Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Anna Gamarnik
By Travis Trew, Programming Associate
Currently in her last semester at Temple University, Chalfont, Pennsylvania native Anna Gamarnik is pursuing a BFA in the school’s Directing concentration. Her film Spaced Out tells the story of Sally, a young outcast whose offbeat look and extraterrestrial obsession give new meaning to the word alienation.
PFS: How did you get into making film? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
AG: I always liked to film on the family VHS camcorder when I was younger. I also really love art and I love writing. There are two things that really led me to understand that filmmaking is what I wanted to do. I used to documentaries for history competitions in school, and I realized I really liked doing that. Also then there was also something called The 10 Day Film Challenge, which I competed in my senior year of high school. That was when I knew this is what I want to go to college for.
PFS: What’s the experience been like at Temple, actually getting to study the ins-and-outs of filmmaking?
AG: Temple is so great. After I got into the Directing concentration I was able to take a screen directing class and that really opened my eyes to working with actors, because a lot of times when you’re making movies you think about getting financing, how to film it, and all of the other producer-y things. But this class really taught me how to work with actors and the different techniques to do that. And it showed me how passionate I was about casting and working with actors.
PFS: Where did the idea for Spaced Out come from?
AG: It was kind of inspired by my one childhood friend. She and her family had to move to a town like the one in the film because of the circumstances of the economy. She’s pretty much been homeschooled her entire life because she’s been bullied by her peers. Because of that, she’s been homeschooled, and she draws and writes and is really creative. But, you know, she sticks out in the town that she lives in, and she was a really big inspiration for my film. But in general, I really related to the themes of being bullied and being an outsider. I think that’s something we can all relate to, and we’ve all experienced when we were younger.
PFS: How did you land on the setting? Did you have to do some location scouting?
AG: Yeah. I was trying to find a town that had this post-industrial, rust belt vibe, and something relatively close-by. My one friend happened to have a house that was in the Poconos area. Nesquehoning was the town we filmed in, and a nearby city called Tamaqua. It definitely had that post-industrial look and feel to it. It ended up being perfect.
PFS: I feel like even the interior of the main character’s house lets you know exactly what kind of people live there.
AG: Absolutely. We put a lot of work into production design, props, and costumes, but for the house itself we barely had to do any decorating. That’s pretty much how it was.
PFS: The main character of Sally has a very particular sort of style and look, and definitely stands out from the background of the rest of the film.
AG: Absolutely. We didn’t want overall any bright colors in the film, but we wanted her to be bright and wear differentiating pastel, light colors. So we specifically looked for fun pieces of clothing and we made her hair all crazy as if she does her own hair like that, and just doesn’t care. I especially loved her pajamas, which we found in this cloud print. They were so cute, and worked so well with the theme of aliens and being high up in the atmosphere.
PFS: What was the experience of working with actors, and in particular the young actress who played Sally?
AG: It was great. It was my first time really working with child actors, but I do like working with children in general. I found her through my friend, who has a connection with The Actor’s Lab in Wayne, PA. They have youth classes and I asked if I could sit in on one of the classes and see how they do their exercises and maybe find somebody that I like. Chloé Paryare instantly stood out to me. I asked if she would audition and she was perfect. Working with her was really cool, because it wasn’t too much different from working with adult actors. She was so mature and professional. I used the same techniques—what-if scenarios, action verbs, and all that stuff that I learned in school. But basically I just tried to relate things to her, like, “Oh have you ever been bullied in school?” Things like that. She took direction so well and understood the character so well, so it was great working with her.
PFS: She definitely fits that part to a T. Were those her own dance moves in the scene where Sally dances in her room, or was it choreographed?
AG: That was improvised. I just told her to dance on the bed.
PFS: Tell me more about the music in the film.
AG: To match the alien vibe we definitely wanted to have an ambient drone sound throughout the film. Will Colacito—who’s so talented—was my DP, my editor, and the composer of most of the music. We agreed that we wanted that alien sound. The other song when she’s dancing is composed by a friend of his, Malachy Roberts. We wanted to have this 80s pop vibe, and in general, we wanted it to almost feel like it could have been from the 80s or it could have been from now, but maybe they’re stuck in the past with this old technology.
AG: I actually found Will because of Whip Whop. He showed it in class. I already had the idea for this film and I was still looking for a DP. I literally messaged him, and I was like, “Wow, I saw Whip Whop. I have this project, are you interested?” And he said yes. That was perfect. I like to see what other people make and see if they would mesh with what I want to make, and vice versa. It’s a great way to collaborate, and we’re all really close. Our crew was like a family, because when you’re on a film set, everyone is so close to each other.
PFS: How much collaboration goes on between you and the DP?
AG: First and foremost, I tell him the story about alienation and he really thinks about how angles affect the story. We both wanted a very objective camera, almost as if the aliens are watching this girl’s life. Especially with the drone shots in the beginning. It gives an expository view of the town, but it’s also like, “Oh maybe it’s an alien ship looming over the town.” Will and I both love the same directors. We love Stanley Kubrick, we love Yorgos Lanthimos. I personally love Tarkovsky with his slow, deliberate long takes in Solaris. We both love those sci-fi elements. So we have a lot in common and we worked really well together.
PFS: Those drone shots at the beginning are really great. And I feel like it’s so easy with drone shots to feel sort of gratuitous, but in that case, it perfectly matches what you’re trying to do.
AG: Yes! Thank you! I never want to do drone shots just for the sake of doing drone shots.
PFS: What are you working on now? Are you finishing up a senior thesis film?
AG: Yes, I am. I just wrapped filming my senior thesis and now I’m editing it. It’s called Lost at Sea. It’s a Victorian-era, gothic thriller. It’s really different than Spaced Out, but still kind of has an eerie tone to it. I’m really excited about it.
PFS: What stage are you at in the editing process?
AG: We are past the first cut, but we still need to trim it down. It’s like 30 minutes right now. The set and costumes are very true to the Victorian era. So I’m really excited, it’s very high production value. I always want to do the most that I can with everything, and I always love paying attention to art design and production design. So that’s where I’m at with it right now. Editing and thinking about music.
PFS: So do you know what you want to do after Temple?
AG: I think that I would like to stay in Philly for a little bit just to do some more set work and save up some money, but after that I’m really starting to think about moving to LA or Atlanta. Some big life choices ahead that I need to think about.
Spaced Out will screen on Friday, March 9 at the Prince Theater’s Black Box as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.