For one of the best and newest films, In The Fire, I was recently fortunate enough to be able to interview Producer, Writer and Director Conor Allyn about the film’s creation and characterization, as well as some creative insights from one of the finest filmmaking brains bringing an enigmatic conflict of Science vs. Religion to life.
This is Ketan Koparkar with Film Inquiry. Just loved the film as someone who has recently been witnessing the beauty of Western Cinema, this has been a really enigmatic voyage to go through.
So, “In the Fire” basically explores a direct clash between science and religion. So, every story has a story of its own. What inspired you to tell this particular story, and how do you plan to balance these themes in the film?
Conor Allyn: I have always been fascinated with the stories of the outcast, I mean the societal as well as the mental outcasts. So, the people or the group is mostly represented through the stories I tell and for this film, especially the story follows a child named Martin who is born differently and is treated like an outcast. Whatever happens in the town, he is the one who is to be blamed. At the same time we have Dr. Grace Burnham who in the late 1800’s comes in a remote valley to treat the boy happens to be a psychologist and a women, in a town run by a priest. Even she has to travel to the other edge of the world and then these two outcasts meet in the hard circumstances to form a bond.
Going up with your second question, so basically never love or try to choose or speak for a particular side and this movie is somewhat about faith vs. fact but still I’m not trying to go with any one of the sides. I basically try to encapsulate both points of view like one of the priest who thinks he is doing the right thing by performing an exorcism and killing his people, but at the same time there is the other priest who is mostly moderate and tries to find his way as he thinks that something is going on with this kid, but this is not the work of the devil as they say.
So basically he tries to represent the people who want to be neutral.
Conor Allyn: Yeah, even in today’s modern age people who want to stay neutral or have decided to act as a spectator are looked down by the people from either side. So, this basically leaves no room for the people who just don’t want to choose any side.
The film is set in the 1890s on a remote plantation, and if I’m not wrong the film set was built in Italy. What challenges and opportunities did this historical setting offer for the film’s storytelling and visuals?
Conor Allyn: So, we shot half of the movie in Southern Italy, and the rest was set up in Guatemala. In Italy we actually rented up 4-5 guest houses which was somewhat like miniature castle from around 16th Century, what we rented surely helped us a lot like it has ancient walls and rooms and courtyards, churches and many more things, everything within just one small compound which did work wonders for us as an indie film. Then we traveled back to Guatemala where we shot the scenes like the exterior, the town and the climax. Here in Guatemala, we were in the old capital city named Antigua which is like a beautiful city up in the mountains in the hearts of three volcanoes, two of which were active during the shoot. So, when making a film of science vs. superstition and having nature’s strongest force exploding right next to us was really special.
I personally loved the character of Martin and the way Lorenzo actually pulled it off. So what creative difference did you notice between young actor like Lorenzo and a comparatively senior actor like Amber Heard or Eduardo Noreiga?
Conor Allyn: Yeah, it’s actually very different for someone like Amber as she is working since she was a kid, she followed her regular procedure where she takes a scene from me, understands it, tries to get into the character and gives out her performance. For me, surprisingly, Lorenzo did the same thing, at such a young age he professionally behaved like a pretty experienced actor like when he took scenes from me, he understood the kid was born different, how people behaved with the character, how the character reacted to it and then just created his own version to act it out. But then after a shot or in breaks, he used to go to his mother and hug her. So this was the thing reminding me he actually is the same eleven-year-old boy. He had his own ideas, came up with concepts, we had a lot of script discussion. He already spoke multiple languages, he spoke English, Italian, German, and he learnt quite a bit of Spanish and Latin for his part. He is a very impressive young man, he used to wear these contact lenses for the role which made just looking at him pretty disturbing, those contact lenses make you almost blind, so acted his way through wearing those.
Lastly, can you share any anecdotes or memorable moments from the production of In the Fire that you believe encapsulate the essence of the film or the filmmaking process for this project?
Conor Allyn: Sure, like there was one moment at the climax when Amber is performing the hypnosis over the boy and the boy is so brilliant that he takes over the hypnosis from her and then made her confess her secrets to him. We decided some cool shot playing for this scene like a crane shot that hovers over the actors head and then we had a ticking metronome which the props department got like an old about 100-year old-metronome, would go like tick-tick. We had everything set up like the lighting is all set, the huge crane is made to fit in this small environment and all of a sudden the metronome we brought stops working, it just stops out of nowhere. Everybody is trying to make it work, we just pull out the batteries, put it back in again, but still it didn’t work. I was just like dying inside, like the little boy inside me who wants to get this shot was like screaming. But finally we had to go without it, then we just mounted the camera on the crane and continued, as we couldn’t abort the shot for this. As the scene intensified and we focused on the metronome, we zoomed in and it gave a final tick, the needle moved once and we were lucky enough to capture it. So luck favored us heavily for that one shot.
Film Inquiry would like to thank Conor Allyn for taking time to speak with us!
IN THE FIRE was released in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand on October
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