Whistler Film Festival 2018 Interview: HONEY BEE director Rama Rau

“HONEY BEE is story of survival that follows the journey of quick-witted Natalie “Honey Bee” Sorensen an underage truck stop prostitute trapped by her ruthless Romeo-pimp boyfriend, Ryan until she is put into foster care with her new family in remote Northern Ontario where she discovers there might be more to life than the hand she’s been dealt.” Director Rama Rau on HONEY BEE which screens at the 2018 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.

Congratulations on your film playing and welcome to the wonder that is Whistler Film Festival! So is this your first time here and are you planning to attend your show?

Yes, this is the first time I’m attending Whistler Film Festival. I will definitely attend my show, it’s our World Premiere and we are very excited to show it to the world, after having worked on it so hard the past few months!

When was the moment you said to yourself “I want to get into the movie business” and what have you worked on in the past?

I was in the advertising business, as a copywriter, in India. I used to write 30 second commercials and one day I saw the director doing their job and it hit me like an oncoming train. I want to make films. I always say you don’t choose to make films, films choose you. So yes, films chose me. I don’t have a choice in this matter; I MUST make films, they don’t leave me be. I see stories in everything, I obsess over the news, I obsess over other people’s lives. I want to make a million films and there’s not enough time to tell all the stories I have in me. I’ve worked on a few documentaries before this. My previous film was a story about aging burlesque dancers in Las Vegas. It opened Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival in 2016. That was a lot of fun but it also delved into the alternate history of feminism that these women fought for, in their own way. My stories, no matter what genre I work in, are mostly character portraits, of women or girls realizing their agency in one form or another by exploring gender, sexuality, race, women’s anger, power balances and how the world perceives them or how they see themselves in it through a unique lens.

So how did HONEY BEE come together for you?

Great question. I was looking to move to fiction filmmaking, having made quite a few documentaries, I felt ready. Sally Karam had a script and was looking for a person to direct it. We started talking and I loved the script, at that time it was called Truck Stop. So we made some changes in the script and started looking for funding. Once we knew we were close to getting it funded, we visited North Bay and did location scouting. Many trips later, we knew we had most of the locations we needed. Then came the hiring of crew. Sally and I would have many many meetings all day and we knew our film was in good hands when Steve Cosens came on board. I must say, for a first-time fiction filmmaker, I had the best crew I could ask for. They were dedicated, professional and absolutely a delight. Our first two weeks were tough, shooting nights in sub-zero temperatures but everyone pulled through with a smile. I love them to bits and am always amazed at how generous film crews are with each other. It definitely takes a village and this was a great village!

What keeps you going while making a movie? What is your drive?

I absolutely LOVE making movies. So I really don’t need anything to keep me going. The adrenaline alone is enough for me. Sleep, I need sleep. I am a preparer. I prep way ahead, I have my script all lined, my notes, my shot list ready. But I must prep every evening or night for the next day. That’s the only thing I must have. And coffee. Lots of coffee when I’m shooting. I have a zero social life when I’m shooting. I go back to my room and mumble to myself as I prep, going through dialogue, scene by scene, what I will do the next day.

So if you were to pick one moment that you would consider the biggest challenge of making the movie, along with the “a-ha, we GOT it” moment, what would each of those be?

For me, my biggest moment in shooting HONEY BEE was just watching my main actor Julia perform. She brought it home, every time! I was in awe of her. She had prepped amazingly well, knew her character so well, there were scenes where I had to hold back real tears, at her performance. The scene where she cries in the bathroom there was not a single person on set with a dry eye and without a lump in their throat. I remember looking around, feeling that scene, really feeling it, with everyone else and thinking, well, we may have a movie here, after all!

Could we get technical for a second? For my tech-savvy and filmmaking readers, I would love to know about the visual design of the movie and how it was photographed.

I had a very specific look in mind going into making HONEY BEE. I wanted a gritty, rough look to the truck stops but a more mellow look for the farm scenes. I also wanted the visual design itself to have an arc, like the characters and story. We start with raw, stark nights and move along with our main character into the golden promise of the farmland. I sat many hours with Production Designer Karis Malszecki and we talked about the world of Natalie, we visited locations many times, and the DP Steve Cosens and I would talk a lot about what we wanted this world to look like. Steve brought so much to the look, he knew I wanted a fluid, handheld look for most of it because I wanted to be inside Natalie’s head at all times. So, the art design had to reflect that intimate look I wanted. Coming from documentary, I wanted to bring that rough around the edges look to the film and lace every scene with that first-hand peek into Natalie’s head, so at every second of the film, we are with her, going through everything she is, so that everything that happens to her, happens to you, the viewer.

After your WFF screening, where is the movie going to go next? Theatrical? Online? Any dream screenings or exact theatre in mind?

Yes, we are hoping to get a theatrical release very soon.

We do have a lot of people out there looking to be inspired and work in the industry in one way or another. What is a piece of advice that you would give to anyone looking to get into the motion picture business?

Always tell your own story. In your own way. Don’t stop telling it, no matter who says what.

And finally, what is the single greatest movie you have ever seen?

I have to say IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. You asked for the greatest movie. CASABLANCA is my favourite but IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE will always be the greatest movie, for me.

HONEY BEE is just one of the many movies screening at the 2018 Whistler Film Festival this year. For more information on the film screenings and the festival itself, point your browser to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!

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