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AN INTERVIEW WITH Angel Katherine Taormina, ACTRESS & PRODUCER
As a filmmaker, please introduce yourself and your background.
My name is Angel Katherine Taormina. I am 31 years old. I’m a proud French/Italian/British/Irish/Polish/Swedish/Etcetera mutt.
I have been working in film and entertainment for 24 years. I was 7 when I started. I was born in New York City and moved to Florida
when I was 13. My first film experience was as an uncredited extra in the 1998 Denzel Washington thriller “The Siege”.
My first experience writing, directing, and acting in the same project came when I was 13. I got my first nomination in a film festival
with a short film I made in 2007. I fell in love with Grand Era Paris while in Paris in 2009 shooting a documentary about the Grand Era.
I won an award for a documentary I made in 2012. I made several micro-budget short films throughout the decade, while also writing novels and other artistic literary works. I wrote the novel “The Saints of the Rue Scribe” in 2012 and started working on the screenplay in 2013.
We started filming “The Saints of the Rue Scribe” in late 2018 and I filmed the final shot of the film this past February 14th, 2020.
I am very much a storyteller at heart and I love to tell my stories in new and unexpected ways. I am equal parts a daughter of the theatre and a daughter of the cinema, and the marriage of those two has become a part of my identity in my work. Growing up, I never learned that there was a difference between the two. So, art was art. And that is why, even today, I tend to blur or erase lines in my films and just choose
what I feel is the best and most realistic way to tell a given part of a story. If I feel the need to tell a story, I tell it. In good times or in strange times, I pick up my camera (and my computer) and I get to work doing what I feel needs to get done. I made a short film called “Everything”
while I was still editing “Saints”. I thought it was a sweet story and so I created it. Inspiration comes when it comes, so I follow it.
And, as I have learned over the years, art doesn’t sleep, so just ride the wave.
Why you became a filmmaker as director and producer?
I started writing novels so that I could read the kind of stories I wanted to read. I started making films so that I could watch the kind of stories
I wanted to watch. As an actor, you have the need to give yourself entirely to things. I decided that I would throw myself headlong into the projects that I created which, in turn, made for a safe environment to create in and to inhabit- both for me and for my actors.
Something doesn’t exist, and then it does. Why? Because you created it. That is what art is. If you feel the need to have something made,
you have to make it yourself. No one can do it for you. No one can see the creative flow inside your head except for you.
If you have a vision and a story and an end result in mind that your artistic heart has been inspired to from start to finish, then it has to be you
who commits to making it from start to finish. Otherwise your vision will never exist in reality. You have to make it.
If you’re going to do it, do it and do it all the way.
Give some more information about your films that you have made so far, about your experience.
I did a lot of short films- micro-micro budget films- very fun to make. Crazy experiences that will be with me forever. To give you an idea about my early days in filmmaking, I once jokingly referred to the movie “Bowfinger” as “a documentary on independent filmmaking”.
Of course, I never ran across a freeway with oncoming traffic, but I did once have my mother brace my ankles for me while I leaned
completely over the side of a bridge to get a water shot. Another time, I wrapped my body around a statue to get a unique angle on a ceiling shot. Another time, I filmed in a ditch on the side of a highway while my dad stood beside me and made sure I didn’t get run over by a car.
You take risks. And, for a lot of things, when you can’t afford the trick, you do it for real. I used a GoPro in the ocean- more frequently
than I’d like to admit. And I did a lot of outdoor shooting in lightning storms. And, one time, I filmed at the ocean in a lightning storm.
Not my finest hour, perhaps, but we got the end result we needed. Speaking of not being able to do the trick and having to do something for real, the final shot in “Saints” is actually real. It’s not recolored. We had one shot at getting the apex of the sunrise at the ocean during a five-minute window of time on the beach. And we actually made it! We all did our own stunt work in “Saints”, too. And yes, when Marie is swimming,
I’m really swimming underwater, and when Marie is riding her horse up behind Joseph, that is really me riding. I used to ride horses
when I was a kid and it was so much fun to incorporate that into the film- especially the whole unique thing of horseback riding in the water.
