Thaddeus Schneider won “Best Actor in a Short” and the movie won the “New Work” award at the festival.
Chain New York City Film Festival interview, August 2016
Do you know any single parents that motivated the powerful relationship we see in the film?
“Sure, I don’t think any of us have to look to far to meet a single parent or a even a married couple who are constantly juggling multiple jobs, child care and everyday responsibilities while trying to maintain some kind of life work balance. Half the stress in their lives comes from having such a tightly organized schedule that leave no time for sickness, let alone any down time to spend with their children. But those parents, miraculously find it. They’re everyday heroes as far as I’m concerned.”
We haven’t seen many (any) narratives with Hurricane Sandy in the plot so prominently – how emotional was that experience?
“Hurricane Sandy was an incredible life experience for everyone. You think you have some semblance of control or organization in your life and here comes mother nature to tell you that you don’t. I know too many people who lost everything. They lost all of their material possessions. They were all literally blown away by the water and the wind. Throughout the entire shooting of Working Poor we literally were free enough to respond to any moment, small or large, around us. Hurricane Sandy was no exception. It fit into the theme of the movie: people surviving tremendous struggles and refusing to give up.”
How long of a period was the film shot over? What did you learn from shooting over an extended period of time?
“The movie was filmed over of the period of about two years. It was all part of the design of the project. I’ve witnessed documentary filmmakers spend years shooting their docs, having specific goals in mind but being truly open to what happened in real life and incorporating it into the fabric of the story or the theme. I wanted to do that with a narrative. It was an incredibly experimental movie for me in that way. I still storyboarded and planned out every shot but I was open to take advantage of anything that occurred on set – like a documentary. Making a movie like this was was liberating and allowed me to capture scenes traditional narratives usually do not have the opportunity to.”
What is the hardest part of filming with an infant actor, even one as cute as this little girl?
“It was essential that Caoibhe (the little girl) feel completely comfortable while filming, so the majority of the time it was only me filming with her and her father (Thaddeus Schneider). The intimacy between Thaddeus and Caoibhe would only be captured with the least amount of people as possible. Being that I was the entire crew and I had a relatively small camera, I was unobtrusive. There were specific goals or points to scenes – each scene was scripted and storyboarded – but I was very free to respond to anything that unfolded in front of me. As she got older, I was able to give her more specific guidance but we also made a game out of it. Half the movie is made in the casting and with the right people or “models” as Robert Bresson used to refer to them as, half the job of directing is done. You choose them for their sensibilities. I’m excited about what Thaddeus and Caoibhe were going to bring to the role. I trust my actors to know that we have a common goal but we’re not sure exactly how we are going to get there. On the set it’s very well organized but there is enough time to take advantage of reality or real life as it occurs. I think the audience responds to intimacy on an emotional level and it’s something that can not be articulated in words.”