Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Exclusive Interview with D-LOVE Director, Elena Beuca

With her debut feature film, D-Love winning ten consecutive film festivals, Elena Beuca is a star on the rise.

The Romanian born filmmaker is one of the great female storytellers on the circuit at the moment. Her film is a love letter to the power of saying yes to the opportunities that are presented to us in everyday life. Beuca and her husband, Dave Rogers (who also wrote D-Love) both star in the simple, but inspirational and relatable film that is based on a true story. 

With The Big Sick being released earlier this year, film watchers are enjoying watching true stories being played up on the big screen by those who's lives the stories are based on. D-Love presents a different type of true story. It brings to us a situation any of us could find ourselves in and does it with stunning acting, cinematography and a superb score by Billy Howerdel. There is nothing better than being inspired by something that you know could happen to you.

We were lucky to be able to sit down with Elena Beuca to have a chat about her film, which is currently showing at Laemmle 7 North Hollywood in Los Angeles.

Firstly, congratulations on all the success you are experiencing with D-Love! What has been the best part of your journey so far?
Thank you so much, I appreciate it. I think the best part of this journey was the people that I have met during this process, and then things that I have learned about myself that I didn’t know before. I want to believe that I have grown much more in the last few years, because I had to work with a film that challenges people to examine their own life and inevitably it made me examine mine to a much deeper level

What inspired you to make a film about D-love and your experience?
When I met Ditlev a few years back, I was fascinated by the way he lived and that he seemed to live so well in the present without too many worries and that is a beautiful skill. One of my favourite authors, Paulo Coehlo said this:

“…A pilgrimage implies in meeting different people, in talking to
strangers, in paying attention to the omens, and basically being
open to life. And we leave our home to go to work, to go to school,
and we have every single day this possibility,
this chance of discovering something new. So the pilgrimage is not
for the privileged… but for people who are open to life

With D-Love, I wanted to implement mentality, and to show how much people can affect other people... how each one of us is so connected and has the opportunity to touch others if we are open to life.

It's my understanding that the film is semi-autobiographical. What parts of the story are fictional?
Yes, D-love is inspired by the fact that we met Ditlev at the airport and how we met at LAX is pretty similar to how it happened in real life. In real life, both Dave and I were very happy to help him
with whatever we could and to give him shelter for a few days. But we knew that the real story would not make a good film and we needed to add conflict to the story, so we decided to make my character Stefania a very damaged , guarded person who doesn’t let strangers in and sometimes not even close friends, and the sad part is that she doesn’t even realize it. Also, because Dave has been always my best friend, we have a very good relationship and we are good at communicating with each other. Our characters in the film, based on the pain that they have gone through and unresolved issues, are in very dark place and they are definitely not communicating or being open with what’s going on in their lives.

The film is one which many people will find relatable. While the change this couple needed arrived in the form of a human, would you say a D-Love could be any type of thing that can inspire you to say yes to life?
Yes absolutely. We chose to show D-Love as the catalyst who awakens them both to life but that is just one way that can inspire you to say "Yes" to life. I think opportunity to change comes in many forms, not just through people, could be through things, events, miracles.. there are many ways and I truly believe that we are always guided towards change for better. Of course, we have the option to either say "Yes" or completely ignoring it .

D-Love really is so inspirational and uplifting. Does this come from the person you are yourself? Is inspiration a love of yours?
Thank you so much for that... its very kind of you. I grew up in a family surrounded by love. My parents have been married for almost 54 years and they have always been in love. We used to call them” love birds” because they always looked like just got back from their honeymoon. Growing up with that kind of love, I knew that when I’ll grow up , I can’t settle for anything less than that and thank God I have found my soulmate in Dave. My dad, who is a preacher, has always had such a desire for
growth, for truth, for love in general and he is my mentor. He instilled in me the same desire of seeing the beauty in people, of loving and learning...always aiming to be a better person and I’m extremely grateful to him for that.

You and your husband, Dave not only star together in the film, but you are the director and he the writer. How has this experience strengthened your relationship?

Working on this film, it made us learn a lot about each other and about ourselves, but overall I think it made us even closer. Definitely it was not easy at times, cause we had to learn new ways to communicate with other professionally and to learn not to take things personally, which is not easy at all at times.

Why do you believe people should go and see your film?

