Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.
Hannah Fidell’s deeply emotional “6 Years” is a a purposely intimate experience. The newest feature from the “A Teacher” filmmaker focuses on Dan (Ben Rosenfield) and Melanie (Taissa Farmiga), a seemingly blessed and blissed out young couple who appear to have it all. As the film moves cleverly moves through time, however, it becomes clear that the golden pair might not be able to survive a series of increasingly violent upheavals. The film, which premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, is a true two-hander, and both Farmiga and Rosenfield breathe life into their complicated characters.
Rosenfield’s burgeoning cinematic career has been peppered with interesting roles in complex films, from “Greetings From Tim Buckley” to “Song One.” He’s popped up in small roles in features like “Irrational Man” and “A Most Violent Year,” and he’s next set to be seen in a short that he co-wrote and produced, “Have Had,” and a big screen take on Philip Roth’s “Indignation.” “6 Years,” however, is a true breakout for the rising star, an emotional and very personal turn that establishes him as someone to watch. Turns out, Rosenfield is into that idea, too, especially if it means you’re ready to react big time to his meatiest role to date.
“6 Years” is currently playing in limited release and is available On Demand. It will be available on Netflix starting on September 8. Read more from Rosenfield himself below:
I’d never read anything like [Hannah’s] scriptment. My agent called me and told me about the project, asked if I was interested, then sent me a scriptment, which Hannah had written, which was an outline basically. Some scenes more detailed, others were very sort of bare bones. It had visual references. I loved it, I really responded to it. It was very clear what kind of film that she wanted to make. The visual references were awesome. The scenes that had dialogue, the dialogue was strong. I love improv, and I was excited by the opportunity to improvise an entire film.
My first acting classes were actually taught by my mom, she taught me improv. I did a lot of that in elementary school and middle school. And I always like to sort of bring improv into the work that I do, even if it’s in rehearsal or something like that.
[Preparing for the role was] essentially just having conversations with Hannah and Taissa, making sure that we were all on the same page about the journey these characters were going through. From there, it was kind of just, show up and we started making the movie. It was really just about studying the script, getting ready to play the character and going and doing it.
Me, Taissa and Hannah all went to The Berkshires for a long weekend a few months before we started shooting. As a kind of opportunity to get to know each other, because a lot of the time when you make a movie, you more or less meet everyone the week you start shooting, maybe two or three days before. But with a film this intimate and emotional, Hannah, very intelligently, thought it would be wise that we all get together a few months beforehand and start developing these relationships and backstories. We watched “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” which is sort of a reference film for this movie, and talked about the history of the characters and stuff like that, which really ended up being helpful in terms of the performances that Hannah got out of us on set.
I don’t know if [the film] was a therapy session, I got way more out of it than I’ve ever gotten out of therapy, personally. It was definitely a personal experience, a very artistic experience, a very emotional experience, making the film. I wouldn’t compare it to therapy, but I would say that there was a feeling on the set, not just between me, Taissa and Hannah, but the cinematographer and his crew and the costume designer, everybody was invested in the story that was being told. Just like my experience when I read the script, there were a lot of people who really related to it and cared about the story. There was a lot of personal investment.
I’m normally drawn to characters who are very far removed from me personally. I really enjoy the process of sort of transforming into someone else, thinking about a different way of walking and talking. That’s part of the joy of acting. But when I read this script, I was like, “Wow, there is so much that relates very directly to my personal life.” That was another sort of interesting experiment, it was really liberating, too.
When we saw the film at SXSW, I was amazed by how vocal the audience was when they found things funny, they were shocked by things. It was awesome. It’s just exciting to see that people are responding to all those moments in that way, and that they feel like they can be vocal. A lot of films you go to, I find there’s a stiffness about the audience, and that certainly wasn’t the experience at SXSW.
People came up to us [after the SXSW premiere] and talked about their relationships, and how much the film affected them and how much it related to their story. That was really kind of a remarkable thing. It was a really special experience.
The thing that I like about theater is the fact that you tell the story in its entirety, in order. It’s nice to tell a story in order. I love the live audience. I also really appreciate how different it is every night. And the opportunity also to do a month of rehearsals with the entire creative team. That’s a really special thing, the rehearsal process that a lot of film actors don’t really get to experience.
What you capture in film, oftentimes, is like the really good stuff that starts happening when you’re rehearsing a play. What’s exciting is capturing that sort of lightning in a bottle, when you first discover how to make a scene work, there’s a spontaneity to it, there’s a sort of controlled chaos. To capture that on camera, the intimacy of the camera, how close you can get with the camera, it’s really exciting.
Writing in particular is something I’ve always done. I love it. I love screenwriting. It’s a really specific sort of thing to be writing for a film, to be writing for a camera and I really enjoy trying to write in a visual way.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.