When a glamour photographer runs over a child's pet, he's forced to fabricate a story about its disappearance.
Interview with Director Ivan Barge
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you, I enjoy storytelling and the process of filmmaking. When I read the script for ‘Madam Black’, I knew it was a story I wanted to tell, it was a fantastic script.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Making a story work in a limited amount of time is a hard thing to do. So many short films show the technical prowess of the filmmaker, but feel like a trailer or a scene from a feature. While they might be shot well, with good performances, they fall down when it comes to the script. Films where there is no arc, that fail to take you on a journey or that don’t reward you with a payoff.
While ‘Madam Black’ is a funny and endearing story which connects emotionally with an audience. It has twists and turns, and a satisfying resolution.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
These days it seems you don’t have to look too far to see something bad happening in the world, and so I think there is a place for a film like ‘Madam Black’. A programmer of a festival in Italy, where we screened, watches the film whenever he’s feeling blue, and I get that. On the surface it’s a quirky comedy, but if you look past the laughter, it’s a story about humanity conveyed with humour, where the hero ultimately puts self interest aside. While it might not make you feel differently about the world, the hope is that it will make you feel differently about yourself.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The script was really solid to begin with. However, myself and Matthew Harris, who wrote the film, did read throughs to refine the dialogue and we added a couple of scenes. One never made the cut, which was a shame, as cinematically it was probably the best and it was also a great gag.
But in the edit there was a realisation that it did nothing to move the story forward, and so it was left out. The other scene was a pickup, which we shot a year later, it’s the very last shot of the film. While I’m all for awkward comedy, the ending felt a little too awkward and left the audience hanging. The film needed a full stop, and that’s what that scene does.
It also helped getting our lead actor, Jethro Skinner, on board. Because of the characters often questionable actions it needed someone audiences could empathise with, and so we had to cast far and wide. In the end we flew out Jethro from the UK to New Zealand to be involved in the film. It was one of the best decisions that I made during the whole process. Either side of the shoot he was on stage with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry, in the Richard III/Twelfth Night production that went from the West End to Broadway. He brought experience and a great collaborative approach to the project.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It’s been crazy, audiences love the film, they got it from the beginning. The films gone on to win Audience Awards at the New Zealand International Film Festival, Cleveland International Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, and at Clermont Ferrand , the world's biggest Audience Award for short film. It’s always harder with juries, especially if you have a comedy, as more earnest subject matter often wins. But they seem to be coming around with Jury Awards over the last six months in Canada, Italy, Spain and the USA
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
It’s certainly surprised me. When you’re making a film it has to be an obsession. Otherwise it doesn’t get made or you have a bad creative outcome. You need to be passionate about the story. The flip side of that is you become too close to a project, you lack objectivity. So when you release it into the ether and you step away, you don’t quite know what the reaction will be.
Even if friends and collaborators are positive, you’re always wondering how the film will be received. But watching it with an audience and seeing their reaction has been humbling and exciting, all at the same time.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The film has already been screened to over 40,000 people and been selected for festivals on 6 continents. I believe a film is made to me seen, so reaching the widest possible audience is always the goal.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
While ‘Madam Black’ has been selected for over 80 festivals, we still get rejections as there are so many great short films out there, it’s very competitive. We are coming to the end of our run, but there are festivals like Telluride that we would love to screen at.
We already have a distributor, Network Ireland Television, and they have been fantastic. The film has been licensed to several territories for broadcast at the end of year, which include RTI in Italy, Canal + in France and Spain.
Obviously coverage from journalists is always welcomed, but the main thing I’m looking for at the moment is an agent. Someone creative, that can help with future projects and create storytelling opportunities.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The reception has been great, the highlight of the journey thus far has been at Clermont Ferrand, they have wonderful audiences that love the medium of short film. When the lights came on at the end of our screening we received a standing ovation. You work so hard on a film, you give it everything. So it was an incredibly emotional moment for me, and one that I will never forget.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
The ending of the film is a little ambiguous in terms of the love interest, and that was intentional. I’d love audiences to leave debating the age old question, will they or won’t they?
Would you like to add anything else?
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss a project that so that’s so close to my heart, and I hope audiences that have yet to see the film enjoy it.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Given the success of the short, we want to make a feature. I’m working on a second draft, which is an adaptation of a New Zealand novel. While Matt is beavering away on an original story. The plan is to have two scripts by the end of year, and hopefully something sticks.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Director: Ivan Barge
Producer: Ivan Barge, Matthew Harris, Jozsef Fityus, Tim Judson & Brett Mills
Writer: Matthew Harris
About the writer, director and producer:
Ivan Barge is a director/producer. ‘Madam Black’ his second short film, has been selected for film festivals on 6 continents, winning numerous accolades.
Matthew Harris is a writer of films and fiction. His short films have screened internationally, from Tribeca to Clermont-Ferrand, accruing various awards and nominations.
Key cast: Jethro Skinner, Pearl Everard
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Agent & Journalists
Funders: New Zealand film Commission
Release date: 30/05/2015
Where can I watch it? Traverse City Film Festival http://secure.traversecityfilmfest.org/websales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=226245~4d61cd53-466a-4a38-9b0c-5dd9c77930d9&epguid=8fc1333c-62a3-467a-b51c-ada73714212e&