Daniel Carbone

Daniel Carbone

Daniel Carbone makes the move from short projects to feature film with his latest movie Hide Your Smiling Faces: a movie that played in the First Feature Competition at the BFI London Film Festival.

We caught up with him when we were at the festival to chat about the new film, casting inexperienced actors and what lies ahead.

- Hide Your Smiling Faces is the new film, so can you tell me a bit about it?

Hide Your Smiling Faces is a film that follows two brothers who are faced with the idea of death for the very first time: they are about eleven and fifteen years old, although it never actually says so in the film.

They are at a point in their lives where they realise... it turns from this moment of invincibility and impossible dreams to the reality of how the world really works.

It simultaneously looks at the darker side of life, but also it celebrates the fact that that is the way things go, and you have to embrace with it and move forward with your life.

- You have penned the screenplay as well as being in the director’s chair, so I was wondering where the story came from? In addition, is there anything autobiographical in the script?

It is semi-autobiographical. It started with a few scenes that I had just written down that had happened to me as a young child.

I started thinking that when you try to remember things and the further you try to think back it’s probably not how it happened as memory changes over time: I like that idea.

It doesn’t have to be exactly true to the events that happened, as the way to get to the heart of something is to ignore the events and exaggerate a bit.

The film started autobiographically, but as I wrote more and more I started making things up, and I wrote the version that I wish had happened. It evolved and spiraled out of control in a really fun way.

- The movie marks your feature-film directorial debut so how have you found the leap into the director’s chair?

I have made some shorts in the past, so it wasn’t the first time I had directed, but it was the first time that I had been in charge of a larger crew, so many children, and their parents: when you are working with kids, you are actually working with two or three people.

It was difficult but it was exciting, and it was a film that was small enough that I felt like I could keep control of it. It didn’t cost too much money, and so I wasn’t super nervous about wasting too many people’s money and having to please investors.

I intentionally started with something, not easy, but something I knew I could be successful in telling the story. Maybe it wouldn’t be the most amazing looking or acted film - I actually think both of these things worked out really well.

It was something that I thought I could do and; at worst, it would be something true and honest. It was scary, but it was a great learning experience.

- How do you think your background in shorts prepared you to make the transition into feature film?

In some ways, this production was a project that was just three times as long short. There are many people who have made shorts that are uncertain about how to make the leap, but it is something that you can reconcile by saying ‘my short film took seven days, and this is going to take seventeen.’

The crew is the same size; the cast is almost the same size; it takes a bit more money, but what you do in a day on a feature film is the same, and you do in a day on a short project. The key is to just keep that momentum going for a bit longer.

- Ryan Jones and Nathan Varnson are making their big-screen debut with this film: Nathan has no previous acting experience. So can you tell me a bit about the casting process and what you were looking for when you were casting these two roles?

It is tricky when you are casting and working with kids as they had little or no professional experience: quite often, they have school theatre experience, and that is a totally different way of performing and working.

I was actually looking for kids who did have less experience because theatre experience is just not right for a film like this because there is very little dialogue and there are no musical performances. I wanted to find kids who would first and foremost be open and honest with me.

Ryan and Nathan were willing to come in, and their auditions were more like interviews where we just talked, and they told me personal stories: which was impressive because they were very young, and I was just a stranger. I appreciated how open they were.

So, the casting process was less about casting an actor and was more about finding the person that I thought would be able to give themselves fully to the role, but also didn’t have too much experience that they would make it too much of a movie style acting.

- They always say that you should never work with children, so how did you find it?

I loved it. I have worked with children on my short films as well - to lesser success actually. They are amazing as they are not afraid to tell you that what they are saying doesn’t sound right: I like to have a bit of push back from the people that I work with because that is when the more creative decisions are made.

They didn’t complain: it was really amazing; they were long days, and they weren’t making any money, they were just doing it for experience. It was just wonderful because they are not jaded, they are eager to be there; they love doing it, and they were amazing. I hope to work with children again on my next film.

- As you said earlier this is a movie that tackles ideas and themes of death, so were Ryan and Nathan when it came to getting their heads around those parts of the script?

It was tricky, but they were very mature and wise beyond their years: even if they hadn’t experienced what had happened in the film they could draw on something in their lives to make them feel the emotion that I was looking for.

It was very difficult for them to process, but they were able to use that method to get into the scene and into the film. They could use creative ways to understand what the characters were going through, even if they hadn’t gone through it in their own lives.

- How have you been finding the response to the film so far?

It has been great. This was a tiny little movie that I made to see if I could make a movie and if no one ever saw it, I would at least know my capabilities as a director and use that on the next film. It has gone beyond my wildest expectations as it is playing at the BFI London Film Festival: it is a huge festival, and it is something that I never imagined would happen.

The response has been great. It is a film that is left open enough... it is my story, but it is left open enough for people to relate to it and inject their own life experiences on to it. There are no answers in the film just a lot of questions, and I think that people are really responding to that.

- How have you found being at the London Film Festival? And how important is the festival for first-time filmmakers such as yourself?

It is everything. The only way you can get a film to audiences when it is this small is for a festival programmer to take a risk and play it, and then hopefully audiences will share that enthusiasm.

You don’t go straight to distribution with a film like this, as you have to build word of mouth and get some reviews: festivals are the only way to do that for a film like this. The screening last night was amazing; the audience was great, and the questions were great. It is a dream.

- Finally, what is next for you?

I am currently working on a feature-length documentary that follows teenage boys around small town in America and examines what it means to be a teenage in modern-day America, and in the towns that are disappearing as the world evolves. That is the next thing that will be finished.

However, I am also writing some screenplays and narratives - they aren’t really far enough to talk about. They are similar themes, as I like to explore people figuring out who they are: whether they are children or adults and figuring out their place in the world.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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