LAST HIJACK Filmmaker InterviewOctober 14, 2014

LAST HIJACK Filmmaker Interview


The below interview is a repurposed interview by permission with the filmmaking team of Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting to the revealing new documentary LAST HIJACK. Available On Demand, including Amazon Instant Video, Comcast, Google Play, iTunes, Time Warner Cable, Sony PlayStation, Vimeo On Demand, Vudu and XBOX Video. - ODW 

ABOUT THE DIRECTORS Tommy Pallotta & Femke Wolting
Tommy Pallotta  first connected Richard Linklater with animation when he produced the award-winning feature film WAKING LIFE. He followed up with Philip K. Dick's A SCANNER DARKLY, starring Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr. He then directed the Emmy nominated "Collapsus". Femke Wolting co-founded Submarine, a multiple award-winning production company. She produced numerous projects such as Peter Greenaway's feature Rembrandt's J'Accuse and the groundbreaking documentaries like MY SECOND LIFE.




What sparked you interest in the issue of piracy in Somalia, and how did you decide to develop a feature film on this subject?
We were watching news reports and the image of these tiny boats versus the huge oil tankers fascinated us. We wondered what drove these men to take such enormous risks. As we researched further and found out about all the underlying aspects of piracy, the waste dumping in the waters around Somalia and the broader impact of piracy on Somalian society we got even more interested. Most media stories and news stories reported on Western ships being hijacked and the experiences of the passengers. That made us curious to know more about the pirates themselves.

When we started to look into it, we quickly became fascinated by how the pirates were perceived within their own communities. Until recently they were seen as heroes, as the little guys who fought the big Western ships. And many people also profited from their actions, whether directly or indirectly. But then things began to change. A whole generation of young men disappeared, were thrown in jail or simply vanished at sea. That had an enormous impact on the people who were left behind, the families and the women. People in Somalia turned their backs on the pirates. This tension interested us, and made us to decide to make a film from the perspective of the pirates and their families.

Was it clear from the start that this film would be something else than a 'classic' documentary?
We clicked with the subject because we immediately thought it would be ideal to combine animation and documentary footage. We didn't want to make an observational documentary. Because the hijacks were something you could never be part of. Once we thought of the combination opened up so many possibilities.

Through the animation we could view the world through the eyes of the pirates. We could visualize their subjective reality, their dreams, from their memories of the civil war to the hijacks they had undertaken.


Animated Scene / LAST HIJACK (Filmbuff)

Documentary, fiction, animation and interactive media have all been combined frequently throughout both of your filmmaking careers. What inspires this openness to hybrid forms? Do you think these kinds of projects will take on a larger importance in the industry in future years?
We are interested in hybrid forms because they offer so many more possibilities in terms of storytelling. In terms of non-fiction, they challenge the idea of objective reality that a documentary should capture.

So LAST HIJACKis a hybrid incorporating live action and animation, but also feature film and documentary. Feature films and documentaries have been made for more then a century, and there are still all these conventions of genres and specific ways to tell a story. We are excited about these new hybrid forms because you can experiment and search for new forms of storytelling that don't yet have rules. More and more feature films combine live action, effects and animation to create new worlds, and now that is possible in documentaries too.

Tell us about your experience working on similarly "non-traditional projects" with directors such as Richard Linklater (WAKING LIFE, A SCANNER DARKLY) and Peter Greenaway (REMBRANDT'S J'ACCUSE).
Currently we are shooting a feature film by Peter Greenaway in Mexico, called Eisenstein in Guanajuato. It's a love story about the famous Russian filmmaker Eisenstein, and how he felt in love for the first time when he was making a film in Mexico. It's a feature film but Greenaway mixes archive footage from Eisenstein and his films in the fictional narrative. Also we just started working on a new film for a Hollywood studio, a feature film that is a hybrid as well, half live action and half animated.

Somali pirates have lately been represented in several documentary and fiction films (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, A HIJACKING, STOLEN STEAS, FISHING WITHOUT NETS). What do you think has inspired this widespread interest? Do you have an opinion on the films made as a result, and how is your film different?

