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Smile DP Charlie Sarroff Talks About Parker Finn, Drone Shots and Seeing Smiles | Interview

Sarroff also talks about *that* transition.

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From the moment its viral marketing campaign took the pop culture world by storm and its brilliant trailer, Smile was a highly-anticipated film for me. The experience of seeing it in a full theater was unlike any other film I’ve seen lately, and it’s a film with some real scares.

But the cinematography goes a long way in assisting the scares. Coastal House Media spoke with DP Charlie Sarroff who discussed his relationship with director Parker Finn, the drone shots, seeing smiles in shots and that transition in the apartment.


Coastal House Media: I know it’s been a few weeks since the movie, or actually probably closest to a month now since Smile came out, but congratulations on the film. I missed the screenings for it, but I went to go see it with some family and we all had a blast going.

Charlie Sarroff: Oh, good. That’s the main thing. I think it’s been really cool to watch. I see a lot of people get back into the cinema for it and, and have a good time and sort of laugh, scream, cry and jump. No, that’s cool.

CHM: Before we get into the actual making of it, what were your thoughts on the viral marketing campaign that they did for Smile? I thought it was stellar, but what were your thoughts?

Sarroff: I mean, I cannot complain. I think they did an amazing job. I don’t know if we’d be quite here in the same position if they didn’t do all these extra things. So credit to Paramount for putting a team together and sort of thinking outside the box. 

The film was originally intended for streaming and then it tested really well and then Paramount got together and they were like, “You know what, let’s have a go,” you know, releasing this theatrically, I should say, and then with all these different guerrilla marketing and the people at baseball games and stuff like that. I mean, some of it I was a little bit like, Okay, this is interesting, like, you know, are people gonna think it’s a different kind of film? There were a lot of comparisons to Truth or Dare with their smiles and all that sort of stuff. 

And I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen Truth or Dare, but our director, Parker Finn knew it was very different — he’d seen it and I think there was a little bit of concern about just all these people smiling and popping up at baseball games and everything; are people gonna think it’s one of those sorts of films? But it is different and I’m glad that people have given it a go. And for the most part, the reviews are good. 

I think they definitely did their job, you know? I was so excited when we went to Austin [Texas] for the Fantastic [Fest] premiere to see all the big murals [that] had been painted on side of walls and lots of different billboards and posters all around town.

This was my first studio film and first theatrically-released feature. I shot a film called Relic, but that was affected heavily by the pandemic. It only went to drive-ins and a few little cinemas around the world — where countries were still open — so yeah, to have this response is amazing. So, I’ve gotta let to thank Paramount for [that] as well. So yeah, I’m quite impressed with how they went about it. 

CHM: And congratulations on this being your first studio film! I had heard of Relic, but I didn’t realize that was a pandemic film. It felt like it was older than it was…

Sarroff: We were really lucky it came out during Sundance 2020. And that was just before the pandemic really affected the U.S. so everything was still open. That was like the last film festival on the circuit at the start of the year. It wasn’t going to go play at South by Southwest as well along with another feature I did actually called Pink Skies. Unfortunately, the pandemic affected that one and everything went online.

We shot it [Relic] at the end of 2018 and then it was like cut and finished through 2019 and then premiered at Sundance. But [when] it was meant to be released, we all were stuck inside

CHM: How did you get attached to Smile? Did you know the director Parker Finn beforehand? 

Sarroff: I met Parker at the same South by Southwest, actually. The event that was put online in 2020. There was a party that they put on, well, it wasn’t really a party, it was like a mixer event in Los Angeles and I think they do it in different cities like New York and stuff where a lot of filmmakers live. It was mainly for the directors, producers, heads of departments like myself and things like that, where [we] would go.

If we were going to attend the festival, it was a good event to go to because they, the people from South by Southwest, would explain how to use their passes and how the festivals run, and they would talk about the different events that were gonna happen there. And Natalie Erika James, who was the director of Relic, was in town at that point and she would ask whether I could come along and meet her there. She was a little bit late, and I got there, and yeah, the first person I sort of bumped into — [it] was one of those awkward events where you don’t know anybody, and it was all bright and not everyone’s sort of standing around sort of waiting to see what was gonna happen — was actually Parker and I said, “Hi,” and, and then yeah, we hit it off and he had a short film playing at South by Southwest and I was telling him about Relic. I think he had heard of it or he may have seen it, but I think he’d at least heard of it, and obviously, him being a big horror fan, was interested and we planned to catch up at the festival. 

