Young Sam (James Freedson-Jackson) and older, rugged Nick (Alex Pettyfer) are seemingly on an innocent, brotherly road trip into the woods. But the younger boy has disturbing nightmares that suggest all is not as it seems. Are they on the run, and from what? Is Nick the quiet boy’s protector, his captor, or something else entirely? For their feature debut, Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein have crafted an engrossing, atmospheric mystery.
We spoke with Christopher and Lauren about THE STRANGE ONES - read more below and catch a screening on Thursday, June 22 at 9:15 PM and/or Saturday, June 24 at 4:00 PM!
NFF: The film is deliberately vague. Do you prefer to let audiences draw their own conclusions, rather than provide explicit exposition?
Christopher & Lauren: Yes - we tend to be more drawn to films that ask questions rather than give out answers; we think it's more fascinating to consider multiple dimensions and possibilities for what a film might be, and we hope our film has this sort of quality. Rather than being vague, we wanted the film to be quite precise in its mysteriousness, if that makes sense... everything the viewer sees and hears in the film is there for a reason and we hope that it adds up to a beguiling and satisfying experience for anyone who watches it, even if it takes different shapes for different people.
NFF: The atmosphere/setting is such a prevalent part of the film. Where did you shoot, and how did you decide on your location/s?
Christopher & Lauren: We shot in upstate New York, mostly in the Catskill region and Hudson Valley. The script was written with pretty specific locations in mind, and they all hold different meanings that relate the characters and their journey. They are two people journeying away from civilization and into an unknown future, so the places they go naturally needed to mirror this in terms of being both beautiful and seductive in a way, but also treacherous and full of mystery.
NFF: How did you work together as co-directors? Were there pre-determined work or shots you divided up, or was it more in the moment decision-making?
Christopher & Lauren: When we co-direct we basically do everything together. We both direct solo as well, so we are both pretty opinionated and are always thinking of all aspects of job, so it never felt right to divide up tasks in any way. We prep and shotlist really extensively together, so we have a really unified vision for the whole thing going in and this in turn allows us to give each other the space on set to make decisions in the moment.
NFF: What surprised or challenged you the most while you were making the film?
Christopher & Lauren: The most challenging aspect of our film was probably making sure that each scene presented multiple dimensions, in addition to figuring out when to reveal pertinent information about the characters' past while still keeping the film in the present tense. We were surprised in the edit process that certain scenes we shot didn't fit into the natural progression and pace of the film we were making, and therefore these scenes ultimately had to be cut. Since our film is a mystery that is largely left for the audience to solve, we were very aware of how each scene would be interpreted in multiple ways when we were writing, shooting, and editing the film. Because of these challenges, it was a very ambitious first feature film for us.
NFF: Why are you excited to show the film in Nantucket, and/or what do you hope Nantucket audiences will take away?
Christopher & Lauren:Nantucket is a really special place and the festival is known to have excellent programming, so we're really excited to be included in that. We hope the audiences there take away a sense of intrigue and wonder with the film's story and our approach to it, and find it to be something they continue to think about even after the film ends.