VOD Spotlight: Clark Gregg (TRUST ME)May 02, 2014

VOD Spotlight: Clark Gregg (TRUST ME)

Clark Gregg (Starz Digital Media)

TRUST ME tells the sharp, comic story of Howard Holloway (Clark Gregg), a down-on-his luck agent for child actors and truly one the last good guys left in Hollywood. After discovering a 13-year-old acting prodigy (Sharbino), he is poised to close the deal of a lifetime which would catapult his tween client and, at long last, himself, into the big time. With the support of his gorgeous new neighbor (Peet), he must wrangle the actress' volatile, overprotective father, dodge a scheming producer (Felicity Huffman), and outwit his uber-slick nemesis (Sam Rockwell). As he arrives on the brink of the Hollywood dream that's eluded him for a lifetime, he begins to sense that his innocent young starlet may not be quite what she seems.


This is the second feature film written and directed by Gregg, who made his directing debut with CHOKE, an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel that starred Sam Rockwell. TRUST ME premeires on demand May 6th. 



On Demand Weekly (ODW): Hi Clark. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions about your new pre-theatrical release on demand, TRUST ME. Fans of the Marvel movies, and the TV series “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The New Adventures Of Old Christine” you’re in are sure to want to learn about the new film you wrote, directed and starred in.
Clark Gregg (CG):
Thanks. I'm excited for people to see the film.

ODW: What prompted you to write a movie about the child actor / agent dynamic in today’s film industry?
I worked with a number of child actors and there was something hilarious and heartbreaking about some of their agents - aging hustlers who struggle at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain, fetching lattes for entitled "momagers," while constantly searching for the 8 year-old prodigy who'll take them to the big time.

ODW: Did TRUST ME originally begin as a noir?
I began writing a wacky comedy about "showbiz," but when I started reading the dark stories about some child stars and dropping into the skin of the main character - former child star and now struggling agent for young actors, Howard Holloway - the piece became an edgier comedy with a classic noir anti-hero at its heart. I have to say that Shane Black's wonderful KISS, KISS. BANG, BANG singlehandedly convinced me that a comedic neo-noir could be made.

ODW: Any inspirations for the agent or stories about one you could share?
As I said, I was inspired by various characters I saw when I worked with child actors, but the piece and Howard's struggle to survive quickly felt representative of the struggles all artists go through and a perfect setting for a comedy of desperation driven by our national obsession with stardom.


Clark Gregg, Paul Sparks, Saxon Sharbino, Allison Janney and Felicity Huffman (TRUST ME)

ODW: TRUST ME has such a terrific cast: Felicity Huffman, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell who starred in your directorial debut CHOKE. Did you write any of the parts with the actors in mind, or did you cast once the script was completed?
I knew that directing myself in the main role of my own script was a monumentally daunting aspiration, one that I could only hope to achieve if surrounded by great actors with whom I already shared a creative rapport. So I wrote specific characters in the distinct voices of some of my favorite actors, many of whom I am fortunate enough to call friends. It was the generosity of those friends and the brilliance of my partner, producer and casting director, Mary Vernieu, along with the support of producer Keith Kjarval that gave the film this remarkable cast.

ODW: The film revolves around the discovery of a prodigy child actress when the real-life actress playing her (Saxon Sharbino) is quite the find. How did you find Saxon?
We read dozens of fine young actors, but Lydia is a natural, a prodigiously talented young girl who oozes a raw star power that is, more or less, the engine of the film. That quality proved very difficult to find. We also dreamed of finding someone new, someone the audience would be seeing for the fist time as Howard is seeing her... 


Just when things were starting to get a little desperate,

Mary Vernieu called me in to read with a new, young actress she had found... 


...From the moment the 13-year-old Dallas native, Saxon Sharbino, started reading the audition scene, the role was hers. I'm very excited for audiences to see her truly remarkable performance.


Clark Gregg, Saxon Sharbino (TRUST ME)

ODW: Your TV series “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.” recently coordinated a story line with the current theatrical release Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There must have been incredible planning to coordinate the movies & TV series plots to work so well together. When did you first find out about the plot twist?

