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Q and As - LFF Braden King/Nick Murphy/Katie Galloway&Kelly Duane/Amr Salama

Tuesday 15 November 2011, by Abla Kandalaft

Braden King, director of Here

Did you work on music videos influence your approach to feature films?

I made a lot of different kinds of film work; feature length, non lyrical feature films. A lot of the work that I’ve done, whether outside of film projects, music videos or installations or non-narrative work, has really been an opportunity to experiment with all kinds of cinematic language, moving images outside the confines of context of a story. This work has allowed me to develop my own ideas about cinematic language and how I want to use images in a way that I think is more difficult when you’re pinned down by the logic necessities of a narrative.

How did you come up with the narrative?

It evolved over a long period of time. It was coming from wanting to make a film about the great travel experiences I have had in my life and that led me to the character of the mapmaker and the character of the photographer. I was trying to find the vessel for that feeling.

Had you travelled to Armenia before?

Not before the expedition of this film. I did commit to shooting in Armenia before writing the screenplay. I worked with Danny Vallon and we spent a long time working on what might be contained in the film before giving it the final form of the screenplay. The location became like a third co-writer and I felt it was important for us to know where this character It wasn’t the type of story we could form and then go on location scouting.

Why Armenia?

It was wanting to bring the audience on a sort of expedition to a relatively unknown place. On a practical note, I was looking for a country that had a varied landscape in quite a small area and as I started learning more about Armenia there were all these levels of geographic history that lent themselves to the themes of the film.

Did you find it difficult to film there?

Shooting there was challenging but not without rewards. Logistics; shipping equipment was exposed to huge challenges. The benefits had to do with the sense of living the film while shooting it. The crew became quite tight.

How long did the shoot take?

About 7 weeks, which is quite a lot for a film of this size, but the development period was long. It had been rattling in my head for about 10 years. We’d go on location scouting.

How did you select the actors?

Lubna is an incredibly gifted actress. I originally saw her in Paradise Now, it took me a while to get comfortable with the fact that she isn’t Armenian, but I have to say that the job she did of learning the Armenian dialogue was nothing short of heroic.
Ben Foster, when I saw the Messenger, I was 100 per cent sure he was right for that role. He came wanting to join the journey 110 per cent.

What’s in the pipeline?

I’ve become more drawn to tightly focused narratives through making this film which is dreamy and experimental so I’m going the other way. I’m very drawn to pieces with a very strong sense of space. I’m very interested in the places films take you to.

Nick Murphy, director of The Awakening

Woman in black is coming out now, what do you think of where British horror as a genre is now?

I don’t know about a revival. It certainly wasn’t deliberate on our part. You can see with people’s reactions to our film that they tend to be fed up with the blood end of horror. This is something I really don’t like in that genre. People are seeing this as a traditional ghost story and like it. I’d rather it’s not a revival because it means one trend becomes another trend… The mystery of the ghost story helps. We cannot just end the experience when the lights come on and I think that is where the problem is with the films that are at the blood end, there is less to discuss. Here, there is plenty of lobby chat potential, I want people to go to the lobby and say “Hang on”! We’re taking money off people and it needs to be a longer experience. I like to hear people discuss it the following day.

Under what genre is the film marketed?

Funnily enough I was never told before where they wanted to place it, I wrote the script and they advised on some changes but they never said they wanted to be this sort of thing. At an early stage, I expressed interest in setting it in Feltham in the present day, in a young offenders institute. And they said, no we’re looking at the market, we want it to be period, there’s the sales potential, but they were never prescriptive. The Feltham idea was rubbish anyway. When you’re a director, you’re just trying to give the person at home the experience you had as a kid and I was happy to have the audience work out what it was afterwards.
One of the studio execs said, after seeing it, that’s a supernatural mystery, not a horror. They didn’t decide what it was before seeing it. I’d rather it’s not marketed as a horror film, it does put people off, it puts me off. The Blair Witch Project was a horror film and it was brilliant. But when you close your eyes, the word horror means cutting people up. It has a negative connotation.

