An interview with 'Behind The Wall' writer-director Bat-Sheva Guez; plays August 13, Saturday, at Hollyshorts Filmfest at TCL Chinese Theater
An interview with "BEHIND THE WALL" writer-director Bat-Sheva Guez
Sat August 13, 2016 12 pm, HollyShorts Film Festival - TCL Chinese Theater
Web link: www.adventurepants.tv/behind-the-wall
Blending dance with magic, this film takes the viewer on a journey into a world just a little bit different from our own, a world where characters dance to the percussive clatter and bang of an old radiator.
Winner for Best Cinematography at Rhode Island International Film Festival, as well as has been the highlights of several other filmfests including Hamptons Int'l Film Fest, BEST DIRECTOR: Art of Brooklyn Film Fest, Hollyshorts Film Fest, Lighthouse International Film Fest, Atlanta Underground Film Fest, Triskelion Dance Film Fest, Sanctuary Film Fest, Seattle Short Film Fest
Katrin moves heavily, encumbered by a thick cast. Her sadness slows her, far more than her injury does. She has fled her old life and has moved to a dilapidated apartment in a quiet street in Brooklyn. At night, Katrin lies awake in the eerie half-light, listening to the strange sounds of the building. The floorboards creak. The radiator groans. The pipes start to clatter and bang with a relentless, percussive steam hammer. And then, behind that sound, there is another: a faint sound - of music.
About Bat-Sheva Guez:
Bat-Sheva Guez pushes the boundaries of visual storytelling, weaving dance, magic, and experimental techniques into visually compelling, character-driven stories. She is the recipient of the JT3 Artist Award for Screenwriting & Directing and has written and directed more than a dozen short films which have screened in festivals worldwide. She won Best Director at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival for her recent short, Behind the Wall.
With her production company, Adventure Pants, she has directed web films for several years, including over 20 videos for Lincoln Center promoting artists and performers including New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor Dance Company, and American Ballet Theatre to name a few. She's also directed promo videos for clients like Conde Nast, local businesses, think tanks, nonprofits and brands.
What was your inspiration in creating the story of BEHIND THE WALL? Reading your bio, it looks like you are drawn to dance images as seen in your past short films. Where does that interest coming from?
Behind The Wall had its first life as a subplot in an early draft of my feature script entitled, And How She…. which illustrates different magical encounters in an old Brooklyn neighborhood. This short began as a seed of a story that never made it into the final script for And How She… So I planted it and watched it grow into a film all its own, a project that is set in a similar universe to the feature.
I once used to joke that if I ever encountered a portal to a magical world, I would be far too busy to notice it. For this film, I wanted to tell a story about someone who is so driven that she has the tunnel vision necessary to achieve her goal. Then she is painfully and abruptly forced to stop. As a result, she’s able to notice things she couldn’t see before. Despite the loss and the pain of having to re-invent herself, she becomes a vacuum for new experiences. She can suddenly see the magic portal.
I’ve always been very passionate about dance and using film to reach broader audiences for dance. I couldn’t resist the urge to work dance into the narrative for Behind the Wall. I also love seeing older dancers in an art form that is primarily known for youth and strength. There is so much potential there to inspire and invigorate.
Each characters in the film are strong and equally powerful and you've found great actors to make those character come alive and be more interesting. How do you cast each films you have? Do you follow any rules or procedure when considering actors to play each character roles? On this one, how did you cast each role?
For this film, we worked with casting director Jenn Haltman. Auditions for the Superintendent and his wife turned into something of a dance party with lots of laughter and people stepping on each other’s toes. Our actor, Lou Patane, told us that he had a great time at our audition, which made me really happy to hear. I want actors to enjoy the audition process as much as they can. Auditions are hard enough.
Finding those “double threat” actors who could both sing and dance was a real challenge, especially with the limited time we could afford for this low-budget short film.
I look for actors who are able to really connect with each other, who can be really present in the scene and with each other. And I also look for some innate energy in the performer that matches the energy I have in mind for the character. I was moved by Alexandra Turshen’s performance because she seemed to have a connection to the character's struggles, and we learned later that she and our protagonist shared a similar story. They both had been professional dancers whose career got cut short by injury. Both had to reinvent themselves and find a new self-identity. It just seemed like she got it somehow. She's such an intelligent actor, and such a pro. We had a lot of conversations before the shoot about her character and about different ways to convey her emotion without dialogue and often without other actors to play off of.
The cinematography was great! Can you talk about how you plan and envision each scene? Do you have exact directions to your cinematographer before you shot each scene?
I had such a wonderful time working with cinematographer, Giacomo Belletti. I came to him with a very distinct vision for the film and had a very specific idea in mind for the lighting, the look, and the camera movement. And Giacomo was so talented that he understood me right away. We were speaking the same language. During preproduction, I brought him a Look Book, lighting references and a shooting diagram and we had a truly wonderful day together solidifying the camera blocking for each shot, sitting in his kitchen, drinking coffee and eating snacks while the sun poured in from the window. For this film, much of the camera blocking was heavily choreographed - though we always left space to discover things on set! And then Giacomo just made magic happen with his lighting design, bringing my ideas to life in such a vibrant way and with a real joy for the process.
Can you talk about your next film? Is it a feature project?
I am currently in the financing phase of a feature film entitled, And How She… www.andhowthemovie.com
AND HOW SHE… is set in the same universe as Behind the Wall, but features different characters with a different story. Both films share a tone that lands in that delicate balance between eerie, humorous and magical.
And How She… is an Art World drama seasoned with magic, experimental sequences, and a dash of whimsy. It’s a tale about a young artist named Asha who embarks on an electric collaboration with an older artist in the midst of his own creative crisis. Asha must decide whether to be an invisible part of someone else’s great work, or to start over, anonymous and alone. She seeks advice from her neighbors: eccentric, elderly folk who face gentrification with their own kind of street magic.
Each act is bookended by an experimental montage which serves to complement the art in the film, so that that the entire film is, itself, a work of art.
It’s an exciting time to be working on this project! We’ve got a great team in place and we’re so excited to bring this story to life.
What other film festivals BEHIND THE WALLS is going to be shown?
You can find us next at the HollyShorts film fest, the Atlanta Underground Film Fest in August, the Seattle Short Film Fest in November, and the Choreoscope Dance Film Fest in Barcelona in November.
Can you enumerate any social media links you want readers to follow you or your work?
BSG: So many links! Please find me on
Facebook for Behind the Wall: www.facebook.com/behindthewallmovie
Websites for Behind the Wall: www.adventurepants.tv/behind-the-wall
My Website: www.batshevaguez.com
My upcoming feature film, And How She…. www.andhowthemovie.com