Unfortunately, the in-person event was canceled due to the pandemic. We kept in touch through the year and I was really happy to see that his short film, Laura Hasn’t Slept — which was the proof of concept for Smile — won a couple of awards at South by Southwest. I think it won one of the Grand Jury awards and another award for its poster design and some cool things like that. And when they started opening up set-up bars and restaurants and things like that, I think it was around September [or] October later that year — I’m sorry, my timeframe’s a little scattered at this — maybe it was the following year actually, which we caught up in-person. We had a beer and we just had a chat and caught up about everything that was happening and he told me that his feature film, Smile, had been picked up by Paramount at Temple Hill and that he was considering me as DP and he sent me the script. 

I think it was just one of those chance encounters where I met him and we got along and then I was fortunate enough to receive the script and I responded to it. It was fun, it was gory, it was a page-turner, it had a message and it had some layers to it, you know? It wasn’t like a “full popcorn” kind of studio horror, you know? 

You know, a lot of these horrors that are coming out via NEON and A24 and things like that are a little bit more slow-burn. And I love those films as well, but I felt it [Smile] was somewhere in between and I really responded to that. 

And he mentioned from the beginning that it was probably gonna go straight to Paramount+, which was fine by me. I was excited to do another feature and he was still involved with the studio and I hadn’t really worked in that realm before. And yeah, fortunately, he offered it to me. I had to sort of get vetted by the producers, but we all got along. Some of them had seen Relic, so that definitely helped. That’s sort of how I got on it. 

CHM: I know that you’ve done a couple of feature films, or a number of feature films before Smile, and if I’m not mistaken, this was Parker’s feature-length debut, correct?

Sarroff: Yeah, it was, and credit to him go[ing] from doing a couple of short films that [he] sort of funded himself. I think what you could see in those films — they were great — but I think what it showed were a vision and potential, and I think the producers saw that especially after winning Southwest by Southwest or one of the main awards there for Laura Hasn’t Slept, that caught the attention of different agents and production companies around town. I believe he found an agent through the Southwest by Southwest success and then he was able to present his script and then they helped shop around for him. And sure enough, Temple Hill, to their credit, came on board and they have a strong relationship with Paramount. So they took it there and then that’s sort of how it came about. It was his first feature. 

A still from Smile. Photo courtesy of Paramount.

[Compared to] the films that I had shot before, Smile [was] a little bit smaller on budget and scale. Relic was sizeable for an indie [film]. The other two I’ve done — Pink Skies Ahead and Broke, which hasn’t been released yet, hopefully, [it] will be out next year, [was] was more of a neo-western drama, actually, it’s very different — they’re all sort of different but quite a bit smaller. So yeah, we had some small[er] resources than what I was used to, and it was a slightly bigger scale, so that was cool.

With that, they’re all kind of similar in a way where if you’ve got all the resources in the world, or just a camera on the shoulder and an apple box, it’s the same principles. I think you’re still trying to find a language and just tell a story. I think that was the main thing I got out of doing a studio film that was a bit bigger [is that] it wasn’t as intimidating as I thought it might have been. You’re all there for the same reasons. You might have some more tools and there might be a little bit more bureaucracy that you have to sort of work through, but at the end of the day, it’s a similar thing [and] looking forward to doing many more, hopefully.

CHM: The biggest thing that jumped out from Smile was the drone shots. 

Sarroff: Oh, cool [laughs]. 

CHM: And I first wanna ask: Did you have any inspirations for them? When the movie was finished, my cousin, who’s not like a big movie person, turns to me and goes, “The drone shots felt like a Christopher Nolan kind of thing,” and I was thinking of The Dark Rises, but did you guys have any visual aids? Was Christopher Nolan perhaps an influence at all?

Sarroff: I think probably, even on a subconscious level, filmmakers like Christopher Nolan are our idols. Parker and I are both big fans of his work and we have seen drone shots that are being flipped around, or on Dutch angles, or upside down before. I’m sure there are quite a lot of influences there. There was an old film, damn it, I’m sorry, I can’t remember it. I think Parker really just showed me for its drone shot. It was like an old seventies film that had this sort of sweeping drone shot. I think it was over one of the freeways in LA and then it sort of zoomed in and yeah, he definitely had a vision for a lot of these and then he’d show me references and then we’d sort of discuss how best to kind of go about ’em. 

