Saturday, October 18, 2014
Peter Sattler mentions Kristen in 'Camp X-Ray' (3 interviews)
How does someone who’s lesser known in Hollywood go about establishing themselves in an industry predicated on name and prestige?
It’s a huge challenge. That’s why I got out of film school. If you look at my IMDB page, I worked every job under the sun. I was a grip, I was a key grip, I was a PA, I was a graphic designer in the art department. I did everything because I love films, but it takes a while for a writer to mature and to write something that is powerful and grown-up. So for the last ten or twelve years, I was doing mostly re-writes for the studios. So I got a little toe-hole in some of that. Really, the film happened for two very important reasons. One is that a very good friend of mine, David Gordon Green, an amazing filmmaker who I’ve known since school, really championed me in getting this made. The other was that the script really resonated with Kristen. And once Kristen comes in, all of a sudden we’re in. Once Kristen says, “I believe in this guy. He’s a first-time director, but I believe in his vision” then everyone else rallies around and we start to work within a budget.
Where did the idea for her character come from?
I realized one story that hasn’t been told about Gitmo is about the poor soldiers who have to clean up the mess. You know? Like, these grunts on the ground who actually have to deal with the decisions that are being made in Washington. I felt such sympathy for them, given what they go through and how impossible the mission the army has given them down there is.
Why did you choose to make your first movie a war film?
It’s not that I wanted to make a war movie, so much as I wanted to make a movie about something that mattered. In the movie, when someone asks Kristen’s character why she came down there, why she joined the army, she responds with, “I wanted to do something important.” I feel the same way. That’s why I want to make movies and make art. I love popcorn movies and all, but if I’m going to put my heart and soul into a project, it has to be something that matters.
You set up this very claustrophobic environment, accentuated all the more by the acting and the music. What were some of the struggles you faced with staging and making each shot interesting within the confines of such a small space?
You put your finger right on the nose of it. Directorially, you have a film where half of it takes place between two characters who, for the most part, can’t move; there’s very little blocking that can be done, and on top of it, all their interactions take place between a four or five inch window in the same room over and over again. So you’re right, the challenge is how you make that interesting and convey the monotony of that situation without boring your audience. Me and my cinematographer James Laxton talked very carefully beforehand about how each scene evolves because we wanted to make something austere that’s not too flashy. One specific point I can talk about is when the camera breaks the wall and goes inside someone’s cell. You may not notice while you’re watching, but subconsciously all of a sudden you’re inside [one of the detainee’s] cells on the other side of the glass. That occurs when we start to feel more sympathy for him. Towards the end, we do this thing where we swing the camera totally around and now it’s Kristen’s character who feels trapped behind the door. It was not an easy thing to do, but everyone involved in the movie were interested in taking challenges.
What was it like working with Kristen?
Kristen’s amazing. The first thing to know about her is how down-to-earth, passionate, and intelligent she is. The way she approached the character was so thorough, and because she’s so creative, she’ll invent moments for you. It’s so helpful. She’s also very different from Peyman [Moaadi]; you have to direct both in very different ways. Peyman is very used to long rehearsals, and that’s because he’s a writer and director himself and comes to it with the eyes of an author wanting to get every shot right. For Kristen, it’s much more about capturing the raw emotion. It was very interesting working with both of them and all three of us had a very enjoyable collaboration.
Read the full interview at the source: Bullett Media
I’m really excited for this film, since we get to see a new side to Kristen Stewart.
It’s a really remarkable role for her and I’m excited for people to see this side of her. You know, everyone knows her from these fun…movies that she’s done, but she’s really a remarkable actress capable of an incredible amount of subtlety and nuance, which is really what this role thrives on. So, I’m excited to be a part of this transitioning and redefining of what people expect from her.
I read that you read and directed this film. What was the inspiration for the film?
Peter Sattler: You know, I’d always been interested in Guantanamo Bay, but it started when I’d seen a documentary and started to see what it was like now. And I saw now that, basically, these detainees and soldiers are just walking around. They’re stuck there and they just kind of start to talk to each other. Just seeing that kind of dramatic setup, with these two people stuck in a room together, being at the tip of both of these sharp and political forces aiming at each other, but at the end of the day, they’re just these two everyday people–they’re just these two poor schmucks stuck down there–that strange dramatic relationship fascinated me and that was the impetus for the whole film…The whole thing came to me in a flash.
[I thought] “What a perfect little film.” It’s character-based, it’s a very small, contained and personal way to touch on a much larger subject that is fraught with such intellectual and political minefields, but to me, this was just the perfect way to address it and to brush across it without making the movie all about Guantanamo and all about one political message. That’s not what the movie is about. It’s about people.
I also read that you’d changed the main character from male to female. What was the impetus for that decision?
Peter Sattler: You know, that was very early on when I was thinking about the film. I was thinking about [it focusing on] two guys and…actually writing it more, I was struck by first, in my research, that a lot of women are down there. There are a lot of women guards down there, so that inspired some of the reality behind it because also…in a film, you want to have as much conflict between characters as possible.
[Having a male character and female character] made these characters so different, especially given the very complicated relationship that a Muslim needs to have with a woman and the various taboos that exist in there. It’s so fascinating, and on top of that, being a woman in the army. That’s intense. I mean, it’s a very honorable and great thing, but there are pressures. There are sexual pressures, there sexism, there’s all these things that all factor in to affect that relationship and, at the end of the day, put so much pressure on these characters[.]
