It’s always good to be green and eager about something, which is the vibe and feel that I got when I recently sat down with director Brandon Deyette about his upcoming indie movie “Proxy”. The movie is set in three different locations, one being right here in the heart of Brooklyn, and talks about multiple stories from different characters manifesting in a small part of who Brandon really is. This project fell into my lap because one of the actors in the movie is my good friend Charlie Harding, who is taking on his first mainstream role (super proud FYI). I talked with Brandon about the “Proxy” movie as well as why casting Charlie was a blessing more than a controversy as well as what his biggest hopes are for this movie. Check it out.
Tell me about the movie “Proxy”. What inspired you to make it?
Without going into too much detail there were two phases to this script. I initially started writing it in 2005. I penned about 10 pages (and yes I mean penned) and left it alone. I was a young buck and impressionable. The version today is completely different than what was written 9 years ago.
About a year ago I came across the story while going through boxes after I ended a two year relationship. At that point in time I sat down at a computer and pretty much typed out 102 pages of a script. It was honestly a very cathartic moment in my life. It’s really a reflection of all the turmoil that was going on inside my head poured out onto the keyboard and somehow turned into “Proxy.” Each character, each story is truly a manifestation of a small part of me.
The film is more thematically driven and a character study rather than centered on a central plot. We, as an audience, observe these 3 stories through 8 lives and how they are intertwined by one man’s indiscretion. The point isn’t how they are connected but the mere fact that all of our choices ultimately influence so many other people’s decisions, actions, and lives in general.
Did you draw influence from other movies out there when making this?
Of course. I got an amazing compliment while looking at the rehearsal footage. Someone said, “That looks a lot like Lars Von Trier.” I almost cried since it is primarily based upon his and Thomas Vinterburg’s Dogme 95. Here is a link about Dogme 95 to spare you all the details about it but it’s fascinating: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogme_95While in graduate film school at Georgia State University we watched “The Celebration” (aka Festen) by Vinterburg, which won the 1998 Jury Prize at Cannes, and I was deeply moved by the narration of the story. The simplicity of the direction, cinematography, and lighting juxtaposed to the complexity of the acting and storyline really made me think twice about my approach to filmmaking and screenwriting overall.
There are also influences from Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham, David Fincher, Lena Dunham, Vincent Gallo and, of course, Andrew Haigh. Here is a link to our pinterest boards we used for inspiration and such while choosing lighting, locations, looks, etc… It was a very fascinating process.http://www.pinterest.com/brandizza1/
In terms of filming where has this mainly been shot and why those locations?
The script is based in 3 locations: North Florida, Atlanta Suburbs and Brooklyn. We scouted all three places and were originally going to shoot the whole thing in Atlanta. But then we saw an apartment in Harlem that was PERFECT for the NYC scene that we had to change the story up just to fit the location.
The same happened with the North Florida location. We found the perfect house in Athens, GA. As an homage to my alma mater (University of Georgia where I did both my undergrad degrees) I changed the setting to Athens. I suppose that’s a benefit of being the writer, I can make those decisions on the spot.
The Atlanta suburb location stayed the same. We contemplated moving to Detroit but it made more sense in the storyline to keep it in Atlanta. You’ll understand more when you see the film. I’d hate to give too much away.
Charlie Harding is a good friend of mine and a well known actor in the porn world who is transitioning into the mainstream world. Was there hesitation in choosing him for this film?
I’d be a liar if I said there wasn’t any hesitation. But I knew what I was getting myself into before we even started. For the role of Tristan I had auditioned many people in NYC, Atlanta and Miami as well as took video auditions from people around the world. There was a very specific look I was going for with this role and attitude that someone couldn’t just pretend to act like. It is this raw sense of confidence that I wasn’t able to find anywhere. When discussing with my boss about the casting process I said, “I had this dream last night and in the dream someone told me I should cast a pornstar for this role.” He said, “Interesting choice but it makes sense.”
Tristan really bares himself emotionally, which is almost like being completely naked on screen. So I put out a request on Facebook to my friends to see if anyone knew of any porn actors that may be interested in the role. I had several people approach me but none so much like Charlie.
When he came to audition he was so well prepared, more so than anyone else to be honest. It wasn’t his confidence that sold me, it was his willingness to adapt and take direction as well as his vulnerability that really got me. There is one scene where he breaks down and talks about love for the first time. This was that moment that he really captured my attention and I said, “we have our Tristan.”