But essentially, the drone shots, when they flip upside down and rotate and things like that, they’re essentially resembling Rose’s life [being] turned upside-down. It’s quite simple in that regard. You know, everything’s falling. So we thought it would just be some added language to having that sinking feeling of everything turning, not understanding everything that’s going on around you. And she was becoming more and more unhinged and hallucinating and maybe things are real. We sort of toed the line between what is real and what isn’t and I guess just rotating the camera like that gives you a bit of an uneasy feeling, a sinking feeling, I guess. 

But I would say there are quite a lot of influences. There have been some different genre films — I mean, even in The Shining, Stanley Kubrick was famous for those opening helicopter shots when they’re driving to the hotel. I think all of that sort of has an effect on you. And, you know, they’re all just different tools now. I think drones can sometimes be overused, but we wanted to use them with a purpose. It came from wanting to do something a little bit different with it. When I say different, I know things like that have been done before, but it was just our take on it. 

CHM: So now you’re gonna have to answer this burning question I’ve had since the movie ended. There are a couple of shots I wanted to ask about. I know you just said what the upside-down shots were supposed to represent, but I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to represent smiles because there are times when they kind of look like them.

Sarroff: Oh sure. I mean, maybe. That’s funny. I personally haven’t really thought about that. Maybe Parker has, [and] maybe other people have, but that’s great. I think that works as well. 

CHM: There’s one shot in particular where you see like woods and trees as far as the eyes can see, and you flip it upside-down and it looks like smiles and I wasn’t sure. Another one, I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but when you guys show the abandoned house where the film ends, I think it’s the first time we really see it and there are two trees behind the house and they kind of look like they’re a smile. Was that intentional? 

Sarroff: I mean, there were some times, no doubt, where we were looking at things and seeing smiles. I couldn’t quite see it as well as Parker, but I remember we were in the color grade and there’s the scene where Sophie Bacon — who’s playing Rose — was sitting in the car and there’s the red light on her from the diner and she’s eating the burger and there’s a profile shot and there are all the car headlights in the background. And there was a moment we were sitting in the color grade and [they] were like “I could see a very clear smile,” and I could as well, but maybe not as much. 

There have been a lot of times when friends or different crew members have seen things and gone, “Oh, there’s a little bit of a smile there,” so, you’re right. I don’t know if that was necessarily intentional with the trees, but there were definitely comments and we were definitely looking at things that sort of had that for sure. So I’m glad you’re seeing that in different things. If that’s coming through, that’s great. 

A still from Smile. Photo courtesy of Paramount.

CHM: I’m glad to have that put to rest now cause that’s been bothering me for a few weeks now [laughs]. 

Sarroff: I mean, of course there are blatant shots. I remember she [Rose] was buying the toy train set and the camera’s looking through the window of the hobby store and then we boom down to that old kind of 1950s, nuclear family-kind of photo, and they’re all smiling with these sort of sinister kind of looks on their face. And that was a bit of an opportunistic thing, to be honest. 

Lester Cohen, our production designer, and his amazing art team definitely threw things like that in. But you know, that was more of a, “let’s see it on the day and find a place to put it and just try and bring some smiles out in different areas,” [thing] and maybe it’s a bit funny, maybe it’s a bit creepy, whatever. 

But we were looking for little opportunities to kind of bring those things in. That sign might have just ended up in the back of the set somewhere and we would’ve really thought about it, but when we would see things like that, we would often put them in. 

CHM: I just have two more scenes I wanted to ask you about. The first one is that first scene with Rose and Laura (Caitlin Stasey) in the medical center. I wish I took notes; I didn’t actually take notes since it wasn’t a press screening, so I don’t remember what it was, but there was something so distinct about your work in the scene. Do you remember what it could be?

Sarroff: We wanted things to be kind of empty and minimalist at having an oversized room like that. We wanted to make people feel uncomfortable. Like, it’s a very big room, right? I’ll let you in on a little secret that your audience will find out about: It was quite big because we also knew that we needed to fit quite a lot of camera equipment in there, even though we could remove walls and stuff like that. Size sort of came into play because of the different things we needed to do there throughout those scenes. Like when she [Laura] had cut her neck open and we had a shot pulling back from her and rotating around 180º to Sosie and into her eye and things like that. We knew we needed a bit of space for all different sorts of things, but at the same time, that wasn’t the prime reason at all. We wanted things to be empty, minimalist [and] uncomfortable. Quite often those rooms, through research that Parker, Lester and myself did, we know that [in] a lot of those sort of examination rooms and interview rooms, there are no sharp objects. Well, there shouldn’t be. Obviously, there is once the flower vase breaks, but those chairs are actually kind of a very real thing for those sorts of places. They’re rubber and they have rounded edges and they’re designed for people that [are] quite unwell and we don’t wanna see them do harm to themselves. 