How did you go about casting Rebecca Hall?

I was very keen for Florence to a modern woman. It was important that Florence suffered and had an arch of change, she’s clearly injured but her rescue is of her own making, it’s not of any male character. The male characters are the most fucked up. Dominic was completely on board with this, he liked the fact that Mallory doesn’t rescue her. Florence rescues Florence. That’s one of the reasons women responded so well to the film. It did matter that we have a woman who is smart and likeable. Rebecca has many gifts, one of which is that her beauty isn’t irritating to women. Megan Fox couldn’t play this part, while men find her attractive, my impression is that women aren’t enamoured with her, like they are with Rebecca. You need everybody on board for this story.

Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane, directors of Better this World

What made you tackle this subject?

Katie It was a piece in the New York Times in early 2009. We didn’t hear about the case when it broke. David McKay was going to trial with an entrapment offence and he was looking at 30 years. We thought he has to have something good. The guys were from George Bush’s home town, yet another case of “domestic terrorism” with a claim that there was misconduct on behalf of a government agent. So it was an opportunity to take a closer look. We watched the trial and decided to make the film. It was a very good story about the post 9/11 security apparatus and the issues around civil liberties

To what extent did you approach this as film makers or people motivated by the subject matter?

Kelly The issues were of interest to us, but we didn’t know the truth when we started. It’s not a black and white story. We wanted to show the complexity of the situation from all sides. We didn’t have an overt political agenda.

Do you come from documentary film background?

Katie I come from an investigative reporting background. I worked for Frontline (PBS). My second independent film was about the prison-industrial complex, stylistically similar to this.

Kelly I studied fine arts. I started out in photo-journalism. My first film was about Billy Brown and his run for Mayor in San Francisco and then I made one about David Bryer, about how our environmental consciousness in the US has evolved.

Do you feel that Brad and David’s generation is becoming more politicised?

Katy Brad, one of our characters was more political, more the activist, even before the Iraq War, in Midland Texas, no less. He describes the process of “Emergency heart”, when you’re around 18-20 and you realise the full weight of the injustices. This is what David and Brad were feeling.

Kelly Their generation was seen as apolitical, the youth are so disenfranchised, oddly, in the last year, with the Arab Spring, Occupying Wall Street things have taken off, but these guys (in the film) had started before that.

How was it received in the US?

Katie Very well, people were very engaged. The choice to avoid all the stats was the right one, the people really connected with the characters. It aired on public TV and people engaged online within 12 hours.

Kelly Husbands and wives have walked out with different opinions, it really sparked debate.

How did you go about telling such a story visually?

Kelly We thought we’d make a cinema vérité style film. We soon realised that one thread was to do with their relationship with their mentor friend, so we had to piece together the past to unfold the present, so it’s like a patchwork film. We weaved elements together. Even elements of the past, via surveillance footage.

Amr Salama, director of Samaa

How was the feedback?

The feedback was way better than my expectations. The film toured festivals. I have just come back from the Abu Dhabi film festival as well. We won an award in Venice, in Oslo, in Abu Dhabi

How smooth was the filming and production?

Not smooth, the budget was tight, Hind was pregnant whilst we were shooting, it was very tough. It’s a drama, there are no special effects but it was really tough to make.
Film clinic and Mohamad Hamzi started to produce it and a New Century came in to finance it. It was hard, after 2008, the cinema industry in Egypt had a crisis.

Are all these films (Cairo 678 etc) being seen in Egypt?

678 was a hit, it was done by my best friend, the character who plays Bushra, who shows up in my film. We as filmmakers sat together and decided to make films with similar themes. Sexual harassment is a big issue so it was widely seen.

How do you want people to receive it?

I would love to make people ask more questions. The film is a question mark, what do you do when you meet a person with HIV after seeing the film?

Do you think it’s part of a movement?

I do. One reason is people are generally more socially aware and because of globalisation and the internet, people can view films from all over the world. I have seen a film from every country in the world. It gives films more exposure. I’m optimistic. I am hoping the new government won’t be too conservative to impede this.

Any message or comments?

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