Your new film Rose White
- in a few words, what is it about?
story is based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow-White and
Rose-Red. To over simplify it: Two sisters live in an enchanted forest
with their mother. Thereís a terrible storm, an injured Bear, and an
ungrateful and slightly sinister Dwarf. Itís a pretty simple story about
loyalty, family and purity of heart.
adaptation adopts this same world, but this world only exists within the
broken mind of Lilly (Snow-White). In reality, she and her sister Rosalyn
(Rose-Red) are desperately poor, and Rosalyn has had to resort to
prostitution to support the two of them. In our take on things, the Bear
is a drug addict, the Dwarf is a local crime boss, and so on. The film
follows pretty closely to the basic structure of the fairy tale, with a
more film noir approach to the storyline.
we took the original fairy tale and the themes involved and turned up the
stakes and consequences involved as far as they could go.
How did the project come into being in the first place?
project was basically brought into existence amidst a conversation between
Deneen Melody [Deneen
Melody interview - click here] and I about two and a half years ago. During said
conversation, Deneen told me that she had always wanted to make a film
based on her favorite Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Snow-White and
Rose-Red. Growing up, my grandmother used to read their stories to my
brother and I before bed, so Iíve also always had a deep respect for
them. Since that time, my understanding and appreciation of their stories
have changed, mainly due to adaptations that tame the original work. Part
of the excitement and longevity of their stories is that they are actually
extremely dark. They are full of terrible people and creatures that are
out to harm the innocent, or at the very least take from them what they
care for most. They are morality tales, but, even more than that, they are
warnings. They are most certainly not as happy and light as most of the
films that have used them as source material. Thus, the idea of taking a
crack at one seemed irresistible.
have written the screenplay for Rose White
based on a story by your co-producer and star Deneen Melody [Deneen
Melody interview - click here]. How specific was her story, and to
what extent (if at all) did you two collaborate when scripting the
film? Oh, and prior to this project, were you actually aware of the
Brothers Grimm-tale your film is based on, and did you consider it solid
actual process, I did write the script pretty independently.
However, Deneen absolutely provided the road map for the path that
was taken. The whole development of the project was based on two main
guide posts that Deneen gave me. First: there are two worlds in the film,
a dark fairy tale forest and a real world inner city, the break between
these worlds existing within Lillyís damaged mind. Second: in this real
world Rosalyn is a prostitute, Bear is a drug addict, the Dwarf is a crime
boss, as I mentioned earlier. From there, I basically built the meat
around the bones, using the original fairy tale as a guide.
As a result,
the process was one-hundred-and-fifty percent driven by the Brothers Grimm
fairy tale itself. In fact, during the first five minutes and throughout
the first half of the film, I directly quote the actual text of the fairy
tale in Lillyís voice over. We definitely diverged from the exact course
of the Brothers Grimm plot, but we remain true to key story points. So,
the fairy tale was absolutely essential source material.
And to the last point, I
must confess, I had only read the original story once, and that was many
years ago. On the other hand, that is also what drew me to the story. Here
was a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, with characters Snow-White and
Rose-Red that everyone has heard of and THINKS they know. However, very
few people know THIS particular story, and this particular portrayal of
those characters. It was a unique opportunity, and I knew right away that
it had to be done.
Speaking of Deneen Melody: What was it
like directing her in her own brainchild actually?
When working on
a project thatís personal to many people, you do ride a thin line. There
are always going to be times where one personís vision for a sequence
doesnít match up with anotherís. Luckily, Deneen and I worked so
closely the whole time and had such a close understanding of what we both
wanted for the project that it made things a lot easier. Iím not going
to say it was all peaches and cream, of course. In this kind of tough
creative process, with the pressures of budget, the Chicago summer heat,
seventeen hour shoots, and one thing after another going wrong, inevitably
youíre going to blow up, and yell and pout and be an idiot. And by that
I mean me. Deneen, however, was always a trooper, and basically let my
spoiled-ass have my way most of the time.
Deneen Melody, Erin Breen
The thing is though, to be
most accurate about it, I didnít simply direct Deneen in this film. She
and I really and truly built the thing from zero and held it together with
our bare hands. We couldnít have done it without people like my brother
Jeremy Kuhlman, Anthony Sumner [Anthony
G.Sumner interview - click here], Chad Norris, and Brian Kilborn. However,
what it came down to was her and I digging our heels into the mud and
pressing on. In the end, itís a testament to the people involved as to
what the work looks like when youíre done and to what you and your team
look like when youíre done. To that, I can definitely say, working with
Deneen on this film was an honor, and is one of the best things that I
have ever done.
can you tell us about your other leading lady Erin Breen?
