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South By Southwest 2014 Interview – THE HEART MACHINE director Zachary Wigon

by Jason Whyte

“THE HEART MACHINE follows a young couple, Cody (John Gallagher Jr from SxSW entry SHORT TERM 12) and Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil from HOUSE OF CARDS) who met online and are in a long distance relationship. They're happy together, except they've never really met in person.  Cody begins to question Virginia's life abroad,  leading him to doubt that she's there at all. The film follows their parallel journeys, and explores how digital mediation complicates modern love.” Director Zachary Wigon on THE HEART MACHINE which screens at this year's South By Southwest Film Festival.

Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?

Yes, this will be my first time at SxSW/Austin, and I'll be at each of our three screenings.

Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?

I became passionate about filmmaking as a child and went to film school at NYU; my first break was that a spec I wrote called “For Your Entertainment” was optioned shortly after I graduated from college. I've also worked for the past six years as a film critic, which, happily, has taught me a lot about what does and does not work in filmmaking. More recently I directed a short film called SOMEONE ELSE'S HEART, which concerns the same premise as THE HEART MACHINE.

How did this whole project come together from your perspective?

The idea came out of a long-distance relationship I was in for a little while after I graduated college. I began writing the script on spec, and after Lucas Joaquin read a draft we decided to work on it together. We developed the script for a while and once we felt good about it we brought our leads on board and found the film's financing.

What was the biggest challenge, or challenges, in making the film?

The biggest challenge was probably the length of the shoot. We had just 18 days to make the film, which is not a lot, especially considering that there are a number of relatively complicated shots that needed to be executed in the film. One scene, for example, was covered in one 160 foot dolly move. That being said, we had a really talented crew working on the film and we ended up not having to cut any shots, which was great.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?

We finished the shoot at around 8 AM, just after the sun came up. Our last day of the shoot was an overnight one. It felt appropriately romantic, all things considered, and that romance was only enhanced by the fact that a bunch of the crew members proceeded to start shotgunning beers.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Making a film is really stimulating, there are so many things to consider at any given moment that "keeping going" just happens out of its own volition.

I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.

We shot on the ARRI Alexa. Rob Leitzell was the cinematographer, and he and I went through each shot in the film during pre-production. I had some very specific ideas about how I wanted the compositions to be framed and how I wanted the camera to move, and Rob brought an equal level of detail to the shot list. We used a lot of long takes in the film. There's something about the tension created when you can effectively sustain a long take, to keep it going without the audience getting bored of looking at the image. If the composition is aesthetically pleasing and the audience likes the shot, holding on a long take creates a really unique kind of tension. There's the tension of seeing an emotion being passed back and forth between the actors, and there's the tension of realizing your complicity in the scene; you are there, unable to look away, unable to get any relief from the proceedings. Long takes feel realer, for lack of a better word, than cutting a scene up.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW?

Having the opportunity to screen for an audience! This is the film's world premiere and we've all worked very hard to get it out into the world, so simply having the opportunity to do that at such a well-respected festival is a real treat.

If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

The Ziegfeld in Manhattan. That is a giant, giant theater.

There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?

If you've finished one script, don't sit around waiting for it to get made. Start writing another one immediately. The more you work, the more you'll improve as a writer.

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have seen at a film festival?

Definitely seeing HUNGER at the New York Film Festival in 2008.

This is one of the many films screening at the 2014 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 7-15. For more information on the film’s screening, point your browser to

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jasonrcwhyte

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originally posted: 03/07/14 06:15:38
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