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Tribeca ’10 | Taking on a Thriller: Andrew Paquin’s “Open House” (World Narrative Compet.)

Tribeca '10 | Taking on a Thriller: Andrew Paquin's "Open House" (World Narrative Compet.)

Director Andrew Paquin’s pshychological suspense thriller “Open House,” starring Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer and Brian Geraghty, joins this year’s Tribeca Film Festival World Narrative Feature Competition.

In the film, Geraghty gives a haunting performance as prim and taciturn David, forced for years to watch over his sexually predatory partner Lila and her violent urges. David longs for human connection and a less violent existence, and when a would-be victim becomes a chance at redemption, he is torn between his humanity and the only life he’s ever known. [Description provided by Tribeca Film Festival]

Open House
Director: Andrew Paquin
Primary Cast: Brian Geraghty, Rachel Blanchard, Tricia Helfer, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Gabriel Olds
Director: Andrew Paquin
Screenwriter: Andrew Paquin
Producer: Danny Roth, Jack Schuster, Mitch Goldman
Editor: Tim Mirkovich
Director of Photography: Joseph White
Composer: Nathan Barr

[This is part of a series of interviews spotlighting the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival’s World Narrative and World Documentary competition films that will be published over the next two weeks in indieWIRE.]

Director Andrew Paquin makes introductions and talks about how a relationship breakdown helped inspire “Open House.”

I have always loved movies as long as I can remember but growing up mainly in New Zealand it never really seemed like a viable career path. But after my sister Anna [Paquin] won an Academy Award for “The Piano” my eyes were opened. My first foray into the film world was working in development and then as a producer. Writing was something I did on the side. But the more time I spent on set the more I realized I wanted to try directing. “Open House” is my first go at it.

The idea for “Open House” was really the result of the clash of a few different things. I knew I wanted to try to direct a film, and having worked as an indie producer, I was inspired by the idea of using resource constraints as creative stimuli. So I created some rules. I needed to write something that I could shoot in my own house and which used only a small number of actors. This would mean that I could definitely make my movie as it could literally be done for any budget. I settled on a horror or suspense thriller because I felt that if I made a decent film, it would have a shot at getting distribution and this was a genre that I could do in a single location.

But as I was determining these rules I was going through a really tough time in a relationship. I was struck by the way that the breakdown of intimacy brought on a loneliness that was then compounded by the continuing co-dependency. This was the genesis for the idea of a home invasion movie that is really just as much about the predators as the prey.

I spent a great deal of time planning how to shoot the film, working with both my DP and 1st AD. I knew that a lot of this planning would change once we had the actors on set and blocked out the scenes. But it was time well spent because as a first time director once we started shooting it allowed me to relax in the knowledge that we had the shots we needed and it allowed me to focus on working with the actors. But it also gave me a chance to really think about the visual structure of the film.

I knew that I wanted to minimize the amount of handheld camera work and that I wanted every shot to exist for a reason. For example, there are certain symmetries that I play with that are echoed over the course of the film that I think help remind the audience of relationships between characters but also that the house itself is a character. It was also at this stage that I thought a lot about how to generate an ever-increasing sense of claustrophobia.

I think I was fairly lucky in terms of how quickly the film came together. As we moved into prep I almost felt like I needed more time alone with the script. But I found that doing actor meetings and spending all day talking about these characters was actually very beneficial as I continued to rework the script during this period.

Paquin praises his actors, contemplates his Tribeca audiences and gives a shout out to inspirations…

I am very proud of the performances from my actors. I think they have all done an amazing job. And I think both Brian Geraghty and Tricia Helfer manage to create sympathetic characters despite the fact that they do terrible, evil things. I also think the film has a wonderful score by Nathan Barr. It lends the film a fairytale quality that was something I was hoping for but had no idea would be possible to capture. And I think that people who go in to the film expecting to see a horror movie like any other will be pleasantly surprised to find it is, I hope, much more.

There are many films that influenced me. “American Beauty” definitely inspired certain aspects of the relationship between David and Lila. And I am a huge fan of the Coen Brothers and the cinematographer Roger Deakins and I would refer to certain ways they would shoot scenes almost as a short hand in conversations with my DP Joe White both in terms of camera movement and use of light.

And what’s coming up…

I have another project in the horror genre that also takes place in a single location but differs in that it introduces a supernatural element – in a way that I think is very scary. I’m also a big fan of action movies and I am fortunate to be co-writing an action thriller with a good friend who is a very accomplished writer.

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