2014 Tribeca Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Brin Hill (Director – ‘In Your Eyes’)

East Coast housewife Rebecca (Zoe Kazan) lives a comfortable, sheltered life of cocktail parties and lonely nights as the soft-spoken, neglected wife of a doctor, but she always knew there was something special about herself. Across the country in arid New Mexico, charismatic ex-con Dylan (Michael Stahl-David) has paid his debt to society and is ready for a fresh start, including a new job and a burgeoning flirtation with local good-time-gal Donna (Nikki Reed). When the two polar opposites realize they are strangely connected in ways they can’t understand, an utterly unique metaphysical romance begins in TFF alum Brin Hill’s sweet and smart film, written by Joss Whedon.

In Your Eyes‘ screened as part of the Narrative Spotlight selections at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City.  We sat down with the films Director Brin Hill and spoke about the film’s development, the supernatural nature of long distance relationships, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival and much more.

Find More Information About ‘In Your Eye’ at the 2014 Tribeca Film FestivalHERE

In Your Eyes – Trailer from Bellwether Pictures on Vimeo.

What drew you to the script (apart from who wrote it)?
For me the most interesting aspect of the script was its theme of connection–and what it means to connect in today’s society. And I was also drawn to the characters. Joss tends to write a lot of loner heroes. If you look at “The Avengers”, or his television work, or even “Much Ado About Nothing” to some degree, it’s about these people who have to band together to overcome adversity. And I also like the idea of people overcoming their socialization and their limited environments.

In-Your-Eyes-PosterDylan (Michael Stahl-David) and Rebecca (Zoe Kazan), the two protagonists in your film, have had a psychic link since they were young children. But it’s only now as adults that they become completely conscious of it. Why is this the moment in their lives that this connection comes fully online?
That’s something that Joss and I talked about. I think we both felt that it comes when they’re feeling most alienated, and in their lowest moment. It connects when they need it in their lives. We didn’t really want to explain the phenomenon beyond that.

Dylan is an ex-convict scraping by as a car wash attendant in New Mexico. Rebeca is a high-society wife in a wealthy town in New Hampshire. Apart from their psychic link, why do these two very different characters feel such a connection?
They’re both in these small, these limited environments. When you live or grow up in these kinds of spaces, I think if you’re different in any way, people kind of look at you strangely. And I think these two characters have a kinship in that. They’re experiencing it in very different ways, but there’s a common bond there. To me, that was what connected them, aside from chemistry, and all those other things that are inexplicable when it comes to discovering love. They both feel like outsiders in these worlds, and they can’t really find their true selves without finding each other. Dylan is such an interesting character to me because he reminds me of a lot of people that I’ve known in my life, who have good souls, and good hearts, and are charismatic, but just can’t seem to turn the switch on at all. And in a lot of ways Rebecca’s very similar. She hasn’t really been able to figure out who she is because of her upbringing and her relationship to her parents, and also her relationship to her husband. People have sort of put a box around her. And a box has been put around Dylan too. I think Dylan needs somebody who can see the inner goodness in him, and the charisma in him. And Rebecca needs someone who can see what she could be if she could spread her wings a little bit and step outside that box.

What kind of change and growth does Rebecca bring out in Dylan?  
Dylan is making a lot of choices just because they’re easy. And when Rebecca comes along, he realizes he can make a choice based on someone else. It’s sort of like any relationship in that way. He has to start making choices that are beyond the world in front of him.

And what kind of change does Dylan bring out in Rebecca?
Dylan is working class, and Rebecca’s in a space of wealth. She starts seeing beyond the people in her life that she finds to be kind of vapid. Now there’s a person that’s more interesting to her, and more three-dimensional, and can show her how to find her own way in the world, and how to stake a claim. There’s a scene where Dylan shows Rebecca [how to fix her own car before a mechanic can rip her off]. It shows that you don’t have to be what everyone defines you as.

Does this film take inspiration from any long-distance-relationship films that don’t have supernatural hooks?
You know it’s funny, it’s only in talking to people that I’m realizing that people are thinking about it on those terms. The characters have this inexplicable connection that’s so deeply rooted in immediacy, that I never thought of it as a long-distance relationship.

Michael Stahl-David and Zoe Kazan spend very little time onscreen simultaneously. How often during the production did Michael and Zoe actually interact with one another?
Every day, every scene. My mandate was, the way to get them to have the best chemistry–beyond the fact that they’re both amazing actors who, coincidentally, know each other socially–was for them to both be there for each other. I didn’t want them to feel like they were just monologuing everything.

What were their line readings like? Were they talking to each other?
They were talking. Like if he was in the car, she’d be on a walkie, or in the backseat. Or one of them would be hidden under a table, off camera. They couldn’t necessarily see each other, and didn’t necessarily want to. But they had the emotion of voice. And this allowed them to know how the other person was playing things. So when they had to turn around days later and do their half of the scenes, they could know how they were supposed to react emotionally. A lot of times the three of us would talk about: Where were we last time? How were we playing this?

During the editing process, what did you and editor Steven Pilgrim do to make sure that these two characters who were in different locations really seemed to be interacting with each other?
Our mandate cutting it with Steven was just to try to cut the best possible scene and not really worry that the audience would lose track of things. I think the more we pieced the movie together, we realized that people would go with it. Once you buy into the whole conceit of the film, you just kind of roll with it. And because the characters’ dynamic is so good, I think you just lose yourself in the movie.

Why did you pick New Hampshire and New Mexico?
It was actually originally written as Connecticut and New Mexico. But how we ended up in New Hampshire was, we were chasing snow. Snow was an integral part of the script, and a character in the movie. So we actually switched states several times in pre-prodcution. We started in Connecticut: There was no snow. We went to Ohio, there was no snow. We went to New York, there was no snow. We went to Massachusetts, there was no snow. And then we were in New Hampshire. We selected New Mexico, just as in the script, and we ended up shooting California [to stand in for New Mexico] because of budgetary reasons. We were on a micro-budget, and we were still able to shoot three thousand miles apart. That’s kind of amazing, and a testament to the producers.

Right after the film’s April 20th World Premiere, Joss Whedon appeared in a video announcement to announce that the film was being released digitally, directly to consumers, as a five dollar rental. Why was this strategy settled on? Was any inspiration taken from comedian Louis C.K., who has successfully employed similar distribution strategies?
I think there’s a little Louis C.K. There’s probably some Beyonce too. But it wasn’t like we pointed to Louis C.K. and said, hey, we want to do what he did. I think it was just a natural evolution for Joss and Bellwether [Pictures] to explore new modes of distribution. And I see this as being just a fun and infectious movie. I don’t want it to be taken too seriously–I just want it to be entertaining. And I thought, how can we get it out to as many people as possible? How do we cast the widest net? And all of us who were involved in this decision, including Joss, producer Michael Roiff, and producer Kai Cole–from the beginning we were all thinking, how can we do something different, and how can we be immediate with it? The traditional method is, you make a movie, and take it to a festival, and a year later you maybe get out in theaters. There’s that big waiting period. And we asked ourselves, how do we eliminate that?

What does it mean to you personally to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival?
This is my third Tribeca. I was at the first one with a short film called “Morning Breath: A Brooklyn Love Story.” What I always loved about this festival is the spirit with which founders Jane [Rosenthal] and Robert [De Niro] started it, which was just this idea of bringing film and art to a community that loves film and art. I went to NYU Film School, and I love bringing stuff to New Yorkers, because they’re gonna tell you if they love it or if they hate it. I remember being a kid and going to 42nd Street and watching movies, and people were yelling at the screen. I was like, “What is this? This is awesome.” They let you know. I feel like this is the place where all the energy is.

– Interview Conducted On Site at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival by David Teich

DIRECTOR:Brin Hill. Photograph by Elisha ChristianAbout The Filmmaker
Brin Hill recently adapted and directed the YA novel, Ball Don’t Lie (2014),which is also being adapted into a TV series. His short film work includes, Morning Breath: A Brooklyn Love Story (2002), which captured a number of prestigious top awards worldwide, including a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

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