Interviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya
Cult Critic- According to your bio, ‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me?’ is supposedly your first independent film project after years of disengagement. Could you describe your experience while making this film?
Ana A Prickett Braunstein– This is my second film, my first was ‘This Case & My Life’ written during the Pandemic COVID lock down in New York City.
‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me’ I finished writing it in October 2021 and revised it a couple of times in 2022. I enjoy working with the actors throughout the entire process from the initial cast, group table reading, rehearsals, working one on one with each individual actor. As a writer I find great joy and I get emotional when you see the words, the story and my vision come to life from the pages thru characters living the moments in the screenplay. It’s fascinating!
Cult Critic- The pandemic has affected our lives in the worst ways imaginable. The lack of social contact has robbed us of happiness, and livelihood for many unfortunate souls. What inspired you to turn your attention towards film making in these trying times?
Ana– During these trying times of crises of massive proportions when thousands were dying daily in New York and all over the world. We were all forced to slow down our fast pace, to come up with different ways to work and stay in touch like by zoom for example; it was the perfect storm that remind us take an inventory and reevaluate our priorities, when we all were facing with thoughts about our own mortality with the threat of COVID all around us. Having more time to think, write and to take action on something that I always love to do. Well, the time is now!
Cult Critic- At the very start of your film, you had given a ‘Parental Advisory’ disclaimer; you believe that your film contains images and themes that might be inappropriate for minors. Should children not be educated on issues such as drug-abuse and anxiety? What are your thoughts on this?
Ana– Yes, I absolutely think that it is so important to educate our children the dangerous of drugs; however I feel that it should be up to the parents to determine when is the right time to expose their children to the subject and to start a conversation, as they know their individual child best to make that decision and at what age.
Cult Critic- Your actors, especially Mr. Barrett Burnes, had to play extremely complex characters. Manifesting those emotions must have taken a tremendous mental toll on them. How did you inspire them to feel their characters so intimately?
Ana– I’ve done the casting for my films myself. I’ve personally seen the work of Barrett Burnes on several occasions, as we have the same acting coach Peter Fri sch. I knew his acting range and commitment to the craft and that he would fit the protagonist lead role of Blake Smith.
Cult Critic- The credits did not mention a cinematographer. Did you handle the camera all by yourself? If yes, do you believe that having complete control of camera and equipment while shooting is a liberating experience as a director? Thinking of an appropriate set design, trying to frame a good shot, and trying to direct your actors simultaneously must have been extremely difficult. How did you manage all of that?
Ana– I wear many hats in order to make it happen, like deciding on location, wardrobe, the set art settings, how I would like the shot to be done, giving the actors directions, working on PR and with the editor in post- production, etc… But no, I did not handle the camera all by myself, I had plenty of help with my production assistants, friends and family and none are “Professional Cinematographer”. As you know it takes a village to make a film and to deliver it to the finish line to our dear audience! Their names are listed on the film end screen credits at the end of the films.
It is very exciting to do what you love! But it’s not easy, you need to be very organized to manage it all, to be patient, dedication, commitment, delegate tasks and manage schedules, determining priorities, deadlines, a need to be flexible, learn to improvise as unexpected things happen, know how to work with people, work with people you know and trust, it takes hours and hours of preparation and execution, you need to be a problem solver and be on top of things adjusting as curve balls are likely to happen, but like they say: “The Show must go on”. Keep your cool, good positive attitude, be a leader and encouragement to your cast, helping them to develop their craft and be a team player.
Cult Critic- It is believed that filmmakers and writers in general often pull ideas out of their own life and experiences. What made you want to write ‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me?’? Can you relate to any of the characters? Have you or people around you faced similar circumstances during the pandemic?
