ISA award-winning David Leidy: “Who people are and what we see about them can be quite different”

David Leidy introduced to ISA “Faded Love”, a disturbing and visually powerful short film about a toxic, sickly psychosexual game. An irreverent and unconventional work awarded by ISA, in the June season, Platinum Best Film Noir Short plus Bronze Best Actress, Best Acting Duo, Best Cinematography and Best Editing, and an Honorable Mention for Best Actor.

Faded Love

Faded Love

David Leidy is an award-winning filmmaker (Best Film Noir, Best Cult Classic Film, Best Editor, Best Story, Best Experimental and Best Director Award Winner at multiple festivals among many others) with a drive to share daring stories that challenge modern perceptions and beliefs. Currently, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter and spends most of his hours working for his rental and service company Eidetic Pictures alongside developing a series with his co-creator Greg Paul.

ISA: What made you decide to make this film?

David Leidy: I’m very intuitive so I tend to act on what feels right for me rather than making clear logical choices as to why I’m doing something. In the case of “Faded Love”, I was driven to make something that really broke conventions stylistically with a bold story to tell without letting go of the real emotion. Something that said “stories don’t have to be told that way” while meanwhile remaining true to the important elements of that story. At the time, I hadn’t quite seen anything like that before which really explored an uncomfortable yet relevant scenario of our times in a way that was incredibly irreverent to formula and audience expectations yet remained true to the story elements. “Faded Love” was really a chance for the cast and crew and for me to explore a new way of storytelling. It’s experimental but not. It’s a crime noir but with surreal elements that drift off into magical realism, poetic allegory and French New Wave and even more. It has so much built into it but at its heart, it’s just a gritty story with real emotion and some flare.

Dasha Leidy in "Faded Love"

Dasha Leidy in “Faded Love”

ISA: A budget of 1,200 USD. Is enough scary for a filmmaker?

DL: And that figure may even be a bit beyond what the actual budget was. Maybe if you account for the extra hard drives we purchased for my Blackmagic Production Camera at the time. We weren’t able to keep up with the slow high-resolution workflow while we were shooting (Blackmagic would process all the files into high-resolution picture files in order to be closer to a real 4k format). If you account for those drives maybe it cost that. So I owned that Blackmagic back when we shot it and my friend Alex Aguirre who’d been rooming with me at the time was a cinematographer. Alex owned some lights at the time and when he agreed to do the cinematography, I showed him some shots from different films that I’d wanted to mirror stylistically, such as “Chungking Express”, and he thought his Kino Flos would be perfect. All these variables that would have cost money under other circumstances were free for this project. For this film, the budget actually, I believe, catered to the story’s grittiness and allowed for the actors to really slip into the characters’ shoes without being distracted by any glamor on set because there wasn’t any. I really wanted to go into this in as raw a way as possible to bring about the strongest performances possible.

Dasha Leidy in "Faded Love"

Dasha Leidy in “Faded Love”

ISA: How long was the shooting and which were the main challenges on the set?

DL: This was a film that was about three years in the making. What took so long to release the film were the deeply involved post-production aspects which required many drafts to get just right. There was a mood to the film that had to be just right for everything to click. It was so subtle and honing into those details took some time. I had a nearly 20 minute cut of the film at one point but had a lot of friends encourage me to cut it down. I didn’t think I could but eventually I got it to what it is now which is roughly 13 minutes. The screenplay was very short for a film of this length, being 5 pages total. Many actions within every scene were improvised on set. This made shooting a challenge at times but always exciting in a way that had us all on edge. For the most part, it was just me, the producer and cinematographer there on set making the film other than the stars Dasha and Brad (the art director and art assistant were only there for bedroom setups). Luckily Dasha and Brad were highly trained actors but the improvising for the whole team all around was what really brought out a lot of the authenticity in the film.

ISA: This is a disturbing work. Did you consider some restrictions because of the audience or just follow what you really wanted to do?

DL: When I wrote it, I never really thought about restrictions or even how disturbing it would be. I just thought, how would the characters respond under these circumstances. During pre-production I had to think about how I was going to convey what the film was to people. Basically, I realized that less is more. I just told them that this was a story being told in a stylized way and somewhat because of that we have a bigger responsibility to make these characters feel real by bringing out real emotion. That we weren’t going for shock value but we also didn’t want to tread lightly and brush over something that’s highly strung. Other than that, I just explained the visuals to the cinematographer and producer and some of the backstory to the actors to help them dive deeper into that world and the characters themselves. There were questions about how I was going to shoot it particularly when casting, which seemed like a given response to me, but somewhat surprisingly most people, particularly actresses applying for the role, were incredibly cool with the rugged approach and trusted my overall vision. To them and others involved, I think it was thrilling to work on something that was striving to tell a story in such a bold way. Somehow I thought if I could remain faithful to the characters and the story, and go with the flow in integrating variables along the way, I couldn’t go wrong. It seemed to me that no matter how edgy anybody thought the film was, if the characters and story had a soul, there would be people who the film would resonate with. Though the end result is disturbing, when we weren’t having to be in the mood of the scene, we had a lot of fun on set when the camera was off.

