Filmmaker Interview with Tomer Sinai
by Amy Gillman
The story of “the job interview” is one that speaks to all of us who have ever interviewed: everything from Jack’s interview prep, his waiting room experience and the interview itself was relatable. Yet, you also managed to add into the narrative a much more unique, deeper, endearing story. What made you want to tell this particular story?
The work place environment felt like the perfect setup for a story about someone who feels uncomfortable with himself. Every step Jack took, led him to a bigger conflict, and pushed him to confront his true self.
In a job interview we are always somewhat required to present our “best” image, very stressful. Being tested by authoritative figures can also make us feel very vulnerable.
I wanted to tell this particular story because it conveys how overwhelming one’s inner demons can be, even in the most non-threatening circumstances.
Jack’s story is very human, and takes the audience through an inner journey that is relevant to every person who ever felt they needed to please others, while making personal sacrifices in doing so.
What message were you hoping your audience would walk away with at the end of the film? Does the film’s title give us a hint into what that message may be?
My hope was that the story would move the audience and make them think about how they present themselves to the world. I want the audience to be inspired to be accepting of “the other” and understand we all feel pretty much the same and have the similar fears.
The title refers to the more realistic way of going through an inner change towards self-acceptance. Having gone through many big personal changes in life myself, I know that it is very hard to make a change with no guarantees things will go your way. So I wanted to share my personal take on the way to cope with these uncertainties: don’t make giant leaps, just take baby steps.
Things might be rocky in the short term, but the struggle is worth going through for the bigger picture and the greater good to come out of it.
I didn’t want “Baby Steps” to have a militant message about human rights; rather, I wanted to foster understanding of the common fears people experience.
The message is that nobody can overcome your fears for you , and the way you can do it is by taking one small step at a time.
How did you discover members of your cast and crew for “Baby Steps” and what made for a successful collaboration?
The great crew was built of fellow filmmakers who wanted to be a part of this film and had a unique skill to contribute to it.
The cast was a combination of actors I’ve worked with before, actors who auditioned for the roles, and actor friends who were happened to be perfect for the parts.
It was a fantastic experience to work with each of them because they were so professional and attentive. I’ve noticed that the more freedom they had to reach their individual objectives, the more realistic the reactions that arose from them. Working on a set with such gifted actors who listen to each other and understand the subtext and meaning of their actions, was key for a successful collaboration.
Some improvisation they employed felt so accurate that I thought it only added to the subtlety of their performances.
Your script was charming and beautifully written. How do you usually begin your writing process and when do you know your script is ready to shoot?
Thank you very much. The writing process starts so differently with every project. I think the scripts are constantly writing themselves in my head and I put them on paper when they are formed enough to have somewhat of a story arc.
It is definitely the hardest part of filmmaking for me, yet the most rewarding when I identify something I want to say and can translate it to a visual form.
A script is ready to be shot after I scrutinize every aspect of it, can answer every question about it, and when I feel comfortable about the meaning of everything in it. I think that with the meaning comes most of the strength of the story and of the production. It is impossible for a perfectionist to ever call a script “ready,” so at some point, when it feels tight and meaningful I try to let go and just take it to the next step of production.
Creating a film is a result of collaboration, so when it is time to bring it to life, I trust the cast and crew to bring their own talents and interpretations to it, and they always seem to surprise me.
What filmmakers, directors or actors inspire you the most?
There are so many talented filmmakers, and I try to take what inspires me from each of them; I also try to learn from the ones that don’t inspire me.
I really love the writing and directing of James L. Brooks, Woody Allan, Cameron Crowe and Quentin Tarantino. My favorite directors are Ang Lee and Clint Eastwood. I would like to make films as diverse as theirs. The range of subjects and directing styles they’ve mastered has always been inspiring to me. Making films to me is all about exploring and taking risks; just like in life, risks enable us to learn and to improve ourselves and the world around us, and these writers and directors do just that.
For more information about the film please visit:
Screening: Tuesday August 5th at 8:00pm and Wednesday August 13th at 6:00pm