Ana– Yes, I believe that every writer leaves a piece of themselves and their life’s experiences or the people they know in the stories they share. I wanted to write a meaningful, compelling story ‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me?’ to bring attention and awareness to the high number of young lives lost and or damaged due to drugs, and to the many others silently crying for help, that many times can go unnoticed until to late as the suicide rate amongst the youth is also on the rise, depression, prescription drugs, mental and deep emotional issues as well as identity crises. The impact goes well beyond the ones in the situation but it affects their family, friends and society in general in every aspect of human relations. Can we make a difference and save lives? I asked. In the case of Blake Smith, the protagonist of the story, his loving concerned mother Lynn Smith played by Carla Susan Lewis was able to intervene and act on time to assist her son by seeking a therapist Stacey Johnson played by Ana A P Braunstein, and the fact that he come to terms with his father all contributed for Blake’s journey to heal his emotional scars of his father abandonment.
I think we all know someone that can relate to different aspects of this story. I just wanted to point out that the father figure John Smith played by David Laird Scott character was nothing like my real father at all. I had a wonderful loving father and mother that encouraged in our family a hearth communication. I want to create a character that had expression of feelings and communication issues as one of the aspects of the roots of his problems that was passed on from and to the next generation. Through this character’s life to show the importance to be heard and to have a voice, to express and communicate our feelings. To listen, pay attention to even the silent voice of body language. Pay attention also to what’s not being said, read between the lines and observe. Often depression is a silent killer. As long as there is life, it’s not to late. Every character in this story has a connection to the protagonist and like in life they have a life of their own.
Cult Critic- Your editor has utilized jump-cuts quite extensively during monologues and dialogue sequences. Could you elaborate on your thoughts behind such a treatment?
– There is always room for improvements to be done in future projects. I appreciate your input observations. Thank you.
Cult Critic- The camera was mostly stationary throughout ‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me?’; you have very rarely utilized tilts and pans in your film. Was there any effect that you had wanted to achieve through this treatment?
Ana– Of Course there are many things and ideas that I wanted to utilize and incorporate to my work as I seek to always learn and improve and take notes of great suggestions. As in many instances, time, budget, logistics, equipment makes a difference.
Cult Critic- In your film, you have briefly addressed the issue of drug-abuse, and how Blake was slowly but gradually falling prey to the same toxic habits that had once overtaken his father. Do you believe that in times of immense crisis, humans tend to subconsciously adopt habits of escapism that they might have despised the most?
Ana– There are two things here: it’s a fact that bad habits often can pass and repeat themselves to the next generation conscious or subconscious . Such as the abuse of alcohol for example. And others cases is a cover up to emotional detected or undetected emotional and or physical pain. And your other question here my answer is I do, we humans like to be in a comfort zone and the tendency is to try to comfort ourselves in the midst of a crises.
Cult Critic- Do you have a message for young adults and teenagers who have been forced to use drugs as a means to avoid sadness and anxiety?
– Unfortunately this is another area that we must strive to make improvements as a society. As there is a fine line between a must needed managed prescription drug. an open dialogue between kids, parents, drs and educators is important to express and discuss concerns and issues in the open, such as things that can be a factor affecting their lives such as if they have been bullied at school, etc. keeping an open trust safe communications to express without fear of judgement or punishments. Growing up is hard, there is a lot of pressure to fit in but it does not have to be.
Cult Critic- Your film ‘A Silent Call: Can Anyone Hear Me?’ isn’t just Blake’s story; it is the story of many individuals who are traumatized by their past, trying to resolve their issues through therapy, or through toxic means. What message did you want to share with these people through your film?
Ana– Everyone has problems and issues, in the case of Blake, he was emotionally scared by his absent father, feeling abandoned, not loved or cared for, depressed and discouraged but that little voice inside him that wanted to succeed. The encouragement he received from his mother showing love and care and the words from the therapist ‘You have a lot of potential Blake, I hope you realize that” resonated with him, it made him feel special, heard and validated. Our words are a powerful tool that can be the difference someone needs to hear today, a source of light and encouragement, a gift to share with someone that needs to hear it!