John Carpenter I would like to remake. That does have a nice title sequence but that is just the first thing that came into mind.  

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

Interviews

Up Close with Autumn Kendrick

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Movie Marker got up close with leading Canadian actress, Autumn Kendrick to chat about life before Los Angeles and her hilarious new TV show, ‘Scuba Love’. 

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

My first trips away from home to perform started around the age of 11 and took me to Montreal, Winnipeg, Louisville and New York City. I put some roots down in Indianapolis, while at Butler University studying not only ballet and Arts Administration but also getting my degree in Sociology Social Work. After school I was able to continue dancing professionally with a small contemporary dance company in Indiana. Eventually the wear and tear on my body caught up with me and that brought me to a career in modelling. Modelling was supposed to be a short escape but turned into a full and wonderfully successful career. It was modelling that definitely gave me the travel bug – getting to work in countries around the world: Milan, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, New York and eventually Los Angeles.

My transition to loving Los Angeles took a bit, but once I got into acting, I felt like I found a home. I originally came to escape New York City winter for a couple months and stayed a couple years. Canada is my home, but I do not think I could survive another true Canadian winter. Los Angeles is my home, and where I have my career as an actress.

You have had an exceptional dance and theatre career in Canada so far, what inspired you to take the acting journey?

Dance to acting seemed like a natural step. I never had the greatest technique or was the most flexible, but my success came from my ability to perform and bring a character to life. I remember being young and auditioning for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and them liking me not because I had the perfect body or technique but because I has a unique passion and quality I brought to my performance. When I would win competitions, it was not because I did more turns or bigger leaps, but because I would move the audience and just live the story.

With my last dance company, I would be cast in leading roles because I could bring them to life. When I started modelling, I always missed the make-believe time so, even for small shoots I would make up this crazy backstory for who I was and what this character was thinking – meanwhile it would be a simple white backdrop beauty shoot. But that depth is what I think made me stand out from other models and helped me make an easy transition into TV commercials. I just love everything about being on set and working in film, from the moment the director called “action”. I was hooked. It was the first time since leaving the dance world that I felt fulfilled and happy. I was born to act.

You recently worked with Wes Craven for a lead role in the crime-thriller film ‘The Girl in the Photographs’. Can you tell us about the film, and what it was like to work on such a big film?

It was a lot of fun. I mean getting to work with such an amazing cast and crew was an honour. Plus, everyone was so sweet and supportive the entire shoot. I remember Kal Penn coming up to me after my first take and giving me the sweetest compliment ever. He was also great at sharing his own stories to help me out and feel more comfortable on set. We were a really close crew and it felt like I was gaining a second family during this shoot, and we are still all super supportive of each other and close.

Wes Craven is a legend, and the most giving person to work with. Having him cast me when he has started the careers of so many big stars of today, well breathless. Wes came to the first table read and at the end of the reading he talked about how special this project was, how excited he was for it and how he felt like us as a cast were going to be spectacular.

Filming near my childhood home was also a great plus. I had the chance to visit family and keep my feet on the ground. However, every day on set I just kept being in shock and pinching myself to be working with people that I idolize and admire. It was an incredible film to work on, and to play one of the leads was beyond amazing.

As an actress-producer, we understand you have just released a hilarious new series. Can you tell us about ‘Scuba Love’ and how it came about?

‘Scuba Love’ came from spending time in so many dive shops and thinking either someone needs to make a reality show on a dive shop or make it into a scripted comedy. Finally, I grabbed some courage and friends who were cinematographers and directors that also loved the dive world – sat down and said let’s make this. Now instead of seeing a hilarious interaction and thinking that should be in a skit, I jot it down for a future scene in Scuba Love.

It’s a comedy that follows a young female instructor who losses her job and her boyfriend in one fell swoop and decides to jump into the pool (jump all in) and make her life all about scuba and begins working at her local dive shop. We follow my character, Aly, as she helps bring a large scuba shop up to date, while also facing a male dominated world. As we follow her life we also get introduced to the wonderful joy of underwater. The exciting feature of this web-series (beside being on the only script series about scuba diving) is with each episode there is an educational clip on a topic related to diving, be it how to clean your gear, or steps to help protect our oceans, or even interviews with crew on why they love scuba diving – yes everyone involved is a diver.

Scuba Love

Can you tell us about your character, Ali, in ‘Scuba Love.’ What is she like, and did you have to carry out much research before filming?

Aly is such a fun, strong women who doesn’t let any obstacles stop her. She doesn’t allow unfortunate events to dissuade her but instead powers ahead to fully embrace the world of scuba. She also does not let men underestimate her, just like in a lot of sports where women are often over-looked as a source of information, Aly doesn’t back down from showing her wealth of knowledge and empowerment in this environment.

As for research, I am one of very few female Instructor Trainers. Not only do I teach people how to scuba dive, but I also teach potential instructors how to teach scuba diving. Being at an elite and unique level in the scuba diving world is something I never imagined I would excel in when growing up, but it certainly is a passion that I discovered during a trip to the Belize. So yes, I had just a little bit of training before filming and I loved every moment of it.

What type of genre of film or TV show are you drawn to traditionally?

I adore old musicals, if only I could sing! Actually, science fiction and fantasy films are what I gravitate to, and what I hope to work on soon. One of my favourite shows growing up ‘Star Trek’, with Patrick Stewart in the role of Captain Picard.

This year I have been doing some major binge watching of fast pace dramas such as ‘West Wing’ – I mean how great is that show. I basically can get behind anything that isn’t too scary and not too much gore…I am sadly squeamish (yes, I know that is ironic since I was in a death scene that Wes Craven was quoted saying that was very gory).

What can we expect to see you doing over the next few months?

We have many more episodes laid out for ‘Scuba Love’, of which I star, as well as some fun commercials and films I can’t talk about just yet.

To learn more about Autumn Kendrick, visit her video channel: Scuba Love
Instagram: @AutumnKendrick
Twitter: @AutumnDmonkey
Facebook: Scuba Love Web and Autumn Awesome Divers

 

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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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