Eight Most Frequently Asked Questions about Inbetween

1. Apart from your one documentary, you are known primarily as a director of shorts with an almost painterly concern for image. What was it like to work with actors for the first time?

It was a very rewarding experience. I was really schooled on the great feature films of the 60s and 70s. I only came into experimental films in my mid twenties when I was developing my own sense of visual style. So I was always hoping to make full-blown feature dramas at some point. Casting was one of the best experiences of my life. I met so many wonderful people and talented actors. I was so lucky to find the cast I did. Each actor I picked was perfect for the role, but if they hadn’t shown up, I would have had to recast. I can’t say enough good words about them. Rehearsals were more intimate and made me see the flaws in the script. The actors did a lot to help me hone the dialogue, which I appreciate. Each actor had his own style that was distinctive and needed to be treated differently. Kevin T. Collins is kind of an American Sean Connery. He is a true natural. He knows how to prowl like the master and rarely needed much input. He also worked so hard. He was in so many scenes. Sarah Cabrera is a Judy Garland type, very emotional, but in a Mike Leigh mold. She could make everyone on set happy or sad from the mood she carried in on any particular day. Emma Kelly is more precise and meticulous and always came perfectly prepared. You didn't have to do many takes with Emma, as she always seemed to get it right. David Richter has a background in improvised comedy and would always do each take brilliantly, but differently. That was a problem for editing, so we had to use a lot of single takes with him, but it suited the style of the film. Michael Chateau is like David Thewlis or Gary Oldman. He makes full use of his body when he acts, so you always had to be aware of what you were doing with the camera and whether it was getting in all the nuances. He was so focused and pays so much attention to details.

2. If you could do it over again, what would you do differently?

I would have a larger crew. I wanted to have it as small as possible to keep the budget down and also to keep a more intimate sense on set. I wanted to make a movie that expressed the intimacy between people in very trying times. But I think we could have used a few more people to take the load off of others. Many people say it is not a good idea to have your first feature drama clock in at over three hours, but most people who have viewed it don’t see this as a problem. It needs that space to develop all the characters and it moves very quickly. It is very mesmerizing. Also, many indie films have a certain generic style of minimalism. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to make something vast, intricate, and comprehensive, something with an epic quality that touched on many different themes while having a backbone of action and an underbelly of philosophy and emotional intrigue. Something like Giant, but straight from the UK underground. Some felt I spent too much on sets and wardrobe, but I disagree. I wanted to make something with a lot of attention to the overall look. That’s why we shot in Tokyo, The National Gallery London, Tower Bridge and used exotic lighting and edgy clothes from the John Varvatos Fall 2006 Collection.

3. What did you learn about directing films?

I learned that you have to be alert at all times. You have to be able to come up with the most constructive and detailed directions at the spur of the moment. Communication is the most important thing and you have to be aware of what everyone is doing and feeling at all times or you risk alienating people unintentionally. I also learned that you have to budget more time for makeup! I took the time it took for rehearsals and added on 50%. I should have doubled it!

4.How did you get Chrissy Van Dyke to star in your film?

It was by pure luck that I happened to be with a friend in England. I was telling him I needed a singer and pop star for my film and hadn’t found any fits in casting. After a glass of wine the phone rang and my friend talked to someone for a few minutes before handing it over to his wife. When he came back to sit with me, he said that was his friend who has a few CDs out. He played one for me and I knew she was perfect. Not only did she have one of the greatest voices I’d ever heard, but she also had an MTV Award! She was great to work with and blew me away with her music score. When she walked on set for the first time, all the actors just stopped what they were doing and gathered round her. She has a lot of charisma without saying anything. She also seemed to know how to get the soundtrack right from the start. I gave her a copy of The American Friend (Wim Wenders) and Naked and told her I needed something that was kind of mantric and repeated itself through the film in an almost hypnotic way. Her first try was perfect and I laid down the tracks in less than a week.

5. Inbetween has so many varied plot elements in it. How did you come up with it?

Back in 1993 I had just seen The Crying Game and Mariane and Julianne By Margarethe von Trotta. That's where the ideas of a terrorist confronting his past and trying to re-humanize himself came from. Only in this case it is the love of a woman he has never met that saves him. I also watched Performance, which helped gel the idea of a criminal hiding out with slackers. Zhironovsky was also scaring everyone the way Ahmadinejad is now. History has shown him to be more of a clown than a threat, but at that time we weren't sure. I came up with Martin while listening to Blue Monday by New Order. One day it all came to me like an inspiration. These disparate elements just came together in my head. The novel saw many drafts and I'm currently looking for a publisher. It is such a unique novel. There are long sections where you are locked in a character's inner world, and others where there is sudden and violent action. I always called it “an action novel as seen through a colored ashtray at 4 a.m.” Also, the idea of being a chemist and an artist comes from my own life. Some see it as contradictory, and wonder how I can do both, but the strange thing is that I am always more productive as a chemist during times that I have been active in the arts. For example, I had my best year as a chemist the year after I shot Inbetween! My artistic pursuits usually only take up less than an hour a day, but it helps me relax and focus so I can be more effective in my chemistry career.

6. Was it hard to adapt the novel to a script?

Yes and no. I knew I had to cut it down and make it more of an action novel and less of a kind of opium dream. I also had to make Martin more of a comic character to offset some of the darker and more serious sides of the film. And I knew it had to be colorful to be true to the story. Inbetween is like a mysterious jewel that has so many facets to it. Keep turning the jewel and you keep seeing different things. Managing the subplots while maintaining suspense in some parts and a kind of hallucinatory sense of space in others was also hard – but that was done in the editing room! In the end watching it is like tracing a bunch of interweaving vines along a wall. At times they move apart and start to look chaotic, but then they all come together again and a higher pattern is revealed that wasn’t apparent before. It was also hard in some places to leave behind precious little parts I had worked so hard to perfect, but I did as much as I could, as making a good novel doesn’t guarantee a good script.

7. Jan is a terrorist. Yet he is not Islamic, but white American. Can you comment?

Terrorism has been around since the dawn of time and I feel sorry that so many Middle Eastern people have been stereotyped. Since I wrote the novel in 1993, groups like the SLA or Bader Meinhof Gang were as well known as any Islamic group. Michael Chateau commented how close Luinstra was in conception to Andreas Bader and wondered if I had read on his life. With Jan I wanted to take a character who could have been lured in by a group of survivalists at a weak moment in his life and show how he eventually regrets his choices, even though they seemed right at the time. Inbetween is unique in that it shows the flaws of modern America and corporate control (also prominent themes in Finding Rudolf Steiner) while also showing the futility of terrorism. Jan essentially chooses love and art over violence and destruction. Thus Inbetween asks if it is possible that many terrorists are victims of their leaders and if they were just misguided by circumstance and if they can take their negative energy and redirect it in a more constructive way. But it does so while fully acknowledging that they are fighting against political entities that are not completely in the right to begin with.

8. Who are your biggest influences?

I started by being influenced by experimental films like Maya Deren and Bruce Connor. That was when I was younger. Then there was also Bergman, Goddard, Bunuel and Antonioni. That was my background. For Inbetween I watched Solaris and The Mirror (Tarkovsky), The French Connection, Performance, Naked, and Blow Up over and over again. I even watched Dishonored. I love the art direction. Von Sternberg has such a great eye for set details and how they mirror a character’s psychology. For Inbetween I wanted to do that: use the set to express the psyche. That is why there is a lot of expressionistic use of color and shadow and why there are few close ups.