As we are putting the final touches on our Storyhive funded short film I Phub You, we want you guys at home to get to know us, the filmmakers, a little better. In the weeks leading up to the February release we are going to be posting a series of interviews with the people that made this film happen (cast, crew, etc!). We are going to be asking about their process and their take on the film.
Today, we are lucky enough to have Heidi Ellen answer a few questions about working on the film. Heidi is the lead actress who plays the role of Janet in I Phub You.
When you first read the script what were your thoughts?
The first thing I thought after reading the script? How relevant the story is! I became hyper-aware after the reading I Phub You of how involved people (and myself) are with their cell phones. Walking through a mall, sitting at a table with a group of friends, waiting in line at the grocery store - those around me were consistently on their phones and ignoring their surroundings. At first it seemed like the I Phub You script was over-exaggerating how much time we as a society spend on our phones, but it actually wasn't! And it makes sense, especially if you take into consideration how important social media has become. It is used for marketing, finding jobs, staying in touch with friends and family, MAKING friends, etc. As an actress I rely a great deal on social media - and my phone keeps me connected to it. However, after reading IPY I began to pay more attention to the attention I gave to those in my physical presence.
What made you want to pursue acting in this film?
I first heard about the casting call that Guerrilla Motion Pictures sent out from a friend of mine who was on the crew. He had tagged me and a few other actors on a post on facebook. After reading the character descriptions I immediately felt a connection to Janet. I think that I share a lot of her personality traits. So that was certainly a part of why I wanted to audition for I Phub You. I always make a point to research production companies I am auditioning for, so after asking around I learned that Guerilla Motion Pictures had a good reputation among others in Edmonton's film industry. In fact, one of my best friends went to film school with Sam Reid! After submitting myself to audition I was incredibly excited to learn that I was 1 of 6 actresses to be selected to audition for the part. I was thrilled!
Silent film acting is much different than talkie films. How did you prepare for acting in a silent film?
Shannon (our director) really helped with my character development of Janet. She made it clear that she was looking for theatre acting more so than film acting. The two acting styles are quite different. Acting in a silent film is a lot like clowning. All of your actions and emotions are over the top. So I prepared for my role much the same way I prepare for a role in theatre. There is this practice theatre actors do called 'verbing a script'. Each line is assigned a verb to describe what the character may be feeling and what the scene may feel like. I also used Pinterest and pinned anything and everything that gave me inspiration for my character. And then I watched silent film online. I studied the way actresses held themselves, their facial expressions, and their acting styles.
Describe your character. Were there any influences to how you portrayed it?
Like I had mentioned, I felt a connection with my character. She is bubbly, sensitive, full of expression, and wears her heart on her sleeve. I am a lot like her. So I put a lot of myself into Janet. As an actor I am what I have to offer my roles, so I feel quite fortunate to have gotten to play Janet. I also pulled different characteristics from other actresses in other silent films. Justin Kueber had told me that when he wrote IPY he had named my character after a character in his favourite silent film, Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans. I tried to pull from that character as well.
Do you have any memorable stories from being on set?
Yes! I do! On our last day of shooting it was very cold. For continuity's sake I needed to wear the same outfit as I had on the other days of shooting. Janet's wardrobe consisted of a red summer dress and black flats. So not exactly the greatest clothing for -3, plus windchill weather. I had brought pocket warmers which I stuffed into my flats, and hid under a blanket in between takes. The crew was fantastic and understanding, so a vehicle was pulled close to set for me to hop into when it got too cold. I would warm up, then hop out of the car and run back to set to film the next take. Although it was a very cold shoot day, it was still a fun experience. It's funny what artists will do for their passion.
What is your favorite silent film?
I haven't seen many, but after watching Justin's recommendation of Sunrise, I would have to say that would be the one! It's incredible the amount that goes into telling a story without dialogue. It's an entirely different approach to story telling. It's an art, really. I hadn't expected Sunrise to be such a long movie, but it was! And even though it is a silent film, it held my attention right until the end. I definitely want to see more films that are silent.