The Natural Aristocrat spoke with ‘On/Off’ star Carole Brana (Meredith) about vulnerability as a source of acting inspiration in the silent void of space.
At the heart of every human fear is the beating truth of real possibility, just as actress Carole Brana’s Meredith discovers in On/Off. The Sci-Fi French short took film festivals by storm, amassing over 16 awards, and recently seeing its first public debut through DUST. The film’s easy attraction of maximum calamity and catastrophe in the helplessness of space, the new wild west, speaking to genre fans.
Then a timely film twist left them wondering about the future of technological depravity. How advanced civilization is doomed to search for a connection to the humanity they intentionally left behind. Meredith’s imprint of an aged voice message throughout the picture embodying the concept. A subconscious human need to cling desperately to an idea without even remembering its true origins.
Actress Carole Brana told The Natural Aristocrat it was through the power of vulnerability that she found inspiration to play the title’s lead, Meredith… Who watches her very spacecraft disintegrate before her eyes.
Interview with Carole Brana on Sci-Fi film short, On/Off
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: As Meredith, you portray the ultimate vulnerability of space. Despite being fully shielded in your exterior, even minor objects flying toward you like a screw could spell the end. What do you look to as an actress to connect with this concept? Do you utilize sense memory and emotionally recall a particular point in your life where you felt similar vulnerability?
As an actress I need to use vulnerability as a source of inspiration. Vulnerability is often considered in real life as a weakness unfortunately. To play Meredith, I needed to mute the daily mental brainstorming and let things emerge organically. This is not about memory or recall, but about finding the limits inside myself, the failure to catch the light.
In the film, Meredith asks for the music to be turned off despite her plunging serotonin levels. Was she truly irritated by the music or did she want ‘the headache’ to continue in order to access the voice message memory in your opinion?
Excellent question! This moment is interesting because you have the choice. You, and only you can decide Meredith’s mood! So, I won’t tell you what I think and but I’ll let you choose which decision speaks more to you.
What went through your mind when you visualized the spacecraft disintegrating? The last refuge evaporating before your eyes…
This scene was very intense, I remember the vertigo of the soul. Something broke forever inside Meredith and I needed to make a step and jump in it.
What did it mean to you to be nominated for a Maverick Movie Award for On/Off for Best Actress in a film short in 2014?
I was very proud and very honoured to be nominated for the Best Actress Maverick Movie Award. It means a lot to me. I’m passionate about my job and to receive a nomination is a gift. I’m very proud that On/Off won the VFX Maverick Movie Award on 2014…
I’m very grateful to (Director) Thierry Lorenzi who gave me this opportunity, and very grateful to the technical crew. I hope to see this movie have a long life.
Should it someday be possible to live on like Meredith as an android of sorts, would you just choose that for yourself?
I don’t know. Today I believe that life is a continuum of states and we haven’t explored all of the possibilities. But being an android is not really one of my goals!
Were you inspired by the replicas of Blade Runner 2049, HBO’s Westworld, Ex Machina, A.I. Artificial Intelligence or any other Sci-Fi work for the revelation that you’re a robot?
I’ve been interested in the Sci-Fi world since a very young age, so I’ve been watching a lot of movies, I’ve read a lot of books and I think I’m somewhat created by this culture. To play Meredith I decided to act like a computer. I used my body as machine with uploads, updates, bugs etc… So I proposed a machine reload more than a conscious revelation.
[End Spoiler Warning]
On/Off Film Premiere Trailer and Synopsis
Obsessed by a mysterious voice message, astronaut Meredith will face its paradoxical condition in order to stay connected to her humanity.
* For English Speakers: The film has English subtitles with French being the spoken language of the picture.
Visit the official DUST website to watch On/Off (no subscription needed) and other intriguing, curated, independent Sci-Fi films. Take a tour of the official On/Off website for more information about the short film by Director Thierry Lorenzi.
Here are all the films announced for ‘Fantasia International Film Festival 2020’ in the First & Second Waves. The table below will be actively updated as more titles are formally announced for the virtual film festival.
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Updated: August 4, 2020
– The Prophet and the Space Aliens’ countries of origin include Israel, Austria, and South Africa.
– Undergods’ countries of origin include the United Kingdom, Belgium, Estonia, Serbia, and Sweden.
About Fantasia International Film Festival 2020:
“#Fantasia2020’s virtual lineup will include an array of World and International feature film premieres, including anticipated titles from the cancelled SXSW and Tribeca editions, whose original selections will be given credit.
