Kickstarter Interview with Writer and Director, Danielle Colman
Danielle Colman brought her film, “Red” to Kickstarter with the hopes of raising $50,000 to aid in production costs. The film is promising with a great cast including Jodelle Ferland (who appeared in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse as Bree Tanner) and has already accrued over $11,000 in pledges from 105 backers. We conducted an interview with Danielle regarding the film and her inspiration for the plot.
Q. Where did the idea for this film come from?
It actually came from watching the Catherine Hardwicke adaptation of “Little Red Riding Hood“, starring Amanda Seyfried. I was reading some reviews with Ben, my business partner and producer, and getting fired up about what a wasted opportunity it was to put so much money and such gorgeous production design into an adaptation that didn’t do anything interesting with the story. I started railing about how I’d adapt the fairy tale on a shoestring budget and make it accessible and interesting for a modern audience, and Ben stopped me mid-sentence and said, “It’s brilliant. Go write that.” So I did!
Q. What is your background in film-making?
I started out directing theatre in high school, which is where I learned to work with actors. Around that time, I was just discovering a love of film and the sheer imagination it allows, so, at the end of high school I applied for a one-year film course at the Colorado Film School, where I studied writing and directing, and worked on at least twenty short films. It was supposed to be a quick excursion before studying something more traditional at university, but I got bitten by the bug and decided that film was my calling. After that I moved to San Francisco, where I’ve been studying both acting and animation – I like to be educated about what’s on every side of the camera!
Q. How would you categorize your movie with regard to genre?
I’d call it a psychological thriller, if I had to call it anything. But it’s not an edge-of-your-seat, scare-around-every-corner thriller: we’re aiming much more for something that’ll get under the audience’s skin and stay there.
Q. Who do you expect your audience will be?
I think our audience will likely be young women, in their late teens and early twenties. Our lead character, Rowan, is a sixteen-year-old with a very realistic set of flaws and idiosyncrasies, and I think real young women will really find something to relate to in her struggle to navigate the world around her.
Q. Who are you trying to reach out to?
We’re trying to reach out to audience members – mostly young women, like I said, but not exclusively – who have struggled with identity, and how other people perceive them. That’s the real drive behind a lot of the situations Rowan finds herself in: she’s so desperate to be understood, and to be seen for who she really is – even though she’s not quite sure of that herself yet – that she’ll ignore a lot of warning signs just to get that validation she needs. She doesn’t always make good decisions, but those decisions come from a place that I think a lot of people can empathize with.
Q. What is the draw for your audience?
I think the biggest draw for our audience is that this is a really smart, character-driven film. Our characters don’t do what they do because the plot requires it: their actions and interactions all come from who they are. There are no easy fixes or convenient escape routes in this film: the characters have to struggle with their decisions, and really deal with the consequences. In addition to that, we have a really fantastic cast who will be able to go even beyond the very layered script to make these characters really come to life. Jodelle [Ferland] has an astonishing maturity for her age; Claudia [Christian] always brings both strength and subtlety to the roles she plays, and James [Russell] gave hands-down the best audition I’ve ever seen.
Q. What issues does your storyline deal with?
I’d say one of the biggest issues the story deals with is the inherent contradiction of being a teenager. On the one hand, throughout your childhood you’re told not to talk to strangers, and that people you don’t know could be dangerous and out to get you; on the other hand, to transition properly in adulthood you have to start striking out on your own and meeting new people on your own terms. It’s very hard to find that balance, and we see that as we follow Rowan through the events of the film. She’s probably trusting and suspicious in about the right amounts, but not always to the right people, and that’s what gets her into trouble. The other issue the film really deals with is how easy it is to go too far in an unhealthy relationship. It’s never as simple as, “That person isn’t good for you; you should cut him out of you life”; I think it’s much easier to get drawn further into a bad relationship, be it a friendship or a romance, than it is to break it off, and that’s another thing that Rowan, at sixteen, just doesn’t have the experience to deal with.
Q. What is the plot?
The story follows Rowan, a sixteen-year-old girl who finds herself staying alone in a San Francisco hotel while her grandmother – with whom she’s supposed to be staying – recovers from a broken hip. Free from her mother’s watchful eye, Rowan decides to explore the city: along the way, she meets an older man, with whom she strikes up a casual friendship. But before too long, he starts showing up everywhere she goes, and, even though he gives her the attention she desperately craves, it gets harder and harder for her to ignore the warning signs that he may not be what he appears. Alone and friendless in an unfamiliar city, Rowan is caught completely unprepared when he reveals who he truly is.
Q. What makes your film unique?
For starters, I think the level of quality we’re bringing to such a low budget is something quite incredible. It’s really quite unusual for films at our budget level to attract the kind of cast we’ve lined up, and I think it speaks to the strength of the script. We’re also taking a unique approach to the idea of the thriller, where the scares don’t come from violence or sudden noises, but from characters deliberately violating other characters’ boundaries, which, to me at least, is one of the most horrifying things one person can do to another. There’s a scene – and it’s a major plot point, so I won’t give away what it is – but, even though I wrote it, I still shudder a little every time I read it. I haven’t seen a scene like it before, and I think it really defines the character of the film.
Q. Did you draw influences for this film from other films?
Absolutely – sure, everyone would like to say that their film is completely original, but the fact is I studied the films I admire quite extensively, and really tried to learn what made them so successful and to apply that same mentality to this film.
Q. Which films?
I particularly admire “Winter’s Bone“, and both “Let the Right One In” and “Let Me In” (Swedish and American adaptations of the same novel). I’m very drawn to films that start out a little slow, but that build so inexorably that by the time the climax comes you’re on the edge of your seat and chewing on your knuckles. I also frequently return to “Pan’s Labyrinth” for inspiration, not necessarily because it’s particularly similar to this film, but because Guillermo Del Toro puts so much subtlety and detail into every shot, and I like to remind myself how even a simple scene can be transformed into something profound with the right attention to detail.
Q. Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?
I’m an unabashed fan of Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson: I think both of them create worlds like no one else in the business. Plus, the level of thought and detail that goes into every frame in their films is unbelievable. I’ve watched Pan’s Labyrinth probably thirty times and I find something new in it every time I see it. I also admire Christopher Nolan for his commitment to practical effects, which is something we’re exploring very seriously in this film; and I love Terry Gilliam for his willingness to take real risks with his stories and characters. I think risk-taking is something a director should never shy away from: it’s worth risking that some of your audience won’t like what you’ve done, if you can strike a really deep chord with others.
Q. Are there any specific locations you want to film at or have filmed at?
We’re planning to shoot in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. In particular, we want to capture some of the areas that make San Francisco what it is: not the tourist spots like Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, but the hills and the narrow streets and the old Victorian buildings that loom like watchful giants.
Q. What makes these locations special to you and the project?
I moved to San Francisco because of what a unique city it is, and I think it’s really gotten short shrift in the film department. This is a story that really couldn’t take place in many other cities: a teenage girl couldn’t get around LA without a car, for example, and New York’s grid system is too easy to navigate. San Francisco has that perfect blend of accessibility and bizarre density. You can get totally lost less than a mile from where you started, yet you can walk from one end of the city to the other in a couple of hours. It’s the perfect place to put a character who doesn’t quite know who she is or where she’s going, and see what the city does to her. In San Francisco, the city becomes a character that can work with or against her just as much as any actor on screen.
If you are interested in seeing this film come to life, you can head over to Films by Neptune on Kickstarter and make a donation.