This interview was originally published during indieWIRE’s coverage of this year’s SXSW. Simon Rumley’s “Red White & Blue” opens at select theaters in New York on Friday, October 8.
Simon Rumley comes to America for the first time in his five-feature career. In “Red White & Blue,” a part of the Emerging Visions program, “Erica (Amanda Fuller) spends her nights trawling the bars and beds of Austin. Emotionally withdrawn, sleeping with multiple men is just what she does… until she meets the older and mysterious Nate (Noah Taylor), who claims to have an “honorable discharge” from Iraq. Despite his air of danger, Nate’s the only guy who doesn’t just seem to want to get her into bed, and the two form a hesitant bond. But one of Erica’s casual sexual encounters, Franki (Marc Senter) – a young, hot-headed wannabe rock star trying to make it big – is about to return dramatically into her life… Franki “shared” Erica with his buddies one drunken evening. A cruel twist of fate is all it takes to throw his already crazy world into a spin, and in Franki’s eyes there is only one person to blame…” [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]
“Red White & Blue”
Director: Simon Rumley
Screenwriter: Simon Rumley
Producers: Bob Portal, Adam Goldworm
Cast: Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter, Lauren Scheider, Jon Michael Davis, Sally Jackson, Nick Ashy Holden, Patrick Crovo, Eryn Brooke, and Kevin LaVoie
Cinematographer: Milton Kam
Editor: Rob Hall
Rumley introduces himself and his work…
Simon Rumley here. In terms of what lured me into film-making, I pretty much woke up one morning when I was 19 and decided I wanted to become a director. I was at university at the time studying law and by the end of that term, I’d shot my first silent Super 8mm film. “Red White & Blue” is my 5th feature and, being English, my first one to shoot in the States. My first three features were set in London during the 90s and dealt with our youth culture: “Strong Language,” “The Truth Game” and “Club Le Monde.” These films were often compared to works by Richard Linklater and Eric Rohmer but after stunning reviews, no real relationship was born between myself and the British film industry so I felt it was time to change tack and go back to the dark themes that ran through my short films. This coincided with both my parents dying within the space of 6 months. From watching my mother tragically die of cancer, my next feature, “The Living and The Dead” evolved. This premiered at Rotterdam in 2006 and ended up playing over 40 festivals winning tons of awards and, thanks to the good folk at Imagination Worldwide, selling to over 26 territories.
Having witnessed the genre-bending success of “The Living And The Dead” and the ‘is it horror/isn’t it horror?’ debates people had about it, I decided this was a reaction I liked! I therefore started thinking of different but deliberate ways of killing people which sit outside the usual parameters of your average maniac with a knife/mask/chainsaw/fish-hook. Thus, without giving too much away, the idea for “Red, White, & Blue” came along…
Having met Tim and Karrie League at FantasticFest where I stayed in their house for a week and won 5 awards for “The Living And The Dead” (no causal link!), we inevitably became friends and then, after having hung out in Cannes and Berlin and Pifan in Korea, we became even better friends! I’d been wanting to shoot a film in the States for a while and was impressed by how cool and visual and fun Austin was. I asked Tim if I shot a film in Austin, would he exec it and give me access to his myriad of contacts and resources. He said yes and I guess the rest is history!
In terms of the directing, I wanted to the film to be very much a game of two halves and actually the Variety review picked up on this perfectly when they said it was like a film that started off by Larry Clarke and ended up by Wes Craven; this is actually how I pitched the film quite a few times so it was gratifying to hear people pick up on this immediately.
With this in mind, the first half of the film is pure montage. Although the camera is handheld it really doesn’t move at all (as in there are no panning shots, no crane shots, no tracking etc). The energy is created from the various different set-ups and the way I constructed and then edited the film. The second half however, with Noah Taylor’s character (Nate) is much more about following his character who essentially has the power to command the camera to move with him.
The sound design is also very calculated as are the musical cues so that apart from the opening scene, there’s no scored music until about half way through the film and this is very sparse and goes from being haunted to crazed to emotional, very much following Nate’s emotional journey.
Beyond the creative aspect of directing, there was a lot of meticulous planning, communicating and close work with the other producer Bob Portal, the co-producer Paul Knaus, the DP Milton Kam, the 1st AD Joseph Garza and all the other HoDs and actors. I kind of feel this should go without saying but, from experience, doesn’t!
Honestly speaking, this was the quickest feature I’ve been involved with. I wrote the first draft of the script in October/November of ’08 at which point the key executive Doug Abbot said that he thought he could finance it. I did a couple more drafts before heading out to Austin for a recce during and after SXSW in March 09. I did another draft in April in London and then I flew out at the beginning of May, spent about 9 weeks in prep, shot the film and was back home by August! If every film were made like this one, the world would surely be a better place!
On what the Austinites are going to get from this film…
For a start, I think we’ve portrayed Austin in this quite loving and beautifully evanescent kind of way with very crushed blacks and super saturated colours so I think the home audience is going to see their town in a different light and have great fun spotting all the local iconographic venues like The Broken Spoke, Emos, Spiderhouse, Cucarachas et al. The film is screening at the Alamo Lamarr and I’m especially looking forward to hearing massive cheers from the audience (hopefully) when they see the scene in the film shot at the Lamarr!
Beyond the locations, I’ve found Austinites to be refreshingly open in their tastes and actively search out things that strive to be original so I think they’ll be incredibly open to the journey and marvel at the ultimate destination!
On globetrotting in the name of future jobs…
Well I’m just about to enter post-production on a film called “Little Deaths” which is a psychosexual horror anthology I’m doing with a couple of other directors in London. I have a film set in New Orleans called “Exquisite Corpse” which is making some pleasingly strange but encouraging noises at the moment. I have a film set in rural China called “Stranger” and if none of these happen in the next 5 months, I’ll head out to India to do some research for a project I’ll be setting there…