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Turtle Hill, Brooklyn
2014, 80m, comedy, drama
TURTLE HILL, BROOKLYN is a funny, sincere, slice of life about a couple just trying to figure it out. Mateo and Will invite their friends over for Will's 30th birthday. After a few surprise visitors, they get through the day, but realize that doubting your partner isn't nearly as scary as doubting yourself.
10 questions with Turtle Hill, Brooklyn director, Ryan Gielen at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2016
1Hi Brian! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial inspiration that made you want to write this film? The initial inspiration for the film was to bring characters of different ages and backgrounds to the screen that we don't normally see in film. Some of the events of the film were based on experiences we (Ricardo and I) had at parties at our house (we're really a couple). With those ideas, we came up with the framework that allowed us to talk about issues that were important to us, like politics and identities.
2You produced this film and co-wrote (and co-starred) Turtle Hill with Ricardo Valdez. What was it like working together and how long did it take you to write? We worked together very well. We spent about a year thinking and jotting down notes about the film. When we really sat down to write, we probably took about 3 months.
3What was it about the director, Ryan Gielen that caught your eye and choose him to direct your script? I'd worked with Ryan on a number of films and knew he was the right choice to tell the story really well, especially considering the constraints we were under, mostly time and money.
4I absolutely loved this film. I felt it captured so many moments that happen at a party that I rarely see in a film. What scene are you most proud of? Thanks! I'm so proud of this movie and I think one of my favorite scenes is between the characters Rachel and Richard, talking about the possibility and difficulties of finding (and maintaining) romantic relationships. The subtlety and nuance they brought to that scene just kills me.
5I loved how some party goers were more involved than others, (like in real life) some had drama, some pair up with others, it all felt so real. How did you determine how many party goers would be in the film and how did you find your extraordinary cast? The amount of people at the party was based on what each character had to offer the story, whether it was advice for the main characters, different types of conflict or a shared history. A few characters were cut from the script (and the attributes likely combined with other characters) very shortly before shooting began.
As for the cast, we know a lot of great actors in New York and it was a gift and an honor to work with them. Some of the cast are friends, actors we studied or previously worked with and recommendations.
6Sometimes I watch films that take place in a single location and I think it's simply a ploy to keep their budget small, then I see a film like yours and realize there really are great stories you can tell in a single location. Why did you choose to tell your story in one location? Was it a conscious decision? I can't say budget wasn't part of the decision to shoot in a single location, but the main reason is that the story unfolds at a party the main characters are throwing at their house. It was definitely a conscious decision on our part. The story happens at and on the day of the party; any background information about the characters or conflicts came very naturally in their behaviors, which didn't need any other locations.
7I usually can't relate to movies when couple's argue because in movies it usually explodes into this overly dramatic scene that to me, doesn't feel real. Your film on the other hand was serious yet understated and I felt you really hit at something that felt true to life. How difficult was it to nail that scene and how conscious were you of not getting "overly dramatic"? I can't relate to overly dramatic moments in movies either! And I think that's what drove the writing and performances to be more naturalistic. I don't think nailing any of the scenes was that difficult as our director Ryan was on the same page with us the whole time. In the end, I don't think we were conscious of the intent during the shooting because it was so built into our goal.
8You produce, you write, you act, do you have any desire to direct? I do and have. I've directed a lot of theater NYC. I had my first film directing experience in 2014 when I made a short called Thanksgiving Dinner, based on a play of a grad school classmate and friend. I had a great time doing it and learned a lot!
9What's the film that made you want to become a writer/actor? I don't remember a film making me want to be an actor, but there are plenty that keep me motivated: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Woody Allen movies, Angels in America, and many plays that do the same.
As for writing, it was Good Will Hunting and Woody Allen that got me interested.
10What's next? Other than my short I mentioned, I just produced another feature with a friend, acted a small role in it and edited it. As for the future, I have some ideas and scripts for both features and shorts.
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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