Your new movie The
Institute - in a few words, what is it about?
about many things, on the surface it’s about an unfortunate couple who
is unable to conceive, but it veers into the power dynamics of healthcare,
predatory behaviors, charismatic leadership, morality, relationship
pressures and desire for children with both heterosexual and homosexual
couples among other topics.
were your sources of inspiration when writing The
Institute, and is the movie in any way based on personal
experiences (however veiled)?
inspiration surely stemmed from me and my wife discussing the start of our
family. That is where the “seed” of the idea was lain.
A few words about The
Institute's approach to horror?
prefer a more cerebral and sinister style and I love the fear that comes
from solitude and the loss of control one feels when ingesting mysterious
substances. I am also a fan of larger themes rather than someone just
trying to kill you for no reason.
What can you
tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
is a visual art so foremost during the shoot I thought about the image.
What can this convey, how interesting does this look, and how can the
camera help tell the story. That being said I also feel the director's job
is to make the actors look their best. I always tell the performers that
I am their safety net and if I am asking for a retake it is because I
think they can be shown in a better light or do a better delivery.
talk about The Institute's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
Brandart had been with the project almost from the beginning, and she
really showed commitment to the storyline. When my first choice for a male
lead dropped out due to scheduling conflicts (we shot during the height of
Covid so things got chaotic), Victorya suggested Ignacyo Matynia, and their
previous acquaintance made them comfortable with each other. This helped
their chemistry on camera and made for a believable couple. The other
members of the ensemble were either people I had worked with before - like
Jarred Harper whom I directed in a comedy play - or people who auditioned
like Joy Donze, and were perfect for the part.
You of course
also have to talk about your quite impressive locations for a bit, and
what was it like filming there?
were blessed with our locations - from The Lands Institute itself to the
cave, and of course the beautiful private estate on the water - it was all
amazing to shoot in the magical Catskill mountains for this lush retreat.
A few words about the
shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
were also very blessed to have the art of the Ballatore estate lent to us
for the shoot - this was figurative iron sculptures as well as paintings
from the late great Anthony Ballatore. It really helped set the mood for
the shoot as it walked the line between beauty and the grotesque.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
have been happy that so many people have loved watching the film! We have
a fair amount of critical praise to boot, but it's the public that I make
films for. I want to give people a few minutes of fun and escape from the
everyday toil, so it’s gratifying when people enjoy all our hard work!
Any future projects you'd like to
am working on a couple of films - a heist movie and another thriller, plus
some long form works. Keep an eye out on Headless Films website, our
social media, or reach out to join our mailing list for more updates.
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
think my first desire came from watching cartoons as a kid - I wanted
different things to happen and said one day I am going to make work that
I would like and that wouldn’t annoy me. I really began writing
informally when I was 14 or 15 in high school when my first screenplays
were written. In college I took some screenwriting classes and did some
more polished works but never really shot anything. After deciding to stop
dreaming and start delivering I started writing short films and writing
plays for the stage and getting them produced. This is my feature debut.
from your filmography, you're feeling as comfortable behind the camera as
in front of it - so what can you tell us about Hamza Zaman, the actor?
sort of fell into acting late in life. I did background for a friend's film
and then on a whim decided to put up a picture on IMDb. A few days later
someone called me from LA and asked if I had a rep yet - she helped me
work out my first portfolio, and I then took some classes and kept working
on it because it taught me a lot about filmmaking and I kept getting work.
I have a couple of dozen credits as an actor but am really only starting
to hit my stride as a filmmaker now.
talk about your filmwork prior to The
Institute, in whatever position?
last couple of shorts were Sickness (2019), which premiered at the
South Asian International Film Festival as part of the HBO shorts contest,
and Tribe ( 2020), which premiered at Chelsea Film Festival.
Sickness bears an eerie similarity to the pandemic and predated it
by a year so some of my friends joke it was a warning. After making Tribe I felt it was time to tackle a feature, and I hope its plot
doesn’t also begin to resemble reality.
How would you
describe yourself as a director?
like to stay curious and ensure I am an advocate for the performers. It's
part of a director's job to protect them and help them grow as artists. I
also feel that film is a collaborative art form so the director is just
one member of a large team needed to bring a story to light. This is why I
named my production company Headless Films. It’s really all about the
whole production and post production crew - not just the director.
Filmmakers who inspire
Your favourite movies?
now I really loved Dune, and of course 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic.
I am also a fan of Star Wars and its spoof Spaceballs.
... and of
course, films you really deplore?
don’t actively dislike anyone else’s conception of art - but I
wouldn’t watch the Human Centipede again.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
website, social media, whatever else?
My IG is hamza.zam
we could really use some review love on Rotten Tomatoes and Amazon!
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
was an indie so we didn’t have huge trailers or anything like that, but
we worked hard to have a heightened level of cuisine and some fun
recreational activities for the summer camp where we built our bubble.
Basically I also think it's important to have some fun so you can blow off
some steam after the 10+ hour days on a shoot!
for the interview!