As someone whom I’ve gotten to know over the years, Kevin Bisbangian’s exceptional growth as a film-maker has continued to astound me. And while I’ve interviewed him before, I recently found out that he’s since been incredibly busy making even more movies and putting himself forward for even more awards. Indeed, Kevin’s latest film – ‘Poetic Emotion’ – was recently nominated for two awards at the St Tropez International Film Festival. No small feat when you consider the fact that he hasn’t even been making films for that long…
So as to celebrate, I decided to interview the upcoming film-maker, and ask Kevin Bisbangian a whole heap of questions on the subject of film-making, as well as get some context on what inspires him to make his films.
Enjoy the interview…
Even though you’re qualified in Computer Science, what made you decide to study towards becoming a film-maker?
I have always been interested in movies and after completing various acting courses such as Stanislavski and Method acting, I decided to join some film making courses and I was inspired by my great film-making lecturers. Finally, I made the decision that the best way to gain experience would be by making films myself.
Considering that you co-founded the BB-PAPAR Film company, what tips would you give to those who are looking to follow in the same footsteps as you, and set up their own film production company in future?
I haven’t reached that level to give tips to anyone because in terms of achievements, I am nowhere near meeting my targets yet. We have to be honest with ourselves: the man who lies to himself and listens to his own lies, cannot distinguish the truth within him or around him. However, I would say that it is vitally important to always treat people with respect. I have lots of respect for those with whom I work with and equally demand respect from them.
With film-making being an incredibly stressful activity, where you have to take into account other people’s feelings when collaborating with them, how do you maintain diplomacy and self-composure on-set while trying to get the best out of your crew?
Having lots of great creative artist friends has helped me to have a better understanding with regards to their sensitivity, moods, as well as their egos, and I am confident that all of them without any exception are aware of my respect and admiration for their talents. At the same time, I always make it very clear from the beginning of each project what our missions and targets are and how we should avoid creating unnecessary obstacles.
What equipment do you use, both in terms of hardware and software?
It all depends on the requirements of each project. Obviously the intention is to make sure that each film project is better than the previous one and if certain equipment or software will help me to accomplish that, then I will certainly use it.
Both your ‘The Studio’ and ‘Poetic Emotion’ documentaries feature the works of Juliette Jeancloude. Why did you decide to make her the subject of your documentaries, and what is it about the artist that makes her so fascinating?
I met Juliette at one of my Method acting courses but we never talked to each other and by the end of the course we hardly knew each other. Later on, I was planning to make a short film called ‘Lady in Red’ and needed a French actress and remembered Juliette so asked her to meet me and audition for it. When we met, she read me one of her poems and I loved it. It was a very powerful poem which really moved me and then she read more poems. I loved them all and I loved Juliette’s character. We also discussed her paintings and, if my memory serves me right, she showed me pictures of some of her paintings. I knew immediately that she was no ordinary person and I had discovered a great subject for a documentary so I suggested making a documentary and postponed the ‘Lady in Red’ project.
‘Poetic Emotion’ was recently nominated for the “Best Director of a Documentary” award at St Tropez International Film Festival. Considering that you made the documentary by yourself, what tips would you give to those who are also looking to shoot a documentary as part of a one-man crew?
Yes, ‘Poetic Emotion’ has had two nominations at St Tropez International Film Festival 2013. One for me as the Director and one for the film as the “Best Short Documentary”. Hopefully I will enjoy the awards ceremony this year in St Tropez as much as I enjoyed it last year when I attended The Madrid International Film Festival for my ‘Broken Wings’ drama that had six nominations. I think the subject of a documentary and the way it is edited is extremely important to the documentary film’s success, and obviously we can never underestimate the importance of sound and the quality of picture.
As an award-winning film-maker, what tips would you give to those who are looking to enter film festivals, and what advice would you give to those who have their heart set on winning awards?
When it comes to submitting films to Film Festivals, one has to make sure the organisers are professionals. Last year, I had a great experience with the Madrid International Film Festival. The whole organisation was very efficient, professional and the awards ceremony was amazing.
According to IMDB, your award-winning short ‘Broken Wings’ cost £500,000, while ‘Poetic Emotion’ cost £5000. Why is film-making so expensive, and what tips would you give to those who are looking to acquire finance while keeping their costs down?
