Alienated    Interview

The first thing I noticed about this film is the color and tone. It is very unique. What inspired you to create such a look with dark lighting and color?

Two things inspired the look we sought out, particularly as they relate to color and contrast.  The first was our main character’s POV within the story.  I see Nate as an excavator of truth.  He dives into dark places seeking a better understanding of the world around him.  For much of our story, however, through interactions with his wife, he is forced to seek the truth by excavating his own mind.  Did he see what he thinks he saw in the sky?  Is he stubborn against his wife’s needs or is she more stubborn against his?  Is their marriage worth fighting for?  Does he love his wife? Our high contrast and often dark lighting style was meant to reinforce the idea of excavating, similar to a minor digging through dirt in a cave underground.

Our second inspiration came from the world as our main character sees it. He’s a graphic artist and a science fiction/fantasy fan, challenged by the competing forces of heroism/idealism and truth/responsibility/realism.  He uses vivid colors in his work to represent the living world at its best (like superheroes), but he uses them sparingly and with a kind of murkiness.  Our visual palette was designed similarly, with significant flashes of color, but only sparingly and mostly counterbalanced by a murkiness or haze.

In both cases, the intention of our visual style is to reflect the aggressive dual nature of Nate’s interest in the world, both as student and as sculptor, while representing his murky confusion and dark frustration, as well.

 

I felt that your film is a strong dialogue-driven-narrative- feature film. The actors did an excellent job in showing different personalities and their range of emotion. How did you meet George Katt and Jen Burry? What qualities do they have that made you decide to cast them?

George and Jen were both actors that our company had been following.  When we see someone that we like in a movie or commercial or play, or even just an audition, we hold onto them.  We may seek them out and get to know them better, or we may just quietly follow their work; but we remember them.  We end up having a long list of actors that we hope to work with one day.

I casted remotely because I live in St. Louis and we knew we were filming in NY and New Jersey.  One of my partners, Princeton, sent me a bunch of reels and scenes from various local actors, and I took several days to pour through them.  All of these actors were on “our list,” so they were all great to watch.  For Nate, an introvert and ponderer, I looked for someone who could think on screen; someone whom you could watch and know that something was going on inside their mind. George popped out because of his subtle expression.  He carries a contemplative look, but also an intensity, the combination of which translates on screen (at least for me) as mysterious.  George felt like an incredible fit.  His physicality helped in a major way, all of which was by chance.  With glasses and curly hair, he could look nerdy; his skinny stature removed the idea that he played sports competitively or that he was particularly physically active.  These considerations suggested that George, like Nate, is more a thinker than anything else.

What stuck out with Jen was her ability to be hugely expressive, which we thought would be a great contrast to Nate’s character.  In the little work of Jen’s that I saw, I found that she could make herself disappear in a scene in a neutral way; that is, strip away any prevalent traits or features to be fully immersed as part of a setting. But then she could also offer great moments of expression and individualism when needed. What absolutely sold me on her was not that I came to see her as Paige (before shooting), but from talking with her on the phone and sensing her to be kind, sincere and open-minded.  As much as I enjoyed her work (the limited amount that I had seen), it was Jen’s personality that convinced me that we would make great collaborators.

 

The special-effect shots at the end are fascinating. How did accomplish that look? Specifically, the colorful flashing light in the house and the clouds over the bridge.

Our ending was written, reviewed, rewritten, scrutinized, re-conceived, and rewritten again and again throughout the process of making this film. We still have mixed feelings on the end result.  But such is the fun and reward of sliding down a learning curve.  At this point, we’re more interested in what our audience thinks than what we intended to convey.

A good example of the challenge and sometimes chaos that we set ourselves up for with this film, is in how we shot those last few moments on screen.  The exterior shots of empty city frames were not ours but stock footage.  We were fortunate to find such haunting images for the minimal cost of merely looking for them. The flashing lights, however, came by chance from the house that we were filming in. The original ending called for a ton of lights that would have blasted through the back door as our two characters would have walked through in silhouette – embracing the alien invasion, with Nate more curious and Paige more frightened; but both moving into the light together, signifying their commitment to transition as a single unit.

Our lack of lights had us re-conceive our ending on location, in fact, just a day (perhaps hours, if only my memory could recall) before shooting the scene.  We were lucky to find the strobe light, and framed the last shot accordingly.

© 2014 Chain NYC Film Festival