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An Interview with Ziyad Saadi, Director of Hand Job

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2015

Ziyad Saadi on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Hand Job - in a few words, what is it about?

 

It's about a man conducting an interview with a housewife who recently committed a triple homicide. As the interview progresses and the questions become more intimate, the interviewer begins developing a psychosexual attraction to his subject that takes the interview in a disturbing new direction.

 

What were your inspirations for writing Hand Job?

 

I've been getting more and more into genre films lately, mainly because I've met and have worked with a lot of people who have done some. And what I've noticed about darker films is that even though they may not necessarily be more fun to watch, they're definitely more fun to make. You get to delve deep into your characters' psyches and find new ways to explore what makes people tick and what are the things that happen when they do. Ultimately, Hand Job was rooted in an attempt at creatively exploring what many of my favorite directors like Hitchcock and Kubrick were so adept at capturing: the dark side of human nature.

 

In your movie, the camera stays on Margaret's hands for the entire time, never shows her (or her interviewer's) face - was this intended from the get go, and what prompted that idea?

 

The entire film was based on the concept of just showing a character's hands. Even the story itself came afterwards. The reason for it is that I'm always much more interested in what's outside the frame than what's in it. I like engaging my audience by allowing them to paint their own picture and draw their own conclusions. You don't really know much about these characters, other than their sins and perversions - and even those leave much to the imagination. We have no idea who's interviewing Margaret - he could be a cop, a journalist, a psychiatrist, a lawyer or something else entirely, and it creates an unsettling feeling made even more unsettling by the fact that we don't see anybody's face. I just felt like that was a very unique way of shooting a movie.

 

Related to the last question, how much of a challenge was it to have the entire movie carried hands and dialogue?

 

It was challenging in that I had to make sure it was never too stale visually. When you have a long shot focusing on one single thing, you run the risk of boring your audience after a while. That's why the writing and performances were so crucial. I also wanted the sound to play an important role, which is why I recorded all the dialogue on a tape recorder that I felt enhanced the aesthetic of the film by giving it a sort of old-fashioned feel (this interview takes place in the 1970s). However, being that this is cinema, I did have to come up with creative ideas for the visual elements as well. The main idea there was to shoot the film on two different cameras, a DVX for the interview to give it a cheap, degraded look to match the seediness of the interview, and a Canon 5d for the sex scene to give it a nice clean look that counters the scene's disturbing nature. My DP was wonderfully effective in helping me create a total contrast between the two parts of the film so that what seems like a very minimal movie actually has a lot of detail to ponder over. For example, the interview scene is filmed with a shaky, handheld camera while the sex scene has an extremely smooth, deliberate, even sexy camera movement. The former consists of very grainy, desaturated footage almost like a surveillance tape, while the latter is shot in luscious black & white like a noir film. And it's all done in accordance with the story and the dynamic that these two characters go on to develop throughout.

 

What can you tell us about your cast - and how did you go about finding the right people for the special requirements of your movie?

 

DP Neal Todnem, Ziyad

I had worked with my actors, Astrid Ovalles and Christian Thom, on a another short film a while back and I loved their performances. Even more so, I felt like they had very distinct voices that suited their respective roles perfectly, which was very important given that their voices would end up being the main tool (besides their hands, of course) to keep the story moving forward while keeping the audience entertained. What's more is that I needed to take into consideration the element of chemistry. For a story like this, if the actors don't click, then none of it will work. And luckily, Astrid and Christian had the perfect chemistry to keep the story exciting and ultimately propel their characters' twisted dynamic into unexpected territory.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such for a bit, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

You wouldn't guess from watching the film, but the on-set atmosphere was actually quite relaxed and easygoing. I made the movie in my apartment with only two actors and two crew members (my DP and my gaffer), and the whole thing took about five hours. Even the sex scene was pretty easy to shoot! Fortunately, we all knew how to have fun and keep things light, even while filming such a dark story.

 

Anything you can tell us about critical and audience reception yet - and when and where will the movie be released onto the general public?

 

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I just finished the movie pretty recently and I'm hoping for some festival screenings soon. Will keep you posted!

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Currently trying to write up another sort of experimental film, only this time more comedic.

 

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

 

You can check out the feature film I produced here (also a dark genre film): http://bagboyloverboy.com

And my personal Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ziyad.saadi.7

 

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

 

Nope, that about covers it.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... 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