So in a way, minimalist kind of coverage like the eye-lines when we would cut into the conversation that happens between them before Laura sees the entity. I think Elliot Greenberg, our editor obviously had a massive role in this too [in] really figuring out the pacing and timing of making people uncomfortable, like cutting into these really front-on, intrusive kind of close-ups where the eye-lines would just be straight over the top of the camera, not really left or right of it. 

There’s the movement and then really trying to create tension when Sophie stands up and she wants to look behind her the first time, and we kind of sweep the camera around to be like, Whoa, what’s going on there? but we don’t quite get far enough to actually see that there’s nothing there. We talked about this scene a lot, and this was one that Parker had in his mind before we even met. And I remember he had kind of talked about wanting to create this because essentially, it’s the intro — it leads into the title of the film and that was quite fun. I love how we did that. Like going in through the eye and then having this intense title come up and it was a group effort. 

A still from Smile. Photo courtesy of Paramount.

My contribution was hopefully bringing in tension, just with pacing and camera movement; keeping things very locked down and composed at the start and then sort of building a bit more movement into it as things were sort of happening and just really not wanting to really try to direct the audience to certain areas of the frame, but not kind of giving them enough and holding on things a bit too long. When Sophie’s at the phone, she’s not really looking around, it’s really just holding on to these compositions where we’re seeing the back of her head and just really trying to create tension. I think. Hopefully, that answers your question, but that was one that we really wanted to sort of build in tension and sort of start out quite slowly on it as well. 

That was a fun shoot. Like that was a combination of VFX obviously, like we would shoot these different plates at different lens lengths and we did track the camera right into Sophie’s eye, but then after a while, lVFX will sort of take over and it was fun working with our VFX team [and] trying to give them the ingredients that they need and then they would go back and then would sort of rebuild things. It was a good experience. 

CHM: The last scene that I really wanna ask you about is my favorite in the film. I know you just mentioned the editor, so maybe this was a combination of teamwork between the two of you, but there’s that scene where Rose is in Joel (Kyle Gallner)’s apartment and it transitions from the house and then we go back into the apartment and it’s kind of dark. So I wanna ask you about blocking and filming kind of in the apartment in that scene. I imagine you were working closely with the editor because that transition is so seamless.

Sarroff: I mean, it’s a combination of all teams on that. So I will give a lot of credit to, again, our construction and production. Well, first off, Parker, he wrote the script and like that’s basically having Rose running — she’s in [what ] you [can] call it a hallucination, or she’s in a psychotic kind of state where things are real and reality’s bending in on her and all that sort of stuff — [and] she finds herself back at Joel’s apartment. We think everything’s settling down; we think it could even be the end of the film and that she’s found some peace and destroyed this entity that’s been infecting her and things like that. So we’re in that space, and then she has to run out of that apartment — that real apartment was in Jersey City, I believe, or Newark — and she runs out and she has to find herself back in the field at her childhood home [that’s] in a field like literally an hour away from Newark in a kind of a parkland, swampy kind of area. 

So the way we kind of did that was all departments on deck. She’s in the real apartment, but when she turns, we actually rebuilt a part of that apartment [onto] the exterior on the field out in the parkland in the New Jersey swamp lands, if that makes sense. So when she turns around, they actually constructed a part of that set and we matched the lighting. We had to do a lighting transition and then with the help of our colorist, David Cole — he really shaped that — and then as she ran out, we built that on that dilapidated kind of set environment out in the parklands. So yeah, it’s a stitch essentially. So they replicated the apartment twice if that makes sense. I hope that explains it. And then it was just matching lighting to the moonlight that she ends up running out into and all that sort of stuff. That was a fun one.

And it’s one of those like scenes where at the time you’re like, “Geez, I hope this all works,” and everyone’s like, “We hope it all works.” And then to Elliot Greenberg and Parker’s credit in the edit, they made it work. It was cool — I really like that, too. I think they did a good job with the soundscape and having her run out and then everything, just being peaceful and hearing the trees and the wind and stuff like that is quite creepy.

A still from Smile. Photo courtesy of Paramount.

