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Sandor Lau interviews David Rittey back from Cannes

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Courtesy of Lumiere Magazine By Sándor Lau David Rittey has just returned to Wellington from the Cannes Film Festival. Closer, which he wrote and directed, was one of only ten official…

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Courtesy of Lumiere Magazine
By Sándor Lau

David Rittey has just returned to Wellington from the Cannes Film Festival. Closer, which he wrote and directed, was one of only ten official selections in the short film section. Closer is the story of a deaf teenage boy dealing with the death of his sister...Courtesy of Lumiere Magazine
By Sándor Lau

David Rittey has just returned to Wellington from the Cannes Film Festival. Closer, which he wrote and directed, was one of only ten official selections in the short film section. Closer is the story of a deaf teenage boy dealing with the death of his sister......and has recently been selected for the New Zealand and Melbourne International Film Festivals. Sándor Lau caught up with David for Lumiere.

SÁNDOR LAU €”What was the best thing about being in Cannes?

DAVID RITTEY €”The moment my film was on screen was the kind of thing you always dream of happening. It was just incredible sitting in a cinema with my film up on the big screen at the Cannes Film Festival. I had to kind of pinch myself.

S. A lot of short films that do well internationally, especially NZ short films, are silent or mostly silent, not dialogue driven. Infection was at Cannes in 2001. Your thesis film at VCA (Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne), Out of Darkness, was mostly silent, as is Closer. Were you thinking about how silent films can be understood all over the world when you were planning Closer?

D. No, that wasn't actually my intention. For short films, I like to use dialogue sparingly. I like watching films where there's a lot of dialogue, like Woody Allen films, but I like to tell the story through the images, and through cutting €”through what people are doing rather than what they're saying.

I read somewhere that the story is the most important. If it's like a cake, dialogue is like the Hundreds and Thousands or the sprinkling on the top.

S. What was it like working with your cast and crew?

D. One of the best things about making the film was the people I worked with and the feeling on set. My DOP (Vincent Taylor), he was brought up in Auckland, but been living Melbourne for about seven years. He's worked with a lot of different crews over in Australia, but he said this was the best crew he'd ever worked with.

Toby Agnew, who played the main character, Nathan, he's actually deaf himself. We wanted to make it authentic and cast a deaf person in the role. He was always joking and wasn't daunted by anything, and the communication barrier was almost non-existent. He formed friendships with the cast and crew and joked with them. By the end of the shoot just about everyone on the set knew a bit of sign language and felt totally comfortable with him.

S. I'm interested to know how deaf audiences have received the film.

D. We haven't had a proper screening for deaf audiences. We want to have a cast and crew screening and invite people from the deaf community in Christchurch along. But people have seen bits and pieces on the news and TV and responses from the deaf community have been positive all along. With the script, I wanted to make sure that it was all accurate, the way I was depicting the deaf experience. We had really good feedback; people are quite pleased with the way we've done the whole thing. The Deaf Association in Christchurch want to use it to do a fundraiser.

S. Since last year you've been doing ad work at Silverscreen. What's up your sleeve for the future?

D. I was asked that question a lot when I was in Cannes, but I went over there and literally had two reels of film in my bag to carry on the plane with me. We'd just finished the film for print release onto 35(mm) the day before I went over there. Early days yet. Obviously the natural progression is to do a feature, and naturally the success of Closer will definitely help me get to that point. But I just need to put the work into writing and knuckle down. I would like to do another short film in the meantime. The ad thing is fantastic, doing commercials, getting to play with the look and editing and direction. And the instant gratification. You finish something in a month and you see the result.

S. It doesn't pay too badly either.

D. It's a way of earning some money as a filmmaker, which is a first for me. Getting paid for something I do rather than pouring my own money into it.

Closer plays in the Homegrown Short Films programme at the NZ International Film Festival.
For screening times around the country, check out: www.nzff.co.nz

For more about Closer and David Rittey, check out:
www.ajfilms.co.nz
OUt of Darkness
www.nzfilm.co.nz

Written by

Arts Work Project

25 Jun 2004

Interests Creative Industries development