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Written & Directed by: Kal Weber
Principal Cast: Ewen Bremner, Harmony Rose Bremner
Synopsis: A man doles out a torrent of accumulated wisdom to a teen with unexpected results.
You wrote and directed Carousel. Where did the idea come from?
The story for Carousel came from a personal encounter and the judgmental thoughts I had and the speech I formulated in my mind. As I processed it all afterward, I was able to see how crazy it all was. I just sat down with my laptop and started writing - and it literally flowed out. Stepping back from it, I did very little editing, which is very unusual for me because most of my writing goes through a ton of re-writes. I am my harshest critic.
Ewen Bremner is a well-known and established actor appearing in films such as Trainspotting, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, soon-to be-released Trainspotting II to name a few. He also co-produced the film with you. How did Ewen Bremner get involved?
I've sent Ewen scripts over the years, all of which he's either politely ignored or just didn't take to, telling me why in very clear terms. He has an incredible grasp of storytelling. He's a brilliant editor, in fact. When I finally sent the Carousel script to Ewen, not expecting anything, he called me back and said, "I know someone who'd like to do this!" and I said, all excited, "Really? Who?" And he said, "Me!" I thought he was joking. He really took to the material and felt it was something that just had to be made. If only to kick my ass into actually shooting something that was achievable with very little money.
The film just wouldn't have been made if it wasn't for Ewen and his constant support and butt-kicking. When he later suggested Harmony, and we ran with it, it was only then that it dawned on me what I actually wanted to say in this piece: about my own relationship with figures of authority like my own father.
But that's what you get with great collaborators: they help bring you closer to the material - even if you wrote it yourself - than if you were trying to dissect it on your own. Without altering a word of dialogue, Ewen and Harmony helped pin-point what the film was really about when even I didn't know it.
How did you and Ewen Bremner meet?
We were introduced by a dear mutual friend, the much-missed English actress Katrin Cartlidge, who died over decade ago now - which kinda blows me away, but that's another subject altogether. I was never part of her 'wonderful' set. I was always on the periphery of that. But we were close. I loved her dearly, and she taught me a lot about art and what it meant to be an artist, which I only started to really appreciate years later. But better late than never. She'd be so proud of this collaboration actually, and I owe it to her, if I'm honest - there's a dedication that's inexcusably missing at the end of this film, so you've just reminded me...it's time to fix that!
But yeah, Katrin introduced us. Then I was filming in Glasgow when Ewen was shooting the first Trainspotting movie. We hung out a bit then, and over the years became very close. But I also happen to think he's one of the greatest actors to have walked the Earth, and I know for a fact a lot of brilliant actors and directors agree with me, so to have him take it on like that was just...mind blowing.
I had an inkling of what I wanted it to be about, so I just called it that - Carousel. It made sense. Later, with the layers of subtext brought to the fore by two great actors, it spoke to the very inception of the story. I caught myself mimicking my otherwise wonderful father's worst habits, which had troubled me enough, I suppose, to write the piece in the first place.
But when we're ignorant of our own folly as human beings and keep repeating the same mistakes of the past over and over again...I mean, just look at what's happening with the rise of the far-right in Europe, with Brexit and so on, with Trump - everyone forgetting in a single generation that a dangerous politician dismissed as a fool leads to devastation until that 'something drastic' happens, I suppose we're never forced to look at ourselves and change. For this reason, Carousel remained as apt a title as any.
How did you pick the location? The tight space seems to add to the tension between the two actors.
I wanted something photogenic, but somewhat claustrophobic, and - because we had no budget - away from traffic, and so we didn't have to officially lock it off. We had no funding. We did this on our own backs - an invaluable lesson for the feature to come. Plus (and I know Ewen would hate to hear me say this) I knew we had some bandwidth of immunity if or when any cops came along because of Ewen's stature in Glasgow. But none did. We were entirely left alone, except for this junkie who wandered right into the camera during one of Harmony's better takes.
But after beating through town hunting for the right spot, the second we saw it, I knew that was it. I also loved the stairs going 'up' behind Harmony's character, the stairs going 'down' for Ewen's. That was helpful on a subtle level depending on the angle one looks at it. Not that Ewen's character is 'going anywhere' permanent necessarily. But I like the slightly 'somewhere between dimensions' aspect of the piece, the lighting we were blessed with, and so on.
The film also stars Ewen Bremner's daughter, Harmony Rose Bremner, who just lights up the screen. What was the father/daughter dynamic like?
They were incredible together. Harmony happens to be my goddaughter - so that makes me exceptionally proud. But it also made me somewhat wary at first to cast her, even though Ewen assured me he wasn't being a 'pushy dad' when he suggested she play a part originally written for a teenage boy. I trusted his judgment, and on the day we started, she was just incredible. She knew her lines flawlessly and nailed her takes. She was a total pro from the outset.
It was humbling really, when I thought back to what a goon I was when I started acting. And they really had worked on it together, so I knew I had nothing to worry about, other than cover my end of the deal.
How do you think he's going to handle it when she becomes a bigger star than him?
That's funny. Kate Hardy, the actress and writer, said "Ewen, are you crying (in the film) because you realised Harmony's so much better than you?" That made us all laugh. Harmony's brilliant. Different from Ewen, and will have a very different career, of course, because she's a beautiful, talented girl who will soon be a beautiful, talented young actor.
The world of film and TV is also so different now than it was when Ewen started. I'd say not necessarily in a good way. But she's incredibly savvy and self-possessed, so we'll see where she takes herself. She's going to go to drama school, which I have some thoughts on as I'm not so sure that's always the best avenue for raw talent.
But Harmony won't be swayed by any drama school teacher's ego, and could learn a lot. Plus technique is important to learn. So given they do have the best in the UK, in Harmony's case, I think it'll be a good thing.
When did you know the film touched people?
After our premiere in Berlin (Carousel was nominated for a Crystal Bear in the 66th Berlin Film Festival), a young woman approached me after seeing the film and told me how it gave her such a sense of peace with regard to her relationship with her mother, I knew I had touched on something meaningful not just for me. Here was one more person I wrote the film for aside from myself. That was an unusual gift of an experience. It's what you pray for as a filmmaker, I think.