CHM: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize that they went to such extreme lengths… 

Sarroff: Yeah, a lot of the things we did were in-camera, which is really cool. Even the puppetry at the end with the creature and stuff like that. There is a lot of VFX, but there’s also a lot in-camera and that was mostly in-camera (that transition). Building the two sets and stitching it, it’s just in the edit where she’ll run around, I think it’ll cut to Joel — who starts sprinting towards her — [and] when it cuts back, she’s like, “Ah!,” screams and then like runs out but that’s actually not in Newark anymore — we’re out in the countryside [laughs]. 

CHM: So from your perspective, do you think it’s easier to do it the way you guys did it on Smile where you guys built parts of the set again? Or do you think it would’ve been easier just to film both scenes and have the editor transition between them?

Sarroff: I do think this was probably the best way to do it, to be honest. I don’t know, like, there are other ways that you might have been able to do stuff with green screen and there might have been some more VFX kind of stitches and things like that when she runs out. If the camera stayed inside and we just saw her leave and then ran out and maybe you could have had some green screen and actually stayed in Newark and then we could’ve cut outside with her, but I don’t think that would’ve been as cool [or] as an effective, and I think Parker definitely would’ve fought to not do that because it then it becomes a little bit cheaper. It’s a bit like, “Okay, cool. Some VFX have happened there; she runs out, finds herself out there in that environment,” so we really wanted to create that feeling of like, she’s in a dream, or, we call it a “dream,” call it a “psychotic” kind of state or whatever. She’s not well, so we always wanted to really be in that world with her. 

You’ll notice a lot of the lensing and things like that that we did, where [we’re] very close to her, it’s like wide-lenses in very close, we wanted to be in her journey the whole way, so by doing these sorts of things, I feel like we stay on her journey. So rather than having cutting points instead of using camera trickery —  I mean, I guess this was a camera trick, but you know what I mean, more VFX and more cuts, I think it sort of takes the audience out a little bit. We wanna be with her so that’s the reason we kind of did that stuff. 

I guess it’s the right way to do it for what we needed. There are a million different ways of doing all sorts of things, but this one felt right for us.

CHM: That’s fascinating and I really now wanna go re-watch the movie. I appreciate you giving me a peek behind the curtain for me.

Sarroff: Please do! Take some friends [laughs]. 

CHM: One last fun question for you that I’m sure you’ve been asked in your interviews for the film: After you were done shooting the film, did it take you any time to get adjusted to people smiling in the outside world? Because for me, after watching the movie, it took me a little bit [laughs].

Sarroff: I mean, look, personally, I’d love to say yes, and I’d love to say that everyone that was smiling at me for a year after freaked me out and I’ve got like PTSD from it and everything, but to be honest, not really, because when you’re in the process of making these things and you are like with the characters that, even with Laura — played by Caitlin Stasey — she’s actually an Australian as well, and we had a bit in common, so it was like a quite a fun day at working with her.

She had the most horrific scene where obviously she c**s her neck open. It’s this really, really horrific kind of graphic thing, but there was a lot after in between, and she’s a very funny person. And even though she’s doing these evil smiles that became the face of the poster and the face of the movie. I don’t know. To me, I just see her having a chuckle and a laugh and you know, it was like a good environment. So not really, it hadn’t affected as much because I know that it’s Caitlin and that she’s really funny and cool [laughs]. So yeah, it didn’t really freak me out as much as I’m sure it does with others.

And I’m glad it does with others because that’s the whole point. But you know, I think when you’re there and even with the creature and things like that, seeing how the puppetry is working and there are people with rods working outside of the frame and everyone’s doing their job, it takes a little bit of the fear away.

Don’t get me wrong though, if I watch other horror films or other scary films, yeah, I do forget that I work in film and that I’m a DP and I can easily get absorbed into those films and get scared and stuff like that as well. But when I’m on them and I know them, like even with Relic and things like that, I just think about what happened that day and when people call “Cut” and the different things [like] make-up artists are running in, and [the] lighting’s changing and things like that, it does sort of take a little bit of that fear out of it for me. 

It’s funny, I get asked that a lot. I’ve done a couple of horror films now and people often ask me, “Are you really scared on set? Did really freaky things happen?” and personally, to be honest, it’s usually no because I’m really close to it all and you’re doing different takes, you’re seeing things that aren’t quite finished, whether it be makeup and VFX and all that sort of stuff, I can kind of see through it a bit. It’s quite funny, half the time. 

Smile is in theaters now. 

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Interviews

The Menu Composer Colin Stetson Talks About His Flavorful Score | Interview

‘The Menu’ is in theaters now.