VOD Spotlight on Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe (BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY)April 23, 2014

VOD Spotlight on Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe (BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY)


Casper (Emory Cohen, THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES) and Dominic (Callan McAuliffe, THE GREAT GATSBY) have been fiercely loyal friends since childhood. Desperate for a way out of their quiet town on the Maine-Canada border, the boys make a pact to pool their earnings on a car and hit the road. But when Casper is drawn into drug smuggling with his outlaw father (Aidan Gillen, "The Wire," "Game of Thrones") to pay his share, their friendship is pushed to the brink and adult choices forced on them all too soon. A standout narrative debut from Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly (THE WAY WE GET BY), BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY is a gripping coming-of-age thriller set against an authentic portrait of small-town American life.

A moving story like BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY deserves talented actors to bring its complex and authentic characters to life. Luckily Gaudet and Pullapilly found Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe, both of whom delivered amazing performances as the film’s main characters. I had the pleasure of interviewing the actors who shared their experiences on set and then some.


VOD Spotlight on Emory Cohen and Callan McAuliffe (BENEATH THE HARVEST SKY) 


On Demand Weekly (ODW): The filmmakers, Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, described this film as sort of their transition into fiction film from a documentary background. Would you say you noticed any differences in the way they worked toward authenticity compared to filmmakers who work purely in fiction?

Callan McAuliffe, Dominic (CM): I can’t tell if it was because of their background or if it was the nature of the film or if it was just generally a very different experience for me in terms of filmmaking, but it was a very unique process. That may come from that background, but I’ve never worked with documentary filmmakers before so I have no experience with that, but it was certainly a very different experience. 


Callan McAuliffe


ODW: I know they did extensive research on the area and the people living there, and a lot of the movie was based on the true stories they were told, how did this affect your preparation for the part?
Emory Cohen, Casper (EC):
We were up there for 3 weeks before we started shooting and we met some people who had done [the harvest] and they let us put that into the script too and sometimes we just threw the script away and improvised.


Emory Cohen


ODW: Which scene was the most memorable to shoot?
The scene that will stick with me for the rest of my life is the moose safari scene, just because it was such a wild ride literally and figuratively to shoot and I’ve never done anything of that kind before for a film - and there’s good reason for that (laughs). But it was an extraordinary experience and I’ll remember that for the rest of my life. Just chasing a moose down a road in the back of a flatbed truck, screaming and hollering in the middle of nowhere, it was wonderful.


ODW: You actually went out and chased a wild moose for that shot, is that right?

VOD Spotlight: Matt & Tom Berninger (MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS)March 26, 2014

VOD Spotlight: Matt & Tom Berninger (MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS)


Mistaken for Strangers, which opened the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, follows Tom Berninger, a slacker and aspiring horror director whose older brother Matt is the lead singer of successful rock band The National. When Matt hires Tom as a roadie for the band’s upcoming world tour, Tom brings his camera to film the entire experience, ignoring his job responsibilities in the process. What follows is a hilarious and touching story about family, ambition and self-discovery.


On Demand Weekly spoke with the film's director Tom Berninger and his brother Matt, lead singer of the film's initial subject, the band The National.



On Demand Weekly (ODW): When did you know the Tom’s footage had the makings to become a documentary?
Tom Berninger, filmmaker (TB):
It was the editing process. We took more of The National out of the movie and more of me in it. When we saw me crying on screen and me getting drunk on the bus, which I originally filmed that to be really funny and it ended up being really pathetic and sad. The movie came together in the editing room.

There were a few times on tour that I thought the things I was shooting was interesting.

ODW: When did the rest of the band know and what was their reaction?
Matt Berninger, lead singer (MB):
When Tom came on tour, there wasn’t an intention to make a documentary. Maybe he could make a silly little, fun video that we could put up on our website. There wasn’t the idea of a documentary and that’s probably why they let Tom so close. If the band had known Tom was going to make a feature film that he was going to enter into the Tribeca Film Festival, I bet they would have said no.


MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS - Tribeca Film Festival 2013 Opening Night Premiere

When they heard it was as much a story about Tom than of the band, even more so about Tom, they were like 'that sounds cool'. That’s the way I was too. I like the story of Tom’s creative struggles, relationships between brothers (Editor's Note: in addition to Matt and Tom being brothers, the band’s other four members are a set of 2 brothers) was actually a much better idea for a movie than a profile of a band on tour. I think the rest of the band did as well.

