Raindance Film Festival – “I think that’s one of the best things anyone can do as an actor, show one thing on your face but have to feel something different” – An Interview With Kes Baxter and Gregory Kirchhoff, Part One

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Last month saw the 24th annual Raindance Film Festival set up camp in London once again, showcasing some of the biggest and best of independent cinema made this year. One of the lucky lot selected for screening was Dusky Paradise, an emotive film about the potential of even the most mundane seeming lives. The Edge got the chance to sit down and talk to Dusky’s director and lead star, Gregory Kirchhoff and Kes Baxter, about everything from acting techniques, to German TV, to making the decision to follow what resulted in a very personal film…

Are you enjoying Raindance so far?

Kes: Yeah! Yesterday evening a little bit too much, maybe!

Gregory: You did, I went home early

Kes: Yeah, he’s good. But no it’s really great to see so many films, and I’ve seen some shorts and I think they’re amazing! Really high quality. It’s a really lovely festival.

‘Dusky Paradise’ is described as a film about the potential of life, where did that theme come from?

G: I think it came from having the script being written around the time when I was looking for the potential of life, because I was kind of cutting myself off from the world, and from all the potential and all the possibilities that you get when you walk out of the door. And I guess I wanted to make a film about someone who was just as bad as me or even worse. Definitely worse, I hope. [Jacob is] very, extremely apathetic and I wanted that person throughout the film to start to understand how much can happen, how much there is once you actually make the effort to go outside.

The film has just three central characters in it – why did you decide on such a minimal number?

G: Well I think the film is very minimalistic in every aspect and I didn’t think it needed more characters than that. Also I really wanted to make sure that every character was a strong character, so I just wanted to focus on three. And then I guess there was also the fact that we didn’t have a whole load of money so I wrote the script keeping that in mind, that I actually have to make it somehow and I wasn’t sure how anybody would give a 22-year-old money to make a film so I decided on the more minimalistic approach.

Kes, was it easier to create the character chemistry with only two other actors to work with?

K: Well actually the first week I was the only actor on set and because of the character, I think it comes sort of natural – he’s alone and he feels alone and he wants to be alone. So it was quite funny the first day working with someone else was really like ‘oh gosh! another actor! how do I do this?!’ But no, it was really nice to get that deep bond with the other actors. It was my first lead, and being a lead is really lovely too because you’re involved with so much and you’re on set all the time so it becomes a really natural and relaxed atmosphere almost. It’s really nice to work with the other actors, it was amazing, and they just brought such different energies to the set. So I had a week alone, and then a week with Martin [Matteo], a two day overlap, and then a week with Charlotte [Zoe]. And the three weeks were so, so different, it was great.

G: And we made sure that they had never met before, because all the characters in the film are extremely lost, extremely lonely, and so we really didn’t want them to meet before or talk before. So they just kind of met on set, we threw them into it.

One thing I really liked about the film was the fact it doesn’t really shove anything down your throat. You have two different characters saying two different things about the potential of life, but it never really seems like you’re trying to give a preference of one or the other. Why did you decide to do that? Why did you include both opinions?

G: I mean I was 22 when I wrote the script so I don’t think I felt like I was in a position to tell the audience how to feel, to say –

K: ‘THIS IS LIFE’

G: Yeah, but I guess I wanted the audience to be like me and see these opinions and just absorb it. I never wanted to make a film that was like this is the message and nothing else, like it does have the message of ‘go out and explore life’ but you can make up your mind about how you want to do that. But when it comes down to what the characters were actually saying, I really wanted to just leave it open to let the audience decide whilst still seeing that all of them have a positive attitude, a positive influence on Jacob, a positive outlook on life. Positive, but in different ways

Kes, the character of Jacob is quite apathetic, obviously, and he doesn’t really care about much, which seems like it would be quite hard to portray accurately. You were talking about preparation before – how did you specifically prepare for that kind of role?

K: So I made a massive backstory, and he never really talks about it, but with things like when his parents died, he never really seems to be phased by it. So I tried to think about why that was, and all this other backstory. I think it’s worth mentioning as well that if the camera’s on your face and you’ve got nothing in your head then it doesn’t work, you’ve gotta have a thought behind it. So in all these scenes where I don’t even say anything, I’ve got all these thought-processes racing round, trying to make it active still. I think it kind of worked. And also, you gotta know exactly what you want from a scene, what the objective is, even though my objective was just pushing everyone and everything away.

G: I think you handled the pushing people away really well. Like deep inside, maybe he does want to connect with people, and you can feel that in all of the scenes where you’re pushing away. I think that’s one of the best things anyone can do as an actor, is show one thing on your face but have to feel something different.

K: Aw, thank you!

Dusky Paradise screened at the Raindajnce Film Festival in London last month. 

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Third year Film and English student living in D.C., self-proclaimed go-to Edge expert on Cloverfield, Fall Out Boy, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Loves mostly those three things.

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