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VIFF 2008 Interview – Crime director Tom Schlote

Crime - At VIFF 2008
by Jason Whyte

“If you like gritty realism, unflinching honesty, and social critique then this is the movie for you!’ Director Tom Scholte on his film “Crime” which screens in the Canadian Images section of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (September 25 – October 10).

Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you have any other festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favourite and least-favourite parts of the festival experience. Do you plan to attend VIFF for the screenings?

As an actor, I've been at VIFF a number of times but this is my first time as a director. I will definitely be at the screenings. What's not to love about a film festival?

Could you give me a little look into your background (your own personal biography, if you will), and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

My lifelong desire to tell stories has been entirely fueled by a single question that reaches right back to my childhood: "Did you just see what I saw?"

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …” Finish this sentence, please! actor. From the first moment that I understood that those kids in the original “Bad News Bears” were actually getting PAID to do that, there was no looking back.

While you were making the movie, were you thinking about the future release of the film, be it film festivals, paying customers, critical response, and so forth?

The only way I can wrap my head around making a movie is to try and make something that I would want to watch and then trust that there must be somebody out there who feels the same way.

How did this project come to fruition? If you could, please provide me with a rundown, start to finish, from your involvement.

The genesis of this film was a startling incident that I witnessed ten years ago and the questions about it that I couldn't shake out of my head and for which I needed to invent my own answers. After a few false starts over the years, I finally put together an outline of the story that I was happy with about three years ago, cast the principal actors, and began to improvise around the outline. I took the results of these improvisations and wrote 4 or 5 drafts of what became the final screenplay that we took to camera in the summer of 2007.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production?

Directing myself. I swore I would never do it but when one of the people that had inspired one of the central characters committed suicide, the task of getting this character right became very personal. Thank God I had my wonderful wife to play opposite. The best partner a man could have, in a scene or otherwise!

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

I knew I wanted to make a DOGME film for all the same reasons that the Manifesto came into existence in the first place. Then, my cinematographer, Bojan Bodruzic, urged me to take the pursuit of "truth" a step further by having every scene play out in a single take with no cutting. He gave me a suggested list of films to take a look at as I mulled this over and I was soon convinced that there was no substitute for the particular sense of tension and dread that can achieved in this manner. So we went for it. We deliberately shot on Standard Def rather than High Def as I felt that the resolution of HD was often too crisp and actually less filmic particularly for this kind of film. We then up-resed it to HD for the final output to HD Cam tape. Bojan had used this process on his own feature, “Immigrant”, and I was impressed with the results.

Talk a bit about the experiences (festival or non-festival) that you have had with this particular film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings?

None yet, but let the games begin!

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

As an actor there are two performances that, for me, set the bar for the lengths to which an actor should be willing to go to give us the unvarnished truth about humanity: Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris and Harvey Keitel in Bad Lieutenant. Like all film-makers interested in the rough texture of real life I feel greatly indebted to the work of John Cassavettes and, in a Canadian context, to the work of Larry Kent and the two Dons (Owen and Shebib). For this film in particular I have drawn great inspiration from the Dardenne brothers and Lodge Kerrigan.

How far do you think you would want to go in this industry? Do you see yourself working on larger stories for a larger budget under the studio system, or do you feel that you would like to continue down the independent film path?

My natural inclination is definitely down the independent path but, at the same time, different stories require different levels of financing to be told the way they need to be told. As long as I felt free to try and make a film that I would actually want to watch then I'm up for anything.

If you weren’t in this profession, what other career do you think you would be interested in?

Early Childhood Education.

Please tell me some filmmakers or talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.

There's lots of actors and directors in the world that I admire but I am perfectly content collaborating with the immensely gifted artists in my own backyard.

Do you think that you have “made it” in this profession yet? If you don’t believe so, what do you think would happen for that moment to occur?

For me, there is no such thing as "making it". There's only what I am doing now.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

Lots of press, good reviews, and prestigious festivals are always a plus, but I have learned that you never can tell where the audience for any particular film may be hiding even if it's a single person to whom your film speaks on a deep and genuine level.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

I'd love to be chosen to represent Canada in the annual "Canadian Front" screenings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

What would you say to someone on the street to see your film instead of the latest blockbuster playing at the local megaplex?

There are already so many other places where you get lied to. Why would you go to the movies for that?

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start?

Write about something you feel deeply to be true and START SHOOTING!

And finally…what is your all time favourite motion picture, and why?

Taxi Driver. No apologies, no cheap and easy explanations. About as close to perfect as it gets.

This is one of the many films screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on when this film is playing and to order tickets, point your browser to – Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 10/06/08 19:22:39
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