by Jason Whyte "THE OTHER HALF is a contemporary, Romeo and Juliet love story about two damaged people, Nickie and Emily. Nickie is in mourning and burying all emotion while Emily is mentally ill and struggles with feeling too much. They fall in love at first sight and try to fit into society and find balance amidst the normal rules of relationship. The performances are incredibly truthful. And the film subverts genre expectations. The film is incredibly astute about what intimacy is like in the 21st century." - Producer Nicole Hilliard-Forde on THE OTHER HALF which screens at the 2016 edition of South By Southwest Film
I am thrilled to hear your movie is showing at SxSW and this is your first time here! Are you planning to attend your screenings?
This is my first SXSW and I will be in attendance at all three screenings on March 11, 12 and 16.
Tell me a bit about how you got your start in the industry and your previous work!
I started in casting 16 years ago. I started as a Casting Assistant, then became an Associate, then an In-house Casting Director at a fairly large casting company. There I worked on studio films and network/cable television shows. I worked in a US idiom and learned a lot. I run my own casting company now.
Along the way, I decided to delve into producing and attended the Canadian Film Centre Producers Lab, a film and television training institute founded by Norman Jewison. I set up a production company called Motel Pictures. I waited for a very special kind of writer/director to walk into my life. That person was director Joey Klein. And when he did I took the plunge of producing my first feature.
So how did this movie come together from your perspective?
It's a bit of a story. I was very familiar with Joey Klein as an actor. I had been observing his trajectory as an artist over a decade. I had auditioned him and cast him in a few projects. One night, I was at the wrap party for a feature film that Joey had starred in and I had cast. We both got chatting about life beyond the project we were celebrating that evening. He told me that he was also writing, had directed two short films and was preparing to direct a feature film. I told him that I had produced some shorts and a documentary and had thought about producing features but had not found the right project.
We decided to go out for coffee and continue chatting. Joey told me about The Other Half which he had been writing off-and-on for about nine years; that he had a cinematographer attached, two lead actors attached to the project, all of them close friends, and the interest of a Canadian distributor. I fell in love with his writing voice immediately. I could hear all of the layers of his original voice and felt a deep, shared preoccupation with the things he was writing about.
He told me about this passion project and I immediately offered to help him find a producer as he had been working alone to push the project forward, doing an amazing job I might add, and was looking for an experienced feature film producer. I made introductions for him and he updated me on the project. Meanwhile he sent me another feature screenplay to read and discuss. We agreed to develop this second script together and I began producing it. From time to time I would ask him "What ever happened with your passion project THE OTHER HALF?" For whatever reason, not much was progressing with it. During the time we developed the second script, we fell into an easy creative sympatico or groove with one another. Not long after, he asked me to produce THE OTHER HALF.
I felt that he was passing the baton to me and with that came great responsibility. The script was well-marinated, the incredible actors who were attached really validated my strong belief in his writing voice, the film was going to look beautiful, Joey's depth of cinema knowledge and cinema language were solid, and most importantly, I felt I could get behind the message of his film. So I signed on to produce it. And unlike the previous nine-ten years he had been creating and workshopping and developing the script, the script to screen process happened like a lightening bolt. Joey and I began polishing the script and began packaging the feature. Once I locked the actors' availability, not easy with two hot-in-demand actors who are both leads in series, I had three months to raise the financing for the film. It was a phenomenal education and roller coaster ride. Everyone came together to support Joey's first film. This was a capital P passion project.
What kept you going while making a movie? What drives you?
Joey and I became very close during the process of making the film. So definitely his respect and support constituted a huge driver. My kids' unconditional support keeps me going with anything I do especially with things that are challenging. My partner, Matt, certainly holds the fort while I'm producing and absorbs some of the shocks of being the husband of a producer.
But ultimately the film itself is what drives me. I felt a huge sense of responsibility to ensure that the film baby got born. My role is to protect Joey's vision of the film. Anecdotally, Joey and I are not above cutting our Lorazepam into tiny pieces and sharing with each other when things get particularly hairy during the process.
What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you, where you knew you had something special?
The biggest challenge with taking this project from script to screen was a lack of time, which I am happy to say we overcame by not becoming deterred by road blocks and focusing in on the tasks at hand. Joey directed the film in 16 days of principal photography. We raised the financing in three months despite the odds. Joey and I followed the yesses. All the way to SXSW!
What was your involvement with the look and design of THE OTHER HALF?
The first person Joey invited to be involved in the film was his cinematographer Bobby Shore. When you see the film you'll know why.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
Showing it to an audience is the thing I am most looking forward to. I love how the film turned out and think the film will provoke, stir and awaken discussion. Can't wait to share the film with you in Austin.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?
We will be sure to let you know! More announcements to come.
If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
I would love to show the film outdoors in a giant park like Christie Pitts in Toronto, Canada where people bring their lawn chairs and picnic blankets and watch great films at night, in nature. I remember watching Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW in that very setting and it was such an incredible communal experience.
What would you say to someone who was talking or texting through a movie?
Film opens up a space where time is compressed and expanded and human behaviour can be observed in a very rarefied way. Film is political. Film is flight. Film is life re-imagined. The communal nature of watching a film with an audience provides something that watching alone on your device does not. Don't miss these moments by being on your mobile device.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?
Find good people to make great art with.
And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
It would be REQUIEM by Austrian director Hans-Christian Schmid, starring Sandra Huller. It's about an epileptic girl who suffers a breakdown during her first year at university, then decides to seek help from a priest in battling the troubles associated with her strict upbringing. I saw it at TIFF. I am lucky enough to live in a city with an annual, international film festival. It's where I can find incredible films and filmmakers from around the world.