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Mystery Thriller “Rorrim” — A Talk With M.P. Murdock

Interview by Antonio Rozich

[dropcap]Teressa[/dropcap] Liane mesmerizes us in this mystery thriller by M.P. Murdock. Her performance keeps the audience wondering what is happening and what will happen next, making “Rorrim” a chilling mystery thriller that delivers.

We decided to ask the director a couple of questions to dig deeper into the film’s creation.

To start, tell us how did you come up with the idea for Rorrim? It feels as if it could’ve been anything from watching an inspiring movie to simply having one of those eureka moments while driving.

Throughout my works, it is possible to notice my attraction to characters that go through life unaware of who they really are or what’s hidden inside of them. I really enjoy pushing them to the breaking point.

In Rorrim, Adrianne is the impersonation of this trait. But the inspiration came from my personal experience after I decided to move abroad, from Switzerland to the United States.

Writer-Director M.P. Murdock
Courtesy of Writer-Director M.P. Murdock

Inspiration for a Mystery Thriller

Rorrim is ultimately a story about ambition and the cost of pursuing it. Although being ambitious is seen as something positive, there is a downside to it. To follow your dreams, you must often sacrifice something – time, family and friends, a stable job – for an uncertain future.

For me, it was moving away from a familiar place to a new one, leaving behind colleagues and friends and having to re-learn how to live and adapt to the new environment.

The question of whether it is worth to lose those things in the attempt to accomplishing your goals is what inspired the film.

Teressa Liane does a terrific job as Adrianne. Since in “Rorrim” she’s basically the only character, can you tell us if there is any difference between directing a single actor and directing multiple actors? Is it more challenging or more manageable?

An exciting aspect of working with a single actor – or a minimal cast – is the amount of time you can dedicate to them in creating the characters and discuss their stories.

Acting carries the mystery thriller

The challenge for a film like “Rorrim,” is that it relies so heavily on one actor —

Is that the performance becomes the supporting pillar of the movie.

If the character is relatable and captivating the movie works, otherwise, the entire film collapses, and there’s not much to do to save it.

Adrianne sits in her kitchen confused by her blackouts in the mystery thriller, "Rorrim"
Image via Murdock Productions

One thing I noticed while working on other projects is how much actors can influence each other’s performances just by working together. Of course, this doesn’t happen on “Rorrim.” Hence, the choice of my actor was an essential part of bringing the protagonist to life.

Teressa understood Adrianne’s character immediately making the entire process a lot smoother and more accessible.

Director-editor collaboration

Another thing I liked about “Rorrim” is the editing. Do you as a director, take any part in editing or do you let your editor do everything on their own? What’s the process after you turn off the camera?

In this instance, the editor came on board only a month or so after production ended in September 2018. I assembled the movie to have an idea of the final result.

But it was never my intention to edit the film myself.

I find myself to be too deeply involved in the project to provide impartial judgments on the editing.

Therefore, I like to have someone who challenges my ideas, someone who can enter the project with a new mindset, and propose his opinion on the best way to tell this story.

I like to give freedom to my editor to present me with his vision for the movie in the form of a rough cut.

Then we proceed to question each other’s opinions. I find this process to serve the film better. Sometimes, I discover that there are different ways, better ways, to convey a message than what I had initially envisioned.

Addrianne's uniform burning in the mystery thriller "Rorrim"
Image via Murdock Productions

Roadblocks, Obstacles, and Shades of Grey

Since the film is somewhat minimalistic in a sense there’s a single actor and a single film setting, does that make a movie quicker to shoot? What would you say was the one most significant obstacle in making “Rorrim” and why?

“Rorrim” is my first project in the United States. Because I was new in Los Angeles, I wasn’t familiar with the place, nor did I have a crew. Therefore, I decided to keep it simple, avoiding stories or genres that require exotic locations, a big cast, or particular production needs. Thus, challenging myself on my job as a director.

Despite my precautions, I faced quite some troubles in pre-production, including the loss of the location and part of the crew less than two weeks prior to the shoot. This accident forced me to adapt quickly to the new situation and find a way to fix it.

The decision to invest my efforts on the story and the characters is what ultimately allowed me to bring the movie to life, despite the unfamiliarity with the new environment.

The psychology of a mystery thriller

Your films seem to have this psychological and mental leitmotif; more specifically, you seem to have a thing for memories. Where do you find the fascination and the need to explore through your work?

I’m attracted to characters with a complicated psyche, with a lot of nuances and shades of grey in their morality. I tend to stay away from the classic good guy vs. bad guy, Instead, exploring more ambiguous personalities and questioning the inherent existence of “good” and “bad” in real life.

Actress Teressa Liane as Adrianne on the set of the mystery thriller, "Rorrim
Image via Murdock Productions

I often joke by saying that I find a sadistic pleasure in creating characters who think their life and world to be in a certain way, only to destroy that belief. Then see them breaking down and explore their reactions.

Will they regain control over their life?

Will they adapt?

Or are they doomed?

I also believe that it is not possible to invent new stories to tell. But through strong and complex characterization of the people who inhabit those stories, we can make them feel original and fresh.

Then and now

If you compare “Rorrim” (2019) to the earlier work you did while studying filmmaking at Lugano, Switzerland, how would you say you developed as a director and filmmaker in general?

I started exploring the world of filmmaking at a very young age, but I always had a more visual approach to the story. When I started film school, I was very specific on how my projects should look. Although, I was less aware of what I wanted from the actors. I was following my instinct rather than making conscious choices.

This is where I grew up the most in the past few years —

With each new project, I dig deeper into the characters, and I become more aware of what I want to see from my actors. At the same time, I get a better understanding of when to follow my instinct and when not to.

Did moving to the US open new possibilities for you as a filmmaker? If you can quickly describe the experience.

Unfortunately, in Switzerland, we don’t have a film industry and making movies is a tough process in which you have to constantly compromise between what you would like to do and what you can do. And it’s not always just a matter of budget.

Here in the US, I found a lot of talented people that share my same passion. You can always find the right person for your needs and the only limit in what you do – budget aside – is your creativity.

I hope that one day my country, and other European countries, will come together and create an industry more oriented towards an international market rather than a small local one. But until that day arrives, this is the place for me to be.

That’s a Wrap

So far you have three movies under your belt: “Window,” “Human Protocol” and “Rorrim.” What are the plans for the near future?

I’ll probably keep experimenting with different genres and short films, I’d like to try something with animation in the future, but the main focus now is toward my first feature film.

I want to consolidate my filmography with a bigger project and use all the experience accumulated through the years to test myself in the real world.

Antonio Rozich

Antonio Rozich is as a copywriter who enjoys dangling into fiction more than anything. From film scripts to audiobooks and flash fiction Antonio loves them all. He rarely rejects an opportunity to either write his original story or help somebody improve theirs. Besides his usual copywriting, he also helps filmmakers with their screenplays, by editing them and finding ways to improve the initial filmmaker’s idea.


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