Using the Festival Scope / Shift72 platform, Fantasia will bring much of the live event experience directly into peoples’ homes, offering filmmaker intros and audience-involved Q&A’s, live panels, and workshops. In addition, the festival’s flagship short film showcases, juried competitions, and audience awards will remain in place.
Fantasia’s virtual edition will take place August 20 through September 2, 2020 while the Frontières Co-Production Market, which typically runs in conjunction with the festival, will take place from July 23rd through 26th.”
Visit FantasiaFestival.com for more information about the Fantasia International Film Festival (running August 20 – September 2, 2020) and its history.
The festival will be running virtually this year due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. As mentioned in the quoted section above, online attendees can expect live panels, traditional audience Q & A’s, and workshops. Much like the recent FunimationCon 2020 brought the convention experience online, Fantasia will bring the film festival experience to the comfort of your home.
Be sure to check out The Natural Aristocrat®’s interview with actress Hannah Emily Anderson who speaks about film, The Curse of Audrey Earnshaw, which is seeing its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival!
Go in-depth on the Entertainment Industry with The Natural Aristocrat®’s Film Articles section for more exclusive coverage!
tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu reflected back with The Natural Aristocrat on The Strangers’ one of a kind isolating soundtrack, a milestone in the horror genre. A blend of stillness & suspense, preying on the inherent human fear of sounds that go bump in the night.
Nowhere to hide, no place to run. Fight or flight mode in the dead of night, tomandandy’s The Strangers soundtrack in the spotlight. Composer Tom Hajdu, one-half of the musician duo behind production powerhouse tomandandy (along with Andy Milburn), spoke to The Natural Aristocrat® about the inspiration of a score that tapped into the most primal of senses. Fear. Dread. Confusion. Terror. Ensnaring the audience’s collective body in a state of alarm from opening to curtain call. An exercise of dark minimalism, where every last detail is meant to send a physical message both actively and to the subconscious.
A soliloquy without words made of cello, layering the calm before the storm. The Strangers and its soundtrack is one of the horror genre’s first-rate examples of synergy, sound perfectly enhancing the picture to great effect. The soft pillowy tones of tracks like “Apology” gently causing viewers to let their guard down… Before snatching their perceived safety of home right out from under them.The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® – Based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay, Scott Speedman as James Hoyt, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, and Gemma Ward as Dollface in The Strangers
Interview with Tom Hajdu of tomandandy on The Strangers
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: What was the inspiration for The Strangers’ minimalistic, lonely ambience woven with moments of wild panic? The soundtrack felt reminiscent of composer Bernard Hermann’s work on Psycho, in terms of calmly soothing over the audience before a sudden burst of distilled terror.
tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu: The inspiration behind soundtrack for The Strangers had to do with two things: One, with perspective. A lot of the sounds that are louder in terms of volume or more prominent are actually soft sounds that are very closely miked. Like a Cello playing very, very softly but it’s actually quite loud. Relative to say a distorted, loud electric guitar which is actually very soft in the background. So, it’s playing with these types of perspectives that are non-traditional or unexpected.
The other one was this idea that a lot of the music is really in the silence and try to punctuate that silent space in slightly more thoughtful ways, rather than just try to fill the acoustic space. It was really leveraging ambience and silence as a big piece of the soundtrack. We certainly have a great admiration & respect for Bernard Herrmann’s work!The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Gemma Ward as Dollface, Kip Weeks as Man in Mask, Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.
For me, the pinnacle track of The Strangers is “3 AM Knock” because of its foreboding stillness building into this crescendo ring of fear. It really feels like you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere at dusk with this stampeding dread from all sides. Not knowing what lies beyond the great unknown. What went into crafting that track?
I think it’s also the case that the film silence was a new kind of perspective on horror films. That gave us an opportunity to try and create a slightly different context for music. There was an opportunity there to try to create some slightly innovative approaches to the way in which the music was made.
On that “Opening” track for The Strangers, there’s an eerie, almost 60s era-Alien saucer sound around the middle of the track (1:05). Was that intentional? A subtle metaphor to an alien, home invader so-to-speak.
Yeah, there was a lot of intentionality in mixing strange sounds with familiar sounds! It was a combination of analog, synthetic, and ambient sounds, along with silence, put together in unusual ways. To create combinations that are not necessarily traditional in that respect, or expected.The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers
What instruments were used for The Strangers track “Angry”? It has a unique, screeching buildup to it.
Most of those sounds were made with cello, on process, and electric guitar.
What was the process like when tomandandy were developing The Strangers soundtrack? Was there a clear vision of what you wanted to accomplish immediately or did you experiment?
