Following the success of Rosie, Oh at Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival, we caught up with director Andy Koeger to uncover the secrets behind directing such a daring film…
Interview by Natalie Daniels
What inspired the story of Rosie, Oh?
My girlfriend at the time Apple Xenos approached me with the idea. We co-wrote and co-directed the project together. The film really started as the last scene in the movie of this young girl walking away with her lost dog with inappropriate music blaring through this creepy scenario. We were originally supposed to make the film as a quick run-and-gun shoot on a weekend, but decided to take our time with it and make it as my Senior Thesis film for film school in Savannah.
Rosie, Oh is shot in one continuous shot, whose idea was it to shoot the film this way and how many times did you shoot the whole film?
As soon as I came up with the idea of a one-shot film, everyone was terrified about actually pulling it off. The idea came along when I was shot-listing the script. I was already three minutes in and I didn’t see any reason to cut or to capture any more shots than a flowing Steadicam shot. Then I realized the whole story takes place within eight minutes and I wanted to tell it within that timeframe. I got real excited about the idea of just literally existing in that moment and have it be more of an experiential based piece rather than a traditional narrative.
There must have been an extensive rehearsal period, could you tell me a bit about that?
Yes, we rehearsed an insane amount! We rehearsed for three full days before we had the real deal with the extras, the special effects make-up, full crew, all that stuff. We had one full day of rehearsal with just the camera and figured out how we were going to stitch the shots together. We actually captured four shots that were stitched together in postproduction to create the one-shot film. Basically, the first shot is when she walks down the street and we go all the way through the back door, you’ll notice that the camera whips over to the right. With that motion blur of the whip, we end the first shot with going to the right and begin the second shot with the camera swinging to the right. Then we put them together, and they matched up great.
Then another day of rehearsal was just with Maddie. We did a lot of improv and it was really cool during the rehearsals as Maddie actually had the most professional experience of anyone on our crew. It was a real collaborative thing and even Maddie had a lot of input about what was going on with her blocking and where the camera would be. She’s real creative like that.
How did you find Maddie (the main actress) and what was she like to work with?
We had a pretty extensive casting process because we knew the lead actress was going to be the backbone of the film. We talked to about 100 young actresses. We did in-person auditions in Savannah and we had people sending tapes in from all over the East Coast. I actually found Maddie from googling ‘Top Child Actresses in the World’ and she was No.3. I reached out to a lot of actresses and got responses from some of their agents. I was out of my league but some agents thanked me for reaching out. Maddie’s didn’t want her to do an unpaid thing either. But then I got a Facebook message from Maddie’s mom so I sent them over my previous films which had won some contests online and been in festivals. They really liked what I had done and Maddie absolutely loved the script. She actually wanted it to be even more intense, more creepy and have more gore. She and her parents flew to Savannah for the production and Maddie’s presence added a LOT of value to our project.
Was there a script or was a lot of the dialogue improvised?
It was mostly improvised and we had some of it written out- like when she’s inside the home, we actually did ADR for that and wrote out those lines. Maddie was in Calgary and we were in Savannah, we were skyping for our ADR session. That’s when she’s talking about how Rosie is so rock and roll and about how her mom is never around but she loves that camera and stuff like that. We wrote that out but the rest was all improv.
How many members of the crew were there on the shoot days?
It was all student filmmakers- we didn’t hire any professional crew for it. We had about 40 students on set. It felt like a huge production at the time. There were people hiding behind bushes, behind cars and we had police officers blocking both sides. There were a lot of things going on behind the scenes. Having walkie talkies on set felt like a big deal to us.
Are there any notable styles of film or filmmakers that have directly influenced the making of Rosie, Oh?
I really like films that exist in contained moments, that feel very real. Filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson do a really good job of that specifically, like in ‘Punch, Drunk, Love’ which was one of my references for having things be tense in a small moment. When I was first talking about this one-shot thing, people compared it to Birdman because that had just came out at the time. I was less into it, instead picturing something with a different style to it, something in similar style to Linklater’s Slacker. That film had really long takes and the camera would leave characters and go explore little moments and then find the characters again or it might even find new ones. Slacker was really the influence for the film. The camera wouldn’t have to stick to what was going on. You could miss moments of the story by exploring other moments and that would be okay. The camera had its own agenda and way of experiencing the story, rather than strictly following our character.
What inspired you to became a director?
I was really interested in art growing up. In high school, I was building sculptures, drawing and painting, playing music and taking photographs. Then watching movies from filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson got me into thinking about how people make movies and how maybe I could make movies too. Before then, I never really thought about how movies are actually created. I always thought of them as these magical foreign things that kinda popped out of nowhere. Breaking down that mystery was really intriguing to me. And once I got started, I quickly realized that making movies can incorporate all of my artistic interests in creating one final product.
How beneficial was your film school training?
Rosie, Oh is my senior thesis project at film school. I was actually just looking at my intro project as a freshman the other day- it was this ridiculous sci-fi comedy with a man in a beaver costume fighting a lizard on the planet Darklar. Lasers were flying out of swords and there were backflips, and stunts link jumping out of trees onto my dorm room mattress. It was really funny to see that film compared to Rosie, Oh. To see how I’ve matured as a storyteller and the amount of technical things that I learned at film school. There was a definite stark a contrast between what I was doing when I started school and when I left school, yet it all felt very true to myself. But yeah, I grew a lot in film school. It was training grounds, and I definitely treated it that way.
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
Yes! I’m writing a feature film based on a short film I shot in New Orleans. We had an artistic grant from the National YoungArts Foundation to shoot exactly one year ago. The short premiered at Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal this year. It played in the Celluloid Experimental Block, which was funny because we shot digitally and it was supposed to be a traditional narrative film. But my buddy Dan Frantz and I went hard with the style and it ended up kinda turning into an experimental film in that way. So yeah, I’m working on the feature adaptation of that short with Dan. We’re trying to wrap our minds around our own crazy ideas.
I also work at this production company in LA where we are focused on creating digital content so I’m always creating little sketches and commercials. I also reach out to my favorite bands sometimes and some of them end up sending me songs to pitch treatments for them to send to their record labels for potential music videos. I do a great job of staying busy, that’s for sure! But it’s hard to find a balance of thinking about the long term and taking care of the immediate future. I need to get my creative things out there now as well preparing for a future of being a professional director. I’m really trying to make a career of all this, and it’s hard, but I’m determined.
Rosie, Oh airs nationally on PBS stations over the next two months and its online release is in early 2018 through the PBS Film School Shorts Vimeo page.
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