Erin Breen is a rock star with a heart of gold. I do not exaggerate, even
though she will tell me to shut up and stop it. Beyond that she is a
Chicago actress and model, now based in Los Angeles, who also just happens
to have a degree and career in Civil and Environmental Engineering. She
actually was one of the only actors that we hadnít worked with in the
past. We literally interviewed and auditioned almost every young actress
in Chicago for the part, and she was one of the last that we saw. Anyone,
in any field, that can provide her level of talent, commitment, and
intelligence, and combine it with a humble, good natured ability to make
everyone around her feel appreciated, is a true rarity. On camera, she
brought to the table a quiet strength and vulnerability that made Rosalyn
truly come alive. Without her, the film wouldnít ever have been as
strong as it is. Finding her was one of those kismet things that make this
kind of project happen.
Rose White, you play
the male lead - so what can you tell us about Dan Kuhlman, the actor, and
how did you approach your role?
Dan Kuhlman in Bear-makeup
Well, when you
wear as many hats as I did on this film the main concern was remaining
focused. The interesting thing about it though is that because I was so
immersed in all aspects of the film that level of concentration was
somehow easier to attain. I had such a clear idea of what the scene
needed, and an overall sense of where the character and this scene fit in
the course of the storyline, that it gave me a greater sense of ease.
In terms of building the
character of Bear, the greatest challenge was the line between good and evil
within him. In the story, Bear basically comes into the lives of the two
girls and pushes them along towards their fate. Therefore, itís
essential that he be able to convince the girls, especially Rosalyn, to
follow his advice, even though he is not inherently trustworthy.
Thatís a tough combination to pull off. I hope I did an okay job.
A few words about the
rest of your cast and crew?
In terms of our
cast, as I mentioned earlier, most of our actors are folks that we have
worked with in the past who just fit right into place for these parts.
Such as, Anthony Fleming III, who plays Wolf, worked with me several years
ago on Famous Doorís production of The Cider House Rules here in
Chicago. The role was basically written for him, so we were incredibly
lucky that he was available. Tom Lodewyck [Tom
Lodewyck interview - click here] worked with Deneen and I on Afraid of Sunrise. Tom just has that incredible gift for creating
bad guys that you almost want to root for because they are so damn cool.
And, to our
crew, I donít have enough space here to really give them their due. We
wouldnít have even been able to consider embarking on the project
without Anthony Sumnerís team at TinyCore
G.Sumner interview - click here]. Brian Kilborn, my co-director, was an invaluable source of vision and perspective without
which the film would be pretty much crap. And my brother Jeremy Kuhlman,
the filmís Director of Photography, and silent producer. Beyond the
amazing work he did on the film, without him none of this, the film, the
production company, none of it, would exist.
I would be remiss though if
I didnít also mention the filmmakers and artistic community outside of
our actual crew that were a constant source of support for the film.
People like Owen Canepa and Shannon Fitzgerald who allowed us to
completely invade and take over their homes for days on end. David
Schmudde, Steve Luce, Nolo Digital Film, Resolution Digital Studios,
Andrew Shabat and Bryen Hensley, all of whom who contributed to this
project simply for the love of the work. Chicago is lucky to have such a
supportive artistic community. We canít thank them enough.
White is in (roughly) equal parts fairytale and very realistic
crime drama - which was more fun, which more interesting to shoot, and how
easy/hard was it to find just the right balance?
Well, in terms of simple set-up and production design, the fairy tale
sequences were definitely more difficult and time-consuming. However, the
most interesting and challenging portion of the shoot was when we sought
to juxtapose the two realities. For instance, on a Friday night, we would
come in and shoot several sequences in the fairy tale world. Then, over
night, we would tear the set down and come in the next day to shoot all of
those same sequences again in the real world. From an outside perspective,
itís actually this aspect of the film that makes it so successful.
Itís directly related to the fact that the division between worlds lives
within Lillyís mind. Because we see so much of this story through her
eyes, and because she is so innocent, when we reach the end and everything
unravels it has a real emotional punch to it.
would you describe your overall directorial approach to your subject at
Simple and dark. Thatís what co-director Brian Kilborn, Deneen, my
brother Jeremy and I talked a lot about during pre-production and
throughout the shoot. This applied to everything: our actors, production
design, lighting, effects, music, all of it. When making a fantasy piece
there are a whole slew of traps. One is that you can easily take things
too far. You ride a thin line and if you go over it you descend into
melodrama. A second is that there is an inherent lightness to the genre.
Our take on this story involves some very serious social issues that are
not easy to talk about. These are issues that are personal to many people
in the cast and crew, so I knew we needed to be very careful. Keep the
performances focused, almost smaller and subdued. Keep the sets and
costumes from being too extravagant. Keep the lighting full of contrast
and shadow. Keep the music in a dark place and donít let it lighten the
tone. The goal in the end was to really drive home the idea that true evil
doesnít lie in stories of monsters and terrible creatures, but happens
every day in the world around us.
