Another Life
Filmmaker Interview with Mark Lammerding
by Amy Gillman
When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there common qualities in cinema today that you dislike? Is there something you try to subvert or avoid or rebel against in your work?

I think the main staple of cinema today that frustrates me is the misogynistic gaze of female characters. While things have certainly improved in recent years, and there are definitely filmmakers who ARE getting it right, for the most part, the female role in mainstream Hollywood cinema is grossly underutilized and under-appreciated.  Women are frequently delegated to supporting roles or, worse, regarded as thinly-veiled plot devices.  The emotional crutch, reflector or motivator of the primary male character.  Even more-so, when women do find themselves in the cinematic spotlight, they’re often forced into very black-and-white, polarized roles.  It’s rare that you witness a truly dynamic, morally ambiguous female character who isn’t just “all good” or “all bad”.  All human beings are incredibly complex and complicated, regardless of gender.  I think that’s something I always try to subvert or focus on in my work.  I find strong, complex female roles to be incredibly captivating and I hope to explore this to an even greater degree in all of my future work.

Tell me about your process in first finding the idea for Another Life: when did you know your script was ready to shoot? What was your process in getting it there?

The most important thing for me in making this film was to tell a story with real emotion and true characters. The idea was to tell a story of familial ties and how the decisions we make affect those closest to us, no matter our intentions. My brother and I had been developing the script for over a year and I knew that the setting had to be more than just a background, it had to be a living part of the film. It wasn’t until meeting producer, Alyssa Forstmann, who told me all about her hometown Sharon, CT, that I knew we had found our film’s setting. When the story finally came together, I was fortunate enough to be able to surround myself with the most creative, talented and inspiring people I have ever worked with. From cinematographer Philip Lima, who I have worked with in the past and is able to capture moving images unlike anyone I know, to composer Cameron McCloskey, whose incredible scores have long shaped my films, to actress Sosie Bacon, whose epic star power is triumphed only by her raw and heart-felt portrayal of the film’s lead character. And finally, the rest of the entire cast and crew involved, who brought this film to life in a way I never could have imagined.

The soundtrack for the film, as well as your choice to use sound (or the lack of it) to enhance the story was extremely compelling. What inspired your soundtrack as well as your particular use of sound in the film?
One of the things that has always captivating me in film is the use of sound, particularly the use of silence to create tension and subtextual characterization. I wanted to create a film that relied heavily on visual story-telling and I knew that, in doing so, I would have to minimize dialogue whenever possible and instead focus on subtle sound design.  As sound designer, my ultimate goal was to create an overarching and ever-present atmosphere throughout the film.  A haunting atmosphere that, while building towards a constant mounting dread, still left room for beauty and human emotion.  I was lucky enough to be able to work with my good friend, and phenomenally talented composer, Cameron McCloskey, on this film.  In creating the score, we looked to the work of Trent Reznor, particularly his scores for David Fincher’s recent films.  Through this, Cameron was able to create an incredibly complex, yet subtle, emotional canvas for the film.  It is his score, in particular, that truly elevates the human emotion and struggle at the core of the film.
How has your art been shaped by both the money you have had or not had? Do you create with budget limitations in mind?

I think that budgeting always comes into consideration at some point during the creative process.  If you’re lucky, you’re able to work with very little to no restraints on the scope of your creativity.  Part of the challenge of the independent film world is that your art is always being shaped by the money you’re able to work with.  I think the challenge is a good thing though, as it forces you to think outside the box and really train yourself in skills and techniques you may not have learned otherwise.  I’ve self-funded almost all of my work up through this film, and in turn, I’ve learned all of the skills I have today because of this.  With Another Life we were incredibly lucky to have had a successful kickstarted campaign, which allowed us to work with a small budget.  I do find, that in the writing process, I often limit myself to what I know I can TRULY achieve with the budgets and resources I have and not risk sacrificing authenticity.  The dream will always be to let your mind and creativity run wild, with the assumption that you’ll be able to create anything you visualize in your head, regardless of scope.

What makes a fruitful collaboration? What do you do to enhance the collaborative process?

Collaboration is the most important, exciting and rewarding part of the creative process.  Film, as an art form, is entirely a collaborative process.  I always try and surround myself with people who challenge me, compliment my strengths, and surpass my skills and knowledge in wherever they are most passionate.  It’s foolish to think you can do everything on set, in pre-production or post-production.  By collaborating with others, always allowing room for outside input and the possibility that “your way of doing something isn’t always the right way,” you open yourself up to creating a stronger piece of work than you ever could have achieved on your own.  With that being said, it is important to have a strong, clear idea of what you want and always be willing to stick to your gut on concepts and ideas you truly believe in.  In the end, you are only as good as the team of people you work with.  I always try to make sure that everybody I work with knows how incredibly grateful I am for all the work they do and how truly important their role is on the team.  Each film belongs to every crew member and cast member involved in that production.

The opening moment of the film features a captivating hook that returns in the end to shed light onto the denouement of the story. As a writer, what motivated you to use this particular technique and what other techniques do you like to use in your writing and why?

As a writer, the idea of opening with a moment from the end of the film, and then returning once more to shed light onto the denouement of the story stemmed primarily from two different motivating factors.  The first being, my love of this particular style of story-telling.  For me, it’s always incredibly captivating to be shown a glimpse into the future, only to go back and explore how you ended up there in the first place.  Additionally, I made the conscious choice to follow this  structure in response to the medium I was working in.  I’ve worked on short films before and I understand the audience response to short form content.  You’re not necessarily as invested as you might be for a feature length film.  My thought process was, if you could grab the audience right away, the moment images appear on screen with something captivating and intriguing, they might be more inclined to stick around and explore that story with you.  Ultimately, I want to tell the most interesting story I can, in the most captivating way possible.  I felt like this was the right way to attack this particular story.  Because in the end, it’s not the moment that opens the film that truly matters, but what follows after.


For more information please visit:

Another Life

 

Screening: Wednesday August 6th at 6:00pm  and Friday August 15th at 6:00pm

(CLICK ON DATES FOR TICKETS)

Home 2014 Interviews Another Life
© 2014 Chain NYC Film Festival