Last December, we closed Other Worlds Austin 2015 with the incredible film EMBERS. Director Claire Carré and her husband Charles Spano (with whom she co-wrote the film) attended the festival and made for a great Q&A session. The cerebral drama was a hit with our audience and star Greta Fernandez won the 'Best Actress' Award. Claire was even the recipient of our inaugural Mary Shelley Award, which honors achievement in genre film by women!
For those who don’t follow festivals or know their inner workings, it should be said: EMBERS has accomplished a lot of things that just don’t happen to most films on the fest circuit, especially a genre film. It has screened at festivals all over the world. It's won major awards at many of them. Slamdance, one of the highest-profile festivals it played at, booked it as Closing Night even though the film was in the middle of its festival tour and not a “premiere” (again, very rare in the fest world). Clearly we have a very special film on our hands.
Since playing OWA, EMBERS has been picked up by Slamdance as its first-ever 'Slamdance Presents' title and will run at ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood August 5-11. It's also set for an iTunes/On Demand release on August 2. OWA Associate Artistic Director Jordan Brown figured it was time to catch up with Claire and see how the EMBERS family is doing on the eve of the film's release.
Jordan: Since we last saw you, EMBERS has played a bunch of other festivals- congratulations! With all of the traveling you’ve done, you must have some notable fest-related experiences. Care to share any from the last few months?
Carré: Thank you! It's felt like a bit of a whirlwind. Charles and I have tried to present the film in person at as many festival screenings as we could, so we've been kind of like a band on the road. I really love doing Q&A sessions after the screenings to get direct feedback from the audience. Right before we screened EMBERS at Other Worlds Austin we went to Kiev, Ukraine to screen EMBERS as the only American film in competition at Molodist Film Festival. After our screening, we got a chance to visit Chernobyl and Pripyat - as you can tell from our film, I love abandoned cities, and walking around Pripyat is the ultimate for that. When I won Best New Director at Brooklyn Film Festival I received a 4k drone as an award which was an awesome surprise! The types of venues we've screened the film at different festivals have been really different. At Cleveland Film Festival we had three sold out screenings in a big multiplex, but on the Southern Circuit tour, we screened in university classrooms and even in a gym, and at New Orleans Film Fest we screened in a museum. At Sarasota Film Festival we got to go the beach before our screening! And at Slamdance we got to take part in the infamous Slamdance Hot Tub Summit, where everyone sits in a hot tub outside in below freezing weather and talks about filmmaking. We just got back from Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal a couple of days ago for our Canadian Premiere. Even though I didn't get to go in person, EMBERS got to visit festivals in the UK, Netherlands, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Ireland and Spain, and will be heading to Mexico soon!
J: I’m curious about audience reception at all of the various festivals you’ve attended. For example, did you notice a difference in Q&A conversations when speaking with attendees at an all-genre event, such as Cleveland Film Festival, versus a genre-specific festival such as OWA? Or was EMBERS surprisingly unifying, with similar topics surfacing at most of the festival panels you participated in?
C: When I was editing the film, I really wasn't sure what audience reactions would be, and who would connect with it. It's a science fiction film, but it's also an art-house film. Most importantly, though, I think it's a film that's more about ideas than about plot, if that makes sense. We've been so fortunate for the film to be programmed at so many great festivals. It's been wonderful to take the film to different communities and see what the reaction is. We've screened at a big range of venues from festivals in big cities to very small towns, at genre festivals and regional festivals, and at schools and community centers. Some of the same questions come up no matter where we screen: How did you get the idea for the film? What kind of research did you do? Where did you shoot?
Audience members at genre festivals like OWA, Fantasia or SciFi Boston tend to ask more specific questions about the rules and structure of the world within the film. They've seen a lot of the same SciFi and especially post-apocalyptic films as I have, so there's a kind of shorthand knowledge of the genre elements we are playing with. We usually get the strongest reaction from genre fans, one way or the other! The audience our film has connected with the most on an emotional level I didn't expect at all. We've had the strongest connection with older audience members and seniors. I think because they often have more personal experience with memory loss, either directly in their own lives, or with parents or family members. I think younger audience members tend to be more into the film on an intellectual level.
J: I never would have thought of those audience dynamics, but it makes perfect sense! Now that you and Charles are nearing the end of your tour with the film, what’s next? A new project? Sleep? Vacation?
C: I wish the answer was sleep and vacation!
The film comes out on iTunes and On Demand next Tuesday, August 2, but is available for Pre-Order now! Our trailer just came out last night on IndieWire which is really exciting, and we are headed to Los Angeles next week to present the film at the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood for a week-long theatrical run thanks to Slamdance Presents. We'll be at all the LA screenings, plus we will have a panel of special guests following each screenings. There are a couple of panels I think the OWA fans might dig, so I'll quickly mention some. We're doing a panel on Indie SciFi on a small budget; an EMBERS Cast panel with Jason Ritter (THE EVENT, FREDDY VS JASON), Karl Glusman (who was just in THE NEON DEMON) and Tucker Smallwood (who has been in like every SciFi show, including STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE, X-FILES, CONTACT); a panel on Women in Genre, including Amber Benson from BUFFY and Whitney Able from MONSTERS; a Composer panel with Kimberly Henninger and Shawn Parke (our EMBERS composers), Bear McCreary (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, THE WALKING DEAD), and Rich Vreeland (IT FOLLOWS); and a Production Design/Futurism panel including KK Barrett (HER, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH).
Once EMBERS is fully out into the world, Charles and I are excited to dig into writing a new script. It's still early in the creative process so I don't want to say too much, but it's a SciFi film set in space.
Here's the link to watch EMBERS! It's available on iTunes and On Demand next Tuesday August 2, but you can Pre-Order right now!
Congrats to Claire and the rest of the EMBERS team! Other Worlds Austin cannot wait to see what's next for everyone!