How far would you go to know your child?
Interview with writer/director David Gaddie and actor Natalie Smith
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
David Gaddie: I like to tell stories that make people feel and I also love the epic, poetic possibilities of science fiction. I searched for a short story I could adapt that would offer me these possibilities. I discovered (author) Ken Liu’s beautiful story “Memories of my Mother” and I knew I had to make it.
Natalie Smith: As an actor, I was drawn to this film because I found the story both really moving and also so fun for the imagination. Reading the script, I was really excited by the women as central characters and their relationship being the key aspect of the story.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
NS: A number of reasons! Firstly, I think it's cinematically very beautiful. On an emotional level, it is a very deep story which asks some really interesting questions about the nature of time, technology, and love. It's also a female powered story so, you know, you just should.
DG: Beautiful Dreamer will transport you to a near-future world that is brought to life through a series of staggered meetings between a mother and daughter across 80 years. The future environment of the story is always changing and evolving, which is both fascinating and entertaining, but you will also be captured by the strong, human story that unfolds at the center of the film – the story of a mother and daughter struggling to find love, meaning and acceptance in their relationship, despite the longing and distance that separates them.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
DG: When we were writing the film, we became very aware that we were writing two stories. There was the specific story about a mother who chooses to leave her baby daughter and travel into space so that she can use relativity to stretch her last two years over her daughter’s lifetime. It also become obvious to us that this could be viewed as a metaphoric story about a parent who has died and ‘haunts’ her daughter over her lifetime, a phantasm of the child’s longing and imagination. The ongoing presence of the mother is both painful and wonderful, but it takes the daughter many years to deal with the impact of her ghostly mother’s presence.
Many themes come to play over the course of the film because it deals with such a basic separation that we have all experienced - the separation of mother and child. It explores questions of generational responsibility, mortality and meaning, longing and loss, connection, reunion, acceptance, attachment and love. When the daughter surpasses her visiting mother in age, more questions emerge and we find ourselves wondering about the perception of time, wisdom, aging and alienation.
NS: I always say the most personal themes are also the most universal. This film is an emotional story between a mother and daughter. The specificity of the story - being set in the future and the futuristic ability for a mother to stretch out her last few years of life in order to see her daughter grow up - I think is what actually opens it up to be so universal in a funny way. Most of us can relate to the pain of separation from someone you love dearly, especially a parent/caretaker, and many can relate to not wanting to miss your child's life.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
DG: Many people ask about how (and why) a team of guys created a film about two women that feels so honest. My answer is always that firstly we focused on a very personal human story that all people can connect to regardless of gender. We also shared the film with many people along the way, absorbing personal stories and anecdotes. The final script brought in many of these ideas. We then worked with a wonderful female cast who all brought so much to their roles.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
DG: People respond differently to the film, but they always respond. We often hear from people who have lost someone close to them who say that the film had a profound impact on them. The story makes us really think about what it is to grow up, to be loved, to love and finally, to die. Children respond to it with thoughtful questions. Sometimes the film even makes people angry. It almost always makes people think and feel and to ask themselves what they would have done in the mother’s shoes.
I have really enjoyed hearing people connecting the story in the film to their own stories of loss or family relationships. I want to make films that connect with people and affect them so when people are moved I feel like the film has been a success. A friend brought his 11-year-old daughter to a screening and wrote to me afterwards to say the family had talked about the film the next day on their walk to school.
His daughter was fascinated by the difficulty of the mother’s choice and discussed what she would have done. On the other hand, I have been surprised by a few people who have hated the film for all the reasons that others have loved it. You learn from the critics but it’s also fascinating how people can have such wildly different opinions of films.
NS: The feedback of some people being angry at the mother character has really surprised me. It's funny because my character is angry at her too at some points, but personally, when I watch it, I feel bad for the mother and empathize with her wishing to see her daughter grow up. It's really made me think differently about the need to grieve for someone you lose.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
DG: We are planning to release the film online in the next few months. I hope that people connect with the film on our facebook page so that they can be notified of the release. I think everyone involved in the film did such a wonderful job. The cast of actresses are incredible and I really want them to receive the recognition that they deserve.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
DG: I welcome any invitations to screen this film. It plays wonderfully to festival audiences and generates so much inspired conversation. I am also working out the best strategy for our online release and welcome calls from distributors who would like to discuss platforms that could be of interest. This is a 26 minute film, so it’s more of a featurette than a traditional short film. I think that it’s a really great length to tell a story so I hope it can find an audience in the mood for a powerful film that can be watched in a shorter timeframe than a full length drama.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
NS: I would like this film to have a healing impact on those who have grieved/need to grieve. I would also like it to spark fierce conversations about "what would you do?" And “What will the future be like?” In a very literal way, I would like mothers and their daughters to squeeze each other tight.
DG: The audience should be moved by the performances and the emotional context that the story and script provide. These really are two characters who love one another despite a quite painful separation neither can help. We did consciously write it to be sad and to provoke that response. But we also wrote it to be beautiful and poignant and I think there’s a lot of beauty in Shawn Greene’s cinematography, and in the compelling performances and the work of all the artists who toiled to build out and enhance a future New York.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
If you could stay alive but you had to leave your child, would you do it? If you could stretch the remainder of your life over decades but only see your daughter once every seven years, would you do it?
Would you like to add anything else?
DG: Creating a future world for the story required a strategic combination of visual effects and in-camera footage. We knew we had to add production values that would sell the future without access to a Hollywood budget so our approach was to take real locations and add small post-production details that would transform the spaces in some way without getting in the way of the drama.
We picked key wide shots that we could enhance with matte paintings to convey various future time periods. It was important to communicate that we were in an evolving future so we attempted to create a key signifier for each period in order to differentiate them. Visual effects were also used to create many of the sets for the low budget shoot. The space-craft interior, the space elevator and the driverless cab are all CG constructions.
My favorite part of the process however was crafting the sound and music. These elements so wonderfully create an immersive, emotional world for the characters to inhabit.
We shot during the New York winter to give the film a “wintry” look which would support the “frozen” context of the mother’s journey and their static relationship.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
DG: We’re working on a variety of projects but we’re hoping our first feature will be a powerful “reverse-gendered” film noir with a female detective. We’re currently developing the screenplay based on a story that we have optioned. It’s a really interesting world and a great character but we can’t talk too publicly about it yet. We’re certainly looking for investors and partners to bring that project to fruition.
We’re also considering rebuilding Beautiful Dreamer as a feature film which is an intriguing idea and involves rethinking the story and characters to create a strong and compelling feature. We’ve been approached by producers interested in seeing this happen.
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
Length: 26 minutes
Director: David Gaddie
Producer: David Gaddie, Quentin Little
Writer: David Gaddie, Steven Kelleher. Based on a short story by Ken Liu.
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer, Director, Producer:
David Gaddie is an award-winning commercials director living in New York, returning to narrative filmmaking.
Writer: Steven Kelleher is a screenwriter and script developer living in New York.
Producer: Quentin Little is a New York-based producer and line producer.
Key cast: Jo Armeniox, Natalie Smith, Caroline Bednar, Theis Weckesser and Lynn Cohen.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Film festival directors, buyers
Made in association with: The Colony Media / Afterparty VFX.
Release date: Check with us on facebook.com/BDreamerFilm
Where can I watch it? We have a screening on Saturday July 30, 2pm in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival and at July 30, 7pm at Reel to Real Film Festival in North Carolina. In August, you can catch us at Hollyshorts 2016 and at GenreBlast Film Festival, then DragonCon Film Festival in Atlanta. Please check on the Beautiful Dreamer facebook page for updates.