Interview: David Leidy

Interview done by Nora Jaenicke

Hello from Cult Critic Film Magazine. Congratulations for your wonderful film FADED LOVE.

1.I’m curious to know what made you pick this specific genre? Is it the first time that you’ve explored the neo noir genre? Why do you feel so drawn to it?

DL: It’s been sort of amusing for me having won Best Noir at multiple festivals now because I never really considered my short film Faded Love as a noir until perhaps it was suggested to me once everything had been already shot. I’ve always been drawn to noir classics such as Chinatown, Touch of Evil, Le Samourai and so forth. I think noir as a genre is probably something I’m already thinking about when making stories.

Noir was just a perfect filter to attach to something like Faded because the genre can show these rough societal edges and disastrously flawed characters without having to worry what people are going to think. People can criticize how the film depicts these things but in the end they’re probably wrong about what’s really going on unless they wait for everything to unfold.

Faded Love’s neo noir stylized qualities cater to the story because they present this superficial world that is not the actual world we’re dealing with. As Belle (played by Dasha Leidy) walks up the stairs in a hyper-commercialized city, you can see images of phony models in phony ads flashing across in the background with neon lights.

Belle’s relationship with her therapist Doctor Boston (played by Brad Holbrook) mirrors that superficiality. They put up a mirage for each other while pursuing what they think is best for their own benefit manipulating each other into situations they don’t want to be in at different points. Noir just emphasizes these aspects.

Faded Love is something I’ve always considered to be a genre blender above anything else – a film that is irreverent to formulas and stylistic techniques somewhat akin to French New Wave. Magical realism inspired me with its ability to change story logic but act as if nothing happened such as at the end with the red lit bedroom that has tilted paintings and flowers hanging from the ceiling. Surrealism with films like Luis Bunuel’s That Obscure Object of Desire and Belle Du Jour also inspired me with how they show powerful women with dynamic personalities. Bunuel in Obscure Desire even cast two women to play the lead role to show her complexity.

The irreverence to cultural taboos and themes of the specific eras these films were being made in was also what magnetized me as an artist to do the same. More so than any genre, these were the things I thought about and set out to ultimately accomplish with Faded Love.

2.Your film has a very unique atmosphere to it. How did the vision come together? Did you have the music and overall style in mind while writing it, or did these elements come together later on during production?

DL: Whenever I write, I create a playlist of various songs with the mood and style of what I want to make. With Faded, I just went in with a rough premise (a disturbed therapist helps a woman who has problems of her own) then turned on my playlist.

After a few hours I had nearly what ended up being the shooting script with even a general impression of style and mood as well cinematographic qualities. But the screenplay was very short and simple (five pages) and the deeper ideas behind it had a lot of room for exploration while shooting.

After writing, I put together a visual booklet for cinematographer Alex Aguirre to look through and also showed it to my close friend Juan Felipe Zuleta who was the producer. This booklet was pretty close to how the film ended up looking.

But to be fair, I also like to be inspired by a lot of things and incorporate them as I go. I had seen some off-framing techniques in an indie film trailer after midway through shooting. I never saw the film but I wanted to mimic that style and starkly place the actors in extreme corners of the frame to show how they’ve cornered themselves into an intense situation. With Alex’s bokeh lens we were able to create hyper focus in particular areas while other areas were completely out of focus in a way that helps convey the cold intensity.

Faded’s mood and musical tone did not fully manifest until, after passing up on four composers, Ezra Reich was fortunately able to score something better in many ways than what I’d imagined due to his pure skill and our somewhat telekinetic bond. Ultimately the film’s atmosphere was established early on but brought about in its unique way through synchronicities while making it.

3.What about the screenplay? What made you want to explore this story in particular?

DL: When I write, I dive into the murky abyss of consciousness. Where the material that gets manifested on the page comes from, I am a bit unsure.

In 2014 when I wrote it though, before all the recent Hollywood scandals, there seemed to be two mismatched yet weirdly parallel ideas coming from different areas of mass media. One idea sprouted mostly from the news in how it would portray the ongoing threat of sexual violence while the other idea came mostly from entertainment media such as Fifty Shades of Grey which would show things like sadomasochistic bed games as fun when in the right hands.

But holding these beliefs together, in my opinion, is pretty much asking for a volcano to erupt. In a way that volcano has now been erupting in the real world which is exactly what Faded Love touches on.


4.I couldn’t help but think that this short could become a great feature. Have you thought about this already?

DL: When I create a project I tend to think of it within the medium I originally set out to make it in. Because I’d always thought of the story as a short film I never really thought it could be a feature. To me, this story works only within the tight scenario I wrote it for.