I would love for everyone to go see this film, but the reality is that I don’t think this movie is for everyone. I believe it’s for the people who are not afraid to be challenged to examine their own lives, who are open and who can be inspired by something bigger than themselves. Those who have hope and want to change for the better because the D-Love is vast in its universal themes.

What do you hope people take away from D-Love?
I think at one point in our lives we all encounter a D-Love. Maybe he could be a person, a situation or a thing. I think we are always guided towards change and towards making life better. It’s just a matter of listening and paying attention. Sometimes we have to leave our preconceptions at the door and be open to the unknown and just embrace it. Having the right perspective is what life is all about and believe that sometimes the things we need most show up exactly when they should and sometimes are not necessarily the way we want- but its what we need!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spotlight on screenwriter, Christopher Lovick

Screenwriting can be a hard gig, but Hollywood up-and-comer, Christopher Lovick has done the hard yards and now, his hard work is paying off.

With his infectious passion for screenwriting and all things cinema, he has recently had his screenplay, Monty Clift optioned by HBO and is working on several other screenplays that are gaining a great deal of interest.

We were extremely lucky to have the opportunity to talk to Christopher Lovick about his upcoming projects and the importance of and his love for film and writing.

When did you first develop your love for film?

I always loved movies as a kid, but it wasn’t until the summer after the 10th grade that I really became obsessed.  There was a store a block away from my house. BJs it was called.  It was one of those convenience stores that also rented videos.  This one summer I was in-between” social groups, essentially a loner.  BJs had a decent selection of films.  I’d rent anything Siskel&Ebert gave two thumbs up.  Stallone in Oscar and Mike Todd’s Around the World in 80 Days were highlights from this melancholic yet informative summer.  I realized the power of film.  A cure for loneliness.  I remember walking home from the video store and seeing the cool kids driving by in a jeep.  Top down.  There I was clutching a Snickers bar and hot new Stallone joint. 

So would you say that film is a medium which gives you an escape, but also adds to your reality and sense of self?

That’s a perfect way to phrase it.  I actually don’t think you can be more concise than that.  When films work, that’s what they do.  They transport you to a far-off land yet illuminate your own existence in the process.  It’s still the most powerful medium. 

Would you recommend teenagers who are trying to find their place in the world to immerse themselves in film the way you did?

Absolutely.  Watch as much good film as you can.  Find those directors and writers that speak to you.  I read a study recently, that we retain more when we trust and feel connected to the source of the information.  The filmmakers we love—we soak them up.  We remember their work because we trust them and so appreciate their specific vision of the world.

You have done a fair bit of work on screen as an actor.  Did a love of acting or writing come first?

I’ve always loved acting. Writing came later. When I was sixteen my acting teacher asked me what I was reading and I didn’t have an answer.  She demanded I read Catcher in the Rye.”  I was so fired up after finishing that book that I sat down to adapt it into a film.  Imagine, this sixteen-year-old kid thinking he can adapt the great J.D. Salinger.  The hubris of that mini-me.  But the fire had been lit. 

Do you still do a great deal of reading?

I do.  I’m reading The Master Algorithm” by Pedro Domingos.  It’s a great book if you’re into machine learning, and not too difficult.  Before that I read Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari.  Another incredible one.  I also read a lot of longform journalism.  I’ll send articles I find online to my kindle.  I read them later in batches offline.

Are books something you still draw inspiration from in your own writing?

Definitely.  I realize I haven’t mentioned any fiction writers.  I’ve read a lot of fiction.  I like the action writing in my scripts to be concise.  Reading the masters of fiction helps with this.  Lorrie Moore.  Richard Ford.  Joyce Carol Oates.  The Sympathizer,” by Viet Than Nguyen. These writers give me ideas as I read them.

Where did you learn the most of what you know about screenwriting and filmmaking?

Growth is three-dimensional.  We develop on multiple, intersecting planes.  I’ve learned from the act of doing (writing, photography, acting), the act of studying (school, reading), and the act of selling the product.  The last one is the hardest because there’s such a stigma to it.  Artists like to feel that if they build it, they will come.”  But we must learn to present our work and inspire others to get on-board. 

Have you found that the activity of screenwriting is a never-ending process?

That’s been my experience.  You think you’re done and put it down, then read it in a few weeks and there’s more to do.  A screenplay especially.  At the end of the day, it’s simply a blueprint to build on.  A screenwriter sets the stage for the artists to follow.  It can’t be about result. 