In regards to the transition from porn to mainstream film, I think if you allow the negative stigma to be attached then that’s all you’re going to get. I believe Charlie sees beyond that and has such an eagerness to try new things I believe his audience, and the masses, are going to embrace this transition with open arms.
What does he bring to his role that will make people who know him from porn forget that image and truthfully see him as a mainstream actor?
MAN! The worst thing about this script is that there are so many twists and reveals that if I say too much then it’ll ruin the film. I’m going to be as vague as possible without completely alienating the audience.
There are two moments we see a different side of Charlie. I think due to his ability to get naked on set in front of so many people and expose himself that being as vulnerable as he was in this film became almost second nature. Actors typically struggle with removing the “self” and really diving into a character. Especially tapping into the parts of yourself that you may fear exist. Charlie did this effortlessly.
The first being when he hears, for the first time, one of the initial plot twists. While in rehearsal he always showed great restraint in fighting back his sorrow and building rage. But when we shot, it became such a multi-layered, complex range of emotions. I couldn’t pinpoint just one emotion but rather a great array. The entire cast and crew had to take a moment after that scene to acknowledge our own emotions and what came up. It was a very powerful moment for us all. You’ll know it when you see the film.
The second is when he discusses being in love. That tender moment we saw in the auditions went beyond our expectations. It’s so disarming to see this gorgeous, ripped, muscle man really show his softer side. After each take we’d all look at each other on set and say, “Awe… he’s so in love (with a fictional character).”
Would you consider casting him for future roles?
Absolutely. In fact, without giving too much away (I’m not that secretive, I promise) I am in the midst of developing a tv series this summer. One of the roles is written for Charlie. I mean, specifically for him. I think that’s all I’m going to say about that one. I don’t want to lead the cart before the horse.
What are you hoping your audience takes away from this movie after they see it?
My main drive in doing film is to entertain, inspire and educate. I want, no matter what I produce, for each project to generate discourse about the subject matter within the piece. In regards to this film, there are so many themes and seemingly taboo subjects that I would love for people to leave the cinema engaging in dialogue about the film. It discusses fidelity, monogamy, betrayal, lying, deception, love, dreams, expectations, fear, diseases, guilt, and most importantly hope.
The film doesn’t force any of my own beliefs upon people. In fact, for the most part, I sometimes disagree with what the characters say. Which was very odd writing something you truly don’t agree with. But that’s just it, the point is to not force a thought, belief, or idea down someone’s throat but to help facilitate discussion about the issues at hand.
I also hope they see a beautiful film that inspires them creatively. That the performances touch them and really cause a viscerally emotional reaction. Everyone can identify with at least one of the characters or at least knows someone with similar characteristics or in a similar situation. The identification can help connect the audience to the story and it becomes a personal experience.
Best case scenario in terms of this movies success… Go!
Well we plan on first submitting to Sundance at the end of August. Which is quite an aggressive timeline considering we just wrapped production. But it’s pretty straight forward so I can’t imagine it will take more than 3 months to complete editing, sound mixing and getting all of our ducks in a row.
THE IDEA is to submit to Sundance, get accepted and then be picked up for distribution. I’d love to have a theatrical release and then on multi-varied-media platforms (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Digital Download, DVD, a medium that hasn’t been discovered yet, etc…). I feel all of the performances are so strong that they are definitely contenders for some acting awards. People are really going to be blown away by this, especially Charlie’s performance.
I want to see “Proxy” as a profitable and award-winning feature film. And it will be.
Final thoughts for my readers?
We are doing an IndieGoGo fundraiser to help raise extra funds for sound mixing and festival submissions. For anyone that donates $100 or more and emails us at firstname.lastname@example.org to notify us that the donation was made on behalf of Charlie Harding, we will honor all perks specified on the site as well as have Charlie personally sign an “adult” photo of himself and send it to you. You can go to this direct link http://igg.me/at/proxythefilm/x or go to our website at http://www.proxythefilm.com Please like us on Facebook at proxythefilm2014, Instagram and Twitter @proxythefilm
And just so you know, this film features the acting debut of Sadako Pointer of the Pointer Sisters. She is original member Ruth Pointer’s granddaughter. She joined the group some years ago after her Aunt June passed away. She’ll knock your socks off. She’s incredible.