A timid housewife is jolted into a fight for her survival or sanity at her weekly bridge club when she thinks she hears her new partner utter a threat.
Interview with Director
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thanks, I made the film for a couple of reasons. I work primarily in commercials, which involves working for companies and always serving what will be the most effective in getting their story or products story across in an economical way (usually 30 seconds). So the idea of making a film where I could follow my own instincts, didn’t have to justify every angle or moment to a committee of people paying for it, with a much longer time line was thrilling. I also felt pretty desperate creatively to make something that was for me and an audience.
The second party is why did I make THIS film— and the answer is because when I found the short story I thought it was one of the most unique stories with a main character I’d never seen before in a setting I’d never seen before. Setting a thriller in the world of a small town bridge club felt so exciting, and telling a story that relied mainly on female characters over 50 whose marriage or kids weren’t their primary concern felt worthwhile to me.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I can almost guarantee you’ll jump out of your seat at least once and definitely laugh more than once. What I’m proud of and I think makes it an interesting watch is the level of tension that doesn’t rely on violence. The film would be nothing without the incredible performances from Beth Grant (The Mindy Project, Little Miss Sunshine, No Country for Old Men) and four time Emmy Nominee Sharon Laurence (NYPD Blue) and Oscar nominee Robert Forster. Watching such seasoned veterans play with the material makes for a fun and chilling experience.
Lastly, aside from the setting, this is a thriller that happens to have a primarily female cast. I for one would like to see more female characters in films that aren’t ‘the wife,’ ‘the girlfriend or the ‘grandmother.’ This is a Bechdel test passing story that has complex, real women fighting for their lives. Films that have a female cast don’t have to be exclusively ‘for female viewers.’ Everyone wants to see compelling stories, so why not see one that happens to feature two women in the lead.
Can you discuss the personal and universal themes in your film?
The biggest theme that was present for me is trusting your own instinct. In life we always have intuition telling us things, but we love to listen to other people and tamp it down and ignore what we feel. This story is about a woman who has the sense someone wants to hurt her and nobody will listen to her— she’s too afraid to do anything and starts to doubt herself. It’s only when she’s really tested that she stands up for herself. I haven’t had someone want to kill me, but I’ve suspected that employers didn’t value me, or that I was walking into or staying in a bad situation, but ignored my intuition and went along with it. For me, I liked that this is a story of someone that learns to trust herself and that her life is indeed worth fighting for.
There is also quite a bit in the dialogue that deals with the idea that some people are sheep-like in nature— meaning they weak and born prey. And some people are like dogs, they just can’t help but kill even though they’ve been domesticated— its still in their blood. I don’t really subscribe to that view, but I think it’s fascinating because that kind of reduction has been used to justify a lot of terrible things in the world.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
It started as a short story by the fantasy author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), and I had the task of adapting it from 23 pages and weeks of ‘story time’ into 12 pages and just a few days. I think I wrote 20 versions, shared them with all my friends and colleagues from film school to get people’s feedback. When it came down to the thick of shooting, I realized it was much too long and I’d end up with a 23 minute film— which makes it challenging to be seen and programed at festivals. I realized that instead of resolving the entire story as the source material did, I could leave it at a cliffhanger and leave room for interpretation. Given the madness of the shoot it seemed crazy to chop out 4 scenes the night before shooting them but I’m so grateful I did because the story is so much more appropriate for a short now.
I have trouble with some short films that have a character go through too much change or to sharp an arc for the screen time. I remember when I was studying film at USC, a professor once said something to the effect that in a feature film, a character has an arc and changes— but in a short, a character has a realization. The idea being that if you see a character go through too much change in just 5 to 10 minutes, the audience won’t buy it and it will feel forced, or unearned. So with THE BRIDGE PARTNER, I was very concerned about depicting the main character going through a grand transformation in 5 minutes and then becoming a different person.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
It’s been very positive, it’s played in 33 festivals around the world, won Best Horror / Suspense at Comic Con, was hand picked by Wes Craven prior to his passing for the Best Horror Short Film at Catalina Film Festival and won a couple others. What I find interesting is that given the film is more of a suspense / thriller than horror— when a true gore horror fan sees it they are disappointed because they don’t see that full violent transformation— I almost deny the payoff. But fans of drama or suspense complement me on the restraint and the fact that so much is done with so little physical action.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The biggest surprise I had was that the original story and some of the script had dark comedy in it. As I directed it I wanted that to come out in tone, as there are no actual jokes. But by the time editing was done, I’d seen it hundreds of times and feared all the humor and absurdity of the situation might not be playing. But when we started screening it in an actual audience, with 30, 40 or 100 people, not only did they jump, they laughed quite a few times. It was magic to see that particular element of the story return once it was exhibited in a venue with people taking part in the shared experience that is cinema. Strangely the dark humor doesn’t play at all for people watching alone on a vimeo link.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I’m not sure, I’m just learning about the site. I guess world wide acclaim, 1,000,000 people seeing the film and begging for more, perhaps a 3 picture deal at a major studio. Too much?
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I’ve been fortunate having some festival director requesting the film, and I’d certainly love to see it travel to more. I think people writing about it would be great as well, especially leading up to the online release this fall.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Impact and reception are two different things. In terms of impact in the broader sense, I’d love it if people saw it and were reminded that women in their 50s and 60s can be in many types of stories and can play wider ranging roles than we typically see them. We all live rich and diverse lives, so lets remember that films can depict that.
In terms of reception, I just want it to play as much as possible and have as many people see it as possible, but that's not a surprise. I’d love people to notice some of the care and thought that went into every aspect of the film. One of the things I enjoyed was the control of palette. Since we were a low budget short, I couldn’t paint all the locations the colors I wanted so we instead worked to subtract certain colors.
For instance you’ll notice that the color red isn’t present anywhere except for Olivials lips and a few drops of blood. The color blue is completely absent from most of the film, as represented danger and change. So aside the antagonist’s wardrobe we don’t see it until the end when the protagonist begins to shift. These are simple visual storytelling techniques that are much more challenging to pull off on a budget, but I’m glad we were able to make some of that happen. I like to think that people won’t consciously notice it, but will feel it.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Does Mattie (Beth Grant) kill Olivia (Sharon Lawrence) in the end?
What are you developing or working on now?
I’m writing a thriller set in a single location, I’m also developing a modest budget Sci-Fi Thriller with a talented writer, set a couple years in the future with a female protagonist, and working with a playwright as he adapts his work into a feature.
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
The Bridge Partner
Gabriel Olson (source material by Peter S. Beagle)
About the director:
Gabriel is a Los Angeles based commercial director working on setting up his first feature film.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sure, I’m looking for everything
Funders: Send them my way.
Release date: Released March 2015, and online release will be October 2016