Thursday, December 31, 2009

Carl Bessai on “Cole”

What was your filmmaking background before you made Cole?

CARL: Cole is my 8th feature film, so my filmmaking background has been pretty varied to date. Highlights of my previous films include Emile starring Sir Ian McKellen, and Normal with Carrie Anne Moss - both films got some Genie Nominations.

How did you become involved in the project?

CARL: My producing partner Jason James invited me to participate based on an earlier draft of the script, and we sat down along with two other producers, the writer and the cast and did some workshops, which helped us develop the shooting draft. It all happened very quickly for me...

How did you fund the film?

CARL: 100% private equity.

What was the smartest thing you did during pre-production or production? The dumbest?

CARL: Smartest:In pre-production, I encouraged the lead actor Richard de Klerk to spend time bonding with Jack Forrester who played Rocket. Their relationship was built before we started shooting and it helped us navigate quite easily with improvisation when young Jack struggled with dialogue in the script.

Dumbest: Took the crew to a location where there was no cell phone service... actually it turned out to be a blessing but it seemed pretty dumb at first.

What are the advantages -- as a director -- of being your own DP? Disadvantages?

CARL: The advantages is I don't have to wait for the camera crew to get ready, and I can speak to the actors from behind the lens which is very close to the action. It makes everything a lot closer and more personal.

The disadvantage is that sometimes my back gets tired, as I love to shoot handheld.

How did the movie change during the editing process?

CARL: The biggest change to the film that came out of editing was the ending. It was scripted that Cole would end the film in the arms of Sarafina, but we felt that his relationship with the town had started to outweigh the significance of his relationship with Sarafina, so it just seemed right that the film should end with the town.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

CARL: I learned the beauty of the linear narrative: A story that works in an accessible way for the audience - a person can become engaged by the journey of the main character and stay with him from the beginning to the end.

I learned the importance of the specificity of place: By setting the film in a real town in a real place - instead of a fictional town - we brought an enormous amount of authenticity to the story.

I learned the importance of wind and backlight and the mood it can create for the cinematographer.

I learned the beauty of combining improvisation with scripted scenes.

I learned the simplicity of recording images onto a hardrive - there is no limit to the amount of footage you can shoot!

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