Friday, November 9, 2018

New Filmmaker Series: New York City's Hannah Roze Tackles Sisterhood With a Little Help from Her Sisters in her First Short Film Entitled The Disenchantment of a Young Adult and Wild Child

Hannah Roze is an up and coming actress, writer and filmmaker, though her greatest satsifaction comes from acting. Her first short film, The Disenchantment of a Young Adult and Wild Child, has been making the film festival from the West to the East Coast. This New Yorker who does a mean British accent from her mom's side of the family- is a force to be reckoned with in film as well as in her "day job"- a NYC tour guide. Read more about the making of her new film, how she enjoys the company of women on a set, and what's she learned so far.

A Film on Sisterhood - The Good, The Bad

The Disenchantment of a Young Adult and a Wild Child is a tale about the nostalgic and dark sides of sisterhood. It’s about growing up...or not.

When aspiring photographer and ‘wild child’, Hazel (Hannah Roze), runs away from a her terminally ill mother into Prague’s wintry nightlife, her ever-responsible “young adult” of a sister, Rachel (Shannon Spangler), finds her. But their rekindled sisterhood-- along with something else-- shatters as the two talk... The sisters are disenchanted, they discover that life is neither a fairytale nor a perfect plan.

The Spark Behind the Film

I wrote the first draft of The Disenchantment on the eve of graduating University. For the first time in my life -- in 22 years-- there wasn’t a clear path laid out for me. There was no class I had to be in at 7am on Monday morning. In spite of my education there was so much I didn’t know how to do. From the day to day things like how to get a day job? an apartment? pay rent? To the more complex things like how to navigate adult relationships? forgive? How deal with death?  I was questioning the nature of unconditional love and if I liked the person I was becoming.

On Roles – or Lack Thereof – for Women Before the Women’s Movements of Today

Professionally, as a young unknown actress coming into the business -- in 2014 prior to the tectonic Women’s Movements that are shaking the bedrock of the film industry as we know it-- the only roles available for me were depressing: hookers with hearts of gold, rape victims, seductive party girls, or girlfriends. Essentially hyper-sexualized props with a LOT of gratuitous nudity.

In defiance, I set out to create a film about women defined not by their looks, but by their uniqueness, weaknesses, and choices as told from the female gaze. Through Hazel’s camera (literally, a female gaze), we watch as her and Rachel’s relationship unravels. Simultaneously they unravel sexist, limiting stereotypes (of the manic-pixie dream girl and cold-lawyer-bitch); and the film itself unravels around them -- the cinematic elements of music and color are stripped away, stranding Rachel and Hazel on a desolate bathroom floor. 

The Storybook Land of Prague  

Lastly, I was inspired to chose Prague as the setting for this disenchantment by a real life trip I’d taken to it with my older sister. The city looks like a storybook come to life-- there are some spectacular views of a snow-capped castle fit for Cinderella, yet also a House Club scene!-- Setting the harsh adult-reality my characters would have to face-- and that desolate bathroom floor I mentioned-- against Prague’s fairytale-esque vibrant nightlife! It was the perfect!

On Making A Movie The First Time-Around

It took years to make The Disenchantment because Shannon and I didn’t know how to make a movie. We spent one year writing, and rewriting the writing, and editing the rewritten writing, and rewriting the edits of the rewritten writing, 
and -- you get the picture. 

Then we put the script aside and spent a year networking and learning about filmmaking. I started working for the Film Fatales, a group of women-identifying feature-film directors. And Shannon volunteered at film festivals. We even talked our way into a few Festival parties not open to the public together!

Then it took us about a year to actually make the film, from Pre-Production through to Post. We worked with some very gifted and talented people while having very little money, so often had to wait on their availability. And now we have spent about a year submitting The Disenchantment to festivals and hitting the circuit. So I’d say three years to make the film, and a year to get it in front of audiences.  

Working with Fabulous Tisch Friends and Leah Meyerhoff

I worked with friends. Shannon Spangler-- the second person in the “we”  I keep referring to-- is my best friend. She is my creative partner in crime, fellow Strasberg-ite, Tisch alumna, and my sister on and off screen. She was so invaluable to the process that I can’t describe it with any other pronoun than "we".  

We were fortunate to work with more wonderful friends! Nora Unkel and Devin Shepherd of Wild Obscura Films-- two extremely talented producers who graduated NYU Tisch the same year we did-- came on board very early on in the process. Nora and Devin created our budget (so yes to the budget query) and we have worked hard to stick... close to it!

Lastly, we were thrilled when Leah Meyerhoff, my boss at and founder of the Film Fatales, came on board as our Executive Producer. Leah’s film I Believ in Unicorns inspired me before she and I had even met. Then during my time at the Fatales she became a friend and mentor.

Without this core group incredible people the film would not have happened.

