AFF 2014: Q&A with cast of “One Eyed Girl”

Note: This Q&A contains some spoilers.

If you haven’t heard: Nick Matthews’ “One Eyed Girl” won the award in the Dark Matters genre last Saturday, Oct. 25. Congrats to the cast and crew! The film had its world premiere last Friday and will screen again tonight at the Galaxy Highland Theatre.

Interview conducted by ChinLin Pan

We spoke with actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey and actor/co-writer Craig Behenna about shooting “One Eyed Girl” and their experiences on set. (You can also read our Q&A with “One Eyed Girl” director Nick Matthews.)

Actor/co-writer Craig Behenna and actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey from Nick Matthews' "One Eyed Girl" sat down with Shuffle last Friday before the world premiere screening. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

Actor/co-writer Craig Behenna and actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey from Nick Matthews’ “One Eyed Girl” sat down with Shuffle last Friday before the world premiere screening. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

Shuffle: What was the environment like on set?

Tilda Cobham-Hervey: I think what was amazing about how the set was played out and how it was all run was that it really felt like you were in another world. It felt very real to be in there, in the clothes, out on the farm. It made sense. It didn’t feel like a “bad” place. It didn’t feel like we were playing the cult. It was all very much about being lovely to each other. We played a lot of games and [had] lots of experiences around that. On set, it didn’t feel like we were creating a film. You didn’t feel driven by the camera—you felt driven by telling a story.

Craig Behenna: We wanted to make sure everybody felt comfortable, not just from the point of view of the shooting but from the point of view from being out [in this world]. It was going to be most beneficial for everybody just to be out there before we started shooting everything. We wanted to create the right environment. We also wanted to make an environment where everyone would feel as though they had the opportunity to do their best stuff.

Tilda: Because it is a smaller budget film, there aren’t a hundred people on set. The family—the community—of actors and people on set, it all felt very small. That gave it a sort of [reality] that I don’t know it would’ve had if [there was] a lot of people on set.

Craig: The intimacy was definitely something we were after.

Tilda: Weirdly, I watched the film and went “Ah, right. It’s really dark.” We had so much fun, it’s ridiculous. You sort of need that when you’re telling a dark story. All the other times you need to be laughing. Otherwise you die.

Craig: You need to treat drama like a comedy. We kept it very light-ful.

Tilda: In terms of lightheartedness, even though the world of the film is really dark and the storyline is really dark, all the characters are really searching for good. Before Travis comes into that world, they’re actually quite happy. Although it looks dark because we go “oh gosh that’s wrong,” like being able to watch from the outside, but when you’re in it, it’s kind of great: just singing songs around the campfire. It’s awesome!

Craig: We didn’t want it to be like a cult. We wanted to avoid the idea of everyone thinking of it as a cult. No one in a cult thinks they’re in a cult. That’s one of the guiding principles. They think they live on a farm.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey stars as Grace in Nick Matthews' "One Eyed Girl," which won the Dark Matters genre award at Austin Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Projector Films.

Tilda Cobham-Hervey stars as Grace in Nick Matthews’ “One Eyed Girl,” which won the Dark Matters genre award at Austin Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Projector Films.

Shuffle: How did you both get involved with the film?

Craig: What drew me was the idea of being able to make this film that was a thriller that drew on a lot of the cinema that we loved, but also that we were able to investigate a lot of the things that we find important to do with what you see in the world, where you belong, how you find meaning. These were the things we constantly talk about. There was a lot of relentless self-examination from all of us throughout the process. If we were going to write it properly, we had to be honest with ourselves. The more honest we were with ourselves, the better the script.

Tilda: I was working on a film but it was a very unusual film that didn’t have a script, so this was the first script I ever read. I didn’t consider myself an actor. I was just working on a film. When I was approached about this, I went “Haha, no. I don’t do that.” I got a chance to read a few scripts and they changed quite dramatically. I always loved the creative process. As soon as I got to know these guys…it’s so important to me about the team. Initially, it was the schedule thing. When I was available, I [gave it a try] but didn’t feel like I was the right person to tell the story, because it felt very distant from myself. The more we chatted, [I realized] no, it’s just a girl, someone in a different situation. What was exciting for me—in terms of that character—is that I love seeing people on screen that aren’t your typical characters that you see on screen all the time. This was an unusual story that was about finding love and meaning in the world. The complexity of that was really exciting. Also, in terms of the female role, there’s a lot of strength in that role. She has to go against everything she was told of being right. That sort of bold characters I rarely come across.

Note: Dear reader, if you haven’t seen the film, STOP READING NOW and come back later.

Shuffle: For the ending, did you think it was fair that Travis had to die?

Tilda: No, it was brutal!

Craig: That’s the question.

Tilda: I’m still upset. That day of shooting, we were all crying. [Mark and I] get along really well; so we hang out all the time. That made it much easier for us. After shooting that, I was sobbing. I wasn’t even on screen. It was horrible. It was so dark. Many of the scripts I read were different. He didn’t always die.

Craig:  It’s a story about redemption. What it came down to was…what’s he’s going to do? He’s burned all these bridges in the first world. He’s managed to completely destroy the second world. He somehow has to manage to redeem himself in the last moment and then what? He goes back to his flat? No. What’s left there for him? Ultimately, it was that question that meant that once he had done the thing he needed to do, that was actually the end.

Tilda: It’s not like a fairy tale. Life doesn’t work like that. The good guy doesn’t always win.

Craig: We tried a few versions where we kept [Travis] alive in the end. You know that moment when you get to a point in a film where something happens and you’re just sitting a little bit off the edge not quite feeling if that’s truly the end of the story? Ultimately, it came down to the fact that once he’s done, that was the end for him. It’s a really good question that you asked. It killed us for so long.

Shuffle: It still killed me, though.

Craig: It’s good because you’re still thinking about it.

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