How was it directing the cast, especially Stewart? How was it to see the actors embody your characters?
It was really amazing and really remarkable because the movie lives and dies by these two characters[.] I had a vision in my head and on the page of what they were, and at the end of the day, it’s all about seeing those characters come to life. And the remarkable thing is that Kristen and Peyman aren’t just actors, but they’re remarkable artists in their own right. They love to create their own art. Peyman has written and directed numerous Iranian films and Kristen writes and plays music and all these things, so as a director, it’s great.
I can tell these actors what to do all day long, sure, but it’s so much better when you have someone to collaborate with and they give you ideas. All you have to do as a director is filter that and channel that energy and say, “I love your ideas, and of those five ideas, this is the one that’s right for the movie.” They can just throw them at me and I can be the filter them and suggest and help channel and help steer that energy. It’s so much easier when someone’s coming at you with this force and throwing things at you instead of having to try and get it off its feet…With some scenes and some actors, is to just make it feel real and to just have something on screen.
When you have actors like Kristen and Peyman, [just] based on cold reads from them, it’s amazing because they’re inventing stuff. They’re doing things on screen. They’re filling every moment with nuances and idiosyncrasies. Then it’s easier, because as a director, all we need to talk about now is how do we shape and choose and decide the exact path this film is going to take.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Camp X-Ray”?
You know…there’s a feeling that I love in art and movies that…we all as humans–and this sounds cheesy–are connected. There’s this shared bond and there’s this communal experience that we all have. That’s what the film is all about. There are these two people and everyone’s telling them that they’re enemies and they’re set up in this position to be enemies, but they find a way to look at each other not as cardboard cutouts of a soldier or of a quote-unquote terrorist, but as human beings. To me, that’s one of the most powerful emotions on the earth. I love when movies make me feel connected to everyone else, especially in the modern age. We’re all so isolated and we’re inundated with quick black-and-white answers. So, when you can feel that connection to another human being, it’s the most powerful thing in the world.
Read Peter's full interview at the source: Shockya
There’s a great line in the film where Sgt. Cole says that “I wanted to do something with my life,” which is how she ended up in Guantanamo since she came from a small town. Coming from Indiana, was that your way into writing that character?
Absolutely. With a film like this one, it’s a very intimate film about very deep personal things and as a writer, you have to write from a place that you know. So there are pieces of me in Kristen’s character, there’s a lot of me in Peyman’s character and people I know are mixed into that. But you’re right, I came from a small town and I remember very consciously having the feeling when I was in the middle of high school this desire to do something important with my life. I didn’t want to just get a regular job and get married and have some kids. I don’t know how to describe it, but I know other people have the same feelings and they just verbalize it in different ways, so that’s something I wanted to put in there because I enjoyed illustrating the irony of that.
This girl really wants to do something important and she goes out and takes this big adventure, joins the army to get out of her comfort zone and is proud of the big step that she’s taking to leave her small town roots and maybe go see the world, then she ends up in a place where the purpose is very muddled. I really love that irony because that’s a very universal thing that everyone encounters in life. We all kind of look towards the future and look outside of ourselves and say “You know what, if I just get to go do that, then that will make me happy and that will be it,” but when Kristen’s character basically gets what she asks for, she realizes it wasn’t the way she imagined it.
It’s something I’ve always been very conscious of. I also like the unspoken idea of, [which is] very subtly dropped in the movie, that these detainees wanted to do something important as well. They wanted to fight for a cause and you can argue to say that cause is extremely flawed and that’s not what the movie’s about, but there is a commonality between soldiers on both sides of war.
I’ve heard at one point, you were talking to Peyman about his character and he actually changed your mind about a certain trait of his. Would your ideas about what you were making as you were filming?
Anytime you make a piece of art that is as large an undertaking of so many different moving pieces and so many other collaborators having their fingerprints on it, a film evolves and it grows. It’s like raising a child. You can guide it in the right direction, but there’s a point where it will just take on its own life. You can say that’s a bad thing that you lose control, but I think it’s a great thing because you discover things along the way. That happened a lot with Peyman and Kristen in terms of really shaping and molding these characters through rehearsal and then through filming because they’re amazing actors, but Peyman and Kristen are also very interesting and intelligent human beings and you’d be a fool not to let them have a say in what these characters are going to be.
So I thrived on those discussions when Kristen or Peyman would come up and try to argue with me that something should be different. It was great because ultimately, as the director you’re just the gatekeeper. If Kristen can come up or Peyman can come up and say “Hey, I just thought about something, I think we should do this,” then it’s like “Hey, let’s take it to trial and I’ll hear it out” and run the pros and cons of everything that I know about the film, then if it wins, I’m like “Great, you won, we get to add this new thing to the movie.”
But to go back to your question about Kristen’s character was going through, I think as an artist you want to do one big piece of work that will live beyond your years. After I made the movie, I realized some girl in Kansas may watch this movie 10 years from now and it’s going to move her. That’s all I ever wanted out of film because I adore it as an art form, as a piece of entertainment, as everything — I just wanted to add to that conversation. I wanted to make a film that I could drop into the bucket of all these amazing other films in as much as I remember when I was younger and you first see some film and it changes your life. I wanted to hopefully create something that would have that experience on someone else.
Read the full interview at the source: Moveablefest