A lot of it was sitting in a dark room. Looking at the picture, the arc of the film, it goes from subdued & quiet to intensely loud. We were trying to figure out ways to make as little music as possible and rather have the music be part of the larger audio space.
Whether it’s the sound of an engine, the sound of an old record player skipping, or nature itself outside. That’s all part of the audio soundscape for the film. We wanted to take everything into consideration. A less is more situation. I feel (Director) Bryan Bertino’s vision for The Strangers was very successful.The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – Kip Weeks as Man in Mask in The Strangers
Director Brian Bertino once described a real life, childhood event inspiring the film’s iconic door knocking opening scene. Did tomandandy utilize any kind of similar personal experiences or memories while composing The Strangers’ soundtrack?
I feel composing for me is certainly a combination of all our experiences. We never lose anything, we take everything with us. Combining everything from emerging technologies to primal and visceral experiences.
We try to be open & available to the way the world is unfolding and the way it’s informed our lives over the years. I don’t think we try to filter anything if at all possible, everything is part of our palette.The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay
The soundtrack for ‘The Monster‘, another horror film by Director/Writer Bryan Bertino, evokes some Strangers nostalgia. Haunting piano was added on tracks like “Drink” and “Outside” which changed the tone in a noticeable way. What was it like to work on The Monster?
I think The Monster is similarly, a more modern way of looking at horror. We changed the instrumentation on there to combine classic horror scoring with some modern instrumentation and style.
What influenced the Resident Evil: Retribution soundtrack? In particular, the track “Flying Through the Air” which felt like an inspired fusion of electronic music and classical asian violin as its soundscape.
Yeah I feel with regards to the Resident Evil franchise, at that time we were trying to establish a sound for the brand. Which I think we managed to do! Once we established a style, I guess you could call it a language, we could create lots of different types of music within it. That track (“Flying Through the Air”) has that influence to some degree but it’s all couched in the sound of Resident Evil at that point.
Does tomandandy receive film scripts prior to creating soundtracks or more of a general theme and guideline of what the movie will be?
Yes, we often get the scripts before production has begun and speak to the producers & director about the musical direction before they’ve started shooting. There’s been times where we’ve worked on projects after they’ve been shot and edited as well. We’re comfortable working in either way. Usually directors like having those conversations very early on.The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay
Are you ever asked to make adjustments mid-way or generally once the soundtrack is complete, it’s final?
Oh sure! I mean each project has its own life cycle in a way. Its own character in the way that it unfolds. We’re just very happy to be part of that process. It’s an organic process and so where we start is often not where we end up. I think that’s true for projects as a whole, they kind of take a life of their own and emerge to become what they were ultimately meant to be.
There’s a quote by Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the iconic Super Mario Bros. series, that, “A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.” Does this notion apply to music and its creative process as well in your opinion? As in, when you’re composing a track and something is just not working… Do you believe in trashing it and starting fresh? Or that if you engage with a track long enough, it’ll eventually become good?
Absolutely, I’m a big fan of the Brian Eno oblique strategy cards, which are cards you can use whenever you’re having a creative block. But I’m also a big fan of just starting from scratch, sometimes it’s good not to be precious about things.
It’s good to be receptive to the possibility of a creative spark because it can really come at any time. It takes a lot of hard work to orchestrate something, to get it just right. But also often times, it’s also useful to just try something new!The Strangers Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Universal Studios / Universal Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Liv Tyler as Kristen McKay and Laura Margolis as Pin-Up Girl.
How does the collaboration process work with Andy [Milburn]? Are you usually in the studio at the same time these days?
It really depends, we’re very flexible because we’ve been working together for so long! Both of us have fairly broad skill sets and so it really depends on the project. We can both be in the same room or not in the same room. We can both be working on the same track or we can both be working on different tracks. It’s really project specific and context specific, also. It gives us a lot of flexibility to work on all kinds of projects and approach them in creative ways that can produce different aesthetic results.
What is tomandandy currently working on?
We’re currently waiting for a couple of projects to be green-lit, actually. There’s a number of projects where we’re just waiting for the signal… But at the moment we’re kind of in Coronavirus mode. I’m optimistic that things will open up soon, at least from what I’ve been told. Different productions in Canada and Australia for example, are being discussed. It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold as the pandemic subsides hopefully in the future.
Has there been a project that stood out to tomandandy as a favorite over the years?
You know, that’s a tough question because each project really has a life of its own. They have different qualities. The Strangers was certainly a wonderful and powerful experience. We’ve worked with Directors like Johannes Roberts on both 47 Meters Down films, Bryan Bertino (The Strangers) of course, Mark Pellington (The Mothman Prophecies), Jacob Estes (Mean Creek), Roger Avery (Killing Zoe) over time.