Your screenplay of the life of classic film star, Montgomery Clift, was recently optioned by HBO.  I imagine there was a lot of research required.  Can you tell us a bit about that process?

Lots of reading.  Not just biographies about him.  But books from the fifties.  Getting a feel for the language and the way people spoke.  Monty Clift is tricky person to capture.  He was a privileged child actor who did Broadway throughout his teens.  Then, in his adulthood, he became a huge movie star.  But he had secrets, and a piercing self-hatred.   I had to take chances.

What are you working on now?

I’m excited about my new script, Sidecar.  It’s about a man who takes on the life and identity of his recently-deceased twin brother.  It’s a personal story, as my father lost his twin as well.  But I’m also drawn to the metaphor of twinship.  As even us non-twins, are in a sense two people, constantly trying to embody our better half.  Another project I’m excited about is The Paris Quintet.  It’s about five men who live as one.  They wear suits and live together in a one-room apartment in Montmartre.  One is the cook, one is the tailor, one is the counterfeiter, etc.  They’re all in love with the same barista, who’s both charmed and put-off by the prospect of five suitors.  The fractured quality of self-hood, and the difficulty of bringing all your different sides together, is a theme I often find myself working with.

What advice would you give young writers starting out?

If you love it, hang in there.  Keep writing and giving it to people to read.  Once you get to a place, in terms of craftsmanship, where you feel confident, start making films and putting your writing online.  This is how you grow.  As a writer, it’s easy to keep things to yourself.  But you have to finish the circle.  You have to put it out there.  Not every one will like it.  Maybe no one will.  But if you keep writing through the humiliation, sharing your work in spite of it all, then something magical can happen.  You learn humor.  You learn when to pull back.  You find a voice and a process that works for you.  Then, who knows, maybe even some money starts trickling in. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Clarity (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 105 minutes
Director/Writer: Peyv Raz
Cast: Dina Meyer, Nadine Velazquez, Tony Denison, Maurice Compte, Dana Melanie, Lourdes Narro, Geovanni Gopradi

Clarity will be available on DVD and VOD on August 22 2017. 

Peyv Raz's Clarity is an extremely impressive feature film directorial debut which is intense, thought provoking, meaningful and incredibly important in so many ways with a truly explosive finale. 

With it's tale of two world's colliding to save one girl's life, Clarity deals with many issues and themes on social, political and emotional levels. What begins as a film that looks like it could be light and fluffy with a feel good ending, deceives everyone with it's dramatic tension and ability to make you question the things you believed you always had an answer for.

Clarity is extremely well crafted from the very beginning with it's visual comparisons of a privileged life in Las Vegas as opposed to the simple, but harsh and hazardous conditions of rural Mexico. This comparison is one that is vitally important to the story, as the film is undeniably a tug-of-war of love and power between 20 year old Maggie's (as portrayed by Dana Melanie) adoptive American mother, Sharon (Dina Meyer) and her Mexican birth mother whom she was stolen away from, Carmen (Nadine Velazquez). In other words, it is the age old battle of higher and lower socio-economic classes taking place, but in the name of love for a girl both women love and care for with all their hearts. The terrifying social issue of human trafficking is here seen in the most personal of ways and shows the awful effect it has on the parents left behind.

This struggle is one that is evidently one-sided at the beginning of the film, as Sharon holds the upper hand by tracking down Maggie's birth mother and reuniting the two. It almost seems deceitful, as we know her intentions are not quite as simple as they seem, but makes you question what you would do in her place. It is a mother's love that makes her behave the way she does, and the intensity of a mothers love can often neglect rhyme and reason.

This power tends to shift throughout the film, and this is when Clarity takes an intriguing turn. The second half of the film is superior to the first half thanks to it's unexpected twist, unpredictability and outstanding performance by Nadine Velazquez. Velazquez commands every scene she is in and her strength of character is magnificent, especially in the way she changes so greatly in a way that still remains believable and truthful.

However, it is the finale of Clarity that lingers long in your mind. It is completely surprising, but also shrouded in the most gratifying sense of mystery that brings out the cleverness of Raz's screenplay.

Clarity has the ability to make you challenge your beliefs and see a horrendous, layered situation from two equally important sides. A film which is as important as it is captivating and entertaining.


Clarity - Trailer from Peyv Raz on Vimeo.