When you have nothing and no one, you learn to do things yourself, then you realize that you’re actually good at it, and then you enjoy it.
For example- I never knew that I could design costumes. But then it came down to it that it needed to be done and I did it.
And I enjoyed it immensely. It was fun. You always learn something from walking in someone else’s shoes that you can take away as a nugget of wisdom and use to grow yourself mentally in your own work.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I was born and raised on films. It was never something that had to be taught to me. It was just a natural part of my life.
I remember that I was maybe 8 or 10 years old by the time I realized that different films were from different eras and that some of them
were “old” and some of them were “new”. It didn’t make a difference to me, though. I still thought of all film as the same- as “fun”.
And I wanted in on the action from day one. It was the most creative art form of its time. Therefore, it is where I felt I belonged.
Where I could be creatively free- that was the place for me. Film. So, when I mention people both living and dead and films both new and old,
don’t be surprised- it’s just because of my upbringing. Charlie Chaplin- I was heavily influenced by Chaplin.
Fred Astaire- the minute the camera started following his amazing dancing, cinematography entered a whole new world of possibility.
“Citizen Kane” because it perfectly encapsulated my worst nightmares on screen so beautifully. “Days of Wine and Roses” because it has probably the strongest performances I’ve ever seen. Watching Jack Lemmon in the greenhouse scene- I wanted that feeling in my own films-
the feeling of pushing beyond the limits and setting the actor free to give complete magic- and a bit of danger- to the camera.
That feeling of complete surrender to your film and to your performance therein. The ability to tear emotions right out of people’s heart.
I love it! The “Before” trilogy- it made me appreciate the power that a camera can give to an intimate conversation.
It’s like a romantic experience with the very cities they are in. And it makes you listen and derive and conclude your own interests in them.
And I have to put Chris Evans’ 2014 film “Before We Go” in that category, too- of just letting a camera capture a situation and letting
the scene and the actors and their thoughts and words and feelings be their own “bells and whistles”. Because I’m from New York,
I have great respect for anyone who can successfully pull a sweet, touching, romantic- even beautiful- feel out of that city and
make me remember why I still love it. “Titanic” was probably the film that made me want to make films because
I saw the medium’s potential to create worlds and draw audiences in. It was a way of taking all the limits off of imagination and
just being able to say “welcome to my world”. You can do anything. Watching the film itself was a very freeing experience.
You can tell your story and- there it is for everyone to see. And then everyone can find their own ways to relate to it.
It is just as personal as it is universal. And I continue to be inspired by actors, directors, and films. Viggo Mortensen in literally everything he does- he’s just the ultimate in becoming a character down to his thought process and making you believe every moment.
I always love watching him because I’m always surprised. Robert Downey Jr. in the film “Chaplin”- for me, that was a no-brainer that
it would be one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. The level of commitment to that film- to that genius- inspires me to this day.
I’m from New York originally, so I have to put Robert Zemeckis’ “The Walk” up there with my biggest modern inspirations.
Besides the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a miracle of an actor who gives an absolutely perfect performance,
the visual effects make me cry every time. It lets me mourn, yet simultaneously look forward and be inspired. I love it.
The Twin Towers and the old downtown Manhattan were recreated down to the last detail. It looks and feels like I remember it
and how my parents remember it. You really can create anything with film. And the two films that inspired and helped motivate me while
I was actually working on “Saints” were “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Knives Out”. “Bohemian Rhapsody” because I love stories about people
who forge new paths and do the impossible. And “Knives Out” because the good person wins because she’s a good person-
and because she was good at what she did. When you’re like me, you go to the movies and project the way you would have done things.
You can’t help it. The brain just never shuts off. The reason I enjoy “Knives Out” so much is because I couldn’t find a single thing I’d have done differently. So, therefore, I can just always sit back and enjoy it. To me, Rian Johnson created a perfect film.
You have made your film "The Saints of The Rue Scribe" based on your Novel which was Officially Selected in the
"American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
Why did you decide to make it?
I had to. I know it sounds over-dramatic, but I love the story so much and I couldn’t NOT make it into a film.
I had to tell the story in the biggest way it could possibly be told. I was madly, passionately, in love with the vision of it,
and nothing was going to stop me from bringing it to reality.