An Army of Thirty Women and 
oh… Two Men

We hired an army of women: thirty to be precise. It felt right to do so because were telling a tale of sisterhood, which is one of life’s most intimate and least cinematically explored relationships. There were just two (very talented) men who worked on the film: Will Mayo our Assistant Editor who organized the footage after the shoot, and Xavier De Cardenas our composer. (His music is drop dead gorgeous. Hire him!) Everyone else was a woman!

We found our DP Valentina Caniglia and my co-director Caryn Waechter through the women’s film collectives: the Cinematographers XX and the Film Fatales. I know Valentina Caniglia recommended a few women for the crew. Then Nora and Devin hired the rest. Some they had known from college, some were colleagues of colleagues. I believe they put out listings on various Industry job search sites too. A listing is how we found our incredible script supervisor, Lee Ann Hoover-Kurr! Literally through an ad-- and she is so spectacular!

It’s actually not that hard to find women in film. They are there, truly, if you take one moment to ask a colleague for a referral!

 Keeping a Calm Mood Onset

The mood onset was very calm, caring, and nurturing. (Caryn is a very cool and collected person so I attribute this to her influence). Everyone was also excited that it was all women! And yet that excitement didn’t eclipse the jobs we had to do. They were very professional and highly efficient. I think the crew could really tell that this project was my and Shannon’s baby; they could see and respect how much passion and soul we were pouring into our characters, and poured 110% of themselves into it too.

And the mood didn’t even waver when we began shooting a topless moment. In the story, Hazel is wearing her mother’s dress and it gets ripped off her. It’s not a sexual moment. It’s about the sisters destroying each other and the physical embodiment of their mother; so when I was writing it hadn’t really even occurred to me “oh that means I’ll be topless.” This crew treated the moment with respect and yet didn’t make it out to be so precious that it was intimidating. It became as big of a deal as it was supposed to be, no more and no less.

Conquering the Challenge of a Difficult Scene

When we came to that portion of the scene, the first AD Chloe Jury-Fogel announced “Listen everyone, there’s going to be more skin showing now so be respectful”. I was impressed by how she really took calm, caring charge of the moment. And think everyone in the room knew what it was like to be a woman, a professional, and to feel vulnerable so they were looking out for me. I also believe that because I was comfortable with what we were doing, everyone else was too. Between takes while the dress was being resewn, Chloe literally took off her jacket and gave it to me. That’s the kind of crew that this was, one that would give you the clothes off their back.  

What Everyone Is Doing Now - HBO, 
Reel Characters, Features

And it was wildly fun to work with all of these passionate talented people, many of whom are still in my life today, and are killing it! Devin and Nora for example just completed production on their first feature film. Lee Ann Hoover-Kurr is also a writer-director in her own right and has a couple of screenplays in the works and was taking meetings in LA about one of them a few months ago; she has also opened up Reel Characters a company that creates scenes for actor’s reels. Caryn has moved to LA and directed her second feature film. Shannon is producing and acting in another short film called Stray. And Alicia Rodis, our stunt coordinator, is an inspiration! She has founded a whole new discipline called Intimacy Direction and has been hired by HBO to be their choreograph and coordinate the intimacy on The Deuce.

Screening at the Walk of Stars and other Fests

Hollyshorts was glamorous, and my first introduction to LA. Screening at the TCL Chinese Theatres which is the movie palace that used to host the Academy Awards, where Star Wars premiered was a dream come true! (My nerd and cinephile heart burst!) My movie is never going to look or sound as good as it did on that gigantic, gorgeous screen!  

The Portland Film Festival was much more down-to-earth but far more conducive to networking. For example opening night was at a gear warehouse/garage. And all of the Director Q&As were in Powell’s City of Books, the world’s largest independent bookstore!!!!!! If you can’t tell from the exclamation points, I love bookstores. If there is a heaven it will be a giant bookstore. So I really felt at home sipping coffee amongst the stacks while talking to the other producers, directors, and etc. Also Portland itself has this great funky yet chill vibe that permeated the festival itself. And the programmers and festival heads were really present and lovely. I can’t yet speak to the Imagine This Women’s International FF, but ask me in a few days!

Wanting to Act at Seven Years Old – 
Blame it on Cathy Rigby

I knew I wanted to be an actress when I was 7 years old. When I saw Peter Pan on Broadway, starring Cathy Rigby. The experience was at once dreamy and like being hit by lightning, and I knew I was going to be an actress. I also grew up watching Lord of the Rings with my father. We watched them over and over and over. I called my Dad my ‘groovy movie partner’. Movies are our special thing and I love him a Dad, it’s your fault!

As far as the work I’ve done goes, I’ve done both stage and film work, and have auditioned for tv but haven’t yet landed a part. I find most often, regardless of the medium, I’ve done a lot of original works. Not revivals or reboots-- new stories with characters I’ve brought to life for the first time.

