After reviewing Catherine Pirotta’s feature Dreamkiller in July 2010, I e-mailed her some questions which she kindly answered for me.
“I believe that stories and dialogues read more real when the team behind is mixed. Usually you can tell when a script was written by a woman alone as its male characters don’t quite act/react 100 per cent like a man would, and the same happens when a man tries to write the character of a woman. But when a man and a woman write it together, most of the time both sides are covered in a realistic way. The same applies when young and older work together, and it is only for the best of the story and script. In Dreamkiller we had a younger character (Nick) and an older character (Dr Stalberg) working together on a team.
“Collaborating with someone as experienced as Clyde was definitely a great learning experience and I was fortunate to have Clyde to guide me through various traps that lie in the path of first time directors. I was introduced to Clyde Ware through Dario Deak who was at the time under contract with Delaware Pictures. I had met Dario a year before though a common friend Nick Rish, the lead actor of my very first short film Adopting Change. Nick also plays Detective Barret in Dreamkiller.”
What was your original conception of Dreamkiller and how closely does the finished film match what you set out to make?
“The title Dreamkiller was conceived to carry a double meaning, the obvious being the person or an entity that kills within a dream or a dream-like state. But the second and more concealed meaning derives from the question of ‘What kills our dreams?’
“How many of us wanted to do and dreamed of doing something only to be discouraged by others, even those closest to us? And they are only acting out on their own ‘fears’, the ultimate Dreamkiller. Regardless of people, what actually kills our dreams is ‘fear’ because it paralyses the initiative or creates discouragement, which leads to quitting. And that gradually leads to regret and ultimately death of human spirit. Fear is the core of Dreamkiller the movie and it ultimately carries the title. That is the story that we were set out to make and in that aspect, I feel very accomplished.
"But the original screenplay was much more elaborate and convoluted and it was difficult to ultimately make sense of it in the movie. Our original cut was over three hours long and we contemplated on making a mini-series of it (I’m kidding, though actually we are currently in active development of Dreamkiller - The Series). There are elements that had to be cut out, partially or entirely to make sense of the complex story and still fit it in an under-two-hours cut. Originally each patient had his/her own back story about their fear, there was a fifth patient whose story had to be cut out completely, also Nick’s sister Natalia had a whole subplot story, and the mother issue and relation of it with Stalberg was more developed. But in the process, I had to decide what was more important, and in this case it was to resolve the mystery/case at the expense of other, less important ones.”
“Dario was under contract with Delaware Pictures at the time, and was an element from the very beginning. For rest of the cast, some parts I gave to actors I had worked in the past in my short films, others we held auditions, the conventional way.
“As for the crew, I had worked with the DP John O’Shaughnessy before on one of my shorts (5 Minutes) and we got along well so that was taken care of. Then I had a few friends, former classmates that came on board because they believed in the project and in me. Our crew was small, less than ten. I can say that our cast by far outnumbered our crew.”
What aspect of the film are you most proud of and which bit would you change if you had the chance?
“I am most proud of the movie’s originality, unpredictability and the fact that no-one I have ever encountered that has seen it, was bored with it. Many have liked, disliked, loved, outright hated or liked and disliked certain aspects of it, but no one that has given it a chance had been bored or walked out on it to my knowledge, and I have seen many. Anyone that had seen it through the first 15 minutes or so had to see it through the end.
“At this day and age of remake after remake, sequel after sequel, rarely do we get to see something original. And I think I understand why, original is the hardest and the riskiest thing to do. But where are we going to wind up if we just keep doing what’s been done? Some of the most appealing and attractive words when it comes to movie projects to me are: ‘It’s never been done before.’ Most business people shy away from it. How will they know that it will work if it was never done before? Would we ever have aeroplanes if the Wright Brothers felt the same? The fact is, they did feel the same, but they did it anyway. They were scared and did it anyway.
“What would I change if I had the chance? Aside from bringing up production value in various locations such as Ninex laboratories etc., I would have liked to have been able to explore the detective Annette’s fear further. Her fear is ‘trust’, particularly in a relationship. A common fear of so many people who have been betrayed or burned one way or another. Without giving away the ending I’ll try to explain: I wanted her in the final scene (when she finds Nick with a gun) to be confronted face to face with overcoming her fear and hates to trust Nick, despite all elements that were pointing at him she needed to decide to trust him or not. And see the consequences of her not trusting and letting her fear have control over her. But the scene didn’t quite work basically due to rewrite in post (by editing) and so it is more simple, the way that you saw it.”
How has the film been received by audiences and critics?
“The film was very well received by audiences. We held over 16 weeks in release, and people kept coming even though we had no marketing budget. I believe that majority of people were able to relate on some level primarily due to their own fears and the ones that responded most passionately were persons that actually identified and directly related to their fears.
“We held Q&A sessions some weekends and people just would keeping talking about their fears. Sometimes the time was up and we had to move to the lobby because the next show was starting. Many people even wrote to us about it later.
“The film offers no fancy answers other than what most of us already know, that the only true way to defeat fear (worst of all enemies) is to be brave. To face it squarely and act in spite of it. Yet so few of us are aware of this fact and rarely act out on it. I belong to this group myself but I’m trying hard to ‘do it anyway’ and I hope by bringing it up to others I will become more accountable and strong to practice it.
“With critics we had mixed reviews. The very first reviews were great, stating that ‘this was the great beginning of several film careers’ etc., but then we got some bad ones, primarily focusing on our budgetary constraints and subjective feelings toward specific aspects of the movie. Sometimes there were personal issues, I guess we hit some nerve; and sometimes perhaps due to our perceived commercial genre or even title, they wouldn’t let themselves see more past that. A movie like Jurassic Park could be seen as a simple kid movie about dinosaurs destroying a place, or as an exploration (in an entertaining way) of how man likes to play God, and the potential effects of that. It depends on how much you want to see in it, you can let yourself go there or not. For me Dreamkiller was an attempt to do both, say something but also be entertaining. Not just pure commercial or pure artistic.”
What are your future plans?
“I’m working with Delaware Pictures on a whole slate of projects, some five completed screenplays and three more in active development. I’ll mention my two favourites, for the sake of time.
“Ry is a fantasy/action/adventure adapted from the ancient Balkan folk tales where the hero goes on a quest to get a special sword, the only one that can defeat the tyrant who enslaved his village. Every trial on the quest is a lesson and a metaphor. I was attracted to it for its (once again) two sided quality. The movie promotes the basic character ethic and moral values while at the same time being entertaining and fun. Like the original Star Wars. And there are issues and aspects of this story that have never been done before on film.
"Aside from our film projects we are also in active development and talks about production of Dreamkiller - The Series (as per the suggestion of many studio and audience members). This was not set from the beginning but was brought up over and over so we decided it’s worth pursuing.”