In 19th century Paris, Joseph and Marie Charpentier battle calumny and death threats when a former friend becomes an enemy and does everything he can to discredit their virtue and destroy their lives. We interviewed Angel Katherine Taormina regarding her film.
What draws you to filmmaking and the cinematic language?
You have the best of every art form at your fingertips with the widest potential audience of any art form. You truly can share your stories with the world.
Do you believe in film schools or does making a film teach you more than film school?
It’s not so much a question of “belief” as it is of “what worked for me”. And film schools might work for certain people. For my personality type, however, I found that the most educational moments were the ones where I was on set in real life with a real situation to overcome and it was sink or swim. I overcame the situations, I learned something new every time, and I grew in confidence and in what I could do, simultaneously with my creativity in my art being able to grow and flourish and blossom without limit. Because, when you try, you fly. When I worked from the heart- when I was truly myself- that was when I succeeded. I shared my stories. I was flying in freedom. My work had worth- because it was brought about by my nurturing of my self-worth. My art is truly a part of me in every way.
What makes cinema stand out more than the arts for you
Nothing at all. To me, all of the Arts are one. One inside of me, and one in each other. Film is simply, in this day and age, the art form that contains the best of every art form while having the widest potential audience of any art form. Anything you want to do, you can do it- in so many ways. And have it all seen- in so many ways. Film- where possibilities are limitless. And that’s where I flourish best- in the flight. In the limitlessness. See the vision. Do the vision. Show the vision. I love it.
Did you choose a certain directing style for making this film based on the script?
Yes. The answer to what the style is for a given film is always in the script. The answer is always in the question. You write the script and then the film tells you what it’s going to be. And so it is. The novel was one animal, the script another, and the film another. And they all inform each other as each one becomes its own finished animal. For “Saints”, the idea was very reality-based. It was filmed as though all time goes on at the same time, without difference. Present is present in the present- whenever its present may be. Thus, we chose to film in the “present” of 1881. It was as though we took our cameras through a time machine to 1881 and filmed the story of Joseph and Marie’s lives as it was actually happening. Thus creating actuality. Thus creating a “present” for the story. That is why realism was such a big part of what we hoped to achieve and, thankfully, through inventiveness and creativity, we succeeded in capturing that in every aspect of the project. The style is “this is happening before my eyes right now and I cannot look away”. Make it real. I looked at certain shots in the editing room from an audience perspective and said to myself “where would they want the cut before the discomfort and concern for the characters settle in”, and then I purposefully did not cut the shot. I want the audience to feel every moment that Marie, and Joseph, and Renaud, and all the characters, are feeling. I want them to take the ride with them and with the journey of the film.
How did you choose the cast and the crew of your film?
We auditioned over 3000 actors for the role of Joseph and went through multiple rounds of auditions for the rest of the characters as well. A movie is a no-go without the right cast in place. When it’s right, it’s right. Anything less just won’t work. You know who the characters are and what you need. And you know the technical needs you want to have and the type of crew you need to be able to master those needs easily. And so you go out and find those people. And when you find them, you know it, because they fit the bill precisely of what your films needs in order for it to be the film you know it is and the film it is meant to be. All sides must work together, and then the film can blossom into its beautiful self at precisely the right moment. And then all things work together.
How did you fund your film and what were some of the challenges of making this film?
We were independently funded. It was a fun and exciting project to undertake because challenges would arise at every corner. And it was no surprise, either. We knew that, at every step, we would be the ones doing everything, starting from scratch, and making it happen. There was no plan B. There was no second wave. There was just us. And we had to do it all. So we did. It was never a question of “if” but, rather, of “how”. “How are we going to overcome today’s challenges?”. And it nourishes and encourages creativity, when you know it all comes down to you. You end up surprising even yourself sometimes. You do right by your “baby”. You have fun. You’re reminded constantly why you so much love what you do. You love your job and you look forward to it every day. It’s never work, it’s always a new opportunity, a new exploration, and a new discovery. And you are always elated by it.
Do you consider yourself an indie filmmaker and what would most be the most difficult thing about being an independent artist?
I have been both an independent filmmaker and an independent artist over the years. To some extent, creativity is always an independent thing, in that it starts in the heart of one person. But, of course, collaboration with others is both desirable and preferable (except in the case of the novels- otherwise, it’s usually not normal for something to start and end with one person though, every once in a blue moon, that might be the case in a given situation). Be opened. Always be opened. And then your heart can go places it never could on its own. And then many hearts are united, flying as one- that is the true beauty of the stage and screen. In “Saints”, I collaborated with such amazing people who I never would have known. They have given me experiences that will be with me forever and I will ever cherish them in my heart. They were the “dream come true cast and crew.” The impossible was accomplished with them. What a beautiful and unique experience! As every film experience is new and unique, having had such a one as this makes me look forward with excitement towards what will be my next new and unique experiences in my next film projects (an adaptation of my 2019 novel “The Anniversary” and a Cinétage experience of “Showbooks” “paying homage to the inspiration of the Charpentiers”). I am a filmmaker. And, as a filmmaker, I plan to continue to surprise my audiences, broaden my audiences, and share my stories in every unique and exciting way possible.
What is the distribution plan for your film?
Worldwide. Worldwide distribution will truly share this story with as many people as possible. And then the story after that, and the story after that, and so on. There is always something to share.
What is your cinematic goal in life and what would you like to achieve as a filmmaker?
To keep sharing my stories with the world in unique and exciting ways. I want to work with people in each project who can bring out the best in each aspect of each project. For example, in “The Anniversary”, the male lead character’s name is Jace Hudson. I want to be able to work with the actor who can collaborate with me and give me the perfect Jace Hudson. I want to continue in the joys of filmmaking. To be able to devise a shot for a maddening scene and collaborate with just the right cinematographer to make everything go exactly as needed. To be able to rehearse a sequence ad nauseam with all my like-minded cohorts and happily bring it to the point where the impossible looks simple. To keep feeling the magic of having performed a “perfect take”. And I always want to be surprised. Something more. Something extra. That magic that happens to a great cast and crew when they are able to just let go and trust the moment. I love that. I want more of that. Clockwork perfection- the perfection of a collaborative relationship for the sake of creating the best film possible. One in mind, one in goals, one in heart. I want all my “babies” to be beautiful. All different. All beautiful. There are moments in films that have inspired me, however, at the end of the day, it is me in that room and I realized- with “Saints”- that you can have all the inspirations in the world, but what shows up on that film is entirely from you. It’s Angel Katherine Taormina’s. And no one else’s. If you don’t show up for yourself, no one will. And, when you do show up for yourself, at the end of the day- when the credits roll and the lights go up- you feel great. You’re home. You were joyously you in the same way that those individuals who had inspired you had been themselves. And it is in the uniqueness that you find both the satisfaction and the camaraderie. You’re living your life to the full.
What kind of impact would your film have in the world and who is your audience?
A bright one. This film is a reminder that there is brightness in the world that shines even brighter when darkness tries to snuff it out. Marie wins because she follows through. She doesn’t change who she is for anyone. She trusts. She is right. She is rewarded. The light shines even more brightly. That is the impact- for everyone. “Trust. Love. Triumph.” As for my audience- hello, World. You are my audience. Enjoy!