Swords and Daggers

I’ve done countless Off-Off Broadway, and two Off-Broadway shows both of which were set in the 1800s. And a bunch of short films--ghost stories, period pieces, contemporary coming of age tales, and even a spy thriller. I’ve also done a lot roles involving combat and in one case an underwater stunt! I am trained and certified in eight different weapons: unarmed, singlesword, broadsword, rapier dagger, smallsword, sword and shield, knife, and quarterstaff. I really like to fight!

Acting is my first love and the love of my life. It is my predominant passion and career path! But I do find that I have a lot to say (especially with current events as they are) and I did enjoy the writing process of The Disenchantment of getting to contribute to the characters and imagine the world they lived in. I am actually beginning a new screenplay... I think I am an actress who writes or directs or takes up any job she needs to when she has something valuable to say.

On Being A Tour Guide in the Big Apple

I work for Top Dog Tours! We actually don’t use those buses-- every single one of our tours are walking tours. I give tours all over the city, of: Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown, Tribeca, FiDi, Greenwich Village, Midtown, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Chelsea, The Meatpacking District, the Highline, the LES, Central Park, and etc. I think the Statue of Liberty Tour is very popular among tourists. So is the Superhero Tour of Midtown, and the Ghosts of Greenwich Village Tour. The Holiday Tour of Rockefeller Center and all of the Christmas Windows and Markets is really festive and fun, and I will probably be giving it every day after Thanksgiving all the way until New Years. Some of my favorite sites and landmarks include the Daily News skyscraper (in Midtown), the Metropolitan Museum (on the UES), Cafe Reggio (in GV), and the Bethesda Fountain (in Central Park).  

What Films and Actors Inspire Hannah

Growing up I worshipped Lord of the Rings, and loved Star Wars, Ever After, Edward Scissorhands, the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, and a lot of Disney. I loved The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. As far a actors, I adore Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, Johnny Depp,Ewan McGregor, Viggo Mortenson, and Andy Serkis. Always Lord of the Rings. I also adore La Vie En Rose, Moulin Rouge, and Lady Bird.

There is so much incredible television right now! We are in a Golden Age of TV. As far as dramas/adventures go: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Stranger Things, Black Sails, Hand Maid’s Tale, Jessica Jones, Westworld, Sherlock, Firefly and Outlander. As far as Comedy goes: 30 Rock, SNL, Parks & Rec, Will & Grace, Love Sick.  

On Growing up a Brit in The Colonies

Being a dual citizen of the US and UK mostly means I drink excessive amounts of tea! Tea is my life’s blood. I drink more tea than water, and never drink coffee. Whenever I walk into the apartment, the kettle goes on. Whenever someone comes over that’s the first thing I ask them when they walk through the door: “Hey!!!! Welcome, let me take your coat and do you want some tea?”

Being British also means that I can work in the UK without having to obtain a work visa as I have a passport. (It used to mean I could work anywhere in the EU. Ah well).

Actually I think the second biggest way it’s influenced my life, the tea of course being the first, is my love of literature. It was really my grandparents in England who got me hooked on reading. I have over two hundred books stored in my paren’ts house and at least (if I were to guess) 130 or so in my apartment. 

Where to Find Hannah In the Future 

(Besides on an NYC Tour)

On stage: I just closed my second Off-Broadway show last weekend: The Bloody Deed of 1857. It was a site-specific, immersive, piece of historical fiction. The show was a seance held in Colonnade Row that took the audience to limbo where ghosts from 1857 have been lingering. Everyone then has to solve an actual historic murder that took place in 1857. (It was perfect to perform around Halloween).

I played multiple characters (and had many quick changes). They were:

- Augusta Cunningham- the pure heart and moral compass of the play. The daughter of the possible murderess, and a closeted lesbian in an era in which it was forbidden;
- Dimis Hubbard- socialite party-girl, vixen, cousin and incestuous lover to Harvey (the murder victim.) I liked to think that Dimis thinks of herself as Venus. She was bold and incharge of her own sexuality at a time when that was unusual. She was also a bit spoiled.  
- Mary Donahoe - an Irish maid, and a pious drunkard.
-Charlotte Worthington- in 2018. Life partner of and occult historian and parapsychologist to the seance’s medium, Minnie.
- Shade - a dark death-eater like force, whose sole purpose is to reveal the truth and manipulate.

On screen: mostly recently I played Lenni in Viktori Isabella King’s upcoming short Let Me Go. Let Me Go is a lesbian spy thriller. My character Lenni is a spy trying to come in from the cold in exchange for giving intel. She’s an outspoken tomboy. She’s got a grittiness and edge to her, yet is simultaneously emotional (but uses her own emotions to manipulate others). We shot on a rainy day underneath the Manhattan Bridge so everything was epically moody! And there’s some great action and plot twists.  

For More Info:

Interview by Suzanne Ordas Curry