We were lucky enough to have the first interview with Dim the Fluorescents‘ co-writer/producer/editor/director Daniel Warth and producer Josh Clavir prior to the film’s premiere even at Slamdance. The film then won the Grand Jury Prize at the festival for narrative features and we were thrilled beyond belief to hear about it! Now the film, which stars Naomi Skwarna and Claire Armstrong, receives a theatrical release and we can finally share our fun interview with Warth and Clavir, who spoke to us in a downtown Toronto cinema in the midst of a mild snowstorm (what a difference a year makes).
The following is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.
Brief Take: There’s a real sense of community and a support system amongst filmmakers in Toronto.
Josh Clavir: When the Variety announcement went out, we were approached by distributors and sales agents, and one of the comments we heard is what they’re finding from the States is that Toronto has a really good indie film scene, in particular. Maybe there’s something about here that creates the right conditions that help these films to happen and be made. We’re doing distinct work in an environment that has this scene.
Daniel Warth: We’re the novices, so we’re always asking them for advice.
BT: What’s the base of your film, as it seems to be set mainly in a particular space?
DW: I was hired to document corporate seminars, to shoot and edit them, and I happened to attend one in which they brought in two actors. It was an intense performance at the foot of a boardroom table where six or seven people took notes on pads. I found it very funny, and a little bit sad, and also kind of inspiring.
BT: Yet it goes in different directions…
DW: Yeah, and this sort of reflected my range of emotions to the performance, some of it was funny to me, some of it was sad to me, and some it was sort of hopeful, and I think that the film goes through this whole range at different points as well.
BT: How did Naomi [Skwarna] get involved?
DW: When Miles Barstead, my co-writer and I were working on the film, we thought Claire Armstrong would be this actor like Gena Rowlands in Opening Night going through personal crisis, and funnelling into a hotel conference performance and we decided we wanted to do a snappy, dialogue-driven thing as well as a personal tragedy. So we started writing another character without an actor in mind, and it was kind of hard to find somebody who fit that role, because it felt very specific. And then I started bringing in people to audition, who I didn’t know if they were actors, but they kind of reminded me of the character in some way, and Naomi, I knew her as someone who had a strong writing background, primarily for The Believer and other places. But we put them together and they immediately had a lot of chemistry and they were really funny together and they felt like old friends. They were both interested in theatre and the theatre scene and they struck up a great bond right away.
BT: How do you want an audience to approach the film?
DW: Hopefully people go into it and respond to the things that surprise them, positively. Some viewers will feel mad if it takes a turn they didn’t expect, right? *laughs* And I like when films do that, but there are some films that I love, that the first time I watched, I was like “well, that didn’t resolve anything”, or some response. But then you wait, and they percolate in your brain for a little, and you’re like, “that’s actually great”. Hopefully they will be moved by it as well.
Dim The Fluorescents opens exclusively in Toronto at the Imagine Carlton this Friday. The cast and crew screening at 6:30 pm at the Imagine Carlton is sold out, though there are tickets available for the Bechdel Tested screening Sunday, December 10th at 6:30 pm.