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Original cinema lives! Despite three new wide releases (Strange World, Glass Onion, Devotion) coming out during the Thanksgiving weekend and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever still holding down the top spot, The Menu found a way to continue its strong box office run and coming in at fifth place during its second weekend open grossing $5.2 million. After opening to $9 million domestically a couple of weeks back, The Menu has gone on to gross $18 million domestically and $33 million worldwide. 

Sure, the film has the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in its ensemble, but The Menu’s success feels like a win for all movie lovers who want a substitute — something you shouldn’t ask for in Fiennes’ restaurant in the film — to all of the IP galore that typically dominate the box office discussion. 

A still from The Menu. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

And the film is just great. It’s certainly one of my favorites of the year and I just loved the way that it serves as a metaphor for the ideas of critics and artists. The Menu is like hardcore Chef (2014) — another film with John Leguizamo that is well worth a watch — and I can’t recommend it enough.

Colin Stetson’s an accomplished composer who has composed many haunting scores including this year’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre reboot/sequel and Ari Aster’s Hereditary. While it’s unfair to call The Menu a “horror” film, it’s certainly got thriller elements and Stetson finds the balance in his score. Coastal House Media spoke with Stetson about getting involved with The Menu, the instrumentation of his score and some unique objects used in the studio.


Coastal House Media: Congratulations on The Menu — I loved the film. It blew me away the first time I saw it. I wanna start at the beginning and just ask how you got attached to the project. Had you worked with the director before on any projects? 

Colin Stetson: I hadn’t, no. And so obviously this was going on without me, but what ended up bringing me into the orbit was that Mark [Mylod] and Chris [Tellefsen], the editor, had been working on the edit and as temp music was coming in, a few of my pieces got brought in on the temp and then a few more.

As that was feeling good, the idea of at least having a conversation with me about scoring [the film] got brought up. And at that point then, I was told and sent a script and I read that. If you’ve seen the movie then you can pretty much surmise that the script was excellent. It was really doing everything that it needed to do, It moves really freely and really, it does so in such a very lean and concise way — which is certainly not always the case with the script. And it was telling a story that I had not seen before.

So I got really excited, as I do when I read something that I haven’t seen a million times before. And, then we set up a meet[ing] and talked about what my initial reactions were to the film — oh, well, I mean, at that point, I hadn’t seen any footage; it was just a script there — which is a really fun moment for me just seeing what a director’s ideas are for the film already. You know, how my ideas then are feeling, for them, how those things work together and how open they are to what [I suggest]. I mean, ultimately it’s a pitch so [it comes down to] how open they are and how receptive they are to what it is that I’ve imagined based on that script and started to think up. So we had great initial talks and it just went well. 

CHM: Can I ask you what some of your initial pitch was? Because this movie is so unique and I can’t even imagine you just reading the script without being able to visualize it. So I’m just curious what your ideas and what your kind of mission was going in when you were pitching your score. 

Stetson: It’s really what the music ended up being. I mean, of course things get fleshed out as I start to really bring in more instrumentation, but the core of it was there. In the days after I’ve read a script, I do some deep-dive sits with the piano and with other instruments and just record all of that, I mean, it’s not improvising, but it’s improvising and grabbing hold of certain things and fleshing them out. 

And so those initial notes really ended up providing the basis for a lot of the music for the film. I wouldn’t say that the whole of it was intact entirely from those initial imaginings, but there was a lot there.

CHM: And I feel like your score kind of jumps a little bit between different sounds — I can’t really hit the nail on the head with what they are. So I’ll ask you, the expert on this score, would you be able to classify this score under a certain genre, or is it too diverse?

Stetson: I actively don’t classify things [by] genre. I’ll always walk that question right outta the room.

CHM: Fair enough, I like to put composers on the spot, and you might not be able to answer this, but would you be able to describe your score in three or fewer words? 

Stetson:  How about “delightful,” “driving” and, for lack of another “d” [word] — although I’ll probably think of it later — “triumph.” 

A still from The Menu. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

CHM: And I wanna talk a little bit about the instrumentation within the score. Did you use any sort of unique instruments?

Stetson: The basis for much of the score is a kind of chamber strings, a bit of a chamber orchestra. There’s very little brass involved in it, but it’s mostly a string ensemble. A lot of Pizzicato strings, violins, violas, cellos, basses, a bit of mandolin. There is a lot of percussive, plucked piano strings. They’re bo a lot of bowed piano strings. Although not primarily [in] there, there are quite a bit of Tibetan bowls played with bows. There’s an enormous amount of saxophones throughout.

