Director Luke LoCurcio Speaks About "Aphasia," His Hit Short at TFF
Playing at Film Festivals
Director Luke LoCurcio Speaks About Aphasia, His Hit Short at TFF
(from Sag Harbor Express Online 4/23/15)
By Danny Peary
If you’re a movie fan and anywhere near New York City this weekend, I highly recommend that you make time to see René Clement’s exquisite, heart-wrenching, Oscar-winning French classic Forbidden Games (a beautiful recently restored print with new subtitles!), at the Film Forum beginning Friday–AND at least one shorts program at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Robin Rose Singer and Luke LoCurcio; Photo by Ian Kaplan.
On Saturday, one day before the festival ends, all shorts will be screened one last time from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. in auditoriums 6 and 9 at the Regal Battery Park Stadium 11 at 102 North End Avenue. (Keep in mind that you may have to arrive early to get the Rush Line if a program is sold out.) I will give a personal plug for the FML program of seven technology-themed shorts playing at 4:30 because it includes a super 12-minute futuristic short,Aphasia, directed with style by Luke LoCurio and produced and written by its gifted lead, Robin Rose Singer. Singer (who I interviewed for this paper when her starring vehicleKisses, Chloe played at the 2010 Hamptons International Film Festival) plays a cheerful young woman, Emily, who lives alone in her spotless and spiffy high-tech New York apartment of the near-future. She is content to spend her evenings sitting in front of her huge interactive television, holding and texting with her phone, using her computer to exchange flirtatious IMs with a musician she has never met, and eat food delivered to her door. But one day she ventures out to meet the musician, with unexpected results. For the next few months I will be posting interviews I’ve done at this year’s TFF with directors and actors who came to New York with features, but I am pleased begin with the following Q&A I did this week with Luke LoCurcio about his impressive short.
Danny Peary: I read that when you were growing up in New Jersey you immersed yourself in movies and “started experimenting with cameras around age eight.” So was your career determined when you were youngster or later on?
Luke LoCurcio: I pretty much knew I wanted to be involved with film since I can remember. At the beginning I was interested in science fiction and horror SFX, but that evolved into filmmaking naturally. The idea of world building and limitless storytelling was very intriguing.
DP: When you were making shorts was there a steady progression where your earliest film led to a better and more layered next film to an even better and more complex next film on so on? Or do you think the order in which your shorts were made doesn’t matter?
LL: Yeah, in a way. My earlier projects and pieces were more experiments in shots than anything. The visuals were a big cornerstone for me through the progression so I think it makes sense that is where it started. As I got older I had to understand story better and that really helped me get a grasp on tighter tales.
DP: Were you gravitating toward making horror and science fiction films and that led you to Aphasia?
LL: Horror is probably my favorite genre. There’s something about the fear you can invoke in an audience that is really fun. Growing up it was always the horror films that got me most pumped when they were on or if I was at the rental store. I’ll never forget watching John Carpenter’s The Thing as a kid. HUGE INFLUENCE. That said, films are films, and I absolutely love well-told dramas, westerns, and whatever genre. Horror just has a very special place in my heart.
DP: This is such a personal film for your star, writer and producer Robin Rose Singer, so I’m curious about the early conversations you had that allowed her to trust that you were picturing the same film visually and thematically as she was.
LL: First let me say that Robin Rose Singer is an amazing person. Her work ethic and dream-driven passion are rare to find these days. We worked together on a film about six years ago or so and we creatively hit it off from the start. When she approached me about Aphasia and we had discussions about her vision, I became more and more intrigued and soon we found ourselves pretty much on the same page regarding what the final outcome should be. We have both noticed people in our lives obsessing over material technology to the point where we think it is a serious issue and we saw this film as a great opportunity to explore that. We instantly trusted each other and that was solidified through conversations about making the film. I felt super comfortable going into the production itself because of this trust and our parallel visions. If it wasn’t for that initial trust, it would have a harder climb to get where we wanted to go. I was very humbled by her trust in me and I believe that helped the whole process move as smoothly as it did. Basically, we trusted each other.
DP: Many filmmakers seem to think if they had a bigger budget they could turn their story into what they really wanted to make, a feature–but am I right in thinking you and Robin agreed that this story worked best at 12+ minutes?
LL: Everything I have worked on that I was serious about and hoped would go somewhere had a small budget. WithAphasia I would say we had exactly what we needed. The film is very balanced shooting-wise. You need to be smart, creative, and efficient with budgets and short films call for that. Robin and I never had a conversation about a feature when making this film, but I can’t say about the future!