As time passes by, my interests change a bit. At the moment I’m more driven to explore other topics and dive deeper down the road that deal with particularly vast deceptions and blurred lines not just on an interpersonal or moral scale but also on a societal one.

Personally, I like to get lost in the unknown. Talking about Faded Love, I’ve probably spent too much time with it and it won’t lead me into any new exciting discoveries. But hey, if somebody approached me about wanting to turn something like this into a feature I would surely consider it.

5.And what about the challenges of getting this made. Was it difficult to raise funds? And what were the main challenges of actual production?

DL: This film was about three years in the making. What took so long to release the film were the deeply involved post production aspects which required many drafts to get just right. For the most part it was just me, producer and cinematographer there on set making the film together with the stars Dasha and Brad. It was a micro budget project and many things weren’t thoroughly thought out beforehand.

I owned a Blackmagic Production Camera and my friend Alex Aguirre who’d been rooming with me at the time was a cinematographer. Alex owned some old tungsten lights along with some newer Kino Flos. When he agreed to do the cinematography, I showed him some shots from different films that I’d wanted to mirror stylistically, such as from Chungking Express, and Alex thought his Kinos would be perfect for creating a surreal soft light effect for that purpose.

All these variables that would have cost money under other circumstances were free for this project. The money was mainly spent on art direction, props and some basic compensation and reimbursing. The funds came mainly from my pocket with some help from friends and family who contributed as investors.

Due to the short screenplay, many actions within a scene were improvised on set. This made shooting a challenge at times but always exciting in a way that had us all on edge. Luckily the stars Brad and Dasha were highly trained and they were skilled at matching their movements and generally sticking with a rhythm once they found the flow of the scene.

The crew was so limited that the producer was even recording sound and slating along with doing assistant camerawork and even landing a cameo role in the film as the Young Man. Originally we’d planned to bring a professional actor but Juan just felt the part more than anybody who had applied for casting so I cast him instead. A lot of things sort of fell into place fluidly despite certain stress along the way.

6.What are you hoping to trigger in the audience?

DL: This is a film that is less about thematic messages but more about bringing viewers through the experience that somehow alters them. It’s about pushing viewers, through subtle storytelling techniques, to deal with their feelings and thoughts in a way that allows them to perceive these situations in new ways.

For example, I chose to frame Belle primarily on the left side of the screen when she was playing the conventional role of victim but I put her on the right side of the screen when she was supposed to be empowered. By the end of the film, she is on the right side of the screen but somewhat aggressively seducing a young man.

Faded Love shines a harsh light on the way our culture treats what’s right versus wrong and who’s supposed to be at fault and who’s not. How people react to that is up to them.

7.Who are your favorite directors and how have they inspired your career?

DL: Probably the biggest influences artistically for me have been Luis Bunuel, Wong Kar Wai, Roman Polanski, Ingmar Bergman, Alfred Hitchcock and Andrei Tarkovsky. Kar Wai’s Chungking Express goes from a neo noir to a romance drama film abruptly at the halfway mark switching the focus of the story on completely different characters and everything. I try to emulate that renegade style in my own stories.

Other filmmakers I’m inspired by are those who tell their stories through visual poetry where the screenplay and visuals cannot be dissected such as in films by Vera Chytilova, Maya Dern, Gaspar Noe and Terrence Malick. Tarkovsky, Jean Cocteau and Bergman were probably the biggest influencers behind my poetic approach as well as their witty long dialogue sequences and style of theatrical play.

Beyond these, the dark surreal films of David Lynch mixed in with noir thrillers of such high voltage by Seijun Suzuki, Hitchcock and Jean Pierre Melville also have shaped how I think about engaging viewers by bringing some of that excitement and visual stimulation onto screen in my stories. Other than these, I think rare older classics and more recent indie gems that I watch here and there also hold influence on my visual storytelling.

8.Thanks a lot for your time and for sharing your thoughts. Finally, would you like to tell our readers a little bit about your next projects?

DL: At the moment I’m creating a series with a reputable playwright Greg Paul. We’re currently in the stage of going out for funding and getting produced. There are some other things in the mix right now but I prefer to let the cards unfold before speaking about them.

If anybody would like to reach out to me personally for project endeavors or any other related dialogues, they can contact me at muse@davidleidy.com Thank you for your astute questions and for those who read the article.

 

Nora is currently in post-production of one more short film -Joyce, also a short film version of a feature that she is hoping to make: A mosaic of interrelated stories that explore the American Dream and the plight of immigrants in New York City. She is an avid traveler, continuing to explore the world and telling stories about it, whenever she gets a chance.