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2015, 60m, crime, drama, film-noir
The story of a man named Stuart and his obsession with deciphering a human longevity formula associates himself with uncanny routines of activities. Stuart derives this formula from an intent to figure out the times of death of each person. Thus with his experiment and almost discovering his formula led him to a world that he never intent to be at the first place.
Produced by: Joshua Redwine, Princella Parker
Cast: Ben Sattler, Eric Moyer, Jeff Hoover, Julia Farrell
10 questions with Deciphering director, Vinnoth Krishnan at the half-way mark.
Sunday, May 22nd, 2016
1Hi Vinnoth! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Spring Festival! First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? Thanks for having THE DECIPHERING on Fandependent, I'm humbled.
Before i got myself into film i was a math major, actuarial science. By senior year i was approached by a producer from PBS to work and help to make a documentary around reservation, which end up got me interested in working behind the camera and working with the crews. As time went, i start writing a short story about my 4 years in college, then came the idea why don't i just film it instead. Before i dive into anything about writing a screenplay, operating a camera, sound and etc. i had to sit in front of the computer and research. The only way to know or do something, is to learn the rules and from there on you can mend those laws to your own.
As i was writing my story, a friend of mine initially begin to experiencing some rough time at school. We were in the same class learning Theory of Life Contingency models, i begin to suspect something was wrong. From that moment a little more observation on him for months made me realize he was on the different path than anyone else in the course. Based on that i came up with the idea to make this film about him instead of me, it was interesting journey.
2This is your first feature film, how did you know you were ready? Initially i had confidence that my script was ready after going through with Mason Tye. After finalizing the script, i had to scout the locations, auditions, gather equipments and funding. I had help from my producer/friend Princella whom i worked on Native Daughters. She took on my project as a producer and guide me to make this film. At first it was tough, i had myself to do everything. I know i just can't sit around and wait for some type sign or angel to drop down and hand me a pot of gold to make this film. Waiting around isn't going to help make my film, instead i used my own fund to get a camera and all the equipments that is necessary for this film to be made. I don't know if it was luck but as soon i start initializing the process of finding actors and locations, everything just fell into pieces, except there were certain scenes and story that couldn't be filmed due to lack of fundings.
3You co-wrote this script with Mason Tye. What was your writing process like together and why did you and Mason choose to work together? Mason Tye was an avid reader, and also he knows a lot of aspects when it comes to creative writing. Having him to consult on my script was gift for me. We worked on for whole 3 weeks, everyday through Skype. He lives in Arizona and i was in Nebraska. Coffee played a huge part of our life throughout those 3 weeks. I have come to encounter that every sentence or dialogue could produce 2 or 3 meanings to everyone whom reading the script or watching the film, hence we had to sit, communicate and exchange our perceptions of every single sentence. Which made me realize why i hate texting and email.
4This film is about a man trying to figure out the mathematic formula to help determine when we will each die. How did you come up with that idea and do you actually believe a formula like that could exist? I love chaos because it brings life. I came across a documentary on how the world and life revolve around in numbers and patterns. It gave me an idea of the formula, but even before i begin i had to research about life expectancy formula for 6 months, from Gompertz to Lee-Carter model. At first i was sort of worried that people are going to ask me about this formula whether it exist or not.
While i was writing my script, my friend Joshua came up with a formula. A formula that could tell "Who's going to die NEXT" by watching a tv show. It worked 80% of the time, which really blew my mind. Thus i borrowed this formula.
And as time goes, there were couple of numerous article started to pop everywhere about the Human Longevity formula which is calculated by a supercomputer, since everything you do, every decision you make, every purchase you do is being recorded and could be used as data to calculate everything, really started make me think. Thanks to facebook, credit cards and video camera's, you are visible now to the world and everyone.
5What was your biggest challenge making this film? Making this film in zero budget. I'm not going to lie, i really wanted to start learning and know the process about making film with no budget. In this way i have the ultimate creative freedom which i wanted. It was a humble experience, because it gave me a chance to work with actors and crew whom really passionate of the work and the script. Location wise we had permission from the owners and 99% we went on shooting guerilla style, oh dear it was fun and hectic. I mean, who wear a fedora hat and suit in the summer outside in public.
6Why did you decide to make this film in black & white? What does black & white film add to a film that color can't? Growing up as kid, i have watched countless of black & white films with my dad. I would say i'm fond of colors but i can't see certain colors with my eye, it was rough knowing you're color blind and you fail the test to be a pilot and or to be an astronaut. I pushed my doctor's files on the ground, i was pissed, of course i was only 12 at that age. Although it was painful for me at that age, realizing your dreams just vaporized as the results came in. Instead i have to take on another journey, i was good at math and drawing. Now they have glasses that can fix your color blindness.
Somehow i realize shooting film in black & white gives you less attention in colors and enhance the characters & the environments boldness and it's aspects of emotions. I believe you can achieve this with colors with talented cinematographers, but at this point i can't afford one with my budget. You have to work around with what you have that moment. But i still believe black & white brings certain characteristics that colors won't.
7What's the scene you're most proud of and why? There are so many, but if i had to pick it will be the moment the Stranger follows Stuart and then when Stuart confronts Stanley. It was hard to film both scenes, both are sort of long takes with handled and you don't have anyone behind you to guide your movements walking backwards. I think i tripped multiple times while filming.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? My dad took me to films when i was 6 years old, my first movie was Terminator 2, then Blade Runner and Alien on VHS. I think i had a good start and i didn't sleep for a week watching all these films.
My mind was rushing millions miles thinking "Am i really living in a world where there is a metallic man walking around among us? Or is this how babies born popping out of your gut? I had taped my stomach for couple a days not wanting a baby alien popping out at any moment. My parents had good laughs with that.
9What did it take for you guys get the funds to make this film? The thing that really came to sense to me, is that no one is going to give you money, life is an experiment, i had not made any films that moment. No experience. Hence i started film The DECIPHERING with what i've got, a Canon 7D, a rode mic, a boom pole, a tascam, couple of wireless mic, my laptop. and a crew 4. I have encounter mistakes and prevent it from making it again. Thus it gave me a chance to learn to be modest and humble on what i have to work on.
10What's next? After Deciphering, i had lots of criticism on the film, worked on my style of storytelling, start directing couple of short films and commercial films, which open up to working with a production company in LA. Being part of the crew of The Tiger Hunter film, had thought me about the production world.
Currently i'm working on a script for a short film. Which already found me couple of producers, thanks to photography and the short films it kind of paved the path to everything.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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