14th Nov2013

Indie Director Spotlight – Chad Ritchie (Fields of November, Project October)

by Chris Cummings

This is my first foray into this concept, putting the spotlight on an indie director or filmmaker as a way to bring more attention to said individual as well as inform those reading this of the work that the person in question has been involved with.

Chad Ritchie is the inspiration for this concept, an independent filmmaker from New York with a pure passion for cinema. I met Chad a couple of years ago, a true movie fan and lover of the golden age of cinema, it became apparent quickly that Ritchie wasn’t your average movie lover, but also a student of the art of film. It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of a trailer for a film named “Fields of November” that I realised just how adept he was in the creation of motion pictures.

Fields of November was released in 2010 and was the debut feature from Ritchie, a beautifully constructed drama that dealt with grief, guilt and the human condition of “going through the motions” and following a ritualistic lifestyle, often to the detriment of living life. This film struck me between the eyes on my first viewing, and with the numerous viewings since, with its excellent performances, gorgeous cinematography and brilliantly paced storytelling really connecting with me.

Two years later, the sophomore offering from Ritchie, entitled Project October was released and was a vast divergence from his previous film. Project October was shot on film and looks and feels entirely different from Fields of November. An accomplished piece of work, the film was shot in three days and is a somewhat extreme piece of filmmaking that would appeal to fans of obscure and cult cinema. Watching these two films, one after another, showed me how truly diverse Ritchie was, and could be, in his future as a director.

Having watched these two films on a number of occasions I find myself excited to see what comes next from the New   York filmmaker. I know he is working on his third feature currently and I can only wait patiently as the long process of creating, editing, producing and promoting happens. I will be there with a smile on my face when the time comes to watch the next film.

I urge anyone reading this introduction, as well as the interview that follows, to check out the two available films from Chad Ritchie and support independent film. It’s vitally important to the future of artistic freedoms and truly exciting cinema that we do.

fields-of-november

Fields of November

Thank you kind sir for taking the time out of your busy life to talk with me for this exclusive Nerdly interview. I really appreciate it. First of all, for those who are reading this interview and might not know about your work, how would you describe yourself as a film maker?

Always a pleasure and thank you for the opportunity.  I would say I’m more known to those that are familiar with my work or have worked with me, for the approaches I take to each film.  My work up until this point has been predominately improvisation, and shooting on minimal scripts.  The outcome to this or the goal is for everything to feel extremely natural and believable.  And I feel like that is what stands out for me.

Fields of November was my first foray into your films, what was the experience like making Fields and how did it differ to your other work, such as your follow-up, Project October?

Fields is a series of firsts and lasts for me.  It was the first film I set out to do without a complete script, and improvisation in relation to all the dialog.  Because that approach was uncharted territory for me, I constructed a narrative that was minimal, and would be feasible to produce logistically.  In contrast to this it was also the largest of my films in terms of equipment, crew, budget, etc.  While everyone involved was great, and I’m extremely proud of the final product-large crews do not jive well with the way I shoot. Project October, from a production stand-point, became the antithesis to that.    I’ve discovered the way I shoot I really can’t have a large crew, it needs to be intimate and have the minimal amount of people required.  Because of this I have very specific people I work with from film to film including my collaborator on October Justin Carlino, who is also working on my current film.

How long did it take you to complete your film projects, from beginning to end?

Believe it or not, both Fields and October’s principal shoots were only 3 (long) days.  I would say both were around 6 months total from pre-production to a festival cut.

I know that your work has been featured at festivals and has won awards, can you elaborate and give us some information on that, and tell us, how was the audience reaction at these festivals?

On Fields we finished the final cut towards the end of the festival season, and after several unexpected post production costs there was little money to submit to many festivals.  However, we were accepted into two film festivals in the summer of 2010.  October was made for Retrocon Media, and was made with the intention of physical and digital distribution, although, we did screen the film at the 2012 New York City Horror and Exploitation Film Festival, where we ended up winning Best Feature Film.  As far as audience reactions, all my work I honestly feel like I get mixed reactions.  I make my films with the purpose of them playing as natural as possible, to where you feel as though you are peeking in on these people’s lives and sometimes I feel like that is lost and can end up feeling boring or slow to some but exciting to others.

If you were to give names of any influences on you as a filmmaker, who would you name and how did they influence you and your work?

With Fields’ I can specifically name a filmmaker, Bela Tarr.  I actually wrote the outline to the entire film one day watching a Q&A on DVD.  He was talking about circular routines, and capturing the negative aspects of that, which in turn became Fields.  Other filmmakers that have directly influenced me in the past, Andrei Tarkovsky, Chantel Akerman and Gus Van Sant.

I know that besides working directly in the movie world that you are also a big fan of cinema too, what are some of your personal favourite movies?

I will try and keep this as brief as possible.  Outside of the filmmakers I mentioned previously, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Luc Godard, Kaneto Shindo and David Lynch would be a nice concise list.  Mulholland   Drive is my favourite film of all time, followed by such films as Rules of the Game, Persona, Magnolia , The Best Years of Our Lives and NakedIsland.  Outside of that I am completely obsessed by classic films in general, specifically the 1940′s.

Are you working on a project currently, and if so could you shed some light on it?

Yes, I’m on a break at the moment shooting a new film entitled Footfalls on Pavement.  We are gearing up to go back and finish the film.  Because of the way I’m shooting it I can’t delve too much into plot, but it’s the next evolutionary step for me as a filmmaker and quite possibly be the last film I will shoot in this fashion.  It’s also looking to be twice as long as anything I’ve made, and has a larger scale in terms of locations, characters etc.  I think up until this point everything was steps leading up to this, and I’m extremely comfortable with the way I shoot now.  I’m extremely proud of the work so far and think it will end up being my best work.

If you were given a limitless budget and you could write and direct anything your imagination desired, what would we see you create?

I actually have something in the works along these lines and I plan on it being my first fully scripted feature, if I can get the budget to make it. I will say this-it’s a thriller, and it focuses on Quakers.  And to answer your question, I would shoot that film.

Do you draw inspiration from other areas such as art and music?

Yes, sometimes I just spend all day at MoMa, take a break and pull out a notebook and just start writing things down.  If I ever feel unmotivated or lazy, I just turn to art like that and it’s instantly makes me get into gear.  I work in photography, music and sometimes art and it’s all an extension of me or my filmmaking.  Meaning, my photography is an extension of my filmmaking style and approach and lends itself visually.

I can tell, by watching your films that you are passionate about that medium and how it finally looks in the end. Except for film, what else are you passionate about in your life, and are there any other areas of media or elsewhere that you’d like to delve into?

I delved a bit into this in the last question, but I would say I’m trying to divide up my attention among the other creative outlet’s I have. Because film is so time consuming I feel like I neglect things like photography and art.  One thing I’ve been working on for the last couple years is various in between art/media projects that I hope someday to finish and exhibit somewhere.

Do you find that living and filming in New York allows you access to things you might not have access to if you lived in other states or countries? Is New York an important part of your life?

Yes most certainly.  I moved here specifically to pursue filmmaking, and to make things with little to no budgets much easier.  I don’t believe I could have shot my previous films in the time frame and budget that they were made elsewhere.  Of course there’s negative aspects to shooting in New York City, but as whole I’ve enjoyed my time here.

To finish, what is next for you once your current project is complete and in the bag?

Once Footfalls has completed photography, there’s a long road of post production ahead of me, and then film festivals – but I’m looking forward to that.  I plan on working more on the Quaker script, budgeting and shopping that around. In the meantime I will most likely work on smaller personal projects.

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