Q&A Interview with writer/director Lee Eubanks

Q) What were the beginning stages of ‘It Takes from Within’?

After completing work on a few short films I had written and directed over the years (‘OS,’ ‘A Fold Apart,’ ‘Voice/Glass’), I felt the need to tell a cinematic story through a longer format. I had been writing down various bits and pieces of ideas for a few years, so I decided to put them all together to look for anything intriguing enough to follow or for any connections between ideas that happened to form. A feature-length screenplay eventually evolved out of these notes along with influence from events in my personal life I had experienced at the time. I’m a big supporter of personal films and the possibility of art acting as therapy, which this film ended up being both. Finally it was just deciding to jump in to this world, along with my cinematographer (Jason Crow), producer (Carlos Silva), and eventually the rest of my crew, and see what happens.

Q) Can you talk about developing the visual style of the film?

My favorite period of filmmaking is 1960s cinema, and the look of this film owes a lot to that timeframe, along with the majority of techniques we used. Grainy black-and-white imagery immediately sets a certain mood and atmosphere that I both enjoy and felt was appropriate for this project. From the time I was taking notes up to the point of drawing storyboards and working with my cinematographer, I couldn’t imagine this world in anything other than flatter tones of grey, everything devoid of contrast or life. We also decided to purposefully stay away from handheld camera shots, shallow depth-of-field, and fast cuts. Every shot in the film is on a tripod and many scenes were planned for in the writing stage as being long, single-shot sequences. It was very important for me to develop a visual style that delivered theme and atmosphere on its own, rather than one that did nothing for the theme and relied too much on narrative.

Q) The narrative of the film seems to take a backseat to the more interpretive, oneiric sequences that comprise the film. Was this planned for in the earlier stages of production or did it take place later in editing/post-production?

It was always planned for and seemed to be the only way worth exploring the subject matter. I wanted to quickly set up a basic story with vague character motivations early on, then let the film sort of float through a succession of scenes that develop on their own and lead down roads that might not initially seem like the obvious path to take. These sequences serve the film as its narrative. It also owes a lot to the type of film and art that I enjoy experiencing. The ones that allow room to explore, to question, to apply meaning that can change whenever you come back to them. I’m much more interested in creating an interactive film than a passive film- a movie that draws an individual in, presents them with images and sounds, and makes them develop their own personal response that is quite possibly completely different from someone else who has viewed the same film. While I think it’s certainly possible to watch the film in a very literal sense, even as a documentary (this person walked here, said this, etc.), I don’t know if that would leave me, as an audience member, with an experience worth remembering. In a way, the film is only as abstract as the viewer takes it. Many symbols in the film are inspired by pieces of art, paintings, poetry, or sculpture that I had personally connected with, but these symbols could easily be interpreted in varying ways by different audience members. I encourage finding new meaning behind them. I think the possibilities offered by cinema can be much more than just talking heads and pages of dialogue spelling out intention, and I’ve tried to focus more on exploring these visual and aural avenues.

Q) The film’s soundtrack stands out in the film, between moments of ear-shattering noise and deafening silence. When did work on sound design begin and how did it shape the film?

Ideas for sound design came with everything else, right at the beginning. It’s always been a dream of mine to have ADR dialogue recorded for an entire film and I finally got to realize that dream. This is another technique commonly used to great effect in older films, with all of the dialogue re-recorded in post-production, and I feel like that decision provides an immensely unique feel. I also wanted to emphasize scenes where the lead characters are completely isolated from the rest of the world, and this was another way to deliver that feeling. You can’t hear anything other than their footsteps in a location, maybe their breathing, and even when they speak their words seem disconnected from everything, including themselves! The café scene also had very specific sound design elements, where I wanted to present three different “worlds” and point-of-views occurring at the same time, each with different musical cues and sounds around them. If we’re experimenting with visual concepts, why not experiment with sound as well? The sound design of a film is something that I honestly think isn’t explored enough in the majority of films and filmmaking I’ve seen lately, and it can be such a vital part to delivering theme and atmosphere in a film. If a certain scene needs to be violent and abrasive, then the sound for that scene can be screaming right there along with it. I also enjoy listening to many ambient, noise, and experimental musicians, so these elements naturally worked themselves into the film.

Q) Your shooting locations, interiors, and landscapes are visually stunning. Where did production take place?

We shot at practical locations all over Texas, I loved it. I grew up in Texas and spent a lot of time walking, driving, and exploring through huge, Texan fields. An open field represents a lot to me- so much potential, endless possibilities, yet there’s an overbearing sense of isolation and emptiness. Perfect for the film.

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