Your new movie The
Gesture and the Word - in a few words, what is it about?
Gesture and the Word
is about love and how we love and care for one
another; how we show kindness and affection to each other. It can be
between loved ones, family members, or friends. We find ourselves reticent
about pursuing what could make us happy and allowing ourselves to love
The Gesture and the
Word being a romance of sorts, is that a genre at all dear to you,
and some of your genre favourites? And how would you describe your take on
All my work involves a romantic
element. The intimate relationships between people are at the heart of my
stories; however, it is important that the themes surrounding these
stories are multi-layered. I want to combine the romance genre with
important issues and stories about people and their lives. It is important
to shed light on how love helps us face difficulties and overcome the
insurmountable in all areas of our lives.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing
Gesture and the Word?
For as long as I can remember, I
have been in love with France, the culture, the history, the cinema, the
art… It inspired me to move to Paris in 2011. When I began writing the
script, I was living there. The romantic and visually stunning city was a
huge inspiration when writing The
Gesture and the Word. Paris is a city
where you can spend hours people watching. The initial idea for a postman
came from seeing my local postman on his daily route. There are an endless
amount of flower shops in Paris, as well. My friend Nico was a burlesque
dancer who owns a flower cart, which became the foundation for the Eloïse
character. French cinema has been a huge influence in how I approach my
filmmaking, as well. I love the magic and intimacy that I find in some of
my favorite French films. I find inspiration in art, fashion, and music,
too. When creating lookbooks and storyboards, I pulled from a variety of
sources. All of these factors were part of the creation of the story.
To what extent can you
actually identify with The
Gesture and the Word's Gilbert, or to put it another way, how much
of you can we find in him?
This story is about a middle-aged man’s coming of age. I love the idea
of how we can - as human beings - constantly evolve. I feel that I am
always growing as a person. Gilbert is a very sensitive person - which I
am - and a quiet individual - which I’m not. He shares aspects of my
personality. However, he is uniquely his own person. Someone who could be
afraid of his own shadow. In a way, each character is coming into their
own. As I have grown older, I have become more and more comfortable in my
own skin. Gilbert is on a journey to be secure in himself. A journey that
I have personally been on. Haven’t we all? I think I can find myself in
all my characters - not just Gilbert. Each characters is on their own
journey of personal growth.
There are clips showing Eric
the postcard writer all around the world - now where were they actually
filmed and how was the authentic look achieved?
Thank goodness you think it looks
authentic! It was important to me that we did our best in representing the
places and their people. This is one of my favorite things about
Gesture and the Word. Eric’s travels were shot in one Hollywood Hills
location. The magic of movies! I found an amazing home that was able to be
nine different locations around the World. We shot Spain and Portugal on
the front patio; Turkey and Russia on the back patio; Japan on a balcony
overlooking the backyard; Malaysia, India, and Morocco in the backyard;
and China inside the house. (After we were able to film these locations,
we then shot Gilbert’s apartment inside, as well.) Our production
designer Anna Loesby and our costume designer Matthew Peridis were
instrumental in creating the look. I gave them references, so they had a
clear idea of what I had in mind. My amazing cinematographer Matt Rodgers
and I were able to frame their work in such a way that made the locations
seem realistic. It was an incredible experience. A fun challenge.
you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
There are so many layers to directing. So many steps and stages. I enjoy
creating look-books and visual references for my cast and crew. I draw my
own storyboards, as well. I have a clear vision of how the story looks and
feels and do my best to give my cast and crew a clear picture of what I am
imagining. I work very closely with my cinematographer in creating the
look and style of the film. I am hands-on, but also want those around me
to have the freedom to bring something incredible to the table. If
you’re open to them, they can surprise you with wonderful gifts. For
example, costume designer Matthew Peridis came up with the idea of having
the color of Eloïse’s dresses match the flowers she gave Gilbert. When
working with actors, I ask them questions. I never want to tell them how
to think or feel, but instead help them reach the emotion within
themselves. That’s how a character truly comes to life. When you have a
cast and crew of this caliber, you need to trust their expertise and
surround yourself with people that truly know their craft.
talk about The
Gesture and the Word's cast, and why exactly these people?
I am beyond
fortunate to have my cast. Most of them came to us through personal
relationships. James Michael Tyler (Gilbert) has been a dear friend for
many years and someone with whom I have always wanted to work. I knew he
would be perfect for the character. My friend Bruce introduced me to Paul
Dooley (Mr. Rostalle). It was an opportunity that I jumped at. He has
played so many amazing father roles and was perfect as Gilbert’s mentor.
Nicole LaLiberté (Eloïse) is a friend of producer Andrea Fellers. She
has an elegance, as well as a charm that fit the role of Eloïse. Nicole
is stunningly beautiful, but she is also unique and approachable. I wanted
to believe that Eloïse and Gilbert would have this connection. It
was through a friend of my producer that we met Andrew Creer (Eric).
Besides being one of the nicest people, he symbolized an ideal - handsome,
intelligent, creative, adventurous, and gentle. Andrew was a great Eric,
because he is all those things. French actress Roxane Mesquida (Aurore)
was the only one with whom we did not have a personal connection. We
sought her out. I dreamt of having a French actress in a film that was
inspired by my time in Paris. When I found Roxane, I knew that she would
be perfect. She is both incredibly strong, but also sweet. I wanted the
relationship between Eric and Aurore to symbolize what we all strive for -
a relationship built on trust and love. Again, an ideal. Roxane was
perfect as that reflection of Eric. I asked my producer to reach out to
her and the rest is on the screen.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
I realize that
Gesture and the Word was a
huge undertaking. We had quite a few locations. Each location was dressed
on the day with very early crew pre-calls in order to make this happen,
which resulted in a very fast shooting schedule. Because I have worked
several times with cinematographer Matt Rodgers and producer Andrea
Fellers, we already had a shorthand that worked to our advantage. Having a
strong relationship with your crew is important. I have also worked with
several other crewmembers before: Costume designer Matthew Peridis,
production designer Anna Loesby, makeup & hair artist Alexandra
Graniello, on-set photographer Ryan Lawton, and composer Craig Richey. I
also had the good fortune to work with three friends: choreographer Nathan
Prevost, artist Caroline Ghani, and musician-songwriter-singer Printz
Board. His song Till the End (with his band Parker Lane) played
over the end credits. What I required from my cast and crew was not simple
and I set the bar very high and we met it. There was an authenticity that
I wanted to have in all aspects of the film, and the cast and crew did
everything they could to make that happen. We all were driven towards the
same goal. Everyone was invested. We had a six day shoot and it was an
incredible experience. For me, I felt that my crewmembers had my back. I
felt supported and was able to do my job freely.
$64-question of course, where can The
Gesture and the Word be seen?
Some upcoming festival
- UK Motion Pictures Film Festival - festival runs: August 30
- Summer in the South Film Festival - Friday - September 4 @ 8
pm - Atlanta, Georgia
- Imagine This Women's International Film Festival
- festival runs: September 25-27th
- The Soho London Independent Film
Festival - festival runs: November 20-22nd
There will be updates
and further postings of upcoming festivals on our Facebook and Instagram
sites, too: https://www.instagram.com/gesturefilm/
Anything you can
ell us about audience and critical reception of The
Gesture and the Word?
We have had
an incredible reception. I am beyond humbled at how many people love the
film. So many people have said how happy the film makes them feel,
especially during the global pandemic. I honestly wasn’t sure how the
film would be received, because it is a simple love story. I didn’t know
if it would catch the hearts of an audience; however, the feedback has
been one of appreciation. I feel as if we have lifted the hearts and moods
of so many people already and it is just the beginning.
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
I have a few projects that I am working on!
After seeing how people love the short film, I have decided to write a
feature version of The
Gesture and the Word. I am so excited, because I
love these characters and the world they inhabit! Another project that is
near and dear to me is The Time of the Wolves, which is inspired by my own
experience during the 2015 Paris terror attacks. It was originally to be
set in Paris, but I am now making Los Angeles the backdrop. However, I do
not want to make a film about that 2015 night, but instead create a
fictionalized story about the emotional trauma that people experience
during an event of this kind, as well as the hope and love that grows
between loved ones, friends, coworkers, and strangers. I am also
developing a documentary series about my father, In the Shadow of the
Storm, which follows his fleeing Latvia in 1944 and immigrating to America
as a refugee. He became a US naval captain and diplomat and was the last naval
attaché to the Soviet Union and the first to Russia after the 1991 coup d’état. In a perfect world, I would also create a narrative film
that follows the cyclical nature of his personal, military, and diplomatic
life and how my father’s most important journey was his leaving Latvia
for America and his return to his homeland in 1991. Lastly, while I was in
Paris, I wrote a feature film, The Burden of Light, which I am also
turning into a novel. It is about an American woman that inherits an
apartment in Paris and learns the truth about why her great aunt
immigrated to America before World War II. All four films have very different
What got you into making movies in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I have been highly
influenced by my family’s involvement in the entertainment industry. My
great-grandfather (Mark Hansen) came to Los Angeles with my grandmother
(Helen) and their family in 1921. He was a movie theatre and nightclub
owner. He was in the midst of Hollywood in the 20s-40s when he owned the
Florentine Gardens and my grandmother Helen was attending the Pasadena
Playhouse. As a child, my grandmother and mother (both cinema enthusiasts)
would spend hours talking about the old movies with me. I grew up on Bette
Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Vivian Leigh, Lawrence Olivier, Yul Brynner,
Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart… When sick from school, I’d watch the 3pm
matinee on TV with my mother that always showed an old movie. I was
schooled on the movies and stars of Old Hollywood. My grandfather Bill was
a location manager in the Bay Area and later an independent documentary
filmmaker and photographer. He influenced my interest in being behind the
camera. My grandfather Jack, a larger than life personality, told me
stories about the good ol’ Hollywood days. Perhaps that added to how I
romanticized this world at a young age. My mother had decided not to
follow in our family footsteps and had never imagined being a part of the
film industry. However, our closeness and our interest in film brought us
together as business partners in 2007. After creating several projects
together throughout the years, we have formed a partnership under Burden
& Light, LLC, our production company. It was perhaps inevitable that
our family history would bring us together in this way. Next year will be
our family’s 100 year anniversary in Hollywood. As far as education, I
was very fortunate to have some guidance while I was in high school. My
French teacher’s wife was a screenwriter and would discuss the craft of
screenwriting with me. I was given Syd Field’s Screenplay at
fourteen-years-old. I began my formal film education at Denison University
in Ohio, but I decided to transfer to Emerson College, the communications
school in Boston in 2000. While there, I worked as an intern and a director’s
assistant on documentaries from 2000-2002.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
Gesture and the Word?
moved to Los Angeles in 2002, I started working as a production assistant
on films like Seabiscuit, Anchorman, War of the Worlds,
name a few. This rite of passage taught me a great deal about what went
into making a film. As I “paid my dues”, I was given an all-access
pass and learned about each and every department while honing my own
skills as a PA and later non-union assistant director. In 2007, I directed
the award-winning short film The Weight of It. What a learning
experience. I went onto directing several spec commercials in 2010 in
order to build my reel, but took a seven and a half year detour to Paris,
France, where I concentrated on writing screenplays, directing the
occasional commercial, lecturing for MBA students, and enjoying the
influences of another culture. In 2018, I returned temporarily to Los
Angeles to direct a several spec commercials (again in order to bolster my
commercial reel). I did a #MeToo PSA - We Stand Together, which will be
soon be traveling the festival circuit, as well. Life in LA surprisingly
intrigued me once again and I permanently relocated back to California in
2019 in order to film The
Gesture and the Word.
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
I am a writer-director-producer. I love all
aspects of filmmaking from the development stage to festivals and
marketing. I am very hands on and enjoy my relationships with each
department. I believe in collaboration and not dictatorship. It’s
important to surround yourself with people that are experts in their
craft. You must trust your cast and crew. As a director, I am not the only
creator on set. It is like having a paint palette with a variety of
different colors. While I hold the palette, I recognize the importance of
each person’s contribution. The individual colors must come together to
create a whole piece. However, it’s important to be a strong and
decisive leader in order to guide all these different talents into one
final, cohesive film.
Filmmakers who inspired you?
David Lean, Jane Campion, Wong Kar-Wai, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Zhang Yimou,
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Darren Aronofsky.
The English Patient, Doctor
Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, In the Mood for Love, Queen
Margot, The Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, and Red, Raise the Red
Lantern, Amélie, Atonement, Burnt by the Sun, The
Piano, Chinatown, From
Here to Eternity, Truly, Madly, Deeply.
... and of course, films you really
Horror. I’m a scaredy-cat.
Your/your movie's website, social media,
Got a few sites that people might want to
Gesture and the Word:
currently being re-designed.
the Shadow of the Storm:
- has my current work, including my reel.
Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
I was fortunate enough as a
child to grow up overseas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1984-86) and Moscow,
USSR/Russia (1990-1992) when my father was the US naval attaché at the
American Embassies. These experiences have undoubtably influenced my life
and created a love for travel, for different cultures, and for their art,
music, and film. I feel that this part of my life has influenced my
filmmaking and storytelling, because I’m constantly looking to create
stories that incorporate the world and the different people within it.
Thanks for the