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An Interview with Richard Powell, Director of Hang Up!

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2018

Films directed by Richard Powell on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Hang Up! - in a few words, what is it about?


The set up is simple, Emelia (Astrida Auza) accidentally butt dials her husband while out on a drive with her best friend Mona (Jane Pokou). The husband, Gary (Robert Nolan), answers and is about hang up when he hears something unexpected. Rather than end the call he sits back and listens as the conversations takes a dark turn.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Hang Up!?


It might seem like an answer from left field but I keep describing Hang Up! as a Shakespearian villain monologue via cell phone. My favourite part of Othello, Macbeth or Richard the 3rd is when the villain has an aside and either speaks directly to the audience/reader or into an empty room for the benefit of the audience/reader. In these moments the villain is allowed to gloat about their fiendish deeds or their ability to manipulate and control the world around them. They detail their plots and we as the audience are allowed to be thrilled, terrified, titillated by the unabashed evil on display. Later in the play we see how these plots play out and learn to some degree the fate of the secretive fiend when found out by others. I've rolled all of these elements into a 14 minute short and replaced the narrative device of a stage or play book with a piece of ubiquitous technology.


And while Shakespeare may have been at the heart of my artistic motivations, the film also had a more pragmatic, production orientated intent. We shot Hang Up! in one day, one location, one actor. We kept the shoot simple which made it affordable which is why I'm talking about it today with you instead of talking about a film which can't be made because the team can't pull together 5 or 6 or 25 grand to get it done. Budgets are a reality, even in short filmmaking. So you make something with what you have or don't and not making something isn't an option when the goal is to keep working and refining your craft


Hang Up! is yet another collaboration with producer Zach Green [Zach Green interview - click here] - so what was your collaboration with him like on this one, and how has your director/producer relationship evolved over the years?


Zach and myself are partners, so this relationship has been the same since film school. I bounce ideas and scripts off of him and we talk, plot and plan how to make it happen. The biggest change in our work relationship over the last couple of years is the continuing collaboration with Red Sneakers Media, a film production company founded by Marc Roussel [Marc Roussel interview - click here] and Ron Basch. Marc in particular has been a powerful force in getting both Hang Up! and our previous film Heir off the ground and into the world. In order to truly thrive, grow and persist you need collaborators and with Marc and Ron's help we have been able to achieve much more with our films than we could have on our own.


A few words about Hang Up!'s approach to horror?


Hang Up! has a specific kind of horror which I find far more chilling than your run of the mill slasher or supernatural thriller. It depicts a kind of banal human evil rarely seen in film, a kind of evil more at home in the real world where characters like this do in fact exist. It's obviously horrific to be stabbed by a lunatic wearing a mask but it is also horrific, if not more so, to be told by your wife she's leaving you for her lover. People don't kill themselves after being stabbed, they do kill themselves when scorned by a lover or spouse and that is an example of the existential horror which kills the spirit, the horror I'm interested in exploring in Hang Up!


Horror has a long history of shocking audiences with powerful images and sounds, but Hang Up! is my latest attempt to unsettle with words and ideas, to have talented actors become storytellers and paint mental pictures in the mind of our audience as real and disturbing as the real images found in traditional horror fare. Some of the best stories I've ever experienced where relayed verbally, around a campfire at night or at a table with good friends. Our minds are powerful international machines and given the right attention to detail things  we can picture and imagine rival anything found on the big screen.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


As mentioned earlier, Hang Up! was a one day shoot, and while that presented certain challenges it also enforced a kind of refreshing purity. The static nature of the short meant we needed cutting options and I made sure we would have enough set ups to cut something compelling together despite the fact that we are simply watching a man listen to a phone call for 14 minutes. We had our amazing lead Robert Nolan [Robert Nolan interview - click here] listen to a previously recorded guide track of the conversation in real time (14 minutes) over a series of roughly 11 master set ups. We then shot a few insets and after 12 hours we were finished. The idea was we would use all of this material and cut it music video style over the voice over. This whole experience relied on trusting our actors rather than micro managing their performances and I couldn't be happier with the results.


