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An Interview with Andrew J.D. Robinson, Director of Beauty Sleep

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2014

Films directed by Andrew J.D. Robinson on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Beauty Sleep - in a few words, what is it about?


Beauty Sleep is a subversive portrait of contemporary identity loss.


What were your key inspirations when dreaming up Beauty Sleep?


I begin with a theme and build a story around that. Truths are complex carbohydrates that can be stretched at fantastical lengths whereas falsities are simple starches that, although may taste good, may taste familiar, and may satisfy commercial conventions, are stories aiming to make its viewer feel full rather than contribute towards fulfillment. That motive and its key theme – as long as we remain self-consumed, we remain sedated – were both of its key inspirations.


Since Beauty Sleep at least in my eyes is an associative rather than narrative movie, did you ever run the danger of losing your story in the movie's associative nature?


Whenever you integrate dream logic to dramatic structure, you run the risk of losing your story and your audience. We continue to be at risk and always receive hate it or love it reactions based on their associations.


Firstly, differentiating experimental and surrealism is key. Experimental films danger their stories as its artist chases their next instinct without judgment whereas surreal films use symbols to serve its definite theme. On the surface, Blue Velvet (1986) is about a young man who embarks on the mystery of a battered lounge singer, but its theme… which the opening montage plays out, is about the bugs, the monsters, that brood underneath our white-picket fence American dream.


Beauty Sleep’s story is not at risk – everything was done on purpose with purpose -- but its interpretation, its relationship with the audience individually will always be. For example, we have been met with warm embrace AND cold festival declines – horror festivals – because, as one programmer put it, “Although our film is very interesting, the film does not fit into our program as a whole” amongst sub-genre conventions; the slasher, the ghost, etc. Our main danger is the public’s perception of what horror “is supposed to be” rather than what it “could” be.


You of course have to talk about the film's rather unique look and feel for a bit, and how was all of this achieved?


People are more than right when they say I am artsy, because I come from a graphic novel background. I used to illustrate genre-blending comics to high school classmates. Further more, I have a great personal connection to painting. No Photoshop to serve, no music to suggest, no magic of editing… art in its purest form. With this film, and what my film eye ultimately is, is to incorporate moving paintings. Beauty Sleep’s art direction from the start was distortions and set out to have its protagonist act more as a conduit than a character in a narrative film, to take us through her nightmares… and because she was to represent the average 9-5 modern citizen, to take us through our own. The overlaps, the backwards acting, the sharp synth sounds, the static, and the laugh tracks were mutant tools to paint this optical world; our world slightly askew.


What can you tell us about your lead and only actress, Maura Stephens, and what made her perfect for the role? And what was your collaboration like?


The character is not only a shade of herself, but is a darkness her compassion recognizes in strangers, something her heart would not keep in the shade. Not far from the truth, she once told me that she saw “Mary Lynn”, a young girl physically aching of loneliness waiting for her bus. She feels more deeply than the average person both as a performer and person. Sometimes my job is to harness that fire with petroleum retardant gel to protect herself from herself where other times my job is simply to spray a path of lighter fluid for her to burn, to run with, to take over. And the thing with fire is that, given the right perimeters, can bend and manipulate any form, any story, which is why she is a staple of my films for many to come whether it be comedy, conventional drama, and so forth.


You also have to talk about the music used in your film for a bit!


Curtis Berndt/Airplanes Over Johannesburg is the Trent Reznor to my Fincher, the Angelo Badalamenti to my David Lynch. We are a nocturnal brotherhood shining light to the dark and seeking to darken the light. I often times have him study, or crack out his iPod in all honesty, to songs, sounds that not only may have a technical layer I want us to explore, but an overall feel. Much invention is innovation, knowing which waters we’ve chartered, and consciously building upon those ideas. We had to dedicate the film to John Carpenter. There was one sequence in particular we call “the ghost tunnel” that rifted off a track from Escape from New York, except we turned it into something more operatic as if it were a cheese sandwich melting under an angry sun. That wasn’t the way I had worded it in studio, but I bet it was the elephant in the room, haha!

Also, Curtis’ sensibilities, if it were a cardinal sign, would be air. Like the wind, whispers, wailings… his scores can be as if it were feelings breathing. We share the same key influences – Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Krysztof Penderecki, Trent Reznor – amongst many obscure findings from either side. I am a huge fan of music. Most of my stories claw their way out from instrumentals. Curtis is an extension of my craft as much as Maura is a rare muse. She is most fit to bring up when talking about the film’s music, because although she does not play, the way she feels through scenes has its own metronome that Curtis and I both recognize while in studio, while speaking about the concepts of her performances.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The key to our circus family – Maura Stephens, Curtis Berndt, Ashley Robinson, and I – is pulling people close who will keep each other in check: steel sharpens steel. The examples go in circles: Maura convinced me to re-vamp our surprise in the film, Curtis composed a score devised from my recording of riding a desolate bus, and Ashley was a ghost of sensible gems weaving in-and-out of all departments. No matter the situation, that interaction is prominent.


There are many spoilers to be shared, but what I will say is that everyone was transient in their contributions. Each department powered the other: a powerful performance could not be if it weren’t for bold filmmaking, scenes would not feel dangerous if it weren’t for the cerebral music made of primal FX, and the music would not have a story within its obscurities to tell if it weren’t for an actress who could carry the weight of its ambitions.


The $64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the general public?


Online sometime before Christmas, our version of Krampus haha. But as a special thank you for readers, fans, and affiliates, who ever reads this interview: - password: doppelganger


Any future projects you'd like to share?


For the first time since entering the local scene in 2010, we have registered into a local 72hr Film Challenge; Sparta. Our film is called, Blackout, a psychological horror film. More conventional, however, spookiness ensues in different shapes and forms, following two women trapped in a motel during a global blackout. I won’t divulge too much, but “Claire Harris” – played by Angela Parent – is an acronym of the two female protagonists in The Haunting (1963), which Blackout acts as a certain love letter to.


For the record, I do believe in “Never show the monster” technique, however, unless you construct a monster the audience could never had imagined – Universal Monsters, The Thing (1982), Guillermo Del Toro’s work – celebrate the monster. It depends what type of story you are serving. For example, if you showed the ghosts in The Changeling (1980), it would fall flat. Its suggestions cut deep, because of its mystery story. However, if you kept every threat in the shadows, it would be a dish getting cold. I bring this up because there is a third way, which is most ominous where you think you know, but you don’t know – Michael Myers in Halloween (1978), Psycho’s (1960) shower scene, and Black Christmas (1974) – which is the tradition Blackout is going. You may feel you are getting a bright-as-day look at the horror, but find yourself soon after not knowing how to place it.


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Growing up watching TV too close, especially catching certain films that found their way to re-wire me. Not in a protester’s picket-sign way where movies are dangerous to a child’s mind, rather, for me movies opened myself to the magic of life through that child’s eyes. My guts are in the horror genre and the catalyst really was people, the news, questioning authority, fear of authority, fear of aging, of sickness, nightmares. Film was a boiling kettle of all my passions I explored and embedded throughout my life; a language.

I have no formal training and don’t believe anyone is “self-taught” because my bible is Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel Without a Crew, his 10 minute film schools, audio commentaries by David Fincher, John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, interviews with Clive Barker, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, and essays on Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polanski.

I would not say the best way to learn is to start. The better way is to start, but you have to continue finding a way towards becoming your best. Pressure can bust pipes or create diamonds. I believe in refining your strengths and always being excited to find your boundaries, so you can push them.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Two gears of mine – as a writer/director – would be the importance of vision, having vision, with room for romance. Yes, romance. That doesn’t mean extravagant either. Simple is a style too, a very difficult one that calls for precise premeditation. Vision is my bottom-line at the end of each film, each scene, each written line… what is its meaning? Does it know its meaning? To find its poetry, it has to find the root of its pain.

Directing is only an extension of my writing, to express the words in-between the lines that someone just reading for the who, what, when, where, and why’s may not adjust their eyes to, may not know exists… co-exists rather with the subject matter. I feel I’m more of a parent just trying to raise their children to lead fulfilling lives whether they have the answers or continue to ask the right questions. A romantic visionary; a description some will see odd while others may find themselves oddly agreeing with.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Ed Wood [Ed Wood bio - click here].


Your favourite movies?


There are many, but never far too many. For Beauty Sleep, the ones amongst my favourites that got together and conspired this crime haha were Carnival of Souls (1962), Repulsion (1965), They Live (1988), Videodrome (1983), Eraserhead (1977), Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Suspiria (1977).

Dario Argento is arguably my greatest unsung influence on technique, storyboarding, and instincts. His philosophy with music and image, how when both are synonymous, creates a new level of experience; a note that no stage play or song could ever hit, ever stir the soul. Suspiria (1977) is arguably my favorite film because it truly is like stepping into someone’s dream; cinema in its most purest form. All departments come together like an opera and it truly shows the importance of having vision. The script is familiar, however, how he executes the story belongs up there to preserve, to study, to even have in a museum!


... and of course, films you really deplore?


Any film that is a factory of bubblegum emotions, that campaigns to satisfy the most carnal needs of the human condition. The definition of pornography is typecasted. Its most true meaning should also be applied to something commercial that has no artistic and/or spiritual merit. You can fill in the margins with whichever marquees you see fit.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Twitter: @rabbitrunfilms



Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


My only send-off would be for everyone to live the poetry, to get it in camera. If it didn’t happen in camera, it didn’t happen! I see a lot of aspiring filmmakers. I want to tell them to become perspiring filmmakers haha because if you aren’t bleeding, crying, and sweating to shoot films, you aren’t working fast enough. I believe you when you say you are working hard, but life is a countdown you can’t afford to not make each day count. While you are counting your blessings, someone is counting their strength, the one that starts in you. It can’t be given. It can’t be bought. No one else is going to write it, no one else is going to direct it, and hell no one else could ever dream it. The only who-what-when-where-why you need to know is when. The rest will fall into place if your when starts now. Much love and horror.


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



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... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


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