But if they had known that at the beginning that it was going to be a feature movie, Brian would not have let Tom into the shower with him (a scene in the movie), that’s for sure.

ODW: Would it have been a vote? What if one band member had objected?
That is a good question. That was always a reality down to the very last minute. There wasn’t ever a full on agreement. And then all of a sudden it got accepted into Tribeca to open the festival, at that point Tom was like ‘Guys, is that okay?’ It was almost too late for anyone to say no.



Everybody loved the movie. When they saw it, they couldn’t believe how good it was and got behind it. It was a giant gamble that Tom took.

TB: My strategy is to...


...corner them,

overwhelm them and

pressure them.

My strategy paid off... 

...And plus I had Brian (the drummer) naked in the shower and half the band members naked in my footage. I could always blackmail them (Matt is laughing).

MB: Very professional Tom (Matt jokes).

ODW: Tom, had you ever traveled or worked on a tour for The National previously?
No. Never, ever. When they’d come to Cincinnati I’d come see them. I have to say, for the first time on tour I really got the luxury treatment, considering they spent the first four albums in a van. I go to go on the tour bus, which I took advantage of. I missed the whole van tours and nine years of their existence, I might as well drink heavily on the tour bus and live it up there.

ODW: Matt, what prompted you to ask Tom to join you for the High Violet tour?

VOD Spotlight on Joseph Morgan (ARMISTICE)January 26, 2014

VOD Spotlight on Joseph Morgan (ARMISTICE)

Joseph Morgan

In the role of Royal Marine, A.J. Budd, Joseph Morgan (IMMORTALS, “The Originals”) stars in this brutal psychological and supernatural thriller, in which he finds himself trapped in the Warhouse. Imprisoned, he is forced to fight for his life against grotesque, inhuman opponents. He must kill every day or die himself. His one glimmer of hope comes in the form of a diary, left by a former occupant of the house, WWI Lieutenant Edward Sterling, played by Matt Ryan (FLYPAPER, “Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior”). ARMISTICE is currently available on iTunes.

On Demand Weekly’s Sabrina Luppi spoke with Joseph Morgan about ARMISTICE, his previous roles and VOD.


On Demand Weekly (ODW): Are you doing so many horror/thriller movies & TV shows by choice or is it more coincidental?
Joseph Morgan (JM):
It’s choice really. The more I do the more I get offered. But I’m quite happy to be working predominantly in genre just because that’s always what I’ve watched and read growing up that’s what I’ve been primarily interested in. I read graphic novels and watch a lot of film and TV and most of it is genre stuff so I am a huge fan.


ODW: On Twitter you’ve talked about how proud you are of ARMISTICE, is there a moment when you’re watching that you feel most proud of?
I’m really proud of the sequence where I tear down the wallpaper and find the marks that Edward Sterling had left and it cuts between that scene and the scene of me sort of drinking in the cellar and kind of vocalizing all the loneliness and the inner torment. It’s a film with very little dialogue and that’s one point where the director allowed me to be vocal as the character.

It was a lot of improvised stuff that Luke [Massey] guided but allowed me freedom within those boundaries. I also felt like he and I were learning to work together and we really hit our stride by that point and I felt like it was a really positive relationship, so I’m proud of that. I also think, trying to be objective about the film, I think it’s the proudest I am of a performance in the film.

ODW: You also said, “After all this time it’s here.” Were there a lot of obstacles it had to go through to get to this point?
Oh man you have no idea. There were a lot of obstacles just editorially; it took a long time in post and a long time to finish. It was quite a different film when Luke and Ben [Read] conceived it and it really went through the ringer in post. There were a few characters that were cut from it to make the story a lot cleaner and more simple and it’s really become a very simple, clean, engaging story but it was quite convoluted initially.


Joseph Morgan

 I’m proud of Luke and his determination and commitment to the film and how he stuck with it and wasn’t satisfied until it became something that we could all be proud of. So it was a long time in the making and to have his first film get some sort of cinematic release I think is a huge achievement and he’s one of my best friends as well as the director so I’m hugely proud of him and happy that this film didn’t disappear into the ether and became something that people can enjoy.

ODW: What is the most unique, funny or interesting experience you had while filming ARMISTICE?

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