Wednesday, January 9, 2019

My Interview With Zack Bernbaum Director Of 'The Dancing Dogs Of Dombrova'

On a cold winter’s night, estranged siblings Sarah and Aaron arrive at an empty train station in Dombrova, Poland. With a silent driver as their only means of transportation, they embark on a quest to fulfill their dying grandmother’s wish – find, dig up, and bring home the bones of her favorite childhood dog, Peter. While navigating the many obstacles and colorful characters they encounter on their journey, Sarah and Aaron must come to terms with their own demons and the issues they have with each other.

This is such a charming little film , one that you probably have not heard of sadly.
I was given the chance to have an email chat with the director of the film. My questions for him are underlined -he was kind enough to answer them for me.

I really enjoyed the connection of brother/sister Sarah & Aaron Colter, was that based on your history or just the characters you wrote about?

While I do have an older sister, Sarah and Aaron’s dynamic and connection was completely fictional. While developing the story with writer Michael Whatling, I feel like I was able to bring some authenticity to bear in how a brother and sister might interact, but at the end of the day it was up to Michael to create fully formed and believable characters.

Much of the connection on screen though is due to the wonderful performances by Katherine Fogler and Douglas Nyback. They knew each other well prior to filming so they had a built in chemistry and shorthand, which really allows the audience to buy into their relationship. It truly feels like they are related and have known each other all of their lives. 

While the brother / sister component is not based on my family, the film is however based on my grandmother and her history. Being able to share her, and her story, on screen is an amazing feeling. 

What was your favorite part of making the movie?

My favorite part was filming on location in Romania. I have never filmed overseas and was in awe of my surroundings. Everywhere I looked was filled with such rich history and beauty. From an abandoned synagogue to a quaint guesthouse, each location brought so much vibrancy and character. 

Being on set is such a whirlwind experience – there’s always too much to do and not enough time – so working in these incredible locations allowed for some much needed perspective. We were all able to take a moment to say, “Look at where we are, aren’t we lucky”. You don’t always get those moments on set, and I know we all felt that connection throughout production. 

Did you require any special permits while shooting in Romania?

We worked diligently with our Romanian producers to make sure all of our permits and contracts were valid and aboveboard. 

Are there any differences between filming in Canada and Romania?

There were some differences but they were relatively minor. A lot of differences come down to what people are used to and how sets are run and managed. At the end of the day though film is a universal language, and the process of location scouting, casting, production, and even catering are all generally the same. 

A major difference is being surrounding by people who don’t speak English as a first language. There were a few cast and crew that did not speak English (or speak English very well), but having others around to translate creates an easy working environment. 

I would work again in Romania, or any other foreign location, in a heartbeat. 

Has it been a challenge for you to get your movies made and what advice would you have for upcoming or fellow artists in the same situation?

Every film is a challenge. I think most people view filmmaking as being quite glamorous, but in truth the glamour makes up maybe 5% of the job. The rest is made up of incredibly hard work with long hours and little sleep. 

There is also a lot of failure. Whether the film you spent years of your life making isn’t as well received as you hoped, or a film you spent years of your life developing never gets made. There’s a lot of false starts and heartbreak. But at the same time there’s so much to love about it. Being in a creative industry is a wonderful feeling. 

I am lucky to have made three feature films and am grateful for being given the opportunity to work on some really interesting films with truly wonderful people. 

The advice I would give people is to stick with it, even when it’s hard. I’m sure I’m not alone in how often I question how I’m spending my life and whether this is right for me. But I keep at it because I love film and honestly can’t see myself doing anything else. I think having perseverance is the best advice I can give anyone. 

Any new projects that you are working on?

I’m working on a few new projects including one with the same writer as The Dancing Dogs of Dombrova, Michael Whatling, which is a high stakes drama set in the Syrian civil war. I have another project in early stages of development that is a sister / family drama with a sci-fi twist. 

Thank you for your time answering my questions and best of luck with the film.

Thank you so much! It was a real pleasure speaking with you. 

I would like to thank Zack for answering the questions and also to Margot with Taro PR for making it happen. This was for the Whistler Film Festival.

Thank you for reading this
Anthony Nadeau

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