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Boaz Yakin’s “Death in Love”: “I took all the money I had saved over 20 years of working…”

Boaz Yakin's "Death in Love": "I took all the money I had saved over 20 years of working..."

Boaz Yakin’s “Death in Love” revolves around a Jewish woman (Jacqueline Bisset) who saves her life thanks to a love affair with a doctor in charge of human experiments in a Nazi concentration camp. The woman then marries and moves to New York, where she raises two emotionally stunted sons. The eldest son (Lucas Haas) battles his sense of disconnection from life while working at a scam modeling agency, where he befriends a charming young co-worker (Adam Brody) who begins to restore in him a sense of excitement and purpose. The neurotic younger son is locked in a compulsive, co-dependent relationship with his mother. The film opens in limited release Friday, July 17 in limited release.

iW: What brought you to filmmaking?

BY: I come from a family with a background in the theater– my parents had a pantomime company when I was boy, my father was also a theater director and a teacher of movement for actors at Juiiliard– so this kind of storytelling has always been a part of my life. There was a revival house near my street in NYC, called the Regency, where my little brother and I spent a huge amount of our spare time… that was my first real exposure to movies. I studied with Stella Adler after school when I was in HS, and she was my single greatest teacher and inspiration.

I think I really became aware of filmmaking as some kind of director’s art form when I was 14, and I saw Akira Kurasawa’s “Kagemusha; the Shadow Warrior.”

iW: Outside of directing, is there any other part of the filmmaking process you’d like to explore?

BY: For a while I thought I wanted to become an actor, but as soon as I got into college I realized I wanted to make films as a director and writer.

I feel, in terms of exploration, it is not so much different aspects of the process that I would like to further explore so much as I would like the opportunity to go deeper into my own ability to experiment and express myself through the medium. But this is a very difficult thing to achieve, in that finding support for such experimentation is a rare and difficult thing to achieve in our filmmaking environment.

iW: How did the idea for “Death in Love” come about and evolve?

BY: “Death in Love” came about at a point where I was taking meetings with studios on various projects, and it became clear that what I saw as a viable creative approach and what they did were so far apart that we were wasting each other’s time. It had been so long since I had done something I found interesting that I really felt if I didn’t do it right then, at that moment, I would not be able to go on creatively. I went to a friend’s apartment in NYC and just let my feelings come out in an almost completely intuitive fashion. I was also coming out of the deepest part of five or six year depression, and was trying to find a way to portray what that state of mind feels like in some kind of a dramatic fashion.

That in itself is a challenge – how to portray the depressed state of mind, which is in its nature an undramatic state– in a way that might be extremely uncomfortable, but is engaging and challenging and not boring to watch.

I suppose the biggest challenge I faced in making the film, other than the creative challenges one faces every day, was finding the financing for it – which I failed to do. So I took all the money I had saved over the last 20 years of working in the movie business and put it into the movie. I actually ran out of money during the shoot, had just enough left to get us to the end of production; then would have had to take out a loan on my apartment in NYC and go into debt… when a check for a horror film I had produced two years earlier came in and saved my ass. Allowed me to finish the film and pay my rent for the next six months. The timing was fortuitous.

It the took a year to find a distributor for the film. Finding distribution for independent film nowadays is extremely challenging, perhaps more so that at any time during the last 20 years, and one feels lucky just to be getting a film out there, even if you’re only going to see a fraction of your investment back.

iW: What in particular influenced you with this film?

BY: As for creative influences, I believe there are always new ones at different points in life. The things that knocked me out when I was a kid are still there in my heart, but the things that move me now are quite different.

Among the films that affected me while making this movie, for a variety of reasons were– “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, “Scenes from a Marriage”, “Persona”, “Irreversible”, “The Piano Teacher.”

iW: What other genres or stories would like to explore?

BY: I would very much like to continue exploring the ways in which filmmaking can express the personal, and experiment further with form and styles for doing so, but I am not sure how to finance that exploration, so I have a feeling that these explorations are going to be few and far between.

I think, even since I started making “independent films” in the ’90s, that often what people mean when they say “independent film” is simply “low budget film.”

iW: What would you say advice-wise to emerging or aspiring filmmakers?

BY: Filmmaking takes so many people to get on board before it can happen, that I don’t know if independent is really a word one can properly use in such a context. But whatever the budget, the closer a filmmaker can come to getting the people you’re involved with to allow you achieve your goals without an overabundance of interference or strong arm tactics to get what they want from you, the closer you are to a state of independence. Obviously financing your own movie is one way to do that– it’s just not very practical, and it’s not something most people can do more than once or twice in their lives, so it’s hard to build a body of work in such a fashion.

And as for advice– I have found my own creative life in the world of filmmaking so full of ambivalence and disappointment and frustration, along with whatever creative success I’ve felt I managed to eke out, that I would be that last person I would look to in order to offer advice to anyone.

iW: What are you proud of in your career so far?

BY: If I’m proud of anything, it’s that I’ve managed to navigate these waters for as long as I have and still harbor some part of me that is creatively engaged and still hoping to grow and expand.

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