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An Interview with Mark Battle, Director of Here Lies Joe

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2016

Films directed by Mark Battle on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Here Lies Joe - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Here Lies Joe is a film about hope. Joe (Dean Temple) is a depressed man at the end of his rope when he meets a manic woman named Z at a Suicide's Anonymous meeting. They share a perfectly bizarre afternoon together and ... drama ensues ...

 

Of the two main characters of Here Lies Joe, Joe and Z, who do you identify with more, actually? And if you can forgive the personal question, have you ever had any suicidal tendencies yourself?

 

If I had to choose, I would probably say Joe, but really, Pamela Conway (my amazing co-writer) and I put so much of each other into both Joe and Z that it's really difficult to separate them.

To answer your second question, I have been to that dark place as many of us unfortunately have. I remember looking out of the window one morning - a gorgeous summer afternoon - and seeing hell. It's something a lot of people have a hard time understanding unless they've been there themselves, and I think there's still a lot of ignorance around what depression really is. I've never been suicidal, but I've been dangerously close to it and I know what it's like to have your mind betray you.

 

Your sources of inspiration when writing Here Lies Joe?

 

This film was entirely inspired by my unexpected and wonderful friendship with my co-writer, Pam Conway. Throughout the writing process, our relationship continued to influence and mold the story - really, down to real life dialogue that made it into the final film.

 

What can you tell us about your co-writer Pamela Conway, and what was your collaboration with her like?

 

While I was finishing work on my previous short film, The Convict, Pam was hard at work on a novel she had been writing. We were both so excited about character and story that I pitched this idea I had had to her about these two off-beat characters who meet in an unlikely place and form this interesting and beautiful bond.

It took us a long time to get it all right. We brainstormed for a couple of years. She would write short stories based on our conversations, then I would adapt those stories screenplays. Our collaboration was so tight that I honestly couldn't tell you who wrote what line anymore or whose idea was whose.

 

What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand? And how does one approach a delicate subject matter like Here Lies Joe's even?

 

I knew that if we were going to attempt to make a film about suicide, we had to be respectful of the subject. However, I also wanted to keep it real - and real means that it's not always dreary and hopeless, I mean, you come up for air every once in a while, you know? There is humor. Things make you laugh. There are little things; little moments that pull you out. Those things eventually save you, even if you don't see them in the moment.

In the end, I think it all made sense when we realized that we didn't make a film about suicidal at all -- we made a film about possibility.

 

Do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I am so proud of everyone in this film.

Dean Temple, whom I had the great pleasure of working with on The Convict, brought this tremendous humility and honesty to the role of Joe. He was a man defeated by life who, at the same time, was also looking for a reason to live. Dean is one of those very talented actors who puts 150% of himself into every character; he was the perfect choice to bring the complexities of Joe to the screen and he crushed it.

The character of 'Z' frightened us. She was so gloriously complex and confounding, manic and capricious. We knew that if we didn't find the perfect actress to bring her to life, that the film would fall apart. It took us a long time to discover her and I remember telling Pam during the casting process that we may have to stop everything if she didn't reveal herself to us soon. Then, we found Andi Morrow. I recall her first audition and how I knew our search was over in the first two minutes. She knew the character's entire backstory; what her childhood was like, what books she had read, why she had become who she had become. Finding Andi was a miracle --- she respected Z as much as Pam and I did and that was no small order. The Z onscreen is the Z we wrote long before we began searching for the actress to play her.

I had worked with Mary Hronicek (who plays the unhinged Carol in Here Lies Joe) in The Convict with Dean Temple and we had filmed this wonderful scene with her for two days that was eventually cut from the film due to pacing issues. As soon as we wrote Carol, I immediately knew that Mary would have a lot of fun with her. Mary had also dressed a couple of sets for us in this film. Her enthusiasm and passion for indie film matches our own and I can't wait to work with her again. She's so wonderful and talented and passionate -- any production would be improved with her onboard.

I met Timothy J. Cox through Travis Mitchell, who also worked with us on The Convict. Tim plays Bill in Here Lies Joe and brought this wonderful quirkiness to the character and made him real. That was important to us; that each character, no matter how small a role, feel real and Tim's character was no exception. Who knows, there may be a spin-off for Bill sometime in the future ... he is certainly worthy of it.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Filming Here Lies Joe was brutally HOT. We shot it over three long weekends in the middle of summer heat, many days in which we spent crammed into a small car with the windows up and no air conditioning.

It was, for me, the most challenging and exhausting shoot by far, but also the most rewarding. We all suffered together and everyone was willing to go the extra mile despite how uncomfortable it was.

 

The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?

 

Well, we've just begun the festival submission process so we're hoping it can be seen very soon! Our official festival premiere screening will be Friday, Apr 15th at the Monadnock International Film Festival in Keene, New Hampshire - Andi and I have been honored to sit on a panel following the screening and we're very excited to meet and chat with the audience and other local filmmakers.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?

 

We have been completely and utterly overwhelmed by the generous praise this little film has received. You always hope you're making a film that will not only satisfy yourself but an audience as well. I hope the film's message resonates with people and gets them talking. It's such an important subject and it needs attention now.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

My process is frustratingly and embarrassingly slow. I have several notebooks filled with film ideas that aren't quite 'there yet.' It's getting dangerously close to the one year mark, now, since Here Lies Joe wrapped and I'm getting antsy for something to reveal itself.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I love films and I just picked up a camera one day and started making them!

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Here Lies Joe?

 

Here Lies Joe is my fourth short film. My previous films, Victim, The Janitor and The Convict have all been evolving towards my attempts at understanding 'difficult-to-understand' people. I love flawed characters and all of their curious complexities; there is no black and white, but this interesting shade of grey. I love exploring that and sharing that with an audience -- challenging them to find themselves in unexpected places.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I suppose I would say that I'm very much a director-in-training.

Every time I make a film, I always think that I've figured something out and that the next time will be easier. That has not been the case; every project brings new challenges and it always feels like I'm starting over again!

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Hitchcock, John Hillcoat, Fincher, Soderbergh, Jonze, Paul Anderson, Wes Anderson ... list goes on ...

 

Your favourite movies?

 

So many!! Too many ...

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Feeling lucky ?
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Find Mark Battle
at the amazons ...

USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

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Hmm ... that's a very good question!! I suppose I deplore .... any film that's born out of the depressing, Hollywood, formulaic, money-grabbing machine. There are some brilliant indie films out there that no one knows about and it's just criminal.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

https://www.facebook.com/swevenfilms/

https://twitter.com/swevenfilms

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Thank you, everyone, for continuing to support indie film!!!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

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