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Vanessa McMahon


Vanessa is a novel writer, screenwriter, rep and a film producer. She shares her discoveries and film surprises. :-)

 


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Talking 'Quietly' with Cole Wiley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am super proud to present my good friend Colen C. Wiley. Cole and I met at an NYU interview four years ago where each of us had been interviewed by then NYU film teacher Milcho Manchevski, director of a favorite film of mine, Before the Rain (1994). Cole Wiley is the most educated up and coming filmmaker I know. He is a Harvard Law School grad and now an NYU Film school grad with his first short film having won awards in short film festivals nationwide and actively at work on his first feature film. Here today, my buddy Cole talks about his award winning short film Quietly (2009).

 

 

ME: Cole, can you talk to us about your film Quietly? What is it about and what inspired you to make this film? 

 

 

COLE: Quietly is a 17 minute drama about a quiet and unassuming 15-year-old boy who is struggling to separate his mother from her abusive boyfriend. Willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen, he begins to
consider extremely drastic actions to save his home and family, but ends up finding that the consequences of his choices lead him into territory that he was not intending to explore. The inspiration for this film actually came from
a few images that popped into my head after reading a quote from the infamous filmmaker, Federico Fellini. It reads "If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet...maybe we could understand something."
That quote sent my mind racing. I began to think about how, underneath it all, the quietest people probably have the deepest and darkest stories to tell. That notion is no different for Italis, the lead character in Quietly. I wanted to create a story with a young character that was faced with a situation where it seems as though he is only willing to speak about anything relating to his heartbreaking situation at home on the rarest of occasions. While Italis is a product of circumstance, just like all of us, his situation is pushing him to a point where he never thought that he would venture.  

 

 

ME: I love the film. I've screened it once in Italy on computer and once in San Diego on the big screen where it sent chills down my spine it was so good. Do you have any stories or anecdotes you might have about the process of making the film? And this being one of your first films, how hard was the process to make it from the script to the screen?

 

 

COLE: I always feel like answering this question in relation to any project that a filmmaker undertakes could take days. Every film is such an interesting process. There were certainly challenges involved with the transition from script to screen and also from the cutting room to the final product as well. The process is never easy, but there are certain steps involved that are always the same.  First of all, you have to make sure that you have a compelling, well- structured story on the page.  If the script isn't working, you'll never recover from that. Casting is always critical as
well. If nothing else, I feel that I was able to get strong performances on this project from pretty much every actor that appears on screen.  From that point, it becomes about handling all the logistics related to the shoot, executing the plan, improvising when necessary, and then pulling it all together in the editing room. The most important thing to remember when cutting a film is that you've got to remember that even though everything is already shot, you still haven't really found your story until you piece the images together. Scenes get cut, shortened, and modified in ways that surprise everyone. In the case of Quietly, we ended up cutting an entirely different ending than what was in the script.  The film actually ends with an unplanned pickup shot that I grabbed with my lead actor on a whim.  At
the time, I just thought it was a nice looking shot that might be useful at some point, not realizing that it was going to be the closing shot for the film. Why did we change scripted ending?  Because the revised one was much more effective...and it was shorter.  And shorter is often better. With all that, I would say that the major obstacle with this production was financial. Budgeted at an amount that was ten times bigger than any other project that I had produced to date, financing Quietly was an undertaking that involved a lot of determination, some creative resourcefulness, and a little bit of luck. With no angel investor that was willing to step up and finance the project in one check, I was left with only one option: to ask every family member, friend, and close associate that I had ever met if they would be willing to support the project with even the smallest contribution.  Three months later, I had raised more than $15,000, more than enough money to get the project in the can.

 

 

ME: Wow! Well, this kind non studio funding is more common than not these days as it gives the filmmaker almost total creative freedom. Congrats on pulling that off. The production was so well done that it looked like it was filmed for much more. Can you tell us about what you want audiences to know about your film and what you really wanted to say with them? And can you tell what the 'Quietly' is in the film?  :-)

 

 

COLE: Well, pretty much every film has a simple question or premise behind it that the filmmaker is seeking to address in the journey of the characters. With this film, I asked myself: what causes someone to be so introspective and quiet that they only take opportunities to speak when it is absolutely necessary to do so?  I believe it is because quiet people tend to have a methodical preoccupation with a larger issue.  They have a problem or a goal where ‘talking about it' just doesn't cut it.  It's not a coincidence that people get quieter when the obstacles in front of them get
larger and the stakes get higher.  Imagine yourself at the free throw line shooting to win the last game of the NBA Finals, or bearing the burden of feeding your children with no job, no money, and no options in front of you, or driving through gridlocked traffic on the way to a hospital as the love of your life is critically injured in the backseat.  These are not times of mindless chatter and absentminded babbling.  They are times for intense concentration and resolve. Imagine living and feeling like that every day of your life.  Never being able to lose focus...never being able to back down. That was the world I wanted to create for the main character in Quietly. I wanted the film to challenge us all to be a little quieter and a little more assiduous in dealing with the difficulties that life throws in front of us.  

