Director Randall Cole Talks 388 ARLETTA AVE

Contributing Writer; Vancouver
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Director Randall Cole Talks 388 ARLETTA AVE
Director Randall Cole's 388 Arletta Avenue offers a different perspective on the increasingly common and popular "found footage" aesthetic, which now seems to comprise its own genre.

Following a (mostly) unsuspecting happily married young couple (Nick Stahl, Mia Kushner), the film is less "found" and more purposefully, covertly captured by a terrifying intruder, whose resulting surveillance footage comprises the narrative of the film. As the voyeuristic third party chillingly manipulates the objects of his invasive affliction, the audience themselves become privy to their undoing.

It is ultimately the construct of the film that renders it unique from so many similar films as it plays with notions of everything from surveillance to the integration of technology in our increasingly public lives. Think of the impish pranks and whimsical voyeurism of Mademoiselle Amelie Poulain, but instead of cute mischief she was psychotic, bent on destruction, and recorded her evil-doings for posterity.

ScreenAnarchy: I was very taken with the technological aspects and practical implications of the film, of someone's private life being invaded from the outside with the use of surveillance tools. Can you talk about the progression from your initial concept into the resulting narrative construction of the film?

Randall Cole: It wasn't the kind of thing where you might wing it on the day of shooting. We had to really pre-plan and make sure it was written in a way the we could play with that kind of thing in mind. Not overly long scenes in a lot of cases, and we had to think about the blocking ahead of time. We knew our angles, especially in that house, going into it. It had to be on the page, more so than a usual movie.

Were you in the same room as the actors during shooting?

Often, we were several rooms away. We had five cameras running at the same time, so we were getting a lot of our coverage simultaneously. The whole crew, actually, would be in a different room in some cases. With Nick [Stahl] in the kitchen, he'd be the only person in there, which is how we experience a movie [as an audience], but it's unusual for an actor to be in a room with nobody around. It feels like he really was there on his own, because he was.

I've read a lot recently about David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis and how the actors shot the limo scenes alone while he was elsewhere. Does that enhance an actor's performance or create new challenges?

For what we were doing - a guy feeling isolated - it worked in this case. It might be harder for comedy, not seeing the director's eyes and getting that immediate feedback.

Nick's a real professional, too, and he's been at it for a long time. He maybe didn't need the full support of a director being in his eye-line.

Nick Stahl Devon Sawa.jpeg

Modern life has created or enhanced the relationship between technological tools and the natural lure of voyeurism. Are we all leaving ourselves open for something sinister or is our relationship with technology in our lives a good thing?

It's made a lot of things very convenient.

There's certainly a dark side and it's made things less private, everything from Facebook to what Google knows about us to what was going on in England with Rupert Murdoch and the phone hacking scandal for the sake of journalism. I think certain lines that used to be respected are all blending in.

We're all leading very public lives, some reveling in it, like The Real Housewives shows and Survivor. The more that line gets crossed the less expectation of privacy we have. It's certainly not for whoever made this film [388 Arletta Avenue]. It was not a huge leap to think I could make a movie about anybody I wanted.

What's your own relationship with technology and the like? 

I don't know how to send a text message.

You're a luddite.

Yeah, I was forced to get a cellphone at a certain point. I am still in front of my computer a good percentage of the day and on top of what's going on, but I'm not a real "user" of it.

I'm not exhibitionist about my day-to-day life in terms of Twittering or any of that stuff. I have a Facebook account but I use it more to watch other people be exhibitionists.

So you did some research.

I had a personal experience too, some creepy stuff going on and wondering about whether someone was doing this to me. So... it was an easy leap to imagine this kind of story.

Nick Stahl 388 Arletta.jpgWhen we first meet the Deakins, [Nick Stahl and Mia Kushner], they are the quintessential perfect couple, but their relationship's fissures become exposed as things start creeping in from the outside to erode weaknesses that already existed.

If you think about your day-to-day life suddenly being recorded, not the space we show the world but our private space, there's going to be something that someone is going to prey upon. Cracks and what-not. Certainly, that's going to be what this person is interested in. We don't necessarily see the brighter side of things because they want to see the cracks.I think the average couple certainly has a few of those to be exploited.

I like that it's happening to this couple, they're both very intellectual and not the kind of people who are into reality television fare. Maybe they're people who watch it and may laugh at it but can't imagine being on it. The idea that they could be in this position and that they don't have the option of opting out, that segment of society, was interesting to me .

They have no control over it. Reality television is a bit like the WWF of my childhood or something. It's all so staged.

They're encouraged to be the most ridiculous version of themselves. In some way, too, this person's life is being manipulated and this person is bringing out the worst in them and their relationship.

Documenting, displaying, sharing our lives - has become a part of life.  It seems like it's here to stay. Do you see yourself exploring found footage more?

Maybe, if it's appropriate for the material. I'm doing another film that isn't at all like this, it's actually a comedy shot in a more traditional way.

Like you said, it's here to stay and it's a genre, of sorts. I didn't even think about it in terms of found footage; we have famous actors, and it was still pretending in a way. We borrowed the aesthetic but are not really trying to play a game that anyone "found" it. I pitched it as a micro-budget version of The Truman Show. An individual could make The Truman Show.

As far as found footage, I'm not sure that anyone's done it from the perspective of the person behind the film, it's usually of the people it's happening to. That interested me. To me it was less of a found footage idea and more about this person's version of a movie. I think of 388 Arletta Avenue as a movie made by somebody.

So you were in the mindset of a really creepy person. Did that effect you at all?

I've been able to go back to normal life. Making a movie is always pretending and magnifying something by a thousand. It's easy to imagine.

Even Bugs Bunny is taking pleasure in pain - this is just someone who keeps crossing a boundary that's implicit to society already, and twisting an idea that's behind so much of what we watch already. It's just run amok in this movie.

388 Arletta Avenue opens in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver on June 15.
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