‘Blind Date’ dir. Joe Rosen (2010)
Being stood up can be kind of romantic.
Director: Joe Rosen
Writer: Abigail Blackmore
Producers: Joe Rosen & Abigail Blackmore
Key Cast: Abigail Blackmore, Cavan Clerkin, Matthew Blackmore
10 Questions for Joe Rosen
C8: ‘Blind Date’ is a classic example of a simple idea delivered effectively – was that always the intention with the project?
JR: Abigail, Cavan and myself as well as some of the cast and crew had been collaborating as the Sunday Film Club for a number of months.
The Sunday Film Club was a group of industry professionals brought together by Cavan Clerkin to produce one short film every month, for fun, in a pressure-free environment. When Abi pitched the script to the group the idea was to make a film that was a bit more involved and used more resources than we had been doing previously. Having a strong cast in Abigail Blackmore and Cavan Clerkin I planned on how we would visually compliment the developing intimacy in the relationship between them in simple sequences that would play to the strengths of our team, be quick to set up and compliment the story. So from my point of view yes, the idea of doing something simple and well really appealed and I think it’s important for the director to understand and deliver the story effectively.
C8: Abigail Blackmore and Cavan Clerkin deliver two excellent performances and clearly had a great time on set – did you have loads of material to work with once you’d finished shooting?
JR: The dynamic between the two of them really is excellent and can also be seen in ‘Nice Guy’ a micro budget feature that premiered at the East End Film Festival in July and is currently screening at festivals.
In the end we had enough footage to work with in the edit but only just, on the shoot we worked a really tight schedule and absolutely had to stay on script. Because Abi had written such good dialog and the chemistry between them works so well this was a lot easier than it could have been. Knowing how demanding our shoot schedule would be and wanting to make the most of each take we took the decision to use a more cost effective format and shoot on two cameras. As the production pre dated effective DSLR technology we shot on Z1’s with a lens adaptor system. During the edit we had most takes from two angles but we had only a limited number of takes, lots of footage but few versions.
C8: Lots of new filmmakers seem interested in working with non-professional actors; do you think that’s a good way to go?
JR: Earlier in my career I directed a film based on the stories of young offenders, we spent a lot of time searching for actors both professional and non-professional who could bring a knowledge and authenticity to the roles. We did cast some great actors and some not so good. Given the level that we were working at I wouldn’t say that the professionals were always better than the non professionals but what they did have was a deeper understanding of what they were doing in a performance, consistency and then the language they had for describing what they wanted to achieve was more developed.
Looking back at myself as a new filmmaker where my skills and understanding were not as mature I struggled a bit but learnt a lot from the process. When I think about some of the choices I made and how I communicated my intentions to cast I could have articulated my ideas in a more effective way with more knowledge of the actors reference points.
There are lots of brilliant non-professional actors and great reasons to work with them. They can bring an authenticity, a fresh approach or many other qualities that could enhance a project but there are also potential difficulties. I’d advocate working as hard as possible in casting, see as many actors as you can for the roles, screen test and get second opinion then develop a trusted working dynamic in rehearsal.
C8: In terms of the humour, the editing seems key and a lot of it comes through the cuts and jumps as we see the characters getting progressively drunk/intimate. Does the final film reflect the structure of the original script?
JR: The final film really does follow the structure of the script, moving from really awkward and distant to close and intimate. The middle drunken montage was written by Abi l as a set of half-jokes, comments and punch lines. It wasn’t improvised but I mixed up the order on set. In the edit we did cut sections to keep the pace and focus of the story but at no point did we consider changing the structure, it already worked really well.
C8: It is a real coup that the film is so funny and yet so heart wrenching – were you pleased with how the climactic moment turned out?
JR: I’m really, really pleased with how the film has turned out over all and how well it’s been received.
The climax of the film really feels authentic and the on screen chemistry really draws viewers in. The film has been really well received by festival audiences and has had a great response; we had our world premiere in October 2010 at the Austin Film Festival, where we won the Audience Award for best narrative short.
C8: How long did it take you to shoot and what were the biggest challenges in getting it made?
JR: We shot everything in one day and there were lots of small challenges that we overcame during pre-production and production because people were really generous and happy to get involved. One problem was gathering twenty pub drinkers to sit in silence drinking flat lemonade, but we sourced the extras through friends, word of mouth and social networking.There was a chef working at the location, who cooked fresh food for everyone and made it possible for us to look after them and pay back some of the good will.
Post-production was really the biggest challenge, bringing the production values up was quite demanding. There were some continuity errors and sound issues that we really needed to address. Fortunately we won a completion award from the last round of UKFC funding and could pay to get some things done professionally and quickly. The award judging did mean that we had an almost six-month hiatus that was also challenging but finally worth the wait as the financial help and industry support made a real difference.
C8: Where does ‘Blind Date’ sit in your career? What had you done before?
JR: I’ve been working making films since 1999 and have worked on lots of productions including live performances, comedies, documentaries and community films.
I’ve directed live performances for the BBC, C4 and MTV with artists such as Mary J Blige, Adele and The Kooks. I’ve made films in maximum-security prisons, hospitals, and inner city schools, my career has also taken me around the world having toured festivals following The Scissor Sisters, documented the training schedules of elite athletes and collected the Audience Award at the LA Film Festival. As well as Blind Date several of my short films over the years have been accepted into festivals and won some prizes along the way.
C8: If you wish you’d been given one piece of advice when you were starting out as a filmmaker then what would it be?
JR: Write a plan for each project that includes a mission statement, distribution strategy and timeline.
And get a website.
C8: What is the essence of a good collaboration?
JR: Support, respect and a shared goal.
C8: What’s next on the horizon for Joe Rosen?
JR: Features, Features, Features.
I’m collaborating with some really talented writers on some great projects that are starting to get some momentum. Unfortunately I’m not able to say any more than the fact there are three comedies, a biopic and a thriller in the works. When I can reveal the details I will let you know.