Archive for September 4th, 2010

Interview with Ayz Waraich

One of my favorite upcoming and promising indie directors is Ayz Waraich. I got to know him via his “White Red Panic” short film, one of the best HV20 films ever shot. Below, we discuss about his current and future projects, camera technology, and filmmaking future.

1. Please tell us about The Divine River. How did the project came to be?

Ayz Waraich: Well, it’s a sci-fi thriller about a female time-continuum agent who is on the hunt for a dangerous time-terrorist known as the Fish. Basically the idea is that time-travel technology has hit the blackmarket in the near future, and there is this goverment agency called CWA (Continuum Watch Agency) that polices the time-line keeping it “safe”, and then this major terrorist (The Fish) has begun corrupting the time-line by going back and blowing stuff up in the past, which changes the future, and CWA is struggling to keep up with him. The film begins where they’ve picked up a trail, and try to intercept him 10 years in the past. We follow the main character of Syl, who is CWA’s top agent. After 4 long years of hunting this guy, it’s become personal for her. She’s sort of this quiet complex Ghost in the Shell type female lead. That’s pretty much the set up to the film, and it came about after I finished White Red Panic and really felt like I wanted to step my game up and try and tell a bigger story with VFX and all that. To try and do something that felt like 15 minutes out of any major Hollywood blockbuster. I guess we’ll see if I succeeded. It’s definitely ambitious and I’m beyond proud of it. Also, somewhere along the process, the big thriller I was writing started to become very personal and turned into me working out more of this never-ending existential crisis I’ve had since birth, haha. It’s a personal film where stuff blows up a lot. 😉 I think people will be surprised.

2. What do you find the difficult part in the job of a director is?

Ayz Waraich: I think the most difficult part of being a director is managing people, in order to tell your story. You have your key creative collaborators as well as the entire crew, and they all have to come together to make the film you have in your head. It can be very stressful at times, but you need to keep your wits about you and articulate clearly what you need. Very creative people tend to have passionate personalities, and as a director you have to be very careful not to swat their ideas aside due to a knee-jerk protective reaction, and instead learn to use their passion and make it part of the film, without it changing the film you are making. It’s like a real tightrope walk I’ll tell you, and sometimes the film gets away from you at moments. You just have to reign it back in, and get everyone back on the same page. David Fincher described it better than myself when he said: “Imagine painting. But you’re 200 yards away from the canvas, and 80 people are holding the brush. And you’re on a walkie-talkie going, ‘Need a little blue there. No darker blue. No DARKER BLUE!’”

3. What do you think about these web series that have sprouted up on
the internet in the last 1-2 years? Would you be interested directing
something like this? What about TV series or music videos? What are
your future plans?

Ayz Waraich: I think it’s an interesting time with the web series being a new creative outlet. It’s not something I’m very well versed in, but, and I may be wrong, the problem is that the money isn’t there and people are doing stuff very cheap with YouTube production values. If someone major got behind it and gave them the same budgets TV or film have, then there is an opportunity to do something very cool there. Serialized storytelling has been around for years, but the internet could inject new life into it, if really supported. Having said that, I’m very clear about wanting to do feature films in the future as a writer/director. That’s my goal, and these short films are about me building a body of work so I can get one of my feature scripts up and running. There’s a few things happening right now that I can’t really talk about, so I might be making one sooner than later. Cross your fingers.

4. How do you feel about this recent revolution in videography,
especially after the release of the HV20 and later the 5D Mk2?

Ayz Waraich: I think it’s great. It’s putting the power of story-telling into the hands of ambitious young people. The concern for me though is that most young filmmakers are not taking the time to study great cinematography and storytelling, to really develop good taste before they jump in and shoot something run and gun. Most of it looks very amateurish (with many exceptions of course). But like I said, the fact that the tools exist means they can be milked by the right creative mind. If you have good taste and can tell a story, the tools now exist that you can pull it off quite well. Also, hopefully the access to these camera will allow some young filmmakers to make personal and interesting films without studio intervention. I know for me that was a blessing. However, it’s a misconception that these tools look as good as major Hollywood films shot on 35mm. You can fool most people, but there is still a great divide. A great script and a solid cinematographer can go a very long way though. The tools are only there to facilitate your ideas, so make them great.

5. You shot White Red Panic with an HV20. What are the differences
technically and visually between such a small camera and the RED?

Ayz Waraich: Well, the HV20 and the RED are so far apart as cameras, it’s like comparing a bike to a car. Either will get you there, but one has a lot more power behind it and will make your life easier. Basically, the RED has a much higher resolution, allows you to attach film lenses, has a ton of frame rates to choose from, as well as many other advantages. However, the most important thing is the dynamic range. While still not as good as film, it’s miles above the hv20 and is really the key to great cinematography (resolution probably being one of the least important factors IMHO). For me though, it’s the fact that I can attach anamorphic lenses to the RED, which have a completely unique and beautiful look that no spherical lens can duplicate. That was the real draw for myself. The HV series or the DSLR’s are perfect for a young filmmaker first diving into storytelling and cinematography. Having a RED at that stage will not make your film look any better. It’s about knowing lighting and composition, studying the great cinematographers, developing good taste… once you’ve done that, these cheaper cameras will quickly start feeling inadquate because you’ll be hitting the ceiling of your abilities very fast. That’s where the RED steps in. It’ll open up new possibilities…

6. Which is your favorite movie, and why?

Ayz Waraich: My favorite movie does change from time to time, but “Magnolia” sits at the top of that list pretty confidently most of the time. I could write an essay on why I think it’s one of the greatest films ever made, but to keep it short it’s a movie that is full of life, has real empathy for people, and more than anything has a voice. Paul Thomas Anderson pours his heart out as a writer/director in that film, and it’s a cinematic ride of everyday emotions… It blows my mind every time I see it. It’s a big sprawling drama about broken hearts in the Valley, but has this fearless punk rock soul… and the ending is so unpredictable, yet perfect in what it says about us all. I aspire to make a film this good one day.