DP: Robin’s character Emily has a guitar in her near-future, technology-dominated apartment. I know it’s symbolic of music and singing–”old ways” to communicate–and I want you to talk about that and your impressive visual design, but also did you two intend it to be one of the few objects in her world, including food, that isn’t some sort of a rectangle or oval?
LL: Good eye-thought connection! Yeah, the idea was to have her space be as bland, overly neat, empty, and removed as possible. The guitar is almost a relic of her past, and society’s past. Anna Kathleen and the design crew really owned this one. I was so impressed.
DP: In terms of visuals, talk about your interesting shot of the barebacked Emily from behind as she stands at her closet–even she has a geometric look.
LL: The only thing I can really say is sometimes shots just appear to me and they feel right for a particular moment in a scene. That shot fits somehow into the overall film. I’m glad it has had an interesting effect visually.
DP: When Emily emerges from the NY subway onto the street, I felt a jolt and felt dreariness, like I’m seeing a city that has been decimated by a plague perhaps (maybe technology burn-out). Was what I felt what you hoped viewers would feel?
LL: I love that! It wasn’t the intent so much to show what has happened to this world but rather to yank the viewer out of her isolated apartment quickly and with a startling effect. But yeah, we had some conversation about how this world would be more corporate-government-technologically controlled–and that obviously always evolves into some sort despotism, mild or harsh. So you are onto something!
DP: Talk about spending months working on this film with Robin and others and overcoming challenges because many people will think “it’s a short so it probably took two weeks to complete.”
LL: Classic. Making a film is always challenging. Personally I find the hardest challenges to be those in pre-production because this is when you are molding your shots and ideas, and from the look to the performances to the finalized script everything needs to be ready to go. I storyboarded a lot of the film so when we got into production we could just paint by numbers and be more efficient, and that was the case. Storyboarding is time consuming but also vital to the film itself because it’s basically a visual blueprint of the movie. It helps me immensely. The shooting was quite easy on Aphasia. I usually shoot my own work so having a full film crew and DP made life extremely easy for me, especially when it came to shooting scenes and for overall production. I had freedom to focus on directing rather than wearing multiple hats. Editing the film is where the real work was put in. Here we have a 12-minute film, but to get there took months of chopping and trying out different things. long days and long weeks. Robin was a true warrior–she kept me going and took it to the finish line. To people who think short films take no time at all, let me say that they do. Whether it’s a 5-minute film a 12-minute film or a feature, you want to make every second count and you pour your heart into it and spend as much time as possible editing and fine tuning it. You don’t want to settle on a cut that needs more and sell yourself short! Film to me is the ultimate art form, in the sense it includes various arts, from visuals, performances, writing, tech work, music, and so on. When you make a film and you are serious about it, you give all that you have. There is a reason that most feature films have long credit lists. There is a reason films cost money and there is a reason why only the mad keep at it, haha.
DP: Do you consider Aphasia a cautionary tale? Or a kind of one-joke punchline on us, like one of the many Twilight Zones that deal with loss of identity?
LL: It’s so funny you say that. I actually talked to Robin about how I wanted to approach this film as if it were a Twilight Zone episode, where at the end you are left feeling helpless. Its definitely a cautionary tale. Technology is great but it is a double-edged sword. We need balance and need to return to nature, I believe. The character of Emily has put herself in a very unfortunate position due to her addiction to technology and her narcissism.
DP: What are you proudest of about this film?
LL: I’m proud of the film itself, because as a whole it represents all the work everyone on the team put in, from Robin and me to the set designers to the production assistants. When I watch it, I know who was on top of what and that makes me feel proud of them and proud of the field we chose.
DP: How does Aphasia fit into your own progression as a filmmaker? The title of your first feature, The After, which I assume in a horror or sci-fi film, seems fitting in that I think you believe it wouldn’t have been the same film if you made it before Aphasia.
LL: Aphasia is a blessing. It really has given me the opportunity to work on something I found not only very compelling but also could help me pursue projects I’ve had in my mind for years. The After has also been a true journey. We shot it two or three years ago and the footage is absolutely beautiful and we have a great cast. It has another very interesting Twilight Zone-esque story about how a dark government takeover would affect the lives of a few young Americans. It’s all told from their perspective. We waited till the time was right and we plan on shooting this summer to wrap edit.
DP: How does it feel for you and Robin to have Aphasia play at the Tribeca Film Festival?
LL: It’s an extraordinarily humbling experience and we couldn’t be happier. Here’s to hoping it leads to opportunities to tell more stories!
DP: How can people see Aphasia after the festival?
LL: The next stop for Robin and me is the Cannes short film market. All updates on future festivals will be atwww.aphasiathefilm.com.