The one thing I love about my role as a storyteller within this crazy, constantly changing film world is my relationship with artists and professionals who make the ship sail. Director/Writer/Producer/Very-Busy-Guy Geordie Sabbagh is one of those cool folks just hustling to make creative projects come to life, and he recently got in touch to chat about his first ever feature project A Sunday Kind of Love.
With a number of award-winning short films under his belt, a full feature was something we were definitely looking forward to. In fact, we have been looking forward to this film since 2014 when we showed our support for his crowdfunding campaign. Yup, its been that long! It was a project we instantly fell in love with (sorry for the pun), mainly because of its simple story and stellar Canadian cast. For the past year or so, its been running the festival circuit. It premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival, and has also won the Award of Excellence by Indiefest. From crowdfunding, to being chosen as one of 5 projects for the IndieCan 10K competition, to its many festival premieres, the film has come a long to what is now its formal theatrical release.
We chatted with Sabbagh to learn more about this cool little film, the journey of putting it all together, and about the indie filmmaking process in general. Hope you enjoy the read.
1. The story about Adam is super intriguing; a guy wanting to create a name for himself, divided by reality and the seemingly impossible. What inspired the story? Were there aspects of fame and working in the arts that you reflected on as an artist when you were crafting the story?
This film is really about coming to a period in your life where you have to make bigger decisions that have longer-term implications. The idea came to me when I was entering my thirties and starting to think about the longer terms aspects of my life. I think when you’re in your twenties you live for today, and when you hit yours thirties everything suddenly matters. The idea about this film is figuring out what in your life really matters and what you’re really willing to sacrifice. Of course being in the arts, I certainly thought about fame and how it’s changing within our arena. Matt Damon pointed out that he no longer gets asked what it’s like to be an actor, just what it’s like to be famous. Fame has now become a goal unto itself without any type of talent or hard work behind it. It’s an interesting avenue to explore and I think Adam does wrestle with it and has to define what he is truly chasing.
2. You have some very talented people involved with the project. When developing your characters, did you have a picture of who they were from the get-go and then searched for talent who could live those roles, or did some characters come to life from your interactions with talent?
Both. Initially, I did have a picture of each of the characters and then searched for talent to match. However, all of the actors brought their own interpretation to each of their characters because they were not only very talented, but really wanted to make them their own.
On Dylan Taylor as Adam:
I wanted someone who was an everyman, because if they were magnificently good looking it wouldn’t really sell the story. Not to say Dylan isn’t a very attractive man of course, but he’s definitely got that everyman vibe I was looking for. What was interesting about Dylan was that when he read the script I could immediately see that he shared a lot of Adam’s characteristics. I thought that it would be great to have an actor who could relate to the character personally. Dylan is a fantastic actor and when he was in the audition room he owned the part, and it was one of those moments where you just know: he’s Adam.
On Melanie Scrofano as Emma:
Melanie has the ability to bring a real sense of depth. When you look at Melanie’s eyes you feel like there’s a history there. There was a lot of complexity to her character that needs to be conveyed and Melanie was really able to bring that with these amazingly discreet gestures – a simple look, a glance, a gesture that somehow demonstrates she’s an old soul.
Meghan Heffern as Tracy:
When she came in and read for the part, Meghan brought a lot of hope to the script, and I think that was what sold me. Meghan had a hard role to play in the sense that she had less screen time than Melanie and yet still had to represent herself as a contender. Plus on top of that she has to justify being with someone who is feeling very sorry for themselves, but still has to root for that person. I felt that it was a hard role to play because it involves those hard questions in a relationship; why are you with this person, why don’t you just leave. She had to play to both audiences – those who understand her position and those who don’t quite get it.
3. The beauty of having both the director and writer hat on is that you have the freedom to create the end product your way, discounting and adding elements that you see fit as you control both the story and how it comes to life. Did you find that freedom when juggling both hats, or do you feel differently now that the film has been made?
Yes, being both a director and writer gives you incredible freedom to have a singular vision and try to get what you see in your head up onto the screen. But I believe that film is an artistic medium that depends on the contributions of so many. In our case, this was especially true as we only had 12 days and $10,000 to make it. Everyone had to go above and beyond just to get 90 minutes of something in the can, but I think you can see how much more each crew and cast member contributed by what’s on the screen. I can even tell you each moment and the person who helped get it there! This includes all the sponsors, Avi Federgreen who ran the IndieCan 10K competition, and all the friends and family who put up the money on IndieGoGo. I’m grateful they saw the vision, supported it and made it better.
4. This film has been long-time in the making. I remember the time we featured the film in our crowdfunding spotlight series back in 2014. How has the whole process been putting this film together, going through the phases to get this film made and now finally seeing the final product hit the big screen?
Has it been that long? Time flies. It only feels like yesterday that I started writing it. The process has been wonderful and what I thought came together rather quickly knowing we spent around a year on the festival circuit. Of course, watching it on the big screen in a theatre is a dream come true and a real treat these days for films as small as ours.
5. Crowdfunding is a big part of indie film production these days. How has it impacted the way you plan and make films?
I think crowdfunding has its limits based on the circle of people you know. For us, it was really friends and family, although we did manage to attract a couple of complete strangers. Those are people I wouldn’t want to keep coming back too. None of them are billionaires either, so they wouldn’t be able to support even slightly bigger budgets nor would I want them too. I think you can get outside that immediate circle if you have cast who have a lot of followers, you yourself are a name such as Zach Braff or have a big online presence like Rooster Teeth. Then you’re going to get fans to contribute and they don’t have to give much for it to add up quickly. Although I will say, the field is now very crowded as everyone is trying to draw from the same well and I think people are getting fatigued (certainly in my circles as a new campaign pops up weekly).
The other thing I found was that although it gets promoted as a space where you can promote your vision, it very quickly became about how do I gain attention. Be it shaving stuff, getting pierced or tattooed, running naked somewhere. etc. For certain films, these stunts make sense, but for others trying to just talk about what you want to create suddenly is deemed boring or not catchy enough and you can get lost. It becomes an online popularity contest and you end up reliving high school! It’s a long way of saying, I won’t rely on it to finance everything and anything.
6. As I said before, this film was a long-time in the making. Is there anything you reflect back on as a positive experience that you would want to repeat in future productions, or perhaps a negative experience that has served as a learning opportunity?
You learn from every script and every film. I didn’t go to film school so every film I make is another semester. Overall it was a very positive experience making the film, although I would love an extra day or two on the next film to get a bit more coverage, a few more inserts and not have to tell the actors it’s only 7 pages today. I learned so much as a writer and a director. I also learned much as a producer taking the film out to places like AFM. You really get a sense of the market and where audiences are and what they will respond to. I’m someone who wants to get as many people to see my work as possible so those things matter and need to be considered when I want to move forward on a film that will take up two years of my life. It isn’t the be all and end all, but the reality is there are 5000 movies made every year and if you want yours to get even a momentary bit of attention, it’s good to be aware of what you’re going up against. It’s great to see your film on the big screen, but it is dampened if there are only two others with you. Yes, outstanding films rise to the top, but so do horrible ones and there are reasons for that like cast, subject or the fact that dogs are selling well this year. You can always learn from that, although I heard dogs are on their way out.