Your new movie Ave Maria
- in a few words, what is it about?
Or maybe karma is a better word. And awareness.
The story of
castrato singer Alessandro Moreschi forms the (not only musical) backbone
of Ave Maria - how did
you stumble upon his story, and what prompted you to make a film around
I was researching the history of castratos when I found
his song. The notion is truly horrific but seems to be met with shrugs
when discussed. Families actually considered it an honor. It's insane.
Other sources of inspiration when writing Ave
To the point, I am a survivor of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of
Worcester Massachusetts. All of the PR from Rome claims that this is just
a crisis of the 60's and 70's - which simply isn't true. The creation of
castratos for the pleasure of the Pope is a good example. And the
mutilation of children was not only accepted by the faithful, but as I
said, considered a privilege. The same level of denial exists with the
Abuse of all sorts is entrenched in the history of the Catholic Church.
The Inquisition, Crusades, relationship with Hitler, sexual abuse. Yet all
are still considered holy and humble. I don't think there is anything holy
or humlbe to suggest that it is okay to castrate a seven year old boy so
he can sing in a soprano voice for the enjoyment of the Pope.
Maria is a metaphor of these much larger themes.
You just have to talk about your haunted
forest-like location for a bit, and how did you find it, and the
advantages and challenges of filming there?
I live in the heart of the Blackstone Valley, which is the birthplace
of the American Industrial Revolution. Once the mills opened all of the
farms weren't tended to and reforested. It's all new growth. Grown on the
land of the Puritans of witch hunt fame. Historically alone that makes
these woods creepy.
H.P. Lovecraft used to travel into the heart and woods of the
Blackstone Valley for inspiration when he ran out of ideas. I'm honoring
have to talk about your film's very lyrical feel for a bit, and what made
you choose this approach to your story at hand?
I looked at both Microcinema
mini-operas. As poetry. I directed the cast of Ave
act as if they were in a ballet. Because as horrific as their acts are,
their intentions of balancing the ledger are pure. It isn't done out of
anger or hatred. It is done to shed light and truth.
There are other films of extreme violence that makes one turn away. In
order to see the truth of something you have to keep looking. If you can
add an element of beauty to it, it is harder to turn away.
do talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
We are a small community of filmmakers and actors in New England. For
the most part we all know each other. As such I generally don't audition
people. I find people I trust. This is an incredibly brave group of
Aurora Grabill as Missy in both films is incredible. You can actually
see emotion in her eyes behind the mask. That's not an easy task. If you
Bertino's The Strangers, you can see the same with Kip
Weeks. It is amazing to watch.
Similarly with David Graziano [David
Graziano interview - click here]. I've worked with him on four projects
now. He only speaks in one of them. His is very expressive, but not
overly. Which anyone could be tempted to do with such a role.
Izzy Lee and Diana Porter have the same quality as Aurora in their
ability to act behind the mask. Plus between the three of them we have a
brunette, redhead and blonde. A trinity of western women. I can't think of
who was more persecuted by the church than them. So all are represented.
first shot of Ave Maria
seems to pick up exactly where an earlier film of yours, Microcinema,
has left off, even if it later develops in a whole different direction.
Care to talk about the connection between the two movies for a bit, and
Microcinema comes to being from two angles. My history as a
"victim" or "survivor" (not a fan of either word) of
abuse and as a person who watched a lot of exploitation films,
especially when I was a lot younger. Films like I Spit on Your
Grave were disturbing and, because of the revenge aspect,
empowering. But the formula got tiresome and things get strange, like
when they did the sneak preview of the Evil Dead-remake at
Comic Con and people in the audience began to cheer the tree rape. That
is even more disturbing. But that creepy pattern had been there for
So I made Microcinema
to change the formula. The female
character Missy never becomes a victim. He never lays a hand on her.
And he is destroyed for even thinking about violating her. It was that
Maria follows the same themes except the camera is now
pointed squarely at the church.
What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I always wanted to be a filmmaker but just never got around to it until
now. For the most of my life I have been a visual artist, painting,
charcoals etc, and poet. In 2005 I put all of that together in a one man
show called "Catholic (Surviving Abuse & Other Dead End
Roads)". Horrible title.
There is a lot of competition between the states in the US to get major
films to work come and film there. I live in a region that has very
generous tax incentives so, after the close of the one man show I started
to get work in these films. Mostly as an extra. I was even an extra in
Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying, the man who glorified
that position. I was lucky enough to observe the likes of Martin
Scorsese, Ang Lee, Richard Kelly and Lasse
simply decided to make my own. I am a let's just do it-kind of person, so
no formal training.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Ave
At this point I've directed ten short films.
I've been lucky enough to have a certain amount of success with them, at
least in the festival circuit.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
feature length of Microcinema
is in the works. The script is completed and
I'm shopping it around. Suze Crowley from The Devil Inside is
attached. Which is very exciting. I'm shopping that with producers now.
I'm also just about finished with another feature length called Metamorphosis and Lynn Lowry is attached to that. I will be
shopping that around this summer as well.
your films (at least the ones I've seen) you never seem to shy away from
dark themes. Care to comment on that?
I think my personal
history has a lot to do with that. Even my comedy is dark. The one man
show had a lot of stand up in it. For me the ability to create dark is a
way to control it.
How would you
describe yourself as a director?
Old. I honestly don't
know. That's more of a question for the cast and crew.
Filmmakers who inspire
My two favorite filmmakers are Ingmar Bergman and
Woody Allen. Who seem like second cousins. Their films are vastly
entertaining yet seem to break the rules. Formulas and rules are things I
have a very hard time following as an artist. Or even as a person.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
There are so many. Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad,
Carol Reed's The Third Man, Bunuel's Exterminating
Angel, Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Takashi Miike's
"Audition". I thought Richard Bates
Bergman's The Silence, Woody Allen's Stardust
The list is different every time I'm asked. Which I suppose is proper.
It all depends on the mood and day.
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs and
Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods. I
don't really deplore them, that's a strong word. But I really don't like
website, Facebook, whatever else?
I have a blog I occasionally update -
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
were great questions. I think we have it covered. Thank you.
for the interview!