Hello everyone, I would like to welcome to another DireChat here on the Movie Guide Blog, this time I’m pleased to say that we’re joined by Andrew Speiler of The Response.
MG: Thanks for taking the time out to do this Andrew, I really appricate it 🙂
AS: My pleasure. Thanks for including me on your site!
MG: What inspired you to become a Director?
AS: I sort of backed into Directing at a very early age. When I was in Second Grade I had decided I wanted to become an actor and started doing all the local children’s theatre I could get invovled in. However, by the fifth grade I really wanted to find a way to learn film acting and thats when I signed up for a mentor program with my town’s local cable access channel. My Mother’s saga advice was that if I wanted to learn how to act in front of the camera then I should learn how things work behind the camera.Freom my first mentoring session at the studio I was hooked on the idea of storytelling through the lens and I have stayed busy in production ever since. I have just been incredibly fortunate to have such a loving network of family and friends who have always supported my goal of becoming a filmmaker.
MG: Can you tell us about some of the other projects that you’ve worked on?
AS: I’ve made and worked on a big mix of shorts, docs and features over the past fifteen years and have worn many different hats on the production side in an effort to better understand the responsibilities of each department. My undergraduate short thesis “All Before Dawn” is when I felt like I had finally hit my stride as a director. I was able to indentify just what kind of stories and material most attracted me. The short won an award from the National Board of Review and played an important role in being accepted into the American Film Institute’s Graduate Directing program.
Now that we’ve got an understanding into Andrew’s directing background we’re going to now talk about “The Response”
MG: Where did the idea come for The Response?
AS: I was listening to some stories from a friend of mine who has a similar profession to that of a paramedic and it just got me thinking about what kind of a person you have to be in order to handle the daily grind of such a demanding career. I always try to start from the main character’s arc or journey and work outward. I developed a fascination with the challenge of setting a character, whose soul purpose in life as a paramedic was to help others, in a situation that would force them to act against their morality and potentially cause harm to someone. In discussing the concept with the rest of my production team, my Cinematographer suggested that potential setting of the LA Riots in 1992, something I knew very little about having grown up in Boston. I quickly discovered that there hadn’t been a film yet that explored the chaos of the riot and so I began researching its history. We were very fortunate to be able to speak directly with local Fire Fighters in the LA area who were invovled in the riot. After hearing their personal stories ofwhat they had experienced I knew it was something I wanted to tackle ina film and educate myself on in the process.
MG: What is the plot of The Response in your own words?
AS: The Response follows the story of an African American, lead paramedic, Shauna and her idealistic white partner, Rick as they are caught in the midst of the early hours of the LA Riots of 1992. Just hours after the Rodney King verdict, was announced, the South Central area of Los Angeles erupted into violence and law enforcement was quickly overrun. However, as the police were forced out of the area, local fire fighters and paramedics were still rushing to the scene without police protection. Suddenly, the very brave men and women trying to help put out the fires and rescue the injured became targets as the closest representation for “the man in uniform”. Shauna and Rick find themselves caught in the middle of this situation after deciding to make one last rescue against orders and their better judgement.
MG: Can you tell us the crew who were on the project and what where they like to work with?
AS: The film was a graduate thesis project for the American Film Institute so my team of collaborators consisted of fellow students in the Producing, Screenwriting, Cinematography, Production Design and Editing degree programes. I really enjoy the collaborative process of working with a team and was very fortunate to have had the chance to work with such a talented and passionate group of people. As a Director, I fell it is paramount that you surround yourself with folks you can trust and whose talents you will know only elevate the quality of the film in a way you never achieve on your own.
MG: How did the main cast come about and can you tell us about them?
AS: We were very fortunate to work with a casting director who connected us to our lead actors, Valarie Pettiford and Stephen Snedden. Valarie has worked in the industry for a long time and is a tony nominated triple threat as an actress, singer and dancer. I honestly couldn’t have been more fortunate to work with such a talented and friendly cast. The local Fire Department and even offered to train our leads to become paramedics and both Valarie and Stephen jumped right into it!
MG: Can you tell us a little about the production of the film and if there was one moment that made it that more special?
AS: I think anytime you are given the opportunity to direct something it is going to be a real special occasion and something that will always learn from and cherish. In the case of production on The Response there were so many great moments on set that it would be hard to choose just one. However, there was a sequence that we got to shoot with our actors driving a real ambulance on both a closed off street in downtown LA and on the backlot at Warner Bros. which were both very challenging and exciting.
MG: The Final Question is, Can we expect any more great films from you?
AS: I certainly hope so! Since graduating and completing The Response, I have been able to travel with the short to about eighteen festivals over the past couple of years. The short garnered many awards including a Best Student Film Award from BAFTA in LA. With the success of The Response, I have been able to make some great industry connections and I am working hard to get my first Feature Directorial debut off the ground soon. I just picture locked on three episodes of a new comedy series pitch that will be going out to prospective studio folks soon, called “Keeping Up with Downs”. You can check out the facebook page for the show here: www.facebook.com/KeepingUpWithTheDowns .
Thanks for again for including me on the Site!, I look forward to chatting with you again Jamie!.
Thanks to Andrew for taking the time out to talk to us, Join us again soon for another DireChat!.