What can you tell us about the actual shoot and
your on-set atmosphere?
(expletive deleted) in April. Hot as (expletive deleted) in July. Too many
shots. Not enough time. Hectic. Stressed. Excellent people joking about it
being hectic and stressed. Making it work.
The $64-question of course: When
and where will your film be released onto the general public?
Right now the film is being considered by twenty plus festivals.
Unfortunately, we wonít know for a few more months which one will be
screening it first.
go back to the beginnings of your career: As far as I know (and I might be
wrong), you started out as an actor. What can you tell us about your early
acting experiences, and did you receive any formal education on the
have to confess again here, I am, and always will be, first and foremost
an actor. I received my degree from Carnegie Mellonís School of Drama in
Pittsburgh, moving to Chicago after I graduated to work in the theater and
improv community here in town. Over the past ten years, Iíve been able
to work in the majority of Chicagoís theaters and am a proud card
carrying member of all three actorsí unions.
Five years ago, I decided
that film was the direction I wanted to take with my career. The problem
was that Chicago was still relatively slow when it came to film and
television. Thus, my brother Jeremy and I decided to start our production
Pictures. Five years, and multiple short film projects
later, Rose White came into being. So, my path towards adding
ďdirectorĒ to my tool belt was a direct result of my acting career. I
love both aspects of the process, but I have to say that I will always
think of myself as an actor more than a director.
If I'm not mistaken, your first film as a director was Thanks
Mom. What can you tell us about that one?
That one I
co-wrote with my brother and it was indeed my film directorial debut.
Itís about two brothers who try to raise money for their feature film,
but are forced to accept their motherís offer to help because of the bad
economy. When they finish the film their mom watches it and it is
completely against her more old-school, conservative sensibilities. So,
they change it and they change it, until it becomes a hilarious,
Disney-fied mockery of its former self.
Itís partly a commentary
on Hollywoodís process of sucking the life and grit out of films, but
itís also slightly autobiographical. Our mom has literally read hundreds
of drafts of the scripts that Iíve written. And, each time she does, she
says, ďDannyÖ I loved it. But does it really need to be so violent?Ē
Or, ďDanny!... I loved it. But do you really have to use that kind of
language?Ē And so on. And I actually do end up changing things as a
result. Thus, the film was basically a love letter to Mom.
films of yours (as actor, director, writer, whatever else) you'd like to
talk about? Any future projects?
Actually, Thanks Mom is the one I would have brought up. That one
has yet to really hit the number of festivals that it should have. We just
got bogged down with working on Rose White
so soon after Thanks
Mom was complete. The film is really and honestly funny, and deserves a
great run. Everyone who has seen it has loved it.
Dan Kuhlman on stage
Besides films you've
also done a lot of theatre, right? How does acting on stage compare to
acting in front of a movie camera, and honestly, which do you prefer?
Although opinions differ on this, mine is that they are actually the
same. Itís just a matter of scale. That may seem like an idiotically
obvious point. However, even within the individual worlds the same idea
applies. In theater, you do not project as much, or scale up your
physicality in a small, fifty-seat Chicago store front theater as you
would doing a musical or Shakespeare, in a full size 500 seat, outdoor
auditorium. In the same way, the size of an actorís performance in a
comedy like Anchor Man seems like a world away from Michael
Shannonís work in Take Shelter. In all of them, however, itís
about getting to the truth behind the story. I love both of them equally.
However, being raised more in the theater, my heart will always rest
within that direct interaction between actor and audience.
and filmmakers who inspire you?
is a pretty damn inspirational man for a Chicago actor these days. Just
watching his career and the work that he does on a regular basis is
something that really makes me work harder towards that same goal. Also, I
went to school with guys like Zachary Quinto, Joe Manganiello and Matt
Bomer, and their success has really given me something to shoot for.
As a filmmaker, itís
actually not the big time guys that inspire me. Itís guys like David
Schmudde, a Chicago filmmaker now based in New York, that I really hope to
emulate. David and guys like him are out there fighting the real battles to do
the best work possible, shelling out their hard earned money and usually
not seeing a dime back. But every time you need help with a project, David
is there to lend a hand. Thatís what itís all about.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I could say the ones that somehow you are ďsupposedĒ to say when you
are a filmmaker, like Apocalypse Now and Citizen Kane. Both of
which I do really love. However, the movies that are set in my soul, and
that I can watch a million times without getting bored, will always be The Empire Strikes Back and
Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the
Lost Ark. Somehow I feel a little guilty for saying that, but itís
and of course, films you really deplore?
Any film with the word
Twilight in the title.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
readers, do go ďLikeĒ our Facebook page! Youíd be surprised at how
much that counts when it comes to film festivals. Weíd really, hugely
for the interview!