Additionally, there are a few odd elements, things like water glasses and pots and pans that were played in various ways to give like a pointillism to certain sections and certain cues. Some of the key driving and more abrasive kind of grotesque string stuff is playing an instrument called a Nyckelharpa, which is a keyed, stringed folk instrument from Scandinavia. There are a lot of different things in play but that pretty much gets to most of it.

CHM: And the instruments in the string section that you talked about, are they something that’s unique to this film in your work, or is that something that you’ve used before? I noticed you did the score for Hereditary — it’s been a while since I’ve seen the film — and I felt like it may have shared some similarities to your score for The Menu.

Stetson: I’ve used strings for sure. I didn’t use any strings on Hereditary [but] I used a ton of strings on scores like Color Out of Space, a show called Barkskins that I did for National Geographic,] a show called Among the Stars [and] there was a documentary about NASA that I did for Disney last year. A lot of strings in those, in those projects to varying degrees and other things. So yeah, it’s certainly not something that is unique to this project for me, no. 

I think that if there’s anything that sets this one apart, it’s [that] a lot of the rhythmic nature of it is different maybe than some of the things that I’ve done in the past. It’s just decidedly more rooted in the rhythmic and the polymetric. 

CHM: I love the way your score sounds during the little segues that you get in the film between courses, you know, and they show like a dish or something. I felt like the score really came through in those moments. Was there anything different about those scenes or is it just that I was noticing it more in those moments?

A still from The Menu. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

Stetson: These are moments where there’s no dialogue and there are very little sound effects in terms of what’s going on on-screen and so I think at its most rudimentary, you’re probably noticing because those are the moments where the volume is up the most on the music and so throughout there the music is pushed [to the forefront]. 

This is just something that ultimately, I don’t have much say in but the mix that happens throughout the course of it, there are times when music is quite far back and other times when it is very, very far forward and those moments are some of those that the music is quite forward. 

CHM: Earlier, you mentioned that in the studio there were also some — what’d you say? — pots and pans present in the score and whatnot… were those used to replicate the sounds of a kitchen, or were they also being used as an instrument, if that makes sense? 

Stetson: Oh, no, no, no, no. We weren’t doing any Foley or anything like that. We were taking some of these elements — glass [and] metal — so to use a little bit of the DNA of that world, what was happening on-screen [and] use a little bit of the DNA of that in the sound world. But I kind of purposefully avoided doing anything that was either too on-the-nose — kind of pots and pans drumming or [that] emulated a kind of chaotic [sound or] something that could be construed as being part of the sound effects from the actual space on-screen.

So the majority of the things that were done with the pans and with the glasses were these more pointillistic, expansive, sort of shiny, shimmery walls of sound things that happen in several moments throughout the film. 

A still from The Menu. Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.

CHM: My favorite track listening to the soundtrack again — and when I watched the film — was “The First Cheeseburger You Ever Ate.” Is that any different from the rest of the score? Cause that really felt the most poetic and I really love that track for some reason. Is there some reason I have some attachment to it? 

Stetson: Well, it’s louder [laughs]. It’s a moment where the music is very forward, the music is very vocal. There are several very vocal-forward, choral-forward moments throughout the second half of the film. I would say, although there are vocals throughout, it really starts to become more of a heavy element.

I wanted there to be a kind of reverent, almost like “church-y” sort of vibe that happened throughout the end. And that scene is a very loving, sincere scene and such care was taken in the shots of capturing the moment of crafting and so the instrumentation there is kind of a combination of what was used before the bed; this sort of bed of arpeggios [and] dreamy saxophone and then the choir all over the top of it singing the melody and the harmonies. And then woven throughout the mid-step of it [are] bowed piano strings [that are once] again, kind of doing this squeeze box-y rhythm that almost sounds a bit like a harpsichord, so it has a sense of the baroque in it, but it definitely sounds like worship music.

CHM: When talking to people about the film, how do you pitch it to them?

Stetson: Thankfully, my job is not pitching the movie. Like, I’m not advertising the movie. I don’t have to market it. I don’t have to be the person who tries to put it in a box to sell it. I get to talk about the music, which is fun, but I don’t have to do that. 

If I’m telling friends about it, I simply say, don’t watch trailers, don’t read anything about the film, just go and see it. It’s well worth the watch and it’s very fun. It’s great storytelling. It’s really clever but it’s also able to be very able to smuggle in a lot of very real human moments in[to] something that is a very odd and novel and very funny, almost absurdist film. 

