Excerpts from a February 2020 Interview with Angel Katherine Taormina-
“Actress, Filmmaker, Author, and all-around Go-Getter”
Why choose now to publicize yourself and your work?
I’ve been doing what I do for 23, going on 24, years now. I had a choice- publicize myself immediately, or do what I do and get it all done so that I would have my body of work established and would have something tangible, stable, and something I was proud of, to publicize. Basically, it came down to “talk about doing it, or do it.” There was no time for both. So I did it. And now I’m very happy with what I have done and the foundation that I have built, and now I am ready to share it all with the world. There is a right time for everything. This is my right time to publicize.
What is your favorite part of doing what you do?
Creating reality. For as long as I can remember, I have always had these richly visual ideas and when I see a film come together and other people start seeing in reality what I’ve been seeing in my mind, it’s my favorite part. And, I always say, my fantasy is my reality. So that fits right in with my style. I never fantasize about doing something unless I am going to do it. Thank God for letting me see how that was possible, or else I’d have all this stuff in my head and heart without knowing what to do with it.
Can you describe your directing style? Or your style for this film?
I put the actor first. Because I know that, at the end of the day, the actor is who the audience is seeing, and you have to trust that they are in character, being the character, and making choices in the character, and that this will shine through in ways you might not have anticipated, but it will be right for the scene. So rehearse, keep everyone fully informed, set it up, and release it to the film. I let what I do as writer be taken over by what I do as director for that same reason. Even though all three are me, they are still three separate times, separate mindsets, and separate tasks. The “Saints” cast calls me an “actor’s director” because I give everyone all the written and spoken information they need, discuss the scenes, work out the scenes, answer any questions, but then step back and let it be. If even I feel strongest when I’m free to fly, how much more my colleagues. So I give that freedom to them. Freedom to the characters to be who they are and live- and then it’s better for the film because the moment is truth.
As far as the stylization of the film, picture the concept that any event in time could occur at any time within time. We are not bound by time because we never think about time. Picture all time occurring all at once. And where are you? You’re here. But you don’t define yourself by time. You don’t wake up and say “I’m in the year 2020, so I’m going to do and say this”. No. you just live. Whatever it is. And that’s your truth. It’s the same with “Saints”. They are
living their lives and it is as though a documentarian took a camera to 1881 and filmed in their present moment- but with 2020 technology, and no one minded- various vignettes of a part of their life where they happened to display heroic virtue and courage- and kindness, and love, and strength, and aiding of others, etcetera. The past is not past. It is present. It is happening. It is here. We can see it. That is the gift of film- that people can see things as such. And, here, with “Saints”, they can. Here’s their movie. Here’s their story. Here’s their reality. Ta-da! I shoot a reality so audiences can enjoy a reality. Now. Right now. Always present. Always true. Always now.
There are always differences between a novel and its film adaptation. Not to give anything away but, there is one particular difference at the climax of the film. What made you decide to go for it?
The answer is actually in the question. It IS the climax. I saw that we had this insane window of opportunity of doing something I never even imagined and I went for it. I re-wrote the scene the night before we shot the sequence. It felt right. It felt like the perfect way to define the victory of each character based upon the visual journeys the audience has gone with them on. It solidifies your identification with the characters and your love-or hate- for the characters. It is definitive as to who you’ve seen them become, and it highlights and satisfies the completion of their character arcs in ways that can only be SEEN on film. They are simultaneously at their most surreal and their most human- and their most triumphant.
Any other Fun Facts about yourself?
I really enjoyed being able to swim and horseback ride in the film because I used to do it when I was a kid. In fact, we all did our own stunts in the film. Okay, fun fact- my favorite color is cerulean blue- not just blue- it has to be cerulean blue. I made this important decision after studying an entire crayon box as a toddler. I picked up cerulean blue, and I haven’t looked back since. Cerulean blue is also the color that the Atlantic Ocean was on the day we filmed after the sun rose. Also, another thing. I am not allergic to lavender. On the contrary, it is my favorite flower and I use it for everything. I bake. You should try my lavender brownies. They’re good. I also make Godiva/Ghirardelli cookies. Secret recipe. And I love roses, too.
What was your favorite scene in “Saints”?
My favorite scene to direct was the scene where Cyrus confronts Joseph at the ladder. To work it out with everyone and then be able to stand back and see it all come to life was surreal.
What are your favorite stories from the set?
The “hero” story has to be my favorite. Grayson was late to the set. It was the second day of filming and he calls me and tells me he’s late because there was a car accident. I asked if HE was alright. He gets to the set and tells us that the accident was IN FRONT of him and that he had to stop to pull the two victims out of their car and stabilize them until the ambulance arrived. He was pumping with adrenaline. He’s a certified EMT. We all had profound respect for his work after that day. That was the day we shot some of the really heightened emotional and physical scenes and it was very easy because, on a scale from one to ten, everyone started out that day at about a twenty.
And the story of the party. After we finished filming the part where Marie performs for the guests- I just started crying. I looked over at the cast and crew and smiled and said “It feels so good to finally tell the truth.” Being Marie in that scene in particular helped me to overcome a lot of past issues and to be grateful for them and more loving of myself.
And then, also, the beach story. After we shot the end scene of the film, my crew and I went for breakfast on the boardwalk and then drove over to Zeno’s for ice cream in Daytona Beach. I LOVE THEIR ICE CREAM. Keep in mind, we’d all been up since 3am because we had to get the shot right at the apex of the sunrise- which we did. So we are OUT OF OUR MINDS with elation and exhaustion. Chevy is driving down the highway and I’m hanging out the window, shoveling Zeno’s ice cream down my throat after a week of “Marie starvation” and practically screaming Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” along with the radio in total abandon and delirium. We were going totally “Wayne’s World”. It is one of my favorite memories from the film.
Just for reference about “Marie starvation”- that corset I’m cinched into in the film is 18in and closed all the way at the cinch-point. I LOVED doing that! But, yes, I made sure I did everything healthily and was never in any danger.
What was that magic moment for you in the film- the one where everything fell into place?
There were a few. Without giving anything away- the bird scene, the scene with the lightning strike, the confrontation in Sweden, and the entire climactic sequence- oh, that amazing sky! Oh, that amazing light! Love it! Love it! Love it! And there’s this moment where Marie reaches up and- actually, nope. Not gonna spoil it for you.
Speaking of movie magic- would you like to address what ISN’T magic? Your performance scenes are all real.
Yes. I figured out that it doesn’t distort when you use the camera’s microphone rather than an external when you’re filming. The camera’s mic just picks it up the same way it picks up dialogue. It hears it, captures it, and doesn’t distort it, and you just film it like any other scene and, like any other scene, what is going on in real time is what is captured in real time- voices and images. Letting cinema be cinema.
Any final thoughts on what people can expect from “Saints”?
A ride. A journey. Love. Welcome to my world. Enjoy!
Excerpt from Angel’s “Filmmaker’s Creed”:
The most important thing I want to hear from an actor is “I have an idea”. I love collaboration. I desire it. I prefer it. Come to me with your ideas about the character- tell me what you see. If you see the character, it means you care about the character, which leads to an even better realization of their truth, which leads to a better film. So, talk to me. I’m listening. Let’s collaborate. Let’s do this together and make something truly great. Be excited- I’m excited, too. Excitement is a good thing. Never tire of your passion. It is who you are. Explore it, grow with it, and find some amazing new aspect of it everyday that makes you just go “wow” and makes you remember and be thankful for what you love and what you do in this beautiful Art.
Below- Angel Katherine Taormina Directing “The Saints of the Rue Scribe”: