Your new movie The Fay - in a few words, what is it about?
a fantasy romance set during the Middle Ages.
It draws from a lot of Celtic mythology and follows in the
tradition of a lot of Arthurian legends, in which Arthur’s knights meet
and interact with magical beings from the so-called ‘fairy world’.
It’s about a knight who is wounded in battle and pursued through
a mysterious forest by his enemies, where he’s rescued by a beautiful
fay (a ‘fairy woman’ or ‘wood nymph’), who saves his life and
nurses him back to health, but then refuses to let him go.
film being based on ancient Celtic myth and medieval Arthurian romance -
care to elaborate, and what do you find fascinating about these topics?
I’ve always had a great personal love for Celtic myth and the tales of
King Arthur. My mother was
Welsh – King Arthur’s own people
–, and so I think I have a certain “genetic” appreciation for the
old legends. ;-)
And while the roots of these stories are of course pagan and very,
very old, there is a certain, implicitly “Christian” dimension to them
too – that is, the medieval preoccupation with chivalry and sacrificial
love. This is a very important
dimension in The Fay
idea of laying down your own life for the sake of someone you love.
sources of inspiration when writing The Fay?
aside from the myths themselves, we were very much influenced by how these
myths were visually represented throughout the history of art – most
especially in pre-Raphaelite painting, which was a school of art that was
very popular during the Victorian period in the 19th Century,
and which drew inspiration from Celtic myth and the tales of King Arthur,
etc. One of our chief
goals in making The Fay
was to bring a pre-Raphaelite painting to
life on film; and I think we came very close to it, thanks principally to
our very talented cinematographers Gerardo Puglia and Leon Sanginiti, as
well as to our costume designer Melissa Diaz, our creator of special
makeup effects David Deneen, and others who fleshed out my production and
With The Fay
being a period piece full of mythical creatures, what
challenges did that pose? And while we're at it, what can you tell us
about the effects work in your movie?
There were certainly
quite a few challenges. ;-) In
terms of the creatures (all of whom are stock characters from ancient
Celtic myth, such as Cernunos or the Greenman) David Deneen, as I said,
did a remarkable job of bringing them to life.
The difficulty was of course working in the forest and maintaining
the makeup and costumes for so many characters.
The same was true of the knight battle at the beginning of the
film. Weather, rain, and
especially wind always seemed to be against us.
As you probably saw, the film has a lot of mist in it, and the wind
was always blowing our mist away.
;-) Fortunately, our
VFX artist Leon Sanginiti was able to save the day and correct this
problem in post by using digital mist and blending it rather seamlessly
with our physical, on-location mist.
And Leon actually created a great many, very subtle digital
effects that appear throughout the film, which do much to enhance the
scenes and the cinematography, while (hopefully) not calling attention to
themselves as digital effects.
How would you
describe the film's look and feel?
Well, as I said, our goal was to match the look and feel of a
pre-Raphaelite painting – to bring a pre-Raphaelite painting to life.
To do this, we started out shooting in 35mm film; and about half of
the movie is shot on 35mm film by our DP Gerardo Puglia, whose
cinematography always inspired and seemed to have a “pre-Raphaelite”
quality to me. I seriously
thought that shooting on film was essential to capturing the type of rich,
“painterly” images that we needed to tell the story.
But, to be honest, we ran out of money and needed to switch to HD
video to complete the production. ;-) Something I was very reluctant to do, but which my co-producer
and other DP Leon Sanginiti assured me could work and give us everything
we needed. Fortunately,
many HD formats are now so advanced that, with a few post-production
tricks (thanks to Leon), we were able to create a fairly seamless match
between the film stock and the HD video; and most viewers (unless they are
seasoned cinematographers) will probably never notice the difference.
This was important, because, in many ways, The Fay
much a “cinematographer’s film” – that is, the cinematography
carries “the substance” of the story.
Also, in terms of feel and style, The Fay
(as you noted,
Michael) is very simplistic and almost “flat” in the way it is
directed. This was
intentional, because I wanted it to feel like a very linear, medieval
narrative … almost like viewing a medieval tapestry or stone carvings on
the wall of some medieval cathedral.
Medieval storytelling is very simple and linear like this; and I
thought it would be appropriate to the film.
Sarah von Ouhl
Veronica Lane, Tyler Oakey
Do talk about your
movie's key cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
We were very lucky to have our cast, most especially Sarah von
Ouhl, who I think is an incredible talent; and you only see a small potion
of what she is capable of in The Fay.
She very much carries the film, however, and I’m very indebted to
her for that. Likewise,
I think Tyler Oakey brings a wonderful innocence and sincerity to his part
as the Knight, and Veronica Lane is of course gorgeous and a wonderful
addition as our Lady. As
you know, aside from a few words in medieval French, there is no dialogue
in The Fay; and so it was very important that our actors were able
to communicate and have us relate to them solely through their expressions
and gestures; and I think that Sarah was especially skilled at this.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
productions I’ve worked on, almost everyone involved in the making of The Fay
is a close, personal friend.
We were a very tight-knit group, and we are very familiar with each
other’s talents and abilities. I
think this was very beneficial when it came to making The Fay, and
doing so effectively and efficiently, because it was such an ambitious
project, but with a limited budget.
future projects beyond The Fay you'd like to share?
thanks for asking. We
are now in pre-production on our next film, which is a horror feature
called Carlotta’s Lover.
Our new production company Monstrosity Films
will be producing a succession of horror features in the next few years,
and the goal is to create a new aesthetic for horror films, with strong
stories and unique characters; and imbued with the same rich visuals and
production values as The Fay.
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I’m one of
those people who’s been making films since he was about 10 years old.
;-) I actually started
out as a kid and a teenager wanting to be a stop-motion animator.
For me, Willis O’Brien (King
Kong, Mighty Joe Young) and
Ray Harryhausen (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts)
were gods, and I wanted to make those kinds of films.
I later attended film school, where I became more interested in
directing and working with actors, and I later developed my writing
abilities and artistic skills as a production and character designer. But I think all of this comes from making films on my own when I
was a kid, where you’re of course forced to do everything – write,
design, direct, etc. I
think early, hands-on experience is very important, and I know a lot of
filmmakers have a similar background.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to The Fay?
Well, after film school, I lived in Los Angeles for a number of
years, where I worked as a writer (sometimes writer-producer) for several
major studios and agencies. I
worked as a (uncredited) script doctor and story consultant for various
productions, but none of my own projects ever got off the ground.
While my spec screenplays were always optioned by the studios, all
of them ended up in what’s called “development hell”.
So, after several years of this, I kind of gave up on the
“Hollywood dream” and moved back to the East Coast (USA), where I
started my own production company, making TV commercials and internal
programs for a lot of tech and pharmaceutical companies.
But, I never gave up the desire to make actual movies, and I guess
I’m just beginning to make that a reality with our new company,
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
To be honest, in a lot of ways,
I’m still just a kid with my Super 8 camera trying to bring his
fantasies to life. ;-)
I think that’s a very healthy approach to filmmaking, and I think
it’s where great films actually come from – that is, from a childlike
imagination and a sincere sense of wonder.
I think everything flows from that.
The great thing about filmmaking is that it allows you to share
your visions – your fantasies – with others.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Too many to mention, really.
I’m inspired by different filmmakers for different reasons. David Lean and Stanley Kubrick influence me in very profound,
almost subconscious ways. Spielberg
(especially early Spielberg), John Landis, other directors from the
80’s are most certainly the origin of my technique.
I think I learned to direct from watching them, not to mention the
master of masters himself, Alfred Hitchcock, who I think all directors
draw from to one extent or another. But,
O’Brien and Harryhausen are still my inspiration; and lately I’ve
rediscovered and developed a deep appreciation for the Italian filmmaker
Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio -
click here], who influenced me from an early age, without me fully
As with filmmakers, I
have different “favored movies” for different reasons.
But, as silly as it may sound, if you asked me to choose an
all-time favorite film, it still remains the original King
Kong (1933). While the acting
isn’t everything it could be, and it’s of course a film from the early
1930’s and must be viewed in that historical context, for me, King
Kong is very close to a perfect film – an unforgettable, highly
story, balanced with dynamic visuals, incredible sound, brilliant music,
and almost every other element you can mention.
... and of course, films you really
I won’t mention any
by name, but I will say that I find most big-budget, CGI-bloated Hollywood
spectacles both deplorable and un-watchable.
This is mainly true of fantasy-adventure movies – a genre that I
grew up on, and supposedly love!
In fact, I rarely go to the cinema anymore because of this.
Hollywood, I think, has totally lost its way in this area.
Rather than creating real cinema (and making money based on quality
and truly entertaining productions), it’s all about marketing and
merchandising, and in very direct and shameless ways.
It’s really quite insulting.
Hollywood has almost abandoned the art of storytelling; and the art
of special effects is now (almost) indistinguishable from video game
graphics. In fact, most
Hollywood fantasy-adventures are nothing more than video games … or, I
should say, an excuse to merchandize video games.
;-) It’s simply
not cinema anymore. Because of
the ease of CGI (which can be an effective filmmaking tool when it’s
not overused), I think mainstream (Hollywood) fantasy films have entered a
“Baroque period”, where art has been reduced to mere “decoration,”
and there is no real sense of wonder or fascination (or adventure),
because it’s all over-done … and
because neither story nor character really matters.
I think it’s seriously time for filmmakers in this genre to
develop a new aesthetic. But,
will the Hollywood infrastructure ever allow them to?
That is very doubtful; and it’s why, I think, independent film
will continue to grow in importance.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Thanks for allowing me to plug
our websites. ;-)
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Just that I hope your readers will check out
they have an opportunity to do so) and enjoy it.
We’re still making decisions about distribution, but The Fay
is currently screening at numerous film festivals in the USA and in
Europe, and we will make announcements about these screenings (as they
develop) on our website.
Thanks for the interview!
you, Michael. I greatly
appreciate the opportunity, and I love your site!
Please keep up the great work!