FilmSnobbery – Marion Ross has worked in the industry for decades. Was there anything you were able to learn from her while filming?
Dominique Schilling – Humility, focus, put the work in, have confidence in your own work, be grateful and never give up.
FS – You are both the writer and director of A REASON. Did any of the scenes turn out completely different after filming then when you envisioned them during the writing process?
DS – Yes. They turned out better. Nothing beats watching your imagination come to life on screen.
FS – I know you have discussed the time limitations you had when filming because the house in the film was going to be torn down. What was the second biggest obstacle you had to overcome while shooting A REASON?
DS – There was a very noisy construction site across the street from our main shooting location and even though we had made previous arrangements to work around the sites hours, the builder didn’t stick to the agreement. It was a very challenging for us and we had to reschedule scenes, but were able to make it work in the end.
FS – Growing up outside the US, do you see a difference in the way independent film is supported/viewed?
DS – In Germany, for example, there is no such thing as indie film like we know it here, because there is no studio system in the first place. There are studios, but most films are state funded, not funded by the studios or private investors. Sometimes it’s a mixture. So, what we perceive here in the US as indie film is a rarity over there.
FS – Having also worked on a documentary, which genre of filmmaking do you find more challenging and fulfilling?
DS – Both present their own unique set of challenges. I enjoy bringing fictional stories to life as well as shedding light on issues I’m passionate about. Our next film will be another narrative feature, but I’m not excluding the possibility to direct a documentary in the future.
FS – What is your writing process? Do you have certain times of day or night where you feel more creative than others?
DS – I go on a walk to the beach every morning to clear my head. Then, around 10am, I usually put on something that represents the main character. When I wrote “A Reason”, it was a black hoodie, which was later worn by Magda Apanowicz in the film. For the new script “Little Girl, Big Eyes”, I dressed up in fighter boots, because that’s what the lead character will wear in the film. It brings me closer to the characters and puts me into the right mindset. Then I put on music to write to. Every character has their own theme song and certain scenes have their own song. I’ve been called a “method writer” before. After I’m done with a scene, I play through it. Makes for great entertainment in a coffee shop, that’s why I usually write at home.
FS – There are a lot of states with healthy tax credits and resources. Why did you choose to film in Los Angeles, which is typically regarded as being fairly expensive to film in?
DS – The house that inspired the film and that I wrote the script for, is located here in Los Angeles, so it was always clear to me that I would shoot the movie here. I do, however, also have a lot of friends that are crew members that have a hard time, because the film industry is leaving Los Angeles. I kept that in mind. Having said that, if I write a film that has a New York setting, I would shoot in New York.
FS – Where did you meet your Producer, Caroline and why did you decide to work together? What gaps in your knowledge and sanity does she fill?
DS – I met Caroline Risberg through a friend. Our first project together was a music video. My co-director quit mid-shoot and I had only a few hours to write a shot list and come up with new camera angles and staging for the dancers. The ship was sinking, but Caroline and I saved the shoot together, because both of us were determined to not have the investors lose their money and the artist go through a devastating experience. Through this we realized how well we work together, that we trust each other, rely on each other and that we’re both the kind of people that just don’t give up. At that point we formed Risberg Schilling Productions. She’s a wonderful producer and business partner.
FS – How important was the score to this film to you? What do you hope to make the audience feel with the music in A REASON?
DS – Composer Kim Planert, who is just amazing, wrote the score for the film. As I mentioned earlier, I listened to music while writing A Reason and played some things for him to give him a direction. He has exceeded my expectation in every sense. It was wonderful to work with him in the studio, record the music with the orchestra – it was one of my most important aspects of the film. I think that music shouldn’t tell an audience what to feel – it should round up a picture. It’s another way of sharing emotions.
FS – How much inspiration, if any, did you take from your experiences with your own family while writing A REASON?
DS – I had just visited my family in Switzerland and even though my family is not picture book, we all always try to make it work and love each other deeply. I wanted to pass some of that peace that I’ve gained on, however, the film is not based on my own family. The characters are all very different. Everyone has some sort of family and as an adult our perception towards them can either progress or regress. I’m a firm believer in unconditional love when it comes to family and hope that A Reason sends that message out. That no matter what you’re up against, you can work towards family cohesion.
FS – What was the casting process for A REASON? Was Marion Ross your first choice for the role of Aunt Irene? What about Serena’s character? What were the specific qualities you were looking for the actress playing her to have?
DS – Our casting director Michael Sanford and casting associate Alex Christopoulos suggested Marion. Caroline and I absolutely loved the idea, Marion read the script, we made an offer and she said yes. It was a very standard approach. We had auditions for Serena and had a lot of actresses read for us. I was very torn about who to cast in this role, because the character has such a big arch. I needed an actress that could portray an intimidated, distraught young woman, who deep inside has a rebel spirit that comes more and more to the surface until she fights back. It’s the old “we need someone who is vulnerable and strong at the same time”. It’s really harder than one would think. Magda Apanowicz had all these qualities and is a wonderful actress. I feel very fortunate to have had such an amazing cast.