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
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
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.
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.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
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.
when and where Hang Up! might be released onto the general
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?
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
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
You can find Fatal
Pictures at the following:
You can find our co-producers Red
Sneakers Media at:
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.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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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!
for the interview!