SPIEL was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the January 2022 MUSIC Film Festival.
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Interestingly, in light of SPIEL winning “best performance” in your festival, the motivation came from each of the performers, in different ways. Along with a number of other directors, I was invited choose one movement of Seven Pillars, Andy Akiho’s large composition for Sandbox Percussion quartet.
Terry Sweeney, one of the quartet’s stellar musicians, asked if I would be interested in choosing the movement of the piece that was his Glockenspiel solo. I’ve enjoyed working with Terry creatively in the past in a staged work of music theater, and so the idea of exploring his solo appealed to me.
I also knew I wanted to make something with a child—and this child in particular, because although Vivi’s only 9, she’s already an artist in the way she can think—she has the muscle and I wanted to work it. I wanted to show the kid turning a place or places that felt desolate or dangerous into a playground—but not for idle play but something more serious or urgent, guided, thwarted, or driven by the music/musician. I knew that those strange stops in the piece of music would be the place that the kid and the musician would have these sort of uncanny intersections and meet or make contact in some way.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
This film was made very quickly, in two phases of production. We had a day of studio shooting first, at the end of June, in which we shot Terry’s performance, and then last two weeks of September I worked with Vivi at our location to create and coach her movement. After that we added our wonderful Director of Photography Mattia Palombi for a couple more rehearsals before our three night shoot the first week of October. I finished editing, and Mattia finished color work by late October.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Words are hard to summon, especially with the storytelling being physical/musical/visual. I think there are things you can say in this language that can’t be said in words.
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
This film had a ridiculously small budget, and yet we didn’t want to compromise production values. For the three nights we shot lit setups in that derelict lot—this place had a bunch of features that felt really right, and since the only way to get in is the way you see the kid enter in the film, it was easy to secure. I didn’t see how Mattia and I could do it—loading lights and C-stands etc. through that small hole in the chainlink fence every night with no crew. At high tide there’d be water washing up there, making it even more difficult to go in and out. Vivi’s parents were there and helped out on set, and we were grateful just to have some extra hands.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It’s great to hear strangers talking about SPIEL and really appreciating and understanding what it was. That feels good.
Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Since I was in high school.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
When I was a teenager I watched certain films over and over again—I don’t really do that anymore. I was obsessed with Kubrick, I remember, but I was a cinema nut from an early age, going to the movies multiple times a week.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Sharing work and ideas is the most important thing—getting films seen. Your festival seems to be really working to do that, and I appreciate it.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
I think they need to be a little more careful in their standards for festivals to participate. I think the ease of applying and the ability to browse festivals is great, but a bunch of what’s there is questionable, mixed in with festivals that are seriously trying.
10. What is your favorite meal?
I appreciate adventure in eating, so I don’t really have a favorite. That said, I eat the same breakfast every single days—overnight oats.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I’m always working on multiple projects at once—some are productions for stage, some are multi-screen film installations for exhibition. One project I’m in pre-production for is a short film that is a fantastical humorous memoir of an avante garde flutist . . .