Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Sorcery of Naama Kates

Naama Kates 
My first introduction to Naama Kates was as a singer/songwriter, then I came to find out she was so much more. She is also an accomplished actress as well as a screenwriter. Now she can add full fledged filmmaker to her resume' with her directorial debut Sorceress, which recently got some much deserved attention at AFM (American Film Market.) To describe this movie would be unfair to the viewer. It is something one needs to experience on their own terms. 

Me? I loved it! Here to answer five questions about it is none other than the woman behind the madness Ms. Naama Kates

MS:  What was the inspiration for the film?

NK: Well to me all of life is an inspiration-- whatever happens, for better or worse, if it ends up as material, I can feel like it was worthwhile... I think that's especially important to remember now, during the hard times.  Film, music, literature, comedy, art in general, reminds us that we're not alone in any of it.

That being said, I started writing what became the film in short pieces of dialogue, impressions, usually from conversations I'd had or heard that felt interesting.  And then the location- Finland- where I did my artist residency, was a huge inspiration.  Other elements of the story, of course, came from my life, and from historical figures I found interesting- like Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century alchemist, and the obsession of the film's protagonist.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to make a film, until I had to write a proposal for the residency program.  Like with most of the bigger decisions in life, I act first, and figure it out later.  

MS:  How did it feel being a first time Director?

NK: I was all over the place!  We shot it over a really short period of time, with what felt like relatively little preparation.  On the other hand, I've worked on films before with even less preparation and planning... I hardly feel like I directed anything; I had great actors and crew and a great cinematographer, and I think those ingredients, paired with a good script, are most vital.  Since I also wrote it, I wasn't so sure about that last part- the good script- haha.  It was my first time doing anything like it.  At times it was sort of incredible-- all these great people were making my ideas happen!  But then I'd think, wait, are they all just doing this because it's the job?  Does anyone actually think this is a good idea?  Checks and balances are important! 

And I couldn't have had a better experience than I did in Finland.  Everyone was so professional, intelligent, humble and straightforward. And so talented!  It's an incredibly progressive society; there is virtually no sexism there and probably never has been, really.  I am extremely grateful for that. 

MS: The Cinematography was amazing, and played a role in the story. Where did you find the cinematographer?

NK: Thank you-- and, indeed!  The cinematographer, Jarkko T. Laine, is a member of the Finnish Society of Cinematographers, like our ASC, which is an invitation-only, very prestigious organization.  In the US, I think it would have been nearly impossible for a first-time filmmaker on my budget to get a member to shoot my movie, without pulling some serious strings.  Because Finland is a much smaller country (only 5 million people) and isn't so crazy when it comes to the movie business, the artists are more accessible; I went to the FSC website and emailed Jarkko directly, and then he brought on the A.D, Ville Gronroos, and A.C., Jenni Riutta, as well as the sound recorder, Akseli Soini.  That was our crew!  And they really brought it to another level. 

MS:  Now, I don't want you to give away the ending, but while I didn't see it coming in hindsight I should have.

NK: Hehe... well, so far I haven't heard from anyone that they saw it coming.  I wanted to leave it somewhat open to interpretation.  I think that, for people who resonate with the movie, it will probably be a somewhat familiar question: am I crazy? Is this real? Is it just a coincidence? Will anyone believe me?... I think most people have those moments, and I think that the answer is never clear.  It was easy to do in the script, but I questioned it during editing-- whether it was too ambiguous.  I didn't have any guidance while I was writing, but had quite a lot of invaluable input during post-production.  I was so connected to it by then, it was impossible to be objective.

MS: To me the film is ultimately about the creative process, what would you  like the audience to take away from their experience? 

NK: I like that.  I think it doesn't have to be about the creative process in the way we usually intend-- like, it doesn't have to literally be about art.  Just about thinking differently, feeling differently, than people around you.  Wanting to be understood, and then maybe feeling that connection with someone, and then losing it.  It's also largely about dealing with loss/grief.  I think those themes are rather universal, and really I just want an audience, period!  Haha!  And ideally, I hope they take that away-- a feeling of being understood, by the film itself... 

Naama on the WWW: 

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