In the excitement of screening PRISONER X at Flix Brewhouse this Thursday, OWA's Associate Artistic Director Jordan Brown reached out to the film's lead, Michelle Nolden, to discuss the film, character development, being a woman in genre projects, and more!
JB: PRISONER X is my favorite type of SciFi film--a slow burn, with limited special effects and more emphasis on challenging ideas and character development. That must've been a satisfying project as an actor! Tell us about it.
MN:I'm so glad you asked that because that was the very thing that I loved so much about the script--I loved the slower pacing and the fact that you really need to pay attention. So much happens. From the beginning I found Carmen to be such a layered and complicated character. I found the plot fascinating and relevant and yet it still allowed for this incredible arc of this strong yet broken woman. She was a joy to inhabit for sure. I'm a true lover of the old SciFi.
JB: The film keeps the plot close to its chest for much of the runtime and offers many twists and turns. Can you talk about the challenges and rewards of playing a character that needs to resound with the audience while still keeping secrets from them?
MN: The challenge of course is in discovering these plot advancements with the audience for the first time and making that moment of realization or the "light bulb" moment real and resonant yet still somehow being one step ahead. The pacing of the film and the way that Gaurev shot the film really helped to make the slow reveal work. He was truly my best friend in walking this line. The reward is that it allowed for a subtlety and stillness in her that gave her a mystery. I was particularly attracted to the idea that she came out of a self imposed hiatus and that she was slightly "off her game". I think that Gaurev did a great job in the writing that allowed her internal conflict and sadness to cover for those secrets--ultimately making the payoff so much greater in the end. I particularly love the pacing of this film--slower than the mainstream audience might be familiar with but so true to the original SciFi genre where the magical what-if and the internal conflicts of the character had room to be explored without the pressure of the shot and special effects .
JB: I see you executive produced this feature as well as starred in it. What initially drew you to the producing role? The Hugo-nominated source material? Gaurav and the crew? The SciFi genre?
MN: To be truthful, the moment I read the script I wanted to play Carmen. I was thrilled. The entire crowd sourcing movement has changed the title of executive producer but being married to a producer myself and appreciating the great talent and skill that makes one a successful producer, I can definitively say that all of the producing credit in this movie goes to the wonderful Avi Federgreen. A real champion of Canadian Cinema and a person with a can-do attitude - Pass any kudos to him!!!
JB: Frankly, it's refreshing to see a strong female presence both in front of and behind the camera. I see that the editor, production designer, and most of the visual effects artists were female. I feel that we're still at the point where it's a big deal to have women in major creative roles, especially in genre films. Can you give us a few observations about being a female in the industry, and perhaps how that may inform the projects you take?
MN: That is an interesting question. I wanted to play Carmen because she was a study in opposites--strong and weak, confident and vulnerable, she knew what she knew but also what she didn't. She was out of shape but instinctually more alert than ever. She was just plain real and interesting and complicated to me. Maybe it's a paradigm thing but I've never felt that I couldn't do something because I am a woman (a great gift I realize) and I kind of felt like Carmen was cut from the same cloth--maybe that was why I loved her immediately. Layer the fact that she was naturally competent while still being real and flawed and that well... describes your average woman! Any time there is a character like that--male or female--you fight for it. In terms of women behind the camera, we had some phenomenal female talent in this film, particularly our production designer who did such an amazing job with the constraints of the budget we had.
JB: PRISONER X is largely a Canadian production, are you making a conscious choice to involve yourself in projects from your home country, or is that not such a big deciding factor for you?
MN: Ultimately I am drawn to the script and to the character. I am happy to be working whether that be in television or film and count my blessings that I have been able to work in my homeland, be with my family and on projects that tell a story, that while made in Canada, have a universal truth.
As you may have already heard, Flix Brewhouse is the new home of Other Worlds Austin SciFi Film Festival. Check them out at our PRISONER X screening on Thursday June 23 at 9pm (see the trailer and buy tickets here). See you there!