VIFF 2019 Interview – TENDER director Anthony Lucido

“The film follows a young man over the course of a tense weekend as he tries to reclaim power over his guardian and stalkers.” Director Anthony Lucido on TENDER which screens at the 2019 edition of the Vancouver International Film Festival. 

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to VIFF! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Thank you! I do plan on attending, along with my grandmother, who stars in the film and my producer/cinematographer Eric Colonna. We’re all very excited to watch the film again with an audience. You just can’t beat the immediacy of watching your film in a theater full of people. In the age of the internet it’s a rare and powerful opportunity.   

So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.

I started out making movies with my dad around 5 years old. We’d cut footage of my brother and I in a blanket crafted spaceship with scenes from Star Wars. I went to college for screenwriting but ended up spending all my time working in the camera department. That’s where I met my two producing partners, Eric Colonna and Brian White. Since then, the three of us have been producing our own work.

How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!

It started with a couple of images I had in my head. I wrote a one page outline and took a crew of eight up Monterey and put them up in my grandparents’ homes. My dad came along to cook us dinner. It was a real family affair. There was always something so magical about the way Cassettes made movies. Always with his friends and family. I knew the material was gonna be a little far out so being that close to my crew and actors helped a great deal. After wrapping, I spent a good year editing the film. With a short this abstract you can really do anything with the footage which made the process really difficult. Eventually you have to make your final decisions and export. I still want to make edits but that’s life.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

On good days it’s all your friends who are there helping you make the thing, the excitement of getting something good, the prospect of happy accidents, and maybe a cup of tea or two. On bad days it’s just the pressure of fucking up. Everyone’s there, you been planning for months, maybe years, and there really isn’t a way to shut it down and wait for inspiration to strike. Especially on a budget. On Tender, it was all just an outline and things were being improvised and it could be really exciting at times but there were days when I’d have nothing and kick myself for not having a script. In retrospect, I really wish I had plotted everything out and then threw it out on the day because at least then I’d have something to fall back on. It’s a tightrope to walk but the more I do it hopefully the better I get at balancing it all. 

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge was working with my brother on this film. He’s an artist in his own right and, like me, very opinionated. Being that I didn’t have much of a script there were a lot of discussions on set about what each scene was about and how to express that. He always pushed to do less and I always wanted more. This all reached a tipping point while we were filming a scene in the backyard where he stares at a skull he’d been messing with early in the film. I wrote him a paragraph long monologue to give to the skull. We rolled the camera and he tried his best to give the monologue but he kept stopping half way and looked so frustrated. He tried a couple more times and each time he’d say it quieter and quieter till sound was just picking up mumbles. He sat there looking defeated and I kept rolling just to get that, get anything. Before I knew it he started to break down and cry. While it was happening a realized he’s not telling any of us to give him a moment or cut or fuck off. He was giving us that moment. Vulnerable and defeated. I started crying while watching the take, trying not to screw up the sound, and after the camera cut we hugged for a while and went back to making the movie. Looking back on it, he was always right. Less is more and the film wouldn’t be what it is if he didn’t fight for what he thought the truth of the scene was. 

I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed. 

My DP on this project was my great friend and producing partner Eric Colonna. It’s hard to talk about the visual style or look we were going after cause we honestly didn’t talk to much about it. I knew I wanted to be ambitious about things and I knew he was a pretty ambitious guy. We also share most views on movies and the world in general so he was a natural fit. We planned to shoot in the way that gave us the most freedom to improvise at any given moment. The general rule of thumb was light as little as possible. Let the production design, actors, and camera movement do the heavy lifting. On the few occasions we did light we just lifted existing light sources like lamps and ceiling fans with a couple source fours tucked into corners bouncing off the ceiling. I think of the camera always as a character in the movie. It’s like the narrator telling you what you need to know or where to look. It has its own personality film to film. Eric really was like an actor on this project. There was even a time while Eric was operating where he fell mid take and kept rolling and it’s in the final film. He would always just kept going and I think it added a lot to the final product.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Vancouver?

Just having someone see it. Movies don’t work in empty rooms. The audience is everything. You spend years making these things and most people never get anyone to watch apart from their friends and family. When you’re given the honor of showing your work to an audience, and one as respected as VIFF, it’s everything you want for your film.

After the film screens at Vancouver, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?

In late October, the film will have its online premiere at NoBudge and next year we’ll have a screening in Los Angeles for HollyShorts. 

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Don’t do it. Seriously. You probably won’t make it and there’s no money unless you’re at the top, which again, the odds are against you. Unless, you really don’t care if you make it or not. If you don’t care, go buck wild. Try and make something great, and if it’s not, who cares.

And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?

THE MASTER and A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. I don’t know how either of them did that but I wanna do me one.

For this and more movies playing at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, point your browser to www.viff.org

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