8 questions with Albatross director, Theodore Collatos at the half-way mark.
Saturday, April 15th, 2017
1Hey Theodore! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make Albatross? Matt and Casedy are uncle and niece in real life and I thought it was a really unique relationship to explore. A kind of chronicling of the passing seasons of their lives mixed with fictional events and characters.
Something based on the people themselves but expanded to create a sort of a shoestring story of those moments. Having their natural reactions create the personal relationships.
2The acting in this film is so good but I'm assuming you cast mainly non-actors. How were you able to get such natural performances from everyone in this film? Did you film during a real birthday? That's funny! No it wasn't a real birthday but I'm glad it seems like it! I hired the magician and bought the cake with Casedy's face on it and invited people. No one even really knew each other at that point.
I think most people can act if they're made comfortable. And sometimes getting people comfortable takes a little work, a little psychology and letting them guide the way. Directing people quietly and encouraging them to bring their own voice is pretty effective for me.
People pretending is a lot of what this film is about to me.
Although, I felt a little guilty about the empty birthday present because Casedy thought she was going to get something for real, but I wanted to capture her honest reaction to getting nothing... In the end she had two birthday parties that year!
Matt Shaw is an actor and having him in the scene helped guide or 'direct' the non-actors in conversation and mood. In other scenes I just documented what was happening and worked it into the narrative. Like the role playing game / dildo scene just happened spontaneously and it was perfect.
3Matt Shaw, the lead actor in this film, was also fantastic in your last two features Dipso and Tormenting the Hen. Can you tell me a bit about why you like working together and how has your working relationship evolved over the years? He has grit and is willing to do anything, which can be hard to find in an actor.
In the beginning we were just friends and as the projects developed he's become instrumental in bouncing ideas and developing films. Dipso and Albatross are loosely inspired from his life and he has the courage and skill to be able to fictionalize it into a realistic depiction of the struggles we all go through and isn't afraid to show what its like to be alive.
With Tormenting the Hen he's full on acting lines and pages and helping me develop his bizarre character "Mutty", who has nothing to do with him.
We also have fun in the fire.
4Dipso was one of my favorite feature films we screened last year. What are you our thoughts on making shorts vs. making features? Thanks man! It's hard to say but in general my features are more purposeful and my shorts are small moments, sketches or portraits. I'm not really a fan of overly structured '3-act' shorts, I much prefer experiments or feelings.
Albatross was supposed to be a feature but the non-actors evaporated so we had to pick up the pieces... There's actually a 35 minute version deep in the recesses of my hard drive but long shorts seem to be taboo.
5The film is about an uncle who is raising a young girl because her father isn't around. But when her father does show up, it doesn't go into the typical confrontational dramatic explosion, you go for something far more subtle and understated. Why did you choose to go that route? I think most family issues just simmer and there's not really a confrontational moment, like in the movies.
People know the situation already and the small events collect over time. It's not like all of a sudden something happens. It can, of course, but it generally just exists and endures.
The father is also a bit on the young side, so I didn't want the relationships defined as much. Hopefully leaving some room for the future.
In a sense it ends with a child meeting a kid but who is the kid and who is the child? I wanted to capture that somehow over years and seasons like recalling a memory.
6What was the biggest challenge making this film? The production was so chaotic because the non-actors far out numbered Matt and me.
They generally didn't know what was going on or what the outcome might be because my style of filming was meant to be observational. I didn't want this film to feel locked down or forced in any way. Especially when directing a child its your job to get out of their way and let them lead you to the truth.
But when people don't have a specific goal to be striving for it causes a sense of confusion and boredom which is bad. And it gives them reason to not care. After a while there was a feeling of, why are we all here?
This wieghed heavily on Matt and me which lead me to write a detailed script for Tormenting the Hen with professional actors.
7Filmmaker magazine premiered your short film last year. What was that like and did that experience open any doors for you? That was really awesome I must say. Filmmaker is such a supportive platform. I think mostly it was a great alternative venue to screen and connected me to more filmmakers in general.
There's a sea of shorts out there, excellent shorts but not many viable inclusive outlets, so it was really a unique opportunity that I'm pretty thankful for.
I think what you guys did by expanding into shorts is really important!
8What's next? Our World Premiere of Tormenting the Hen will be at The Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFBoston) which we'll be attending if anyone reading this lives in Beantown.
Other then that, I'm working on my short verite documentary about Chris Algieri, who is a former WBO junior welterweight champion boxer who has a Masters Degree and his journey leading up to fight rising star Errol Spence Jr. on national TV at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn.
I'm also just beginning post-production on a feature documentary shot in Brazil about a safe house for trans prostitutes living and working.
Also trying to develop my scripts for the next opportunity to do a film.
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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