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An Interview with Michelle Tomlinson, Director of Soul Mates

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2023

Films directed by Michelle Tomlinson on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Soul Mates - in a few words, what is it about?

 

The logline ó When an elderly couple learns one of them has only six months to live, they must decide how to spend the rest of this life and how to recognize each other in the next.

 

Now how did the project fall together in the first place, what drew you to it?

 

I have had the honor of working with writer & executive producer Jim Sea on other projects, so when he texted me about directing this one, I said yes before even reading the script. Once I read the script, I fell in love with the story. I love the hope that the story brings, that maybe we will recognize each other the next time around. It reminded me ever so slightly of What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams, which is my ultimate number one favorite flick. I brought in line producer Terry Futschik, as Iíve been working with her on other projects, including the 501c3 New Mexico Film Foundation, and she brought us the gifted crew you see in our credit list.

 

Your personal thoughts on re-incarnation, and did you do any research on the subject prior to the shoot?

 

I believe anything is possible, so why not reincarnation? What does it mean when we meet someone it feels like weíve known and loved for several lifetimes? What does it mean to connect with a twin flame or a soul mate? Does this sort of connection exist? Itís not that I did research, per se, as I am familiar with the concept. Iíve had experiences in my lifetime with personal deep connections where I was led to believe that maybe I could have known this person in another lifetime. These experiences informed some of my directorial choices.

 

What can you tell us about Soul Mates' writer Jim Sea, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Jim is a brilliant human being. I am a big fan of his storytelling from both his writing and acting standpoint. He is also a kind and compassionate person with strength in vision. I am blessed to work with him. Weíve known each other roughly five or six years now, and we started out as acting coach and actor. When Jim created the narrative podcast Frijoles y Arroz, he approached me to be his casting director, and from there we built a great foundation of working together in this way and have become friends to boot.

 

Do talk about Soul Mates's approach to the romance genre!

 

The idea of never ending, all encompassing love that you want to make sure you come back again and reconnect is a beautiful and inspiring thread to pull! I love that these characters are so dedicated to each other in a deep and meaningful way. Itís a refreshing approach to romance storytelling, in that this is about that mythical ONE soul mate that stays and the unconditional love that follows for lifetimes.

 

Soul Mates uses quite a few green screen shots to take the lead couple around the world - now what were the challenges with those?

 

Man. Everything was a challenge with those, starting with the fact I have never used a green screen. Not as an actor, not as a director. I was wicked nervous about it until I had in-depth conversations with our editor Tom Ragan, who is also the point person at Studio at Wesst in Albuquerque, the studio where we shot on green screen. Between speaking in detail with Tom, our visual FX supervisor Coby Dax, and our cinematographer Orlando Skidmore, I felt a lot more confident. Itís an odd thing to direct actors around a plate that they cannot see and I learned a lot from the experience. Thereís also the bit where our lead actress is going through an intense amount of emotional grief as time is passing and that was a beast to pull together for the technical side. Thankfully, we had an incredible team.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I am a big fan of prep. After locking down locations, we had several meetings about shots, look, feel, and color. Every morning of production, I got everyone in a circle and we held hands. We took three deep breaths together, and stood in silence for a few beats. Deep breaths calm the nervous system and doing this started the day out in unity and strength.

 

Magic happens due to the prep because then everyone has the freedom to bring their own creative flair to each frame shot. Magic also happens in assembling an incredible team to tell the story. Line producer Terry Futschik assembled good talent, Jim and I booked the right actors, and we all worked well together.

 

Do talk about Soul Mates' cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Casting was an incredible experience. Jim and I both had various ideas of who we wanted for Poppy. We knew she was going to be a tricky character to cast and we didnít have a ton of time. We held auditions and Sydney Carvillís tape came in. Her work was exquisite and her essence was a dead match for the character. We booked Josh Horton off his self tape and held our breath, hoping for chemistry between him and Sydney during their zoom callback. Josh brought this grounded sense to the scene in a subtle and nuanced performance. Ian A. Hudson brought a wonderful humanity to Jaime - he created Jaime to be both approachable and abrupt on the turn of a dime and that helped propel the story. Jim and Kristine Isom, our leads, were attached to the project as soon as the script was done. Kristine is a first time actress, and I was BLOWN AWAY at her emotional range for Abby. Kristine dropped into the depth of Abby on the first take, giving me room to take her a little further and a little deeper in subsequent takes.

 

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

 

The on-set atmosphere was filled with professionalism and fun and a few tears during the emotionally deeper scenes.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Soul Mates be seen?

 

Itís hot off the press, as one might say, and has started to be submitted to film festivals. I will be so bold to say coming soon to a festival near you! :)

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Soul Mates yet?

 

My PR friend Joe Williamson has sent Soul Mates to film reviewers, such as yourself, and so far there has been a very kind response and positive feedback of our work. Hopefully that remains the case, as itís a very special project with a message of hope that I think we can all use right now.

 

In the past you've mostly been known as an actress, but you have increasingly switched to behind the camera of late - so what prompted that move, and which side of the camera do you actually prefer, and why?

 

Directing has been an organic evolution, and I am loving it and still have so much to learn and experience. I also very much love acting - there have been far fewer opportunities for acting as the ebbs and flows of acting tends to go. I am following the flow of what presents itself to me on my journey and staying out of the idea that I am in control of these opportunities. I love our industry. I love coaching and teaching actors. Thereís always gratitude flowing through me for this beautiful life.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share, in whatever position?

 

Yes! Thank you for asking. 

Iím attached to direct the feature film Portales, written by Tish Miller and produced by Michael Miller. Itís a family friendly dramedy that we intend to shoot in Portales, NM.

 

I am also attached to the feature film The Penny, written by Donald Davenport and Harry Musselwhite. The Penny is a poetic morality tale and will also be shot in New Mexico.

 

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I am also helping develop a rom-com that I will direct with an up-and-coming screenwriter that takes us back to the late 90ís.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

My site: http://MichelleTomlinson.Net

Instagram: its_michelle_tomlinson

Facebook: Michelle Tomlinson

 

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

 

As far as projects, we are covered! I would love to remind your readers: Please do the thing that sets your soul ablaze. If you are in love with a creative endeavor, pull that thread for yourself and see where it takes you. The journey is so worth it.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

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special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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Robots and rats,
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