FILM TODAY INTERVIEW
Can you introduce yourself and your project as well as tell us how it all came together?
My name is Angel Katherine Taormina and I am the writer, director, and leading actress of the film “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”. Saints has been with me as long as I can remember and I always wanted to do it as a film. We started putting the pieces together in 2015, started filming in 2018, wrapped in February of 2020, and finished editing in September of 2020. October 26th 2020 was the world premiere at a festival in London. It sounds so neat and tidy, but a lot of these times and dates overlapped. That’s what you quickly learn- you’re never doing just one thing. And it’s truly amazing. We finished filming on February 14th 2020- the same day I released my 2019 novel “The Anniversary.” We finished editing on September 11th 2020 and were submitting to film festivals by my birthday, September 19th. In a lot of ways, it truly makes sense that I’m following Saints with my film adaptation of “The Anniversary”. It’s always been with me.
How did you get involved in film?
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to make films. I always wrote, directed, and acted in things from the time I was a kid. My first film experience was when I was an uncredited extra in the 1998 Denzel Washington thriller “The Siege.” It’s strange how time always seems to have a thread. Who would have thought anything of it back in 1998? And yet here I am now about to get started on “The Anniversary”. I’m from New York. I love New York. And my city will always be in my heart. It deserves to rise again. People will be hearing more about The Anniversary soon. Anyway, I made my first film in 2003, got my first festival nomination in 2007, and have over 15 credited films on IMDb. I was born this way, and I haven’t stopped since.
Describe how you would ensure that production is on schedule. What steps would you take?
I memorized the entire production schedule. Every breakdown. Every potential breakdown. Every scene name and number. Everything that corresponded with that scene. Who we needed. When we needed them. What could be worked around. What couldn’t be worked around. Every possible flexibility. All the climactic scenes were strategically figured out and placed at the right points in the shoot. Every variable, from clothing to hair to weather to what scenes required circular breathing and which scenes were more relaxed, was entirely worked out. Everything was patterned so that we could just go without trouble and, if we were to hit a road bump, we’d know exactly what to do because I’d figured the road bumps into the “map” as well. This often resulted in movie magic. My favorite example is the party sequence. The entire “Olympia” sequence was originally intended as a 5-10 second transition between scenes at the party. Instead, it was the end of the day, everyone was there, all the hair, costuming, and environment were correct, and so I amped up the scene. “Marie” went for it the way she would at a party with her friends and, knowing what I would do, I told everyone else to play along. What I got was a genuine reaction to “Marie in a genuine position” with everyone at an elevated state of their characters, and “Olympia” ended up being one of the highlights of the film.
How long did it take to research and make your film?
I started with the blank page that became the novel in 2012. I wrote the screenplay in 2013. I’ve had a desire to make this film my whole life. This film has had my research and attention for almost ten years of my life. It took seven years to make the film from concept to completion. It took a year and a half of photography, a year and a half of editing, 3 weeks with the majority of the main cast members, and a victorious battle against the unforeseen challenges of a worldwide pandemic. Call me crazy, but I loved every minute of it, loved the results, would do it all again in a heartbeat, am happy to share it with the world, and feel I’ve deeply bonded with everyone I got to work with on this project at every step of the way.
What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a film director?
Have a vision. Have confidence. Know what you’re doing. There’s a saying, something like “don’t be captain unless you can fly the plane”. Be the rock that everyone around you can rest on. And do all things with compassion. This is all our work. We’re in this together and we’re out there to be our best and make something great. Love what you do and bring out the best in everyone.
What were your key challenges in filmmaking?
I always say we made Saints on a shoestring and a prayer but without the shoestring. We had to do everything ourselves. I loved being able to do absolutely everything. It was a wild and fulfilling experience to succeed in, and it gives me complete confidence moving forward. We thought that the biggest challenge was going to be the sets. Then, one day, on Google, I was doing an unrelated search for “courtyards” and the house that we ended up filming in came up because the house had the word “courtyard” in its name. And it was fifteen minutes from my house. A wealthy family built that house in the 19th century and furnished it with 1881 Parisian furniture because they liked Paris. Today, that house is a wedding venue, museum, and bed and breakfast, owned and run by the phenomenal woman who let us film there. And now, it’s the “Saints” house, too! Keep moving forward. Every challenge is just another fun thing to overcome- like a puzzle. In the end, it all comes together. Trust the process.