Dasha Leidy in "Faded Love"

Dasha Leidy in “Faded Love”

ISA: What did you want to tell the audience with “Faded Love”?

DL: The more I create, the more I realize how much I dig myself into a hole with this type of question. This is similar to a magician who reveals how he created the illusion of his magic trick or a teacher who tells his class the answer before they’ve figured out the problem for themselves. It ruins the impact of discovery. With visual stories, really what I’m trying to tell viewers is what I show them. Whether they get exactly what I meant by it or not is a part of what makes everything so alluring and deep – that mirage is there for viewers to explore and get lost in. I could say what I thought the film was but that wouldn’t really allow viewers to respond in their own authentic way. The discovery is almost always somewhere in the mystery so how viewers get about that discovery is in part how much I’m able to entrance them and how much they’re willing to get lost in the story along the way. What the discovery is for people, that epiphany has to remain individual because it’s almost more of a sensory response than anything else. It’s impossible to do that justice in merely words.

Dasha Leidy in "Faded Love" with soft Kino Flo lighting from "Chungking Express" mixed with a neo-noir​ styled contrast on the ​face and expressionistic background

Dasha Leidy in “Faded Love” with soft Kino Flo lighting from “Chungking Express” mixed with a neo-noir styled contrast on the face and expressionistic background

ISA: How difficult is to make the audience believe in the characters and feel emotionally linked with a 13-minute film?

DL: This is always challenging particularly for a film that has such uncanny moments and masks behind it as mine. Overall though, I try to leave thinking about these things out of my process. If I can simply put unique characters in scenarios that are fully flared with tension that connects specifically to those characters and grips me as I’m making the story then I trust that viewers will feel similarly. To me, in real life, who people are and what we see about them can be quite different. Thus allowing viewers to go through that process of discovering who these characters really are and what they’re going through, while still perhaps leaving some things buried, is what can often lead to those characters feeling most real. When revising I focus on why certain details are needed for viewers to be engaged and understand the story. That’s what really allows me to navigate how much of a character or storyline I reveal or hide. Sometimes, particularly in the stories I’m drawn to, the less we know about a character can be more gripping than what’s clear about them. Ultimately not everybody will respond the way you did and some people will even dislike what you’re doing and that’s something any artist has to come to terms with for every project. That’s why I try to focus on those who are responding to it and use them as guiding lights for how I can get them more invested for revisions and future projects.

On the set of "Faded Love"

On the set of “Faded Love”

ISA: What influences do you think “Faded Love” has?

DL: While most definitely through a type of noir lens with noir influences, “Faded Love” is something I’ve always considered to be a genre blender above anything else. A film that is irreverent to formulas and stylistic techniques somewhat akin to French New Wave. Thus the influences were a bit eclectic. Magical realism, for instance, inspired me with its ability to change story logic halfway through but act as if nothing happened such as at the end with the red-lit bedroom that has tilted paintings and flowers hanging from the ceiling. Surrealism obviously contributed to this side of things with films like Luis Bunuel’s “That Obscure Object of Desire” and “Belle Du Jour” with how they show powerful women with dynamic personalities on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Bunuel in “That Obscure Object of Desire” even cast two women to play the lead role to show her complexity both emotionally and personality wise.

Dasha Leidy in "Faded Love"

Dasha Leidy in “Faded Love”

ISA: Are you happy with the final result or would you change something?

DL: I’m extremely detail oriented when it comes to my storytelling. There are always things I wish I could have done differently. But the more I tend to remain open to fresh possibilities and synchronicities amid making my projects, the more satisfied I am with the end result overall. At a certain point, I have to let go and let the film be what it became. With this one, there was a point when I thought, that’s the film, during the editing but I had to step away from it for a while for that to happen. Never would I make something like this again but oddly enough that’s why I think it was the right thing for me to have made. It allowed me to explore what I wanted to explore then release it to the world. As an artist, I want to continue growing so getting stuck on projects due to overanalyzing begins to feel like leaving fruit out until it rots. For me, I have to balance making what I want to make with releasing it when the fruit is still ripe.

David Leidy on the set of his previous film "Atonia"

David Leidy on the set of his previous film “Atonia”

ISA: Do you have any advice for other independent filmmakers, particularly for the newcomers?

DL: Just ask yourself why you want to make the project or tell that specific story. You don’t have to tell anybody else that specifically but you should constantly ask yourself why. Grow the branches from that starting point of what drives you to make it. Maybe it’s not even words but a feeling. For me, it’s usually a feeling. Same thing. Try to find that one special thing about it and constantly remind yourself what that is throughout the process. It will help you stay focused and spare you from spending time on stuff that may be bound to fall through from the beginning simply because you’re not drawn to making it.

ISA: What are your overall career goals and what’s next?

DL: At the moment I’m creating a series with a reputable playwright Greg Paul which we’re currently in the stage of going out for funding and getting produced. There are some other things in the mix right now but I prefer to let the cards unfold before speaking about them. If anybody would like to reach out to me personally for project endeavors or any other related dialogues, they can contact me at muse@davidleidy.com Thank you for your astute questions and for those who read the article.

Learn more about David Leidy on https://vimeo.com/davidleidy.

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