Do talk about Hang Up!'s key cast, and why exactly these people?


With every project we face a similar issue; our material is "too dark". It might not seem like an issue but the scripts do scare actors away. Luckily we have worked with some great performers over the years who find the challenging nature of our projects exciting and welcome the chance to dive in head first. Robert Nolan [Robert Nolan interview - click here] has been our rock and I knew with him in the seat we would have some one interesting and extremely talented to watch for the 14 minutes of run time. For the character Emelia we had to look a bit harder as the role was not only extremely technically challenging, a 14 minute monologue, but also pitch black dark. You would think there exists a glut of actors dying to do this kind of material and you would be wrong. I had worked with Astrida Auza on Familiar and loved her performance so I sent her the script and asked for an audio audition. She sent something a week or two later and I could hear the character in her voice immediately. We continued to work on her performance via phone over the following months and when we were ready we went to SIM Picture and Audio here in Toronto and laid down the 14 minute audio performance. The film is odd in that Astrida's entire performance is audio and Robert's is almost strictly visual but together they create something special. To fill out the smaller role of Mona we contacted Jane Pokou who we met on Heir. With Jane it was the same process, she recorded some takes and sent them in and developed the character through a series of email and phone calls.


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


The shoot was one 12 hour day here in a condo in Toronto. The crew was bare bones but everyone on set was amazing. We had a great time making the film, so much so the plan is to do at least two more projects with the same production model. We shot all of the wide stuff first and slowly moved in, capturing Robert's performance in 14 minute takes. It was a big ask to have Robert have to work though all of that emotion and stillness for at least 11 full takes but he was game. It's very easy to write these scenarios and monologues but I often forget just how difficult it is for actors to pull them off until we get on set and it's time to make words on a page come to life! Luckily Robert, Astrida and Jane were up for the challenge and committed to making the film work.


Any idea when and where Hang Up! might be released onto the general public yet?


We are currently submitting Hang Up! to festivals around the world so that news should be coming soon. We will probably make the film available online in the future as well either through

our own YouTube/Vimeo channels or via a website showcase.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I'm currently developing a feature version of my short film Familiar with a great producer here in Toronto as well as starting to plan the production of the next two shorts that will follow the Hang Up! production model. Hang Up! producer/editor Marc Roussel [Marc Roussel interview - click here] is a very talented writer/director and will be directing the short Deathbed and I am looking to direct another no budget/high quality short entitled Play. The aim with these projects is to keep busy, get better and prove you don't need thousands of Dollars to deliver something polished and professional. This is an approach we plan to employ with the feature films currently in development.


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


You can find Fatal Pictures at the following:


You can find our co-producers Red Sneakers Media at:


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


Two things if you don't mind!


First I want to thank the cast and crew of Hang Up! You are all amazing, talented people and this film would not exist or be any where as good as it is with your contributions. I also want to thank the amazing people at SIM/Tattersall her in Toronto for their amazing support! Your people and facilities are top notch and I truly look forward to doing it all over again with you when the time is right.


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Second, I want to express how different Hang Up! is from your typical film, short or long and to give some context as to what it is and why it exists. Hang Up! truly is a form of expression, it doesn't exist to serve any purpose but to have been created. Film is almost always approached in how it may be exploited and manipulated to some end, to get into a certain festival or to impress a certain demographic or to be sold or go viral or whatever. Those expectations force choices and compromises on projects, that is not the case with Hang Up! This film only exists as a piece of cinematic expression, as a means of telling a story we wanted to tell with the means we had to tell it. That doesn't mean it's good, great or bad, it means the film has no baggage, no expectations on it, it's creation was the goal and victory and everything else that flows from it is gravy. This is something I feel is truly rare in film, a film made solely as a means of expression and exercise/development of craft and for that reason alone I feel it warrants existence. I hope the film is seen by many and that those who see it like it, but the greatest thing about Hang Up! is it doesn't matter if you see it or like it, it exists now and we have become better filmmakers because of it. 

Anyhow, end of rant, thanks for reading!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD