The striking feature film debut of writer-director Alexandre Moors, ‘BLUE CAPRICE’ is a harrowing yet restrained psychological thriller about an abandoned boy lured to America into the shadows of a dangerous father figure. Inspired by true events, ‘BLUE CAPRICE’ investigates the notorious and horrific Beltway sniper attacks from the point of view of the two killers, whose distorted father-son relationship facilitated their long and bloody journey across America.
Marked by captivating performances by Isaiah Washington and Tequan Richmond, lyrical camerawork, and a unique and bold structure, ‘BLUE CAPRICE‘ documents the mechanisms that lead its subjects to embrace physical violence. ‘BLUE CAPRICE‘ paints a riveting portrait of 21st-century America and a haunting depiction of two cold-blooded killers that will endure long after the lights come up.
Anticipating the New York City release of ‘BLUE CAPRICE‘ on Friday, September 13, 2013 we spoke with Director Alexandre Moors about the films restrained visual look, the US culture of violence, working with lead actor Isiah Washington and much more.
Find tickets for ‘BLUE CAPRICE’ in NYC at IFC Center – HERE
Why was the story of the Beltway Snipers one you wanted to tell?
I was looking for a film to make in a small, dirty, quick way. I stumbled, by chance, on the description of the Beltway Snipers as a father and son team and it really jumped at me. I immediately saw there was potential to tella large story that impacted so many people, but with an entry point that was very limited. It was a story about an intimate relationship between father and son. We used that as a vehicle to explain how violence infects us.
I was not in the states when the real events took place so I never was contaminated by the media coverage. I never saw this as a larger than life event. I think I read about it in a newspaper when I was abroad once. Even there, it marked me in some way. When you hear this idea of a sniper it is very cinematic; a sniper killing civilians in a vehicle police cannot catch. The visuals of that description are intense.
When you first were introduced to the story did you think it was something that could warrant a film or was it something you were interested in more from an informational perspective?
I did not hear enough to know if there was a story there or not. I did not know when they were captured, for instance. I knew, visually, it is something that is a powerful setting. One of the interesting things is the mental image I get; of snipers in more of a night setting, shooting across hundreds of yards from rooftops; something quite dramatic and spectacular. When we were doing the research, one of the first things we discovered was how they parked 50 yards away from their targets. They were snipers by name only because they could have shot the people with handguns it was such close range…and during the day. That was one of the most shocking revelations. It was very gruesome. There was definitely nothing romantic about it.
What figures did you have access to who were associated with the real life events?
We had access to the entire legal file, which was quite a bible. These files were for the separate trials of Lee and John and were a treasure of information. They had testimony from lawyers, relatives, as well as their own testimony. All of a sudden we knew exactly where to go, like Lee’s schoolteachers in Antigua, for example. We had their entire lives mapped out. The interesting fact was that all this information really conflicted with those few weeks where no one really knew what was going on. We had facts but we had to imagine what the notes of the relationship were like.
How were you and the crew originally received by the community affected?
We shot in Staten Island…
Were the figures associated with these events open to the project or was their some convincing needed?
No. People had more legal limitations. Also, I had legal limitations in the sense that particular people had particular rights to the story. It is a delicate space to navigate. When explaining to people you want to make a film about the Bletway Sniper the healthy reaction would be “Why?” so we anticipated a need for convincing.
You had mentioned how you wanted to make this film in a “quick, dirty” way. From a technical standpoint how did you construct production to coincide with this approach?
When I first envisioned the film I thought we would make it for $50,000 so I was giving up myself to do something with a crew of 5 people, not eating and not sleeping for the duration of production. We ended up shooting the film so quickly (nearly 6 months) after we first sat down to talk about the project. The pacing was fast from the get go. The film turned out to have a sizeable budget but to achieve it was largely due to the collaboration between my DP Brian O’Carroll, with whom I have worked many times in the past. We have a very strong bond so he knows me well. The joke on set was that we were moving faster than everyone else. We would be driving and I would jump out and decide to shoot something. We would be up and running in no time. Since we were using an Arri Alexa, you can shoot really quickly. The Alexa was a big part of the aesthetic of the film. It is a camera that works extremely well in low light situations so we were able to film even after sunset, using natural light.
How did you get Isiah Washington on board and how did you work with him in creating this character?
We were extremely lucky because Isiah was semi-retired at the time we were developing the film. My producer reached out to him on Facebook, believe it or not. It was so informal, but he immediately liked the script and concept. After a long conversation he came on board.
After that, when I think about my role in collaboration, the image that comes to mind is that of a torero. One cannot direct a bull but the torero can push it in the right direction. I think Isiah is an extremely powerful actor and my role was to point him in the right direction and let him unleash hell.
When events like the Beltway Sniper get reported in our media these days, everything seems to have an ultra political angle. I see this line between document and sensationalism to be very delicate to navigate, especially when receiving such mixed messages from the corporate media, powers that be and general public. For example, using our current dilemma in Syria, we push the idea of inflicting violence on a foreign culture yet perpetuate a culture of violence at home; we argue about human rights violations yet allow the uninsured to die. As a director, how did you navigate this space between honest depiction and sensationalism, especially in a noticeably divided society where your own profits could be maximized by using such techniques?
I think the film is extremely political in many ways but when it comes down to the problem of violence, and the appetite for violence this country has, is a very complicated question. Its interesting about Syria because I was in Washington DC last weekend and in the same newspaper was (on one page) the debate about attacking Syria (the 9th Middle Eastern country in some way impacted by Western aggression) and on the next page was an article about cuts in funding to food stamps. It seems pretty obvious it is easy for the society here to decide to go bomb a far away country where you cannot actually see the repercussions, yet oppress those in need when you can. It seems like the death instinct is much stronger than the life instinct.
The true violence of this film comes from the sense of desperation and the implacable fate we are all witnessing. Graphic Violence would have been distracting…
…especially when rooted in a real life situation. Everyone is aware of what the damage inflicted from automatic rifles looks like so showing the image of a head exploding would not be as powerful as the subconscious imagery you presented…
To wrap up, as you come from a music video and commercial background with ‘Blue Caprice’ being your first feature, how do you approach the construction of short form vs long form content?
They are very different. Music Videos are commercial products so you are there to sell songs and artists. Our first day on set we were in this for art. It is a much more serious business than the others. There is a completely different skill set that is needed. I needed to feel. This film was about finding character and emotion so I had to tap into a different part of the brain. I am also a designer so, when I do a music video, it is more abut design and visual debauchery but this movie is about heart and human beings so it was completely different.
– Interview Conducted, Edited & Transcribed (On Site) by Steve Rickinson