SxSW 2016 Interview: THE OTHER HALF director Joey Klein
By Jason Whyte
Posted 03/07/16 16:26:04
"The Other Half is about two damaged people who fall instantly, madly in love - like two sick animals finding and protecting each other. The film explores what real hope looks like for people burdened by severe grief and mental illness. It asks the question, when time does not heal all wounds, can love conquer all?" Director Joey Klein on THE OTHER HALF which screens at the 2016 South By Southwest Film Festival.
I am thrilled to hear your movie is showing at SxSW and this is your first time here! Are you planning to attend your screenings?
Yes, I most certainly am! I am attending all three screenings on March 11, 12 and 16. Can't wait!
Talk to me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!
I went to Circle in the Square Theatre School in NYC ten or so years ago and I loved it there. I started acting at a late age; for me it was a sacred place to train. I have since been working as an actor on both sides of the border. Right after school I got some work that took me to LA, but then the Writer's Strike hit. Not that ironically that gave me more time to write; as an actor the highlight of my career has been starring in a film my brother wrote and directed a year ago called WE'RE STILL TOGETHER. As a filmmaker I wrote and directed two short films in the last few years. THE OTHER HALF is my first feature.
So how did THE OTHER HALF come together from your perspective?
I made it with a group of my closest friends who all put a ton of love and sacrifice into getting it made; after I graduated theatre school ten years ago I started writing something that eventually became THE OTHER HALF. Over the years I would sometimes leave the script for a year, and sometimes I would work on it for three months straight. My father who used to be an English major worked with me as a story editor and collaborator before anyone was on board. Originally it was developed at an American company but all hit a brick wall when the Writer's Strike started.
This was a blessing in not that much of a disguise as the script wasn't near ready. I met cinematographer Bobby Shore a year or so before moving back to Canada. We formed a fast friendship that grew out of talking about doing the film together. I had seen his work and loved his eye. I moved back to Canada, started working again as an actor, all the while working on the script. I met Tatiana Maslany on THE VOW, saw her in another movie called GROWN UP MOVIE STAR, was blown away and offered her the part straight away. Then I met Tom Cullen through Tatiana; I was a massive fan of WEEKEND and his work specifically so I started writing the part for him without him knowing. Eventually I offered him the role, met some other great people like Caroline Habib at Mongrel who came on board, and then finally met producer Nicole Hilliard Forde. She was the producer for whom I had been waiting, for as long as I have wanted to make films. We developed the script et al together but then hit a wall as two first timers would. From there a group of amazing industry folk who barely knew us came on board to help us get to production. We then shot the movie in 16 days. By far the best creative experience of my life.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? What's your poison?
I used to play a lot of team sports recreationally as a kid. I love working in a group towards this collective goal. I love how things change from idea to script to shooting to editing. I have no interest in getting out what is exactly in my head as that's boring to me. That's golf to me when I would rather play hockey. When I'm tired coffee is my drug. But honestly, nervous energy, the pressure of being the person everyone looks to and the joy of process kinda sees you through. Also in 16 days you don't have time to do anything but go, so I didn't need much poison.
What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?
The biggest challenge was the same I imagine for most, which was lack of time and money. Schedules are tough when you're lovely friends are so busy. It was hard to handle the weeks leading up to being green lit, it was a bloody rollercoaster of the film going and the film falling through. Being three ways sensitive and crazy as actor/writer/director didn't help; I don't have one moment that was most rewarding, I really don't. I made my first film with my best friends and that is a huge privilege. I felt I had something special only when the film was locked, and it's exciting to be in a place now where strangers get to agree or disagree.
I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you use to shoot, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
We used the Arri Alexa, with a mix of anamorphic and newer lenses. I'm lucky Bobby Shore and I have become the best of friends over the last few years, so we were able to take our time shot listing together. Our shoot was an insanely short 16 days, but we had the time leading up to prepare. I am excited by what excites Bobby. He has been a big influence on me, not just in terms of look, but general taste. He re-introduced me to MORVERN CALLAR, which over time has become one of my all time faves. More than anything the film was designed according to Nickie and Emily's state of being. Movement or the lack thereof was motivated only by the emotional story point. Slow manual and digital zooms were often preferred over literal movement in order to feel like we were closing in, rather than moving in on them. Our biggest influences were probably Shame and Morvern Callar. I explored step printing with Bobby in my first short, and found it a very exciting look when it came to connecting dream and nightmare, and when infusing romance with dread.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing THE OTHER HALF here in Austin?
Premiering my first feature to a crowd of artists, musicians, filmmakers and the like. That's bloody cool. My brother went to the University of Texas. I have spent time in Austin, just roaming. Coming from Montreal, and having lived in Toronto, NYC and LA, it seems like North America's preeminent artist oasis right now.
If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
The Angelika in NYC. Having gone to theatre school in NYC and lived there a total of three years, it is a very romantic space for me.
What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?
Stop talking and put your phone away. Your emoticons can wait two hours. Putz.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
Be so determined that you are probably delusional. Try to have some fun sometimes doing it. You ain't and we ain't curing diseases. The worst of times in our line of work is much better than the worst of times in many other chosen fields. Find a producer you want to work with for a lifetime. Study films always. Go to acting classes. Look at photography. Listen to music. Have sex. Get lost in a city and let your mind go. Figure out which films you love and which you hate and why. Try and shake hands with the nicest devils possible; ROSEMARY'S BABY is coming one way or the other.
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
UNDER THE SKIN at TIFF. It has become one of my all time favourite things in the universe, not just films. It is the only time in my life I saw something and liked it but only realized what it meant to me hours later. Like all of a sudden realizing you were in love with someone you had known for a bit, but somehow missed it because you were just so bloody stupid.
Be sure to follow the progress of THE OTHER HALF at www.theotherhalfmovie.com!
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our interview series for our site. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 11-19. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte