|Victoria Film Festival Interview - Rez Bomb director Steven Lewis Simpson
by Jason Whyte
Rez Bomb at Victoria Film Festival
ďSet on and around the poorest place in the USA, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Rez Bomb is a love story/thriller about a Lakota girl and a white guy who are very much in love but get themselves into trouble with a brutal money lender and its against the clock for them to bail themselves out.Ē Director Steven Lewis Simpson on ďRez BombĒ which screens at this yearís Victoria Film Festival on January 30th and February 3rd.
Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the filmís screenings.
This is the first time Iíve had a film screen at the Victoria Film Festival. So far the film has toured a number of North American film festivals and we have our European Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in mid February.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.
Before being in film at 18, I was the youngest qualified stockbroker and market trader in the UK. I then left that world at 22 and move to LA to work for legendary producer Roger Corman and this marked my full move into film. Nine months later, I was in production on my first feature film Ties. The passion for the medium came through being inspired by the classic works of the likes of Kurosawa and Scorsese but since then itís been the power of pure storytelling that has taken over as the motivating factor.
How did this whole project come together?
In 1996 an investor in Edinburgh who was an admirer of my first feature film was interested in backing me to make another feature and kicked me some money to shoot a promo of it. I knocked around a few story ideas and a couple of weeks later Iíd handed in a first draft of a project called Pulse that was set in Edinburgh. About 2 months later Iíd finished shooting the opening nine minutes as a promo to secure the financing. Things were moving well. The promise of finance for the full feature failed to materialize however so I took the project out to market and got a lot of interest in the industry. Top-notch sales companies and gap finance companies were interested in footing half the cost but the soft money didnít bite and without any suitable names to provide the sales estimates required to unlock the finance things soon stagnated.
I put the project on the shelf and went and produced and directed a couple of other features as well as getting involved in some other projects. Then in 2005 I had financiers give me some money to shoot whatever I wanted with so I decided I really wanted to shoot a film on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and not do another in Scotland so I rewrote the old Pulse script and it became Rez Bomb. The key to the cast was an actress with a suitable American Indian background to fit the character physically and I heard about Tamara Feldman and saw her first ever performance as a lead, which was as an American Indian character on Smallville. She lit up the screen and I knew I had my star. Form then on it was just a case of tooling up and casting the other leads and off we went on our magical mystery production.
Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the filmís cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.
The film was mainly shot on HD, although I shot a few small bits in the films opening on a stills camera with a high-speed shutter. For me shooting the film myself worked well both in terms of how small our production had to be to fully negotiate shooting in the poorest place in the USA where there is no infrastructure but it also speeds up the process too. For me the camera here was loose and felt its way through with the characters movement; Much of it instinctive in the moment. The strong look of the film was mainly created through vigorous grading but we also shot some key moments in slow motion. We shot on the Panasonic HVX200 which at the time was the only camera of its type that could deliver the slow motion we required. Also by shooting it myself the production moves a lot faster. Eighteen days on location where we had to negotiate continuous changes meant a very high fast turnover of scenes.
Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?
The most difficult aspect really was the fact that we constantly had to plan production just ahead of what we were shooting and there was little time to creatively play within that time.
The best moment for me was filming on Arlette Loud Hawkís birthday. We were shooting the scene with her, the character of her husband and Jaws and were using her real home as the location. Now Arlette became a bit star struck initially working with Chris Robinson as she revealed that when she was in college sheíd run home early to watch General Hospital when it was in its heyday and Chris was one of its stars. She was so excited to be working with him. Then Trent and Tamara turned up with a cake, flowers and a brick of cigarettes for her and we all had a party for her. It must have been one of the most memorable birthdays of her life and considering Arlette has had an extremely hard life, indeed the FBI have described her family as one of the two most hostile families in the most hostile area in the USA and have constantly given them a hard time. It was great to open the door to that experience. In the following year Arlette suffered from cancer and Tamara went out to the reservation time and time again to help her through the Chemotherapy. Fortunately she survived.
Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?
I didnít draw any particular inspirations technically for this film but in my formative years my main influences were Kurosawa, Scorsese (his early work), Leone and Eisenstein.
How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the filmís screenings at Victoria?
The feedback to the film has generally been good and a lot of people love its visual style, though for some it is too strong. The most bizarre reaction belonged to one reviewer who commented that the films sets looked cheap. He clearly failed to grasp that part of the point of the film is that there are no sets and itís all filmed in the real places. I guess he didnít realise that people live in such appalling conditions in the USA. The films strongest reaction though has been from those that have seen it on Pine Ridge. They understand and get certainly layers of detail in the film that others miss. I think now many people have seen various types of interracial love stories and itís a bit old hat. There should be nothing different or interesting about them compared to the rest as love should just be love. But I donít think most people realise how big a gulf there is between the white and Lakota world where the film is set. One woman on the reservation found the scene where Harmony runs her finger over a clean sink in Scottís parentís bathroom to be profound. Most people wonít get that but when you live with maybe seventeen people living in a two room trailer with no running water then a normal clean bathroom is heaven.
If you werenít making movies, what other line or work do you feel youíd be in?
If I was not in the film business Iíd either most like to be an inventor or involved in politics to some degree.
How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?
The critical/media response can be critical for the indie film whereas in the studio system theyíre saturation marketing builds itself beyond that point. For us independents its about creating a stream of information mainly online now where we hope to reach a critical mass that pushes the film into the publics consciousness.
If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?
The Cinerama Dome in LA. Itís just an amazing venue.
If you could offer a nickelís worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?
If you have any doubt, donít bother and your greatest teachers are yourself and life.
What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?
That I own my own time and that especially when shooting documentary work you can get access and to meet people that you would never encounter otherwise.
A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?
For more information on this film, screening times and for more information on this yearís Victoria Film Festival, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com
Be sure to follow live, instant updates of the happenings of VFF at twitter.com/jasonwhyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
link directly to this feature at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/feature.php?feature=2658
originally posted: 01/30/09 13:17:49
last updated: 01/30/09 13:28:54