TERRY MILES INTERVIEW
We had the chance to interview recently Terry Miles. Terry is a Canadian director, producer and writer. His credits include The Red Rooster, When Life Was Good and A Night For Dying Tigers starring Jennifer Beals.
J-B.com: If you can describe yourself in one sentence, how would you describe yourself? what do you want to express as an artist?
Terry: One sentence…okay…I can take it down to one word. Working. I’m always working. As far as expression goes, I think, just working to create art without any concern for monetary gain or some imagined audience is the goal.
J-B.com: Who are your influences?
Terry: My influences change daily, of course, today the first names that come to mind are: Woody Allen, Ingmar Bergman, Don DeLillo, Richard Ford, Tom Brady, Aimee Mann, and Bob Dylan.
J-B.com: Which project are you most proud of? What was the most difficult film to make?
Terry: I’m proud of all the films for different reasons. A Night for Dying Tigers was a challenge, but every film is a new challenge. You can only learn how to make the film you’re making. You start over each and every time.
J-B.com: What’s your favourite part of the filmmaking process?
Terry: My favourite parts are writing, editing, and, of course, working with great actors is an inspiration.
J-B.com: What do you like more: film or television? How are they different for you? Would you ever star in your own film?
Terry: I can’t act. I love both film and television. I think the best writing in North American English language drama/comedy is on television. Shows like Mad Men, Friday Night Lights, Breaking Bad, etc…World Cinema is still very exciting and relevant, but North American film is a bit…weak, I think, especially when compared to recent T.V.
J-B.com: What are the advantage(s) and disadvantage(s) of making a small budget film?
Terry: It’s tough because you never have enough time, but it’s my favourite way to work. The smaller the crew the more intimate the work and the performances.
J-B.com: Do you ever wonder what would happen if a major studio came to you and said, "Here's $50 million. Go make a movie."?
Terry: That’s easy. I would do that film for sure, and then I would spend my Director’s fee making a bunch of smaller films (where I have complete creative control) over the next few years.
J-B.com: Judging from the casts that you have had from your various films, there seems to be a trend of Canadian-based actors who you work with again in other projects. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you would like to work with in future projects?
Terry: Don McKellar had to pull out of my last film for personal reasons. I would love to work with Don. Also, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman, Sam Rockwell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jennifer Beals (again), all the cast from A Night for Dying Tigers…I love actors, and I have a very long list I would love to work with.
J-B.com: What are you working on now and what are your future projects? You mentioned other projects that are in the works with Jennifer, is there anything you can tell us about?
Terry: I’m currently writing a few new things, but it’s too early to talk about specifics.
J-B.com: How was your experience at the recent festivals? How did you react to the reaction of audiences and critics?
Terry: The audiences have been really great, and I don’t read reviews so I have no idea what the critics might think. I hope they like it.
J-B.com: During the Q&A at the recent VIFF, you had described your recent film as a "black comedy", was that your intention to make the audience laugh while at the same time present them with a serious situation at hand?
Terry: Absolutely. I think comedy and drama are two sides of the same coin.
J-B.com: What was your inspiration for "A Night for Dying Tigers" and why did you want to make this film? What does the title mean to you? Was that night at the zoo that Patrick mentioned in the movie a real reference to where the title came from?
Terry: I wanted to make a darkly comic family drama. The zoo trip is fiction.
J-B.com: When you were writing the script did you have any particular people in mind for the parts? How did you cast Jennifer? What do you think attracted Jennifer to this role? Did Jennifer have an influence with her character?
Terry: I’ve loved Jennifer as an actor for a long time. Her work in The Last Days of Disco, The Anniversary Party, and Roger Dodger were really great, and I thought, if I could just get her to read it, it’s not that far from those films, thematically, etc…thankfully, her manager passed it along and Jennifer really wanted to do it. We spoke about Melanie and I was open to all of Jennifer’s input. She is a brilliant actor and all of her ideas were right on the mark.
J-B.com: How was it working with Jennifer and the rest of the cast? What was the most difficult thing about shooting and the production of the film? What was your most favourite scene in the movie?
Terry: Jennifer and all the cast were great. We’ve all become quite close and keep in touch. The toughest part of the film was running out of time because of lighting. Other than that, things went relatively smooth. My favourite scenes in the film are the Charades/Haiku scenes. I asked the actors to make up their own stuff and surprise me. And Melanie’s big speech is a favourite, for sure.
J-B.com: Her fellow cast members were in awe of her talent because of her ability to show many different emotions without saying a word. Can you tell us about the opening scene with Jennifer and your experience creating/filming that scene?
Terry: After a brief conversation about the meaning of the scene, etc…I said action and she just did it. I shot a few angles and that was it. She’s able to channel whatever she needs to get to those places. It’s quite remarkable. Even though at the surface, the movie is about the relationship of a family, I feel that it's more about Karen and Patrick's relationship that is the underlining storyline - is this the case? Karen and Patrick are definitely central to the film; however, I did try and expand the roles of Jack and Melanie when Jennifer and Gil signed on.
J-B.com: Aside from the great dialogue, fantastic storyline and awesome acting, one thing I really enjoyed while watching the movie was discovering how one character is connected to the other, which was revealed as the movie progresses. What was the thought process of creating the connections between the characters?
Terry: That was all in the script stage. There was a lot more with Amanda and Laney that I had to cut during the edit. I wanted the family to feel like they were a world of their own, some kind of fictional romantic literary Vancouver family that spun a web of dysfunction…or something like that.
J-B.com: There was a couple of scenes that stood out to me because of the way you have shot them: one with Karen in the bathroom talking to herself and another scene with Melanie and Jack in the car. What was the significance of shooting those scenes the way you did?
Terry: I often jump cut for performance and for energy, and that’s now become a stylistic thing for me. There may be a few great naturalistic moments that I can’t fit if I edit in a traditional continuity style, so jump cutting allows me to use all the little moments I love. Other times I cut around certain performances, remove dialogue I don’t need, and generally just add energy if I feel the scene needs it.
J-B.com: Our readers have been wondering about the distribution of the film. Are we going see the film outside Canadian theatres? What about the DVD, do you know when it is going to be released worldwide? We all are very eager to watch it.
Terry: Still waiting to hear from distributors, etc…but we should know soon.