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Malik Isasis: Director, NEW YORK DECALOGUE

February 18, 2013

284_23825082274_4039_n1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of NEW YORK DECALOGUE, from concept to financing.

New York Decalogue was inspired by one of my all-time favorite directors, Kryztof Kieslosky, a Polish director (of the Blue, White, and Red trilogy, as well The Double Life of Veronique) who in 1989 made a mini-series called The Decalogue. Kieslosky’s The Decalogue dealt with each of the Ten Commandments; New York Decalogue has only a hint of religious overtonesbut deals more with the idea that we create our own narratives and give those narratives a great deal of weight, which becomes the way we interact and react to our environment.

New York Decalogue is a scaled down version of a Decalogue series I originally conceived of six years ago that would span over ten international cities, at one-hour episodes, dealing with speculative political waves of war, poverty and politics on everyday people.  New York Decalogue follows a long list of films such as Tuvalu, Baraka, The Red Balloon, Koyaanisqatsi, Naqoyqatsi, and Powaqqatsi where there is very little to any dialogue. Eighty to eighty-six percent of communication is body language, and I was really interested in the landscape of the mind, the isolation and seemingly, tenuous connections we have with one another, which is being further eroded in the age of artificial social networking and disposability.

The budget for the film was micro, at $10,000, actually, $9, 345, but who’s counting?

It was filmed over five months, only on the weekends. This was the first time I served as my own cinematographer, but it was out of pure necessity. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into producing an independent film—most of it, the state of mind. I’m happy to report, I’m fully recovered.

2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of NEW YORK DECALOGUE.  Explain to the audience how you feel about bringing this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

It’s like going out on a first date with a person you really like, and knowing that person will be spying you—making sure you have all five fingers, every word is carefully considered, but regardless—either the date will be attracted to you, or not.  The film has to be able to stand on its own without me over explaining it, or justifying it.  It’s out there, flaws and all; the audience will like it, or not like it. Either way, I’ll be okay.  But since I’m able to hold two complicated emotions at the same time, I’m scared as hell.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making NEW YORK DECALOGUE?

The best experience and worst experience are often like a healing wound that itches, and when you scratch it, it hurts so good.
I think the worst experience of making Decalogue was sort of feeling like the characters in it, alone and isolated.  There was no crew to bounce ideas.  There was no fellowship, which is the foundation of filmmaking—the shared experience of building something.  I moved to New York in 2007 from Seattle, leaving behind a cast and crew that I’d collaborated with for years.  So Decalogue was the first narrative film I was making in a long while.  Tried as I might, I failed at building a sustainable crew (with such a paltry budget), so I pushed forward wearing many hats on the production—prop maker, makeup, cinematographer, sound, etc.

The best experience was simply being able to pull off a feature film after a four-year hiatus.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

Because I was voted the number one filmmaker by my mother, and have won the audience award from family and friends 12 years in a row and counting.   I’m sure this is unprecedented.  The film festival audiences are a different breed of audience than their mainstream counterpart.  I like the idea that they are willing to give an ugly gal or guy a shot at a date.  And they are the most loyal bunch that will support a film if they are moved by it.  The film festival audiences are responsible for mainstreaming independent films because they are ahead of the curve in taste.

If you can’t make it to my screening, just support me on Facebook.  I take what I can, and that’s really all you can ask for.  Take what people are willing to give.  Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less.

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

There are at least 8,000 films made a year, of which only 85-90 will receive distribution, so I’m under no illusions about my chances of securing distribution.  The ultimate goal for filmmakers is to see their films playing in theatres, but we also have to be realistic about straight-to-video, or self-distribution, or no distribution at all.  There is no shame for instance in going straight-to-video. Film festivals are great opportunities for networking, where you may not get distribution, but you may get an opportunity to make the next film, or meet your next partner.  I’m not dogmatic about the type of distribution; for me, it’s more about the relationships I get to nurture that may help me make the next film, or enlighten me in some way.

You can follow Malik Isasis on Twitter @MalikIsasis

New York Decalogue now available on DVD and Instant Video.

From → Interviews

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