What were some of the challenges you faced in making this film?
We made this film on a shoestring and a prayer, but without the shoestring. We started with nothing.
And, at each new step, there was nothing waiting for us. No team. No second wave. Everything we ventured into started at the very beginning
and we had to build it all from scratch each time. We created a world, a crew, a band of actors, a feeling, a sense of morale,
a way through pre-production, production, and post-production, and a way over every obstacle in between.
It was wave after wave after wave. When the waves are battering you constantly, you have two choices- drown, or ride the waves and let them carry you to shore. The day I saw the completed film from start to finish on a large screen for the first time- then, and only then,
did I feel that we had made it to shore. Till then, I carried my baby (my film) in my arms, and we rode the waves together to make it through to safety. And then, when we realized what we’d been through and that we did it, I was the first to say “That was fun!” That’s filmmaking for you.
And I love every second of it. Always “again!”; always “more!”. I think back to the time I stayed up into the early hours of the morning re-writing the climax the night before we were going to shoot it, and I say “That felt great. Let’s do it again on the next film.”. Everything. I love it all.
Let us know more about your experience in this film.
FUN! I honestly never felt like it was work. It was always fun. All the sleepless nights, all the wondering if it was all going
to cave in at any moment. All the filming in the rain, laying in horse manure, spitting out rocks in the shower,
overcoming potentially tense situations with a smile, working with the feels of the moment, pushing myself and everyone
around me beyond human limitations, keeping the faith, morale, and confidence of the group up, and being an absolute mama hen to everyone around me- it was all wonderful and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat because I love film, I love everyone, and I LOVE THIS FILM.
It was all leading toward this massive climax and then, suddenly, we did it! And the feeling was pure elation for us all.
Your acting is good and supports the drama in a very effective way, full of passion.
What was it like to work with your team?
Thank you. I like to create an environment of trust and creative freedom when I work.
I want everyone to feel like everything is possible and just go for it. Keep rolling and let the magic happen. Flying. It’s like flying.
I never make my cast or crew do anything that I haven’t already done. Again, it’s the mama hen in me- I always wanted to feel safe
and so I strive to make everyone around me safe and supported at all times so that they are truly free to fly and to do anything.
They are stronger for that. We are stronger for that. And the work is stronger for that. It’s truth. Sincerity.
Bringing out the truth of any moment is what makes everything come together and reveal its true heart and work as what it was born to be.
You have a baby (make your creation) and then you let her fly. And it’s beautiful. All in. When I commit to something, I’m all in,
and I happily lead anyone who wants to take the journey with me. And that journey is filmmaking.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after making this expensive film with a million dollar budget?
Do what you can. Be creative. You’d be surprised at how much you can do when you think outside the box and remove artistic
limitations from your mind. The impossible IS possible. Be new. Go for the dream and make it a reality. And enjoy it every step of the way.
I saw the film in my mind, and I did not stop working until what was in my mind was on the screen. Be you. Live your vision in reality.
And never be afraid to step out in trust.
What keeps you inspired to continue filmmaking?
I love it. I don’t do something unless I truly love it. And I truly love filmmaking. Therefore, I can’t NOT make films. So, I make films.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for distributing your film so far?
Letting people know about me and about my film. “Saints” is my baby and I am very proud of her and I want to share her in theaters
with the entire world.
What are your filmmaking goals?
To keep sharing my stories with the world and expanding the possibilities of creativity in art.
What is your next project?
I’m planning on doing an adaptation of my 2019 novel, “The Anniversary”. I already wrote the screenplay and
I’m looking forward to being able to do something that is a complete departure from “Saints”. It is a very hard-hitting,
character-driven story about a couple whose personal problems are just a microcosm of the denouement of a greater world event.
Both leads are no-holds-barred kind of roles where the actors will have the opportunity to be pushed to the extreme.
It has great possibilities for the actors. I’m looking forward to seeing what we will do with it. It’s definitely a “vehicle” film with “vehicle” roles
that can truly be taken all the way. It’s raw and surprising, disturbing at times but, at its heart, it’s all about the need to heal.
GOOD LUCK Angel
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