Elise Plakke talks about her film, 14 Minutes.
MIFS: Where did the idea for the film come from?
The story line came from my own life experience. The film illustrates that "strangers," or those that you don't know, can have a greater influence in your life then friends or family. That may seem like an odd statement but I find that friends and family veer between being uncritically supportive or bringing a sense of past shared experiences to current travails, and both can cloud judgement or the advice offered. In contrast, someone who doesn't know you as well can often bring a clarity to new conundrums that are unencumbered by shared experiences. While making this film I met others who had shared similar stories of meeting "strangers" that had profound impact in their life. In a time when its so easy to watch the type of news we we want to hear, the importance of instead hearing truth cannot be underestimated.
MIFS: How much did the concept change when going to final edit?
The concept didn't change although the starting point in the film changed several times. In the final edit, I chose to start the film immediately where the interaction of the two characters begin rather than show the back story of Chloe's road trip and her anticipation of meeting someone unknown. It was difficult to break-up with the material especially when the cinematography was so beautiful. In the end, it was vital for the film to engage the audience immediately and the positive reviews and the awards the film has won indicate that I made the right decision.
MIFS: Were there any challenges during production?
The first version of this screenplay won the Manhattan Shorts' Screenwriters First Place Award — I knew I had something special so I quit my six figure job and gave making the film my full attention. In addition to having the fortitude and determination to resist the doubts associated with making my first film and leaving a good job in a bad economy to do so, I also had some real financial challenges. I had to reduce 7 shoot days to 4 days and that required six versions of rewriting to arrive at a shooting script that maintained the integrity of the original meaning and one I could afford. Jessica Embro, lead actress, was traveling in from Toronto, which was nerve-wracking and the lead actor, Kip Weeks, only had five days available in his schedule. We used one day as rehearsal and four days to shoot —we had to keep on the schedule even with new location changes everyday. There was no make-up time.
The second biggest challenge was the weather in Maine in early October is not ideal to go swimming. There was frost on the ground the night before the lake scene, Jessica Embro and Kip Weeks were brave and unyielding to the coldness. They drank whiskey in between takes in a cabin with a space heater wrapped in wool blankets. Myself, Alice Brooks, cinematographer, her assistants, and Branden Maxham, gaffer, adorned wet suits and even with a wet suit, I was shaking pulling if off after being in the water only a short time. Mind over matter, you won't even see goosebumps on the actors, I commend their ability to give such focus to their performance despite the cold.
MIFS: With the film completed, what has been the most rewarding thing about the whole experience?
I had already had many opportunities directing large photo shoots from my experience at Hanson Dodge Creative in Milwaukee as a Sr. Art Director and as Sr. Photo Art Director at L.L.Bean in Maine. While these experiences were great, they were always for a corporation and the primary goal was to sell products. Directing my film was the journey to a new personal expression of my ideas armed with the experience of creating compelling imagery. Leaving behind the myopic revenue-generating corporate focus to fully pursue a creative endeavor has been fulfilling to myself and inspiration to others who admire my leap of faith.
14 minutes screens Friday November 4th during the 5:15pm block, and at the Lubar Auditorium, Mil Art Museum.