An actor is being unprofessional. How do you manage the situation?
I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation, even though I’ve worked with actors who were not professional actors. There was always a sense of respect for the work and a desire to do what was necessary. If you’re there for them, you motivate them, and you’re clear- backwards and forwards and upside down- on what you need, there is never a problem. There is only creativity and respect for the work. If, however, I came across an actor who was being unprofessional, I would find my way in to their character’s psyche as director and show them how they could give the best version of their performance. I’d work with them swiftly and accurately until I found what they needed and they found what their character could give me so that I (and then we) could make it work perfectly for the good of all and for the good of the film.
What is the role of film festivals?
Promotion. Distribution. Networking. And memories that will last a lifetime. This film festival season was unique because everything that it’s normally about was presented in an entirely different way. Virtually. But, at the end of the day, we are still human, physical, artists behind our work and, moving forward, I can feel us all physically growing closer and closer to the point of connection, bonding, and future collaboration. This year, I went “all over the world from my couch”. And it was amazing. My film saw the world and the world saw my film. What an incredible opportunity the internet gives us. Moving forward, our films are together and, soon, we will physically be together again to make something incredible. Art is in the soul- it is our hearts, thus, that keep everything progressing.
Describe a time when you made a mistake in your duties. How did you rectify it?
When I’m unsure of something in my process, I don’t tell anyone what I’m mulling over until I’ve figured it out and the problem is fixed. Only present a finished product and, when you can’t, know what you’re doing, have confidence, and present your plan A with plans B through ZZ right behind it and just as thought out, workable, and functional. Every plan must lead to a success or you don’t bother opening your mouth until you’ve figured it out. Do your part right so that others can do their parts right. That is the job of being a leader. And it makes that creative work environment better for you and for everyone else around you.
What is the future of film?
New. The future of film is new. We have a unique opportunity to try new things and be creative and go as big as we want and build our own future. The future of film is new, creative, free-spirited, and larger than life. We have the opportunity as creatives to create new worlds. The future of film is creating a world as we see it- as the world we want to live in. Without rules. Whatever those worlds may be. And, in the creative pursuit, discovering new and exciting treasures every step of the way. The truth is that this could be the start of something beautiful.
What has been your favourite film to make and why?
Saints has undoubtedly been my favorite film to make, although “The Grand Era” is a close second because I filmed it in Paris back in 2009. But Saints is definitely my favorite because of the sheer size and scope of it. It took place in an epic era with a sweeping story and larger than life yet entirely true to the heart characters and I love everything about the story and about Joseph and Marie Charpentier (the main characters). I’m part French. So I always wanted to make a love letter to Paris. And Saints is that love letter. Also, I got to do things in this film that I either never knew I could do or never thought I’d get the chance to do- so it made me feel alive creatively. I love the feeling, as I call it, of “flying”. From here on, it makes me know that I am artistically limitless.
What has the audience reaction been like?
They love it! I’ve never actually gotten the chance to see their reactions in person, but I have learned, through virtual experiences, that people all over the world (we’ve screened in 11 different countries so far) love this film. It’s exciting to share something with others and know that they’ve taken it in to their own lives, feel along with it, enjoy it, and create a personal connection with it. Connectivity is the foundation of filmmaking. I feel virtually connected to people all over the world and they with me, through this film. I’m looking forward to physically connecting in person very soon. I have given of myself, and there’s plenty more to give. The future looks bright.
Can you say something about the collaborative nature of filmmaking?
I love the ability to share something that I created with others. I also love the ability to go out there and collaborate with fellow industry colleagues and create something together. Saints was very special to me and it is a creative experience I will cherish forever. Moving forward into my next project, “The Anniversary”, I am looking forward to an all-new creative and collaborative experience that will take everyone involved to places we never even imagined we could go. It’s going to be big, it’s going to be deep, and it’s going to bring out the best in all of us.
Is there anyway to see the film?
Yes. Saints has been streaming on the ShortsDaily channel on Roku since March 16th. Other than private theatre screenings, however, Saints has not yet been distributed worldwide. We’re looking forward to being able to be in theatres both nationally and internationally.