Whistler Film Festival 2017 Interview - NEVER HERE director Camille Thoman
By Jason Whyte
Posted 11/30/17 11:48:14
"NEVER HERE is a genre-blend between a classic Hitchcock suspense thriller, whodunit, and a harrowing journey into the disintegration of identity. Who Am I? The Hollywood reporter calls it engrossing, visceral and a haunting Lynchian mystery. The LA Times says it's exceptional, remarkable, artful and atmospheric to the max. NEVER HERE is a fun thrill-ride, but at the same time it is a film that asks as many questions as it answers, posing questions to the viewer about the act of watching, voyeurism and the nature of identity." Director Camille Thoman on NEVER HERE which screens at the 2017 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.
Welcome to Whistler Film Festival! Are you planning to attend WFF for your screenings?
I am most definitely planning to attend my screening and am looking forward to it! I have never been to WFF! I am so excited to experience it this year!
What is it about Whistler, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
I am a Canadian-slash-American living in the US. I am really happy to be in Canada with my film, sharing it with Canadian audiences for the first time, getting to know the beautiful town of Whistler and the folks here at the festival.
Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous work in the industry.
In my twenties I did performance art in the UK, performing solo shows at The Young Vic and BAC amongst others. I was always making short films as well. In 2006 I directed the short Falling Objects with Mireille Enos, Melissa Leo and Timothy Hutton. In 2013 I started shooting the documentary The Longest Game, which will premiere on PBS in parts of the Northeast and Montreal in 2018. I am a big believer in baby steps, or one foot in front of the next; that's how I got my start and that is how I proceed every day, inching forward until I am happy with what I made.
How did this whole project come about for you?
In 2009 a friend introduced me to her husband, who wanted to finance a thriller. He really liked my short Falling Objects and decided I was going to be his director, Years before I had read the Paul Auster novel The New York Trilogy. I was very taken with Auster's ability to set-up a working detective fiction narrative, and at the same time reference ME, sitting there reading his book, and HIM, the author; the book was about so much more than just its plot. I decided I wanted to do this in film. I want to entertain and titillate, but also reference and ask questions of the viewer, not just allow them to be subsumed by the narrative. So flash forward to 2009, I knew exactly what I wanted to write as I stared my screenplay. Months later, the offer to finance it disappeared, but I had my thriller script, and that was the beginning of the journey to get Never Here made.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
Commitment to seeing the thing in the world. During the eight years it took to make Never Here, I did not give up for one single second. I wanted to see it in the world.[br]
All projects are challenging in many ways, some more than others. What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment where you knew you had something?
I always loved this movie from the very beginning. As I was writing it, I could see it in my head. I believed, necessarily, in this movie before anyone else did. After a while, I was lucky to found myself surrounded by an amazing team of producers who ALSO believed, and had the consistent support of Mireille Enos, who believed. It was really challenging for us when the film took many years to get made. We got really close a number of times. Once, we were three days before the start of pre-production when it all fell apart, and we had already been working on it five years! That was enormously dispiriting. Once, I remember one of my producers Corey Moosa turning to me and saying, "It's not supposed to me this hard! This is the hardest thing I have ever done!" Corey and all the other producers and EPs and Mireille stuck with it and together we made it happen.
I loved the look of this movie so Iím about to get on the technical side of things, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed!
I had an amazing DP Seb Wintero who does a lot of Sia's videos, and an amazing Production Designer Chris Trujillo who was recently nominated for an Emmy for Stranger Things. First was the production design. The look and feel of the world that the protagonist Miranda occupies was very important. Chris was amazing. The world needed to feel present day, and be yet out-of-time. A world that has a quotidian feel, and at the same time, be a place that exists only inside Miranda's head. In pre-production, we spent a lot of time location scouting. The art department, the camera department and I spoke a lot about the eeriness of the world being something that builds cumulatively. During the opening scenes of the movie, I wanted the world to be accepted at face value as normal but then, slowly, as the film proceeds, the viewer might say to themselves, "Hang on a sec, where ARE these people?"
In terms of how we shot the movie; first of all, my DP was kick ass. He encouraged us both to abandon any plan we had if something better occurred to us which happened constantly. So we very much allowed some things to be found in the moment. With Seb, I could always trust that anything we found was going to look great. At the same time, I could see much of the film in my head before we started shooting and I was careful to respect the integrity of those images, and do my best to bring them into physical reality with fidelity.
After the film screens here, where is the film going to show next?
Im super excited to share Never Here with Canadian audiences for the FIRST TIME! Never Here is being released in 2018 in Canada. We are still hammering out the details.
If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Well, I grew up mostly in Manhattan. My parents would take me to Lincoln Plaza Cinema every week where we saw a lot of movies. So, I would like to return to Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and watch one of my own movies on screen. Around the corner, there is Lincoln Center, where I performed in ballets as a child. Thats the other place I would like to see one of my film, in Lincoln Center.
What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive (talking, texting, noise, etc) at a screening you were attending, even if it was your own?
If they were truly being disruptive, I would politely but firmly ask them to stop talking/texting because they were interfering with my and others' experience of the film we had come to watch.
What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have seen at a film festival?
I had the pleasure of seeing Sean Baker's Tangerine at Sundance a few years ago. I didn't know anything about it, I was friends with the DP Radium Cheung who later became a producer on Never Here. I was so into the vibrancy of that film, it was so itself, so alive. I also really enjoyed a bizarre film called A Thought of Ecstasy that I saw at the Oldenburg Film Festival in Germany this year. Loved it for the same reasons; it experimented a lot, took risks, and was very much its own thing.
Read my review of this film and many others playing at WFF this year in my preview article by clicking HERE!
This is one of the many films playing at the 2017 Whistler Film Festival. For showtime information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at whistlerfilmfestival.com!
Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow my festival Instagram Stories at jason.whyte!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com