 

 

ME: It's always so refreshing talking with you, Cole. You are so articulate and eloquent when you speak. Now I need to see the film again after hearing your idea behind your inspiration for the film. Can you tell us how the film been received domestically and internationally? 

 

 

COLE: The film has been received very will domestically and has screened at a few international festivals as well.  It didn't have a huge breakthrough at the major festivals that most people covet like Sundance, Cannes, or Venice, but it has played at over 20 well respected and well known festivals in the film community and has picked up several awards and honors along the way.  I can't say the film has had the type of success that has changed the course of my career or anything, but it has had more success than many other short projects out here.  It's also nice to realize that I can now call myself an award winning filmmaker. Sometimes I don't believe it when I say it to myself.  It's not even something that I would ever want to brag about, but having some small validation that at least a few people out here enjoy your work can be huge in this industry. Having the motivation to keep working hard and continue making the best films that you can is critical in the early stages of your career. At least it is for me.

 

 

ME: It's amazing. I really can say ‘I remember when' you were dreaming to make your first film and now here you are, an award winning filmmaker. Now, the next question I know the answer to but let's ask for everyone to hear... How did you get into filmmaking? Did you just fall into it like many say or did you always dream of it?

 

 

COLE: Oh boy.  This is another question that I could write a book about.  I have always been in love with film, and I would say it is entirely my father's fault.  From a very early age, he not only had me watching film, but examining it intensely.  My father was an author, screenwriter, and a journalist.  Storytelling was his trade, and he had a love for the art.  To be perfectly honest, it was his infatuation with film that has led me to where I am today.  With that
said, I suspect that my passion for film scared him.  A lifetime encountering the struggles involved with being creative artist gave him enough sense to push his only son in the opposite direction.  So, for the first 22 years of my life, I had a tenuous relationship with film, only dabbling in small projects here and there.

The summer of 2004 was a period of monumental change in my life.  I graduated from college, I went to work in
California for the first time, I enrolled in Harvard Law School, and my father passed away.  My first year of law school was filled with tremendous highs, painful lows, and an astounding amount of introspective growth and enlightenment. I managed the law school machine adequately enough, but the overall experience was crushing my creative spirit.  It was not until law school pushed me to the point of a breakdown that I began to really think about what I wanted out of life.

For many years, I had been guiding my life by sticking to what would be seen as practical, logical, and prudent to
the average person.  It was not until I let go of the typical notions of success that I was able to refocus my gifts and abilities on what I was passionate about.  I wanted to go back to what was most authentic and most basic in my life.  Before all the advice about stable careers and making money, I returned to one of the first things that I learned to appreciate in life...storytelling.  So, although some people thought I was crazy, I gave up my career as an attorney and enrolled at the NYU Graduate Film Program. I have to say that I did put in the time and graduate from law school. My mother would have killed me if I didn't finish!

 

 

ME: Okay, this is by far my favorite interview yet. Your story always makes me tear up. Cole, you are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I remember taking the train to Milan together and you asking me, ‘Why did I choose to be a filmmaker? I mean, people don't need film. People can live without film. They cannot live without music. Why couldn't I make a useful art like music?' And I thought then, that was why I admire you so much. You are a true artist, always in search of a higher truth and always a victim of your own humbling humility. Now that you have finished the festival circuit with Quietly and you have finally graduated from NYU, making this the first autumn ever that you will not have to go back to school (lol), What will you be working on in the future? Can you speak about this yet?

 

 

COLE: Well, I've finally finished my classes at NYU, so now I finally have the ability to pursue whatever I want to. Right now, I'm working hard on a feature script that takes place in the hurricane ravaged region of the Gulf Coast.  It's a family drama / coming-of-age story that I hope will portray some of the real issues that people have been dealing with down there over the last few years.  I feel that my latest draft of that script is the best one yet, and as soon as I feel completely comfortable with what's on the page I'll begin reaching out to production companies and reputable producers to see if we can find the financing to make the shoot happen.  I'm interested in doing many different things aside from shooting features, but it's a huge goal of mine to get that first feature up off the ground.  Other than that, I've got several other feature projects in development, as well as material for a potential webseries, a sports documentary, and I'm even trying to pull together a non-fiction book proposal together.  Writing is extremely important to me, so I tend to have as much going as possible on that front.  I also hope to shoot a small short film in the fall to send out to a few festivals.  I'm excited about it because it's a real artsy fartsy type of project which is typically not something I get into.

 

 

ME: Classic way to end the interview, Cole. LOL! ‘I'm excited about it because it's a real artsy fartsy type of project which is typically not something I get into'! haha! I'll leave the readers with another CW quote that has always been one of my favorites: ‘I wonder how many birds just fly for the hell of it!' Cole, there are no words to describe you. You truly are a one and only and the film world needs a filmmaker like you in it. So, please, hurry
up and tell us more stories.

 

 

Interview by Vanessa McMahon on August 31, 2010

 

 

Contact Cole here: info@heygoodimages.com

and trailer for 'Quietly' here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcdnkdCr6g0

still from film 'Quietly'

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About Vanessa McMahon

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