I am not the best person to answer questions regarding budgets and even in my personal life, I find it a huge challenge to manage my money. More than £500,000 seems like a very high figure and not a correct one, especially for this kind of short film. Having said that, for ‘Broken Wings’, which was a 55 minute drama, we used 14 actors, 14 extras, and 9 locations including a night club, coffee shop, a Jacuzzi and a Ferrari. As such, it was not a typical few minute’s short film that can be made in one room.
As to why film making can be so expensive? I have to say there are two types of people who are involved in this business; people who do it for the love of creating good films, and people who don’t care too much about the creative side and only like to make money. Even as a low budget film company, you can be charged as much as £600 for half a day’s location which is absurd.
Considering your plans to make your first feature film in 2014, have you worked out a budget for the project yet, and if so, what is it likely to be?
My aim is to make my first feature film between 2014 and 2015 but at the present time I am just concentrating on my next two projects. The first one is a documentary and the second one is a psychological thriller called ‘Salome’.
What is your feature film going to be about?
It is too early to discuss much about my feature film, but I will be happy to discuss my next project ‘Salome’ which is written by both myself and my dear friend and co-writer Judith Wyler.
There are twenty very professional experts in my team and they are all very talented and enthusiastic artists. My plan is to collaborate with the same brilliant people for my budget films in the future.
As someone who is a script-writer for your own film projects, can you describe your script-writing process? How do you go about deciding the subject matter, and what steps do you take in researching the project?
I can compare the script-writing process to the process of creating poems. You can think about writing a decent poem for years and nothing happens but sometimes you are lucky and all of a sudden when you don’t expect it, you write pages and pages.
I lost a dear friend and as a result I became depressed so I wrote the script for ‘Chain Reaction’ and my friend and co-writer Judith Wyler helped me to give the story a different dimension.
‘Chain Reaction’ is a black comedy and I will be re-editing it soon so hopefully it will be submitted to some good festivals in the future.
What are the biggest challenges that you face when making films?
Finding appropriate locations is always a huge challenge and also coordinating your team in terms of their availability can be hard.
Which do you prefer between making films and making documentaries, and why?
Making documentaries is much easier than making films because you don’t need a big team and there are no reading sessions and no rehearsals. However, I have never been scared of big challenges so I actually prefer making films, despite all the headaches that go with it.
Considering your previous film-making accomplishments, where you have gone on to produce 5 films via your independent company, what tips would you give to aspiring film-makers?
I like to think that searching for good projects continuously is a good approach and by working hard we can achieve our goals much quicker.
Thomas Jefferson says “I am a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it”. Having said that, he was an exceptional character anyway, as he was fluent in five languages, and was a lawyer, scientist, musician, philosopher, inventor, architect, and a statesman.
You mention that your favourite actors include James Cagney, Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman. What do you look for in actors, and which Hollywood actors would you most like to work with?
I admire actors whose physical gestures deliver a mass of relevant significant messages to the audience.
I am a fan of Javier Bardem or Gael Garcia Barnel.
What tips would you give to those who don’t want to be mere copycats of their influences, but want to leave their own distinct mark on their work?
An artist has to find his own style before being able to leave his own distinct mark on his work and that comes through his personality and skill level. An artist’s style is not good or bad. It just is. This doesn’t just happen overnight, but comes with experience.
What’s your favourite movie of all time and why?
It is impossible for me to identify just one film as a favourite, but there are certain directors whose work I love such as Cohen Brothers and Martin Scorsese. In addition, there are some very accomplished and successful directors whose style of film making I might not like but I admire them very much. I have a list of favourite films based on different reasons and I can mention few of these films, for example: ‘The Ghost Writer’, directed by Roman Polanski; ‘The Lost City’, directed by Andy Garcia; ‘La Lengua de las Mariposas’, directed by Jose Luis Cuerda.
Finally, what are your future plans and ambitions?
The plan is to complete 3 projects before 2014. The biggest project is called ‘Salome’ and we have already started the reading sessions for it.
The other two projects are documentaries with extremely interesting subjects. I am also re-editing my 30 minute short film called ‘Chain Reaction’ which I am dedicating to two friends – Jahangir and Dina.