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Overturn: Awakening of the Warrior
2013, 73m, action, fantasy, mystery
Christopher, a young American, suffers from constant nightmares. His life suddenly changes when a group of people kidnap him and inform that his dreams are not an accident but a sign of hidden abilities. It is a gift that he has to use in order to protect the world from a coming threat. Under their supervision, he begins a training which aims at uncovering his skills and waking up his true nature: the Warrior.
10 questions with Overturn: Awakening of the Warrior director, John Doan at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, September 6th, 2016
1Hi John! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? Thank you for accepting our film! There were actually two initial seeds. The first one was that primarily I'm an actor. I come from Ukraine, which is not an English-speaking country. Thus, actors from here are not on the radar of American and British casting directors. But it happened to be that I'm probably the only actor from a former Soviet republic, Ukraine being one of them, who has taught himself to speak perfect English and has the ability to do convincing accents - including American. I want to work in American and British films and TV Series, so I made this film to present myself to the industry as a leading actor who should be considered by US and UK casters just like American, Australian and British actors are. The second seed has more to do with the subject matter. In this world we are now at the point where both chaos and spirituality are growing. This battle is taking place in the heart of every human being: from the president to your pizza guy. I feel strongly that we need stories that look at this situation, so that more people can make their life choices more consciously.
2You wrote this film as well. What was your writing process like and how long did it take you to complete the script? The film is essentially a mystery. We don't really know who is who and get to know the characters little by little through details that pop up here and there. It took me some time to develop the backstory which was the most important thing for this mystery to work, but the script itself was written in about a month. It was not too fixed, and we improvised a lot of dialogue on the set - as long as it was consistent with the backstory,
3This is your first feature film. What prepared you for this film? Did you go to film school or did you make a bunch of short films before this? I never went to a film school, but I had worked as an actor for a number of years and observed how everything works on the set. Overturn actually started as a web series. We first shot five small episodes and that was my training ground. It was quite successful. Reviewers said it had a very unique style and looked expensive - which many web series lacked at the time, and we're talking 2010-2011. I think it is one of my things in terms of directing: I can make it look expensive even if it is shot on quite a small budget.
4There is a lot of philosophy in this film, similar to films like the Matrix, Blade Runner and other great sci-fi films. How important where the philosophical aspects of this film and how did you discover these ideas for yourself? Those are great films of course, and they have definitely influenced me. I ask philosophical questions all the time, because I think we can only solve our problems if we are able to look at them from a wider perspective. People are so easily irritated and susceptible to advertising and propaganda, because their outlook is quite narrow. Christopher, the main character, has a similar problem. He lives in his little world and has no idea that he is meant to be great - though he keeps getting signs all the time. He thinks he knows who he is, when in fact, that very idea prevents him from seeing his potential. He is ignorant in a way. He needs to let go of the stuff in his mind to awaken and get access to his powers. But then, luckily, something happens that gives him a chance to do this. In a way everyone of us is in this situation. So yes, the philosophical aspects are key.
5I loved the big fight sequence at the end. It's very ambitious. What advice do you have for filmmakers who want to make their own action films? Thank you. I'm pleased to hear that. We had rehearsed it for three months and shot it in six hours. I'm very grateful to the ninja-guys: Ed Lavrentiev, Yuriy Sirosh, Yaroslav Kirik and most of all Vitaliy Kiuila of International Dragon Federation in Odessa, Ukraine who choreographed all martial arts scenes in the film and also played Christopher's fighting coach Vladimir as well as one of the ninjas. Their commitment was so touching and deserving admiration. Anyway, I tend to shoot intuitively. I know the rules, but I don't necessarily follow them. Yet I don't try to break them either. Both in acting and directing, I have come to an understanding that I have to follow my own rules. So I would suggest filmmakers to study action films, but try not to copy what they see without thinking. If you think long enough, ask yourself important questions and remain sincere, you can come up with something original.
6Who are some of the people who have influenced you most? Directors: Tarkovsky, Kubrick, Welles, Forman, Fellini.
Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Innokenti Smoktunovsky who was the biggest Soviet star of the second half of the 20th century, Peter O'toole,
Outside of filmmaking: the Dalai Lama, Mozart, Leo Tolstoy, Pink Floyd
7I like that this film has a very international cast. How did you meet all these talented actors and actresses and why did you decide to cast so many foreigners in your film? I am a foreigner myself :-) The film was shot in Kiev, Ukraine and its neighborhood. The story takes place in the USA and Russia, but Kiev is quite diverse, so we were able to find locations resembling both countries. As for the cast, some of them I had known preciously, but we also conducted a casting session, and were lucky to find truly talented actors. The international cast works for the story whose subject matter goes beyond one particular country and touches everyone. In fact, as we see now, our world is becoming smaller due to technology. We know everything about each other. Everything is interconnected. Having such a diverse cast helps generate this feeling.
8Can you share a war story from the shoot? The first appearance of our antagonist, the Servant, which is the scene where he talks on the phone, was supposed to take place on a bridge. There is a footbridge in Kiev called Trukhaniv Bridge. We chose the Bridge as our location a month prior to the shoot and also visited it two days before it. But when we arrived for the shoot, we didn't expect to see construction equipment buzzing and humming and construction workers running around and yelling. They had started renovating the bridge. So the shoot was over. Everyone was frustrated. They were ready to go home, but I couldn't allow us to waste a whole day, so I asked them to wait for half an hour. I took a walk along the riverbank not knowing what I was looking for. As I was walking, I was looking around and suddenly noticed a staircase with a strange thing on top: it's actually called Magdeburg Right Column, which I didn't know. Right away it clicked in my mind. I called everyone and we blocked and shot the scene there, and it was perfect. The monument added more creepiness to the scene. By the way, you can still see a part of the bridge in the scene.
9What scene are you most proud of and what did it take to get it right? I'd say the fighting scene at the end is one I am most proud of. It took gallons of sweat, a month of bruises and cuts afterwards, bribing the old security guy of the fenceless warehouse building abandoned for like 30 years where we were shooting, who appeared just out of nowhere, and certainly extreme focus, commitment, dedication and open-mindedness.
10What's next? I'm working on several theater and film projects in Germany and Italy as an actor at the moment. But there are also several feature film scrips that I'm now developing, and I might direct one of them down the line.
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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