Cinelinx recently had the opportunity to talk with actress Marion Ross and writer/director Dominique Schilling about their new film A Reason. Join us as we discuss Marion’s role, the making of the film, and what it’s like to be part of the film festival circuit.
A Reason is a thrilling independent drama that focuses on relationships between people in a family and across multiple generations. The film focuses on Serena, a distraught young misfit, and Nathan her controlling older brother. They are forced to endure a dreaded family gathering at the house of their elderly Aunt Irene to hear the reading of her will - setting off an unexpected course of events that ultimately forces the clan to reevaluate their views on love, forgiveness, and family.
The film was written and directed by Dominique Schilling. She is also co-owner of Risberg-Schilling Productions, which financed A Reason. She has a background directing commercials and music videos where she gained a lot of technical knowledge and experience. Dominique exudes a passion for film, and her dedication and work ethic is without question. Her work in film has been seen at numerous film festivals all over the world, and A Reason is her latest completed project.
Marion Ross is a veteran actress who is best known for portraying Marion Cunningham on TV’s Happy Days. Her career is full of notable roles in movies, television shows, and on stage. She has been nominated for several Emmy’s and to honor her illustrious career was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001. During her career she has played a variety of different roles and her energy and enthusiasm for acting remains to this day. In A Reason she plays the matriarch, Aunt Irene.
A Reason is currently being submitted to film festivals for consideration. Most recently, it was shown at the Hoboken International Film Festival where Marion Ross was honored for her performance with an award for Best Supporting Actress. More information about this exciting project and screening announcements can be found on the film’s website or Facebook page.
Now, let’s get to the interview!
Marion: We're very excited about our movie. We had a premier up in upstate New York. We won a cute little trophy.
Dominique: You won that trophy
Marion: I did I did that's right we did. we are one.
Garrett: Was that at the Hoboken festival ?
Dominique: yes that is correct
Marion: yes the Hoboken one which is in New York and instead of New Jersey. As we go through and win a bunch of trophies we don't care where they're come from.
Garrett: You're getting positive attention which is good.
Marion: Well it is. It's because it's such a journey. I think these filmmakers are so brave, you know they write it, finance it, now they're promoting it, and they direct it, and they publish it. Dominique what is the name of that young man? Nicholas?
Dominique: Nicholas Eversman. He's great, he's wonderful.
Marion: Yeah right. I play this old lady and I'm the one that holds the estate and of course all the young people are trying to be good to me 'cause I'm dying and stay was like to get part of my estate am I a bad person. I don't know? We'll find out. I hold all the money. Which means I have a lot of power over them it's a common story. This goes on today . People are always fighting over the will. Its bad. But it goes on.
Garrett: That's something I picked upon in the trailer. It seems a little bit like a common story But then there's so much intricacy and so much deeper meaning in the conflicts between the characters.
Marion: well it was fun too. We were shooting up in an area near Brentwood where there are a lot of mansions. A lot of wealthy homes, and this one was going to be torn down. So we had the opportunity to use it Before they got to it.
Garrett: Interesting. That seems pretty fitting for this film.
Marion: What is amazing to me is this film was made by predominantly females. And they had a camera that apparently used very high density film. you didn't have to stop and relight and stop and relight for every shot rule. We had a big scene around a dining table. You've got around six or eight people around this table. And the camera is on an arcing track that goes around on one side, and then later on it will go around the table on the other side. And you're gonna get a master shot as it moves along and the technician is adjusting it as you go. You get this along with two other shots and a close-up, all in one fell swoop. I can't tell you how fast that is compared to the old days when you would stop, relight, and so on. It's fun to see how movie making is changing and becoming fast.
Dominique: Yeah we were in a very big time crunch because the villa was going to be torn down. So we definitely had to be creative with the camera work. When we re-lit most of that particular scene that Ms. Ross is referring to, we had to after-shoot that. There was a lot of dialogue, and before that it was basically silent for several minutes. We had to go around the table and as she says the relighting really happened as the camera went. Later on we cut it together in the editing room, so we saved a lot of time by doing it that way. We had to think about how we were going to do that shot in such a short amount of time.
Garrett: Time is money, after all.
Dominique: Right, right. Well its important to me that it looks great. We had a wonderful cinematographer Matthias Shubert who was terrific. We talked a lot trying to figure out how to make the time but without losing quality. We still wanted those beauty shots and wanted gorgeous lighting at the same time.
Garrett: Have you had a lot of experience with this type of a set up before? Or is this new to you as well?
Dominique: No, I thought about this a lot. I'm a big fan of the curved dolly. I use it for music videos because it has a stronger effect than when you use straight dollies, or when you are shooting in smaller spaces. I find it very effective. To some people it may not make much of a difference, but when you are in a smaller space on a straight dolly you barely see any movement whereas when you are on a curved dolly you really see that movement. It gains you space. It makes the room look much bigger than it actually is. It comes in handy.