So, I’m not sure I could single out one as the very best but a lot of them could be really life changing experiences. Sometimes we’d go to the set for example and were asked to be more involved and sometimes less involved. What we’ve learned over time is to make the most of each of these projects and help to work in collaboration with the rest of the crew to make the project as best it can really be.Artwork by Nir Regev / The Natural Aristocrat® based on Photo Still by Rogue Pictures – THE STRANGERS, from left: Kip Weeks as Man in Mask and Scott Speedman as James Hoyt.
Does critical reception of a soundtrack, good or bad, affect your own perception or interpretation of your work?
Great critical reception is a wonderful thing to have! But I don’t think our feelings are hurt if we don’t get it. There’s a lot of music and media that’s always floating in the ether, so not everybody can be acknowledged all the time. I don’t think we necessarily require the acknowledgement but we appreciate it. I feel where we have been fortunate is the feedback from artists, musicians, and directors who are familiar with our work. We really, consistently try to make the best music that we can for any project that we’re involved in.
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Be sure to check out author J. Blake Fichera’s book Scored to Death: Conversations with Some of Horror’s Greatest Composers which features an earlier interview with tomandandy’s Tom Hajdu.
Read more interviews with the industry’s top talent in The Natural Aristocrat®’s Interview Articles section.
Ellen Toland spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about Inside the Rain’s Emma Taylor and society’s inability to separate job title from human being leading to a culture of objectification.
Ellen Toland’s Emma Taylor in new film Inside the Rain is a quiet looking glass into the day-to-day treatment of commodified human beings. When the fantasy of body sushi and the gentlemen’s club ends and a person trying to resume their regular life off-the-clock begins. Yet, separating the person from their job title appears a distant hope, like spotting individual blades of grass outside. It’s for this reason, among many others, that Emma Taylor finds comfort in another person pre-judged by society. One born with bipolar disorder and treated as such at all times to personal detriment. Even scorned in suspicion for taking their medication due to repetitional bias.
Meet Ben Glass, Inside the Rain’s lead protagonist. Ben is largely defined by one act during Into the Rain, an attempted suicide via overdose. In turn, Ben is later accused of another such attempt when he’s spotted simply organizing his medicine for the week… Leading to an unjust arrest and potential exclusion from university. Thus, Ben Glass decides to make a film about all the events leading up to the arrest as a proactive visual defense. Better Call Saul’s Jimmy McGill once told Scholarship interviewee Kristy Esposito that, ‘You made a mistake and to them that’s all you’ll ever be,’ and it feels highly applicable to Inside the Rain’s plot. Much like Jimmy tried to drive Kristy to fighting forward even without the scholarship, Emma Taylor feels Ben can be advance forward in his life without going back to a University that preemptively shunned him.
This interview contains spoilers for Inside the Rain.
Interview with Ellen Toland on Inside the Rain’s Emma Taylor:Ellen Toland as Emma Taylor in film, Inside the Rain – Photo Credit: Art 13
Nir Regev [The Natural Aristocrat]: A good portion of TV & Film audiences are unable to disconnect the character they see on-screen from an actor in real life. During Inside the Rain, these fraternity looking, rich jocks bother Emma Taylor outside of the strip club she works at. Unable to separate the fantasy of body sushi from a regular person having a smoke after work. I was wondering how you feel about that?
Ellen Toland: Oh, that’s a really, really good question. I think that’s a feminine issue especially and it’s pretty ingrained in masculine culture. To objectify women, having a hard time separating the fact that they are not an object and something to toy with. I feel that’s what that scene really plays upon because those guys definitely don’t see a difference between a human being and their sushi tray.
And I think that’s a real issue with our culture in general.
It’s something that people really need to assess within themselves. I think that happens with people and titles of their jobs in the first place too. We don’t see past the title of what people do, and we make that their entire identity… And then treat them with that sense.
Do you feel Emma’s openness lends itself to accept a bipolar person intimately into her life despite his involuntarily asylum stay? There’s many that would have second thoughts after seeing someone forcibly institutionalized but you decide to donate Ben $5,000 dollars for his student film.
Yeah, I feel Emma’s seen a lot of different types of people and has a deep well of empathy & understanding for people. She kind of sees that with Ben but I also think it’s matched with Ben’s acceptance of her and building her up. Which I don’t think she’s had a lot of in her own life. It’s the perfect combination of both of them meeting each other exactly where they’re at, building each other up, and ultimately eventually move on in their own lives.Ellen Toland as Emma Taylor, Aaron Fisher as Ben Glass in film, Inside the Rain – Photo Credit: Art 13
What was it like shooting the scene where Emma’s having dinner with Ben’s parents and mentions she works at a strip club?
