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Alice Krige

Alice Krige

Hastings Film Fringe interview with Shingetsu director Paul Schoolman and actor Alice Krige

Ahead of the world public premiere of Shingetsu, a 90-minute drama which will be screened alongside a series of short films as part of the Film Fringe strand of the Hastings Fringe (Friday 9 September, The Sussex Exchange, 7pm, free), Miranda Gavin talks to director Paul Schoolman (Jail Caesar) and actor Alice Krige (Chariots of Fire, Star Trek: First Contact and Jail Caesar) about war, trauma and healing.

Miranda Gavin: Where does the title Shingetsu come from and what does it mean?
Paul Schoolman: My reference to it is through an old Chinese poem:

The enlightened soul
Like the moon
Casts its light on all.

I study the Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi, and one of the pieces is called Shingetsu, based on that poem.

MG: Is it correct that Shingetsu is the second part of a trilogy of films, the first being Jail Caesar, which was shown last year at the first Hastings Fringe? Can you comment on the trilogy of films?
PS: Well yes, I would love it to be the second film in a trilogy but I have found the third part, How To Write A Love Poem, really hard to write. I think I have to leave it alone for a couple of years and then return to it. Fortunately I have two other very dense pieces to work on. The idea was to start with a very masculine or yang piece, Jail Caesar, then move to male meets female in Shingetsu and then onto pure yin or female in How To Write A Love Poem. I think the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ can be very misleading for yin and yang, the Taoist Master, Arthur Huang uses the terms ‘Initiating’ and ‘Responding’ in his great translation of the Chinese classic the I Ching, and I think this is more correct. Sorry if that all sounds really pretentious!

MG: Where is Shingetsu set?
Alice Krige: Just outside LA in California, specifically the canyons. Shingetsu opens in an area of the Santa Monica mountains that are sacred to the Chumash Indians and continues in a canyon set within a swathe of magnificent federal parkland overlooking, and within earshot, of the Pacific.

MG: You (Paul) directed and shot the film, were there any particular challenges that you had to work with?
PS: Well, we shot it outside our house when we were living in California. The land was incredibly hilly so most of the time I seemed to be standing at 45 degrees! Apart from that the shoot was really very fluid and highly enjoyable.

The Woman and the Man.jpg copy

MG: The film is a two-hander with you (Alice) playing the Woman and Gunter Singer playing the Man. How, and why, did you come to cast Gunter and is he a professional actor? 
PS: I don’t really know what a professional actor is anymore! Gunter was introduced to me by an English friend in LA. Tim, who had been a Green Jacket. I felt he was testing me because he knew I had worked with very violent men in prisons and he wanted to see how I would cope without guards around me. The irony was that Gunter, far from being violent, was one of the most sensitive people I have ever met. Enormously powerful but extraordinarily sensitive. His behaviour was about 200% professional and he was superb to work with.

The Man - Gunter SingerMG: Who wrote the script and was any of it developed through improvisation?
PS: We, all three of us (Alice, Gunter and me), wrote it. Alice and Gunter wrote their own parts and I wrote the bridging stuff. There was very little improvisation but masses of research. Alice researched the whole triage-war aspect and Gunter had a lifetime of experience in all aspects of his character, as a K1 fighter, a mercenary, and an elite Austrian High Alps Ski Commando. Although he wasn’t involved in the Balkans, he certainly knew many soldiers and mercenaries who were and saw action in many other places. I screened the film for close soldier friends — Special Boat Service, Grenadiers, etc. They all vouched for the veracity of the piece.
AK: Paul is very modest about his contribution. The story and its structure was his idea and he suggested Gunter and I each write/create our characters and he wove what we created into the whole.

MG: The concept of Yin and Yang is central to your work and that of duality, especially in terms of seemingly opposing forces that are actually interconnected. How is the idea of bright and dark, of female and male, realised in the film?
PS: The Healer and The Fighter.

MG: What do you both consider to be the main themes?
PS: Senseless brutality and the reality of healing.
AK: An exploration of the devastating damage caused by war in the lives of two individuals and, most importantly, the possibility of healing and redemption.

MG: Did you self-finance the film?
PS: I’m not sure I can look at it in those terms. We had bought the equipment for Caesar and were waiting to set off to South Africa with it. I come from a theatrical background and the most natural thing is simply to ‘do it’! Neither Alice nor I like the whole hawking around thing. We were offered the money for Caesar but the strings that would have come with it made the idea of working ‘under somebody’ untenable. We set out to do our own work in our own way. And that’s what we did.
AK: As Paul says, we had the equipment and this was a story we all wanted to tell, so we did it on a co-operative and profit-share basis.

The Dog - LIVOSMG: How easy or difficult is it to get films such as Shingetsu screened, given that it is an independent film and not a Hollywood blockbuster?
PS: It’s difficult. But I think some Hollywood blockbusters are also finding it difficult. The figures say that something like 50,000 films were made last year but our sales agent tells us that actually there were considerably more. However, we are in it for the long haul and I believe our work will end up being widely seen. We swim against the stream – and I sort of think – we love it!

MG: I understand that you (Alice) received an award in Jakarta Indonesia for Shingetsu, can you tell me more about the award and when you received it?
AK: The award was a Special Jury Award at the International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration & Equality held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The festival also honoured, amongst others, Jimmy Carter with a Humanitarian of the Year award and Andy Garcia for his peace work. The other films honoured and awarded were drawn from around the world with film-makers from the Middle East, Korea, America and Europe exploring a wide range of subjects such as the fate of the Korean ‘comfort women’ in the years after World War II. The films were screened and the film-makers ran workshops and seminars with the public and each other. Also it was quite wonderful to receive an award from a Muslim country reaching out to, drawing together and honouring other cultures across the world.

MG: Finally the film deals with universal ideas relating to the human situation; what do you hope the audience takes from the film?
PS: Some sort of counter-balance to ubiquitous violence. I heard a Hollywood actor, who I actually knew, say in an interview, ‘We’ve got rid of the taboo against violence!’ It made me feel sick. I have dealt with many very violent men but I have really met very few – if any! – who wouldn’t undo their violence if they could. I think youth needs to hear that. And they need to hear it from a man like Gunter.
AK: The idea that we are all connected to each other, however separated we might seem, and so wield great power for both good and bad. Also that we have the gift of choice, however limited our scope of action might seem.

The Hastings Film Fringe is part of the Hastings Fringe. Shingetsu will be shown on Friday 9 September at 9pm at The Sussex Exchange alongside a selection of short films. The evening starts at 7pm. Entry is free.

The short film running order:
Not Sophie’s Choice (7min) directed by Matt Holt
Are You? (10min) directed by Joshua Plummer and Stephanie Palacino Technodrome (8min) directed by Alan Barwell
Clown Time (15min) directed by Annemarie Glavin
A Picture Says 1000 Words (3min) directed by Terence Drew
Consequences (5min) Jane Eve and Hilary Goodall
Teddy Bears (8min) Glyn Carter
David’s Fine (11min) Tom Cottle
This Is Not My House (14min) David Jackson
Quentin, Breakfast (5min) Phil Egli

Posted 15:03 Wednesday, Aug 24, 2016 In: Arts & Culture,Film

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