Michael O’Shea Chats About Directorial Debut The Transfiguration
Director Michael O’Shea made his debut with the horror drama The Transfiguration at Cannes last year in 2016. Opening to a positive reception, the film made its debut in the US in April 21st, 2017. The movie follows a young boy named Milo (Eric Ruffin) who is obsessed with vampires and starts a romance with his neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine). However, the line between fantasy and reality start to blur for the troubled teen when Milo starts having a sudden hunger for blood. Talking about his first venture into directing, Michael spoke about the experience working with the young cast and the process of making a film based on vampire lore.
1) What made you want to do a vampire film as your first feature?
I was looking to make a sort of horror portrait film as my first feature, because I knew I could shoot it cheaply. Like I knew I wanted to make a film using filmmaking techniques like shooting in live environments using long lenses (like being far away from the actors using a zoom lens). And by using this shooting style I’d give the film a sort of documentary-like authenticity and using what is normally a con of low budget filmmaking (small crews, inability to control streets) as strengths. And while trying to come up with the “who” for my horror portrait a friend told me her friends’ kid was being made fun of at school for being obsessed with vampires and ghosts. And from that I started building this NYC vampire character that would be my portrait subject.
2) Were there any films from the vampire genre that inspired you to make the movie?
Let the Right One In and Martin were big influences in the vampire genre. Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer was a big influence outside of the genre.
3) What was the casting process like for the leads?
I had cast the two biggest leads before we had casting signed on. I had seen Chloe read while we were casting for a proof of concept film to raise money for The Transfiguration. And I saw Eric on a TV show called The Good Wife while we were trying to raise money. And I called them in to a room we rented in the city normally used for auditions, and Susan’s friend pretended to be our casting director, and we taped them reading together and I was 99% sure at that point that we had our two leads. And we did.
4) How important was it for you to develop the relationship between Milo and Sophie?
Their relationship is the emotional arc of the movie and maybe the driving force of the movie more than the plot so it was very important to me.
5) With the film shot in parts of New York, how did you decide where to shoot in the city?
I grew up in Rockaway (where Milo and Sophie live) and knew all those locations from childhood. The hunting locations I chose based on a combination of practicality and what I thought would look good. The traveling locations were chosen to best give a sense of the “feel” of NYC in 2015.
6) How much realism did you want to put in a film that had some fantasy elements in it?
A ton. We made the visual style as realistic as possible, and let the sound design and score shape the fantasy and horror elements.
7) With Milo’s character, how much did you want to blur the lines between reality and fantasy?
I wanted many elements about the story to be open text. And since the film is mostly very dedicated to being (almost) entirely in Milo’s point of view, I think not understanding what is fantasy and what is reality is definitely a fun way to interpret the film that would be as valid as any other.
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