Marion: The cameraman is carrying it on his shoulder too. It's lightweight. Years ago, the cameramen had to have harnesses. They couldn't shoot too long because it would be too much to carry. So, it's a changing medium since I began in Hollywood in the 50's. I was under contract with Paramount in 1952. I remember walking through the Demill Gate, and there was Edith Head designing all the wardrobe. At noon, when you went into the dining room, everybody was in the dining room. They were not on location. They were there, at the studio. So, for me to see this industry change so much is exciting. And I'm thrilled to still be a part of it. In the old days they had to light you so perfectly. The makeup was perfect. Now we look like people. Like normal people.
Garrett: That's what counts, I think. There are so many stories to tell and they all have real people in them. The technology makes them feel more like real life.
Marion: Well, when you realize that kids are making movies in their basements now, and in their garages with their little cameras, it is wide open. It's very exciting. It comes down to the selling. Now, you've got to sell your movie. And that's where you come in! We need you!
Garrett: The film festivals are also a great way for people to see these movies all over the country who wouldn't otherwise have that opportunity.
Marion: That’s right. And there are hundreds of movies trying to get into the film festivals. So for this movie to be able to get into these festivals is a great compliment.
Garrett: Dominique, what was your inspiration for this film? It has a lot to do with family. Did you take inspiration from your own family or from other aspects of your life?
Dominique: Well, it’s definitely not autobiographical in any way. My family is actually very different. I come from a family of rockers. I did have a very elegant grandmother, and the character of Irene is based on her partially. But it’s a work of fiction for sure. The main inspiration came through the house. When I saw the house I just kind of thought of all the characters. But as you mentioned earlier there are definitely some psychological twists in there. It gets darker, but compassion and forgiveness are also very big in the film. That comes from things that I've thought about, things that I have gone through, things that I have observed in other families, and just topics that were important to me that I wanted to stress. Mainly the idea of compassion and that we can overcome our differences. Even if there are stresses in families, we can all work on it together.
Marion: Every time you want to gather the family together to read the will this brings out all the problems. But it is a very good dramatic device.
Dominique: It shows the best and worst sides of people. Weddings essentially to do the same thing, but I love going to weddings!
Marion: Weddings and funerals!
Garrett: It seems like the film has a lot to say about the relationship between younger and older people. Dominique, your characters span three different generations. What messages does the film have for younger people?
Dominique: The film is meant to empower women of all ages as well as gay youth. The film’s main character, Serena, is a 19 year old Lesbian, who recently tried to commit suicide and is now being exploited by her older brother Nathan. He manipulates her, making her feel worthless, dependent and keeps her “quiet”. During the film she gradually calls out his abusive mind games and finally breaks her silence, standing up for herself. To her surprise she receives unexpected support from her elderly Aunt Irene. It’s women - younger and older - coming together, overcoming the generation gaps, learning from each other, empowering and inspiring each other. The message is: Don’t stay silent. Be proud of who you are. Have your voice heard. You are not alone.
Garrett: Even though the movie doesn't depict a perfect family, how can it teach us about the importance of family? What do you hope the audience gets out of this film?
Dominique: I wanted to show a family story, where the focus shifts back to love. All families are imperfect. There’s beauty in imperfection. It makes us human. It starts with not wanting to change one another, but accepting each other exactly as we are. No masks, no show, no judgment. Just respecting each other’s boundaries, being ourselves, letting others be themselves and loving one another – unconditionally. It’s hard, it takes work, but it’s worth it.
Garrett: Marion, what’s it like working with Dominique?
Marion: Well she was a wonderful director because she was so supportive. Often you’ll get a director that you can’t read how your performance is going over. But she loved it. She loved what I was doing. That means so much to you. Praise is a great engine. You could see her face light up. Ah! She liked it. That fuels me. It was terrific to work with her.
Garrett: Everything seems so well thought out. Is that something you appreciate with her work?
Marion: Absolutely. It was a solid script. Very solid. And that’s such a blessing because we work so much on television and you don’t always get such solid scripts. I just wish them such success because I am so proud to have known them. Also Caroline Risberg, who was the producer. These young people put themselves on the line. When I was a kid, the studio put itself on the line. We didn’t have to do this by ourselves. So in a way it’s a wonderful new freedom out there. It’s a big market now. It’s blown wide open. I think television has done that. Big blockbusters are still the big thing. But I really think the public really yearns for these smaller movies.
Garrett: Film has become such an industry that it’s refreshing to have more perspectives from real people that have passion for what they are doing.
Marion: These are basic stories. The will, reading the will, people dying. It’s relationships in a family. This is the raw material on which so many good stories are based on. There’s always a market for that. I don’t think we have one automated monster in the whole movie!