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SxSW 2015 Interview: GOD BLESS THE CHILD director Robert Machoian

by Jason Whyte

"This a story of five small kids, two dogs and the chaos of a day without adult supervision." Director Robert Machoian on GOD BLESS THE CHILD which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.

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

Yes this is my first time ever to SXSW, I have been in Austin before, but this will be my first SXSW experience and I am attending all the screenings.

First timer? Know where you are going to hit up barbecue?

That has yet to be determined, but I am determined to figure it out while I am there!

What do you love the most about showing movies in Austin and Austin in general?

I love the culture of Austin, the people are amazing, and the Q and A's you can tell how people felt about your film. I am excited to share this film in Austin, excited that it's the premiere because I think it will give us a really honest understanding of how people going further will respond to the film.

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

For a few years out of high school I drove a dry ice truck. While I enjoyed the alone time, that came with the job. I knew what I would be doing in thirty years if I stayed there. I decided to go to college, and wanted to do something I would be excited about. I grew up playing in Punk bands and touring and making all my own promotional material, and so I thought about pursuing art. Some how in the process of that I made a film, and new immediately that filmmaking was going to get me through college. While in school I had some early success with my film, which I felt was a sign that I was on the right path. I've put my shoulder to the wheel and have been pushing ever since. I have made a series of short films, I have a online doc series called AMERICAN NOBODIES, and another feature FORTY YEARS FROM YESTERDAY. GOD BLESS THE CHILD is my second feature film.

I loved your pitch of the movie to me. How did you get this movie started?

I collaborated with Rodrigo Ojeda-Becl. the other director on the project. We wanted to make another feature, and as we discussed options this story told to me by my father kept coming up, so I went off and wrote it. After we had the script we sat down and discussed it, and knew this is what we wanted to make. After that it's a matter of doing anything possible to get it made, which we did.

Tell me more about Rodrigo and the people you worked closely with.

Rodrigo and I always get together and discuss what we want to do, and then normally I'll go off and write it once we have a general arch of a story. Robert John Thomas ia a producer we had worked with on FORTY YEARS FROM YESTERDAY and was really excited about the film when we pitched it to him, so he help make things happen. Laura Heberton was also thrilled by the scripted and came on to produce as well. The five kids are mine and after a long discussion with them about how we would be shooting a film their entire summer, and that if they worked hard and did a good job then people would see it, they accepted the challenge, and we all went to work trying to make the best film we could.

I am just going to go ahead and guess that the biggest challenge of making the movie was working with kids.

Well, working with five kids aged 1, 4, 6, 9, 12, and two dogs is the number one challenge and we didn't overcome it until the film was finished. It almost finished us, but in the end we won, and the result is I believe lighting in a bottle.

If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? I am assuming it has something to do with those five kids and two dogs.

I think early on in production, seeing that the kids were able to say their lines and that we were able to direct them in a way where their performances come across very honest and natural. I think then I knew we had something special. For kids in film it is RARE to see them portrayed as they are. Either there a archetype, or they are the victim. Here we captured children in a dramatic way, but they are not the victim, and their performances are very honest. I knew if we captured that, then we had something!

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/food?

I know, I always gain about twenty pounds when we shoot, and then I spend the rest of the year trying to work it off. It's so stressful. I can't explain why I keep making films, I'd have to say because I don't have to set an alarm clock on the days we shoot, someone always has to tell me when it's time to stop, and I never know what day it is, if we have a day off, someone has to tell me. Outside of spending time with my family, I don't have this experience in relationship to anything else.

For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film and how GOD BLESS THE CHILD got onto screen visually.

I shot the film, so I guess I'm the director of photography! We shot on the BLACKMAGIC CINEMA POCKET CAMERA. I would call the aesthetic controlled hand-held. WE chose tho shoot the film this way because we wanted the film to be very intimate. We shot not the pocket camera, because if you know what you are doing with it, it can capture an amazingly beautiful image.

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

The kids are getting to go to the festival and will be at the premiere. I am looking forward to them on stage after the film has been seen by an audience. I am excited that they will get to experience the success of their hard work, they shot ever day all summer, for them this was a huge sacrifice, they rejected days at the pool, outing with friends, and so forth. What an accomplishment at 4 or 6 or 9 to have something you made premieres at a place like SxSW.

After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?

We are screening the film next at Atlanta Film Festival and I am really excited about that. I have heard only amazing things, and we get to go out there, and I've heard Atlanta is amazing. Our big home is premiering internationally at Locarno Film Festival. We screened our last feature film there, and it's an unbelievable festival, so fingers are crossed!

Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?

Either the Arclight in Los Angeles because it's an amazing theater, or the theater in my home town of King City! I am proud to be from there and to share my film there would be very rewarding.

What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?

Please just leave, it's mean. I have to assume your a mean person to do such a thing, please don't.

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?

Just make as many film as possible all the time, anywhere and everywhere you go! The revolution is here, and there is no reason you should not be making films all the time!

And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?

The greatest film I've ever seen to me is normally the film I am thinking about, and right now that THE ROVER.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 40+ filmmaker interview series for the 2015 edition. 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 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/13/15 15:36:15
last updated: 03/13/15 15:36:51
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