Ambitious independent film project debuts eight years after launch

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December 2 – To say that Samuel Tressler IV’s first feature film project was ambitious would be an understatement.

Tressler, who grew up in Frederick County and spent much of his life there, had studied film at Villa Julie College and directed music videos and short films, but had only approached a feature film. ‘in 2013. Partly because he had access to equipment that could shoot in 3D, he chose to make his first feature film in 3D.

And as if that weren’t enough, he decided that “Leda”, a new version of the Greek myth of Leda and the swan, would also be a black and white silent film.

“I basically prepared myself to fail in any way I could,” Tressler joked from his New York home. “It’s a silent, 3D, black and white feature film. Everyone says for your first film, don’t use children, don’t use animals, don’t do anything on the water. .. that and more and made it a period piece and made it all in 3D. So it was absolutely stupid. I was like, if we can pull this off, whether it’s good or bad, we really should. to be trained for something else. “

Tressler, along with the rest of the cast and crew of “Leda”, are finally seeing their efforts pay off. In preparation for eight years, “Leda”, filmed mainly in Frederick County, is finally screened in front of a live audience. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in October, where it won the Audience Choice Award, and continues to find its way into the festival circuit.

This week will be the opening film of Another Hole in the Head Festival in San Francisco. During the festival period from December 1 to 15, “Leda” will also broadcast online in 2D and 3D to viewers anywhere.

Plans are underway for an in-person screening in Maryland in the spring.

“It had probably been a year and a half since I watched it, and I only saw it in 2D,” said co-writer Wesley Pastorfield, who lives in Hampstead. “To see it at the premiere in 3D – honestly, it was amazing. I was so proud to be a part of it.”

“Leda” began with a painting that Pastorfield had created for an exhibition of art from Greek mythology. When Tressler saw the play, Patsorfield told him the story of Leda and the Swan – not that there was much written about it.

The Greek myth tells the story of a young woman seduced and raped by Zeus while he takes the form of a swan. Leda will give birth to two children of the god.

“At the time, I was trying to come up with an idea that I was passionate about,” Tressler recalls. “I thought it was interesting that the story reflected the story of the Virgin Mary. I was interested in exploring how crazy it would be to be imbued with a god, and how crazy he is. that huge religions are based on this concept .. And also how crazy it is to be pregnant in general and to grow a child inside of you, how maddening or strange that can be.

“I also wanted to explore our relationship to the divine and to the tangible things in life,” he continued, “and how you can lose that balance.”

Pastorfield and Tressler worked together to write the film – or, rather, describe various impressions they had about what they wanted to see happen, scene by scene, as that excludes dialogue. The original script, in fact, was only about eight pages long. The final length of the film is 76 minutes.

Pastorfield describes it as being like a character study of a woman having a divine encounter, to keep this experience to herself and the psychological repercussions of that.

Although considered a period piece, it is not clear exactly what period of time “Leda” takes place, nor is it relevant. It’s set in what looks like a turn-of-the-century estate but feels timeless, closer to a dream.

“I wanted the period to be pretty indefinite,” Tressler said. “I wanted it to be classic and familiar, but at the same time you could say it happened in another world. I like to see the film as a reflection of life… relatable but opposed to reality.”

Filming in 3D and in black and white, in addition to being a silent film, was not chosen for the sake of novelty and does not appear to be a gimmick. Instead, the film’s creators explored these tools to ultimately improve the telling of a story.

A black and white film, for example, allows the images to be immediately separated from everyday reality, offering a bit of the surrealism sought by Tressler.

Tressler, meanwhile, was always interested in the beginning of the silent era of cinema, when filmmakers were more like scientists, as he puts it, experimenting and trying new things.

“How do you relate to an audience? How do you combine the planes to have a deeper meaning than either of these planes would have? [individually]he said. Suddenly it was all song and dance or just chatter. Rather than analyzing the effect on an audience, it became more of a means of entertainment.

“I thought trying to do a play without dialogue would help me explore some of these other avenues,” he continued.

Because he had access to the 3D equipment through Mike Peters of Archai Media, Tressler, who at the time managed the Area 31 creative space in downtown Frederick, saw 3D as another tool that could be used. instead of dialogue. “I tried to express this character’s distance – from her surroundings, from other characters – and to visually show her mental state and how she loses her connection to reality,” Tressler said. “We’re so used to everyone talking.”

If there are no words, the film includes sound – breathing, footsteps, wind, rustling of feathers and wind, ambient noises, as well as a score that combines pieces by André Barros and Björn Magnusson .

Tressler estimates that he had written around 80 drafts of the film by the time it was finally finished. At one point he and Pastorfield had written in a country doctor character and had hoped to bring in John Waters to play the part. Another role that has all but disappeared is that of Leda’s husband, who initially played a much larger role but is only briefly included in the final product.

“With such an ambitious project, some things had to give way,” said Pastorfield. “You want to finish the project and keep your idea, so you move it around a bit and have to make little sacrifices here and there.”

When Adeline Thery initially took on the character of Leda, the role was smaller, but as the script was rewritten over and over again, the movie became almost entirely Thery alone on screen.

“I had this big team, all very good technicians, and sometimes it was difficult because I was the only actor,” said Thery, who was born in France, studied acting in Barcelona and is now based. At New York. “It wasn’t until we were done that I realized, oh my god, it’s just me. I was terrified to watch the movie because, you know, if I’m not good, that is going to be awful. “

Since the conception of the film, it took almost three years for the team to cast Thery in the lead role. It took even longer to raise enough funds to start production.

Tressler teamed up with Clark Kline, co-founder of Frederick’s 72 Film Fest, who would become the producer of “Leda”. Kline was looking to work on a bigger project outside of the annual festival and was sold after reading the script and hearing what Tressler had planned for it.

Meanwhile, when production began, the cast and crew entered a three to four day filming cycle, raising more money for about a month, then returning to the location to shoot again for a few days. . It lasted about a year, before moving to post-production.

“It was a very, very difficult process,” Thery said. “There were times when we thought no one would ever watch this movie. I also said to everyone, ‘This is my last movie. I will never act in a movie after this.’ It was pretty intense. But I’m really, really proud of the result. It’s a weird movie, but it’s beautiful. It was worth it. “


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