I think my choice going into the dinner was that Emma hadn’t been introduced to a lot of parents and treated normally. She’s meeting their possible judgment by just really owning it and trying to almost test them out too and see how they’re going to react. When it’s met with genuine acceptance as well, she’s pleasantly surprised. Shooting that scene was really fun and the restaurant was very sweet to us as well, we ate a huge meal! [laughs] That was great, never bad to get to eat on set, you know?Catherine Curtin as Emma Glass and Paul Schulze as David Glass in film, Inside the Rain – Photo Credit: Art 13
I saw an interview with you and Aaron Fisher where he said, ‘During auditions it just kept going back to Ellen, Ellen, Ellen!’ What do you think was that X-Factor won you the role?
Ultimately, I feel Aaron and I had a pretty natural chemistry. One that you can’t really manipulate with actors necessarily. All the pieces fell together. We really had a good energy together and you really need that in a romance. (laughs)
Inside the Rain left things a little bit open ended for the ending. Why do you feel the choice was made not to send the audience home feeling ‘warm and fuzzy’ with a full happy ending?
I mean I think it was also being realistic to what really would happen in real life. Aaron was also basing the film off of his own life. He wanted to play to the truth of that. And I think they both needed to go and own themselves. They’d been given that confidence, and that’s what’s so good about the flash forward at the end.
It showed that that’s why Ben made that choice, that he really could move forward and ended up with the person he was meant to be with. We have people in our life all the time that are just chapters that are meant to lead us to end of our own story, it doesn’t make those chapters any less important.Ellen Toland as Emma Taylor, Aaron Fisher as Ben Glass in film, Inside the Rain – Photo Credit: Art 13
Inside the Rain feels so much like art imitating life. I have to ask… Is Emma Taylor the real name of the girl portrayed in the film?
Oh, no it’s not her real name! (laughs) It’s loosely based off of someone but it’s definitely not the same name! There’s elements of Aaron’s life in the film, I’d say 60/40 but the film is loosely biographical. Like the last ten years all stirred around into one movie.
Do you feel being aware that Aaron knew this person impacted your interpretation in any way? Or did you still approach the role in the same way you would any other?
You think about it for sure but you also want to create your own vision of it and own that. Aaron and I definitely talked a ton about Emma but he gave him lots of room to make my own decisions. Aaron’s an actor’s director!
There was kind of a frugal moment toward the end at the fast food joint where Emma is adding everything up on her head. It seemed based on those sexually fueled videos she was making outside of her main job and the $5,000 donation that she’d be rich. How do you feel about that scene?
That scene is trying to say that she’s working really hard to get where she is, and knows the worth of a dollar. Feeling at the same time that Ben hasen’t had that kind of struggle. I think you can be making a lot of money and still be frugal. You remember how hard it was to get there.
Why do you feel that despite ‘red flags’ being present, Emma decides to donate the money for Ben’s film? Did Ben’s dream become Emma’s dream and intertwined at that point?
Yeah it all becomes mixed up. I think it also becomes her dream. Emma sees this person that she cares about and understands how important it is to him. There was no too big of a feat to make that dream come true.
Would you like to reprise the character of Emma Taylor potentially in another film?
I love Emma! She’s so brave and strong, I really adore her. If there is an Inside the Rain: Part 2, sure. I mean Aaron and I are really good buds, I love working with him. I’d love to work with him again, of course!
How much of yourself do you see in Emma as a character?
I think that any person you play, you bring an element of yourself. There’s things that are different, there’s things that are the same but I don’t think it’s necessarily conscious. You just bring as much of your research on their perspective of the world as you can. Whether that’s the way you move or even read things. Maybe there’s pieces of yourself in that. It’s a weird little mixed up bag.Ellen Toland as Emma Taylor, Aaron Fisher as Ben Glass in film, Inside the Rain – Photo Credit: Art 13
I saw you studied over in RADA, one of the best acting schools in the world. How do you feel it established your foundations as an actress?
It was amazing! I loved it, some of the best professors I ever had were there. It was something I’d always dreamt of doing and I loved London. It was a really important step in developing my craft. Everything that people say about it… It’s all true! It did not disappoint.
Read more Film and Television interviews in The Natural Aristocrat’s Interview category section. Be sure to watch The Natural Aristocrat TV with Host Nir Regev interviewing leading talent in the entertainment and sports industry on-camera!