EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH INDEPENDENT FIMMAKER
Voice Inside is a short film from filmmaker Jeremy Wanek about a traumatic event that emotionally rips a father and daughter apart. While the father drowns himself in drink, the daughter fills the void with a seemingly friendly new playmate…
I recently had the opportunity to interview the writer/director about how the film was made and what it took to pull it off.
What inspired ‘Voice Inside’?
The initial seed of inspiration was from a short, done by Vaughn Juares, I loved called, “Fragile“. One of the things that amazed me about it was the two talented young actors in the movie. It blew me away. So I started noodling on some ideas involving a young kid. Yada, yada, yada… 2 years later I decided to make it.
One of my favorite questions to ask filmmakers is how the screenplay came together. It’s always interesting to hear about what drives the movie and where it all began.
I like to think things out really well before I start to write anything down. The idea has to have some sort of meaning to me and it has to have a particular “feeling.” A major part of the reason that it took me 2 years to start writing the script, after that initial inspiration, was because of this. I had a lot of other ideas floating around, but this one stuck. Once I started writing, it went pretty fast. I made 4 revisions to my first rough draft; mostly adding complexity and depth to the story. I like to bounce ideas off my wife. She has great insights and has always been brutally honest with her feedback, which is an awesome thing.
How did you go about funding the project?
I thought about trying to raise $1,000 to pay the talent and crew through IndieGoGo, but I felt guilty for some reason (Probably has to do with the whole “Minnesota nice” thing). So I ended up paying everyone out of pocket.
What challenges did you face during pre-production?
There were 2 things. First, finding the actors. I thought it was going to be much harder to cast the child actor. However, on the first day of auditions Olivia Coon rocked it. She memorized her line super fast and remembered all of her staging directions. I could use all my normal directing jargon and she understood everything; so talented! Anyways, it was a bit harder finding the right dad, but I remembered Charles Hubbell from a feature film I had edited. I had him audition, and just as I had hoped, he was exactly what I was looking for. Secondly, finding the location was pretty tough. I had a really specific look involving a house that had a good sized backyard, that lead to a huge line of trees, that lead into a forest. I was pretty sure we’d have to shoot all the interiors at a separate location from the exteriors and we did. Thankfully, my Director of Photography, Travis Schwartz and my Assistant Director, Slobodan Bubalo, found two great locations that worked out really well.
Personally, what I loved about `Voice Inside`was the look and overall style of the film.
I was definitely going for a naturalistic look. I didn’t want to make it too stylized. As far as the lighting went, I wanted it to feel a bit more realistic and a little less cinematic. The exteriors were all shot with natural sunlight and no additional lights. I thought about using silks or flags to block some of the light, but we didn’t have a lot of time or big enough equipment to really pull that off. On the interiors I used available light coming in from the windows when possible. We actually had set up a light in place of the window for the scene with the dad crying in his bedroom, but I wanted to get a wide shot that showed the window as well. The room wasn’t big enough to get that focal length without getting the light in the shot, so we tried using the natural light coming through the window and it looked great. The scene where the dad is watching TV, I initially wanted to use the light from the actual TV, but that didn’t work out too well. So we set up one light with a dimmer and that worked much better. We shot with a Canon 7D, which was great for the low light.
What challenges did you face on set?
I storyboarded the whole movie to prevent as many visual issues as possible. I also made a shot list and what order we needed to shoot things in so that the talent could go home as early as possible. On day 1 (We shot the movie in 2 days) we had a time crunch with Olivia and had to get all her exterior stuff done in 4 hours. With her being as talented as she is, that wan’t too tough to accomplish, but I was definitely a little worried about getting that all done in time.
Another thing I can remember being a bit of an issue was finding exactly where to shoot a lot of the woods shots. The DP and I had already looked through the woods and tried to plot out as much as possible beforehand, but we didn’t have enough time to figure it all out. So I guess deciding right then and there where to shoot certain shots was difficult. Also, Charles Hubbell (the dad) can run forever, really fast, without getting tired. I had done some Insanity workouts and thought I was in decent shape. Wrong. Chasing after him when he was running through the woods and dodging branches and jumping over logs was tiring. We did that several times for probably an hour to get all the angles I wanted. In the end it was definitely worth it and a great time. Lastly, the weather jumped back and forth between rain and no rain all week so we were concerned we might have to postpone the shoot, which would have been difficult. Thankfully we had a perfectly sunny day.
As a writer, director, producer, camera operator, editor & sound editor, can you discuss the benefits and/or pitfalls of wearing so many hats?
I’ve done that quite a bit and while it gives me more control it’s not the best thing to do. I planned on finding someone to do the sound editing and actually the person I wanted would have charged me too much. It pretty much comes down to money for me. I trust myself to do a good job and love every aspect of filmmaking, but I would also love to hire more people to fill those roles. A lot of people just don’t pay anyone to do their short films and I hadn’t ever in the past, but this time I wanted to give everyone a little something. So basically, the benefits are control and more experience for myself. The biggest pitfalls are not being able to concentrate on one single task and losing valuable collaboration.
What’s next for ‘Voice Inside’?
I’ve been submitting it to several festivals. I hadn’t ever submitted to any major festivals in the past, so I decided to try that out with this movie. I should start finding out whether or not it’s accepted into most of the festivals by early next year.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently finalizing an edit on a feature film and doing digital effects on another. I also have an idea for a feature film that I’ve been thinking about for awhile… Just kind of waiting for the right moment to green light that. Other than that I’m always on the look out for more freelance work.
WATCH VOICE INSIDE
Special thanks to Jeremy Wanek.