It’s something that I’ve certainly never seen before. 


The Menu is playing in theaters now. 

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Dan Perri Talks The Art of the Title Sequence | Interview

The legendary title designer’s exhibit is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image now.

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Speaking with legendary title designer Dan Perri enlightened me to a whole new aspect of film. Sure, we’ve all seen the Star Wars opening crawl or the smoking opening credits of Raging Bull, but have you ever wondered what the creative process of that looks like?

I was lucky enough to chat with Dan about his career and exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image and was very fortunate to be able to visit the exhibit for myself in Queens a week ago. In this interview, Dan and I talk about his career, working with Martin Scorsese and what to expect in his exhibit.

Thank you so much to the lovely folks at Sunshine Sachs for this opportunity and for allowing me the chance to see the exhibit myself!


Coastal House Media: Dan, let me first say thank you so much for your time. It’s really a pleasure and an honor to speak to you. I was looking through your filmography and you’ve worked on so many films that I’ve seen. It’s actually amazing. First I want to ask you just to start off, I haven’t spoken to a title designer, but could you tell me some sort of tidbit about doing this that maybe the average moviegoer doesn’t know?

Dan Perri: Well, in the future film business, and even independent and studio films, there are requirements that they have to have certain titles on screen because of tradition and contracts. So they have to present the name of the film, of course, and then usually there are contracts that tie the actors to the title. Like they have to be the same size, precede the title in some cases, and then other technical people might be tied to it as well. So there’s this whole string of requirements. 

Over the years, filmmakers have realized the benefit of [title sequences] since the titles have to be there. [They realized] that they could use that screen time while introducing the titles and help the viewer to get into the film. So they will hire someone like me who is a specialist at creating something that helps the storyteller tell his story.

So, I go trying to find the elements of the story, whether it be the character, the personality, the setting, the era [or] anything unique about the story that I could find images from to emphasize that and therefore introduce that main element to the viewer and at the same time knock off the titles.

So for me, the titles are not the most important thing. It’s the story that might be behind the titles that I try to embellish and bring to the film and the storyteller and incidentally, the titles take place. Now, of course, there are times that only the titles on the screen, you know, screen’s black or red or brown or whatever, and so the personality is the only thing there. Then the job gets harder because you gotta find elements in the type you’ve chosen. And all the subtleties of that. Once you’ve chosen the type style, how they’re set, how they’re arranged, how they’re stacked up, how they come in and out, what color are they, what adjustments to the design [of] the letters — maybe some letters that joined together to create a logo. There’s a myriad of things that you can do in the simplest form, [like] just typing over a background, but all those separate elements in that simplest form are relatively insignificant separately, but collectively, they make [an] impression and impact on the viewer and on the storytelling as well. 

Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Sequence — photo courtesy of Sunshine Sachs.

CHM: It sounds like you’re contacted by a studio for a certain film, what was the first big project that kind of got you started on doing all of these projects?

Perri: The first big studio film I did was for United Artists called Electro Glide in Blue. Robert Blake plays a cop in the film, so it’s widescreen and images. Conrad Hall shot it and it’s set in the West and it’s about these kinds of Western cowboys who are cops. So I brought these Western elements to it and selected shots from the film and treated them in a graphic way so that it felt like they were from the 1880s.

And I did hand lettering for all the titles and did free frames and subtle dissolves and fades and so on, and it worked very nicely with the music. So that was the first big studio film. And then I learned later that — this was 1973 — Billy Friedkin heard about the film [and] that it had really good sound, so he went to see the film one day to evaluate the sound, and he later hired that sound editor for The Exorcist but he saw my work on the film and it’s hired me to do the titles for The Exorcist

And once that film — which was one of the very first blockbusters — hit [theaters], I was known throughout the industry and everyone suddenly wanted me to work on their films. And I’ve been very fortunate [and] because of that and pretty much I’ve been working ever since.

CHM: Before I get into your exhibit, some of my favorites of your title sequences are your collaborations with Martin Scorsese — my favorite being the Raging Bull title design. it’s amazing. Do you have any tidbits about the work you’ve done with Scorsese? 

Perri: Yes, my first film with him was Taxi Driver, and then I did seven more in a row and I was kind of his in-house, well, that’s the wrong words. I wasn’t working for him, but on every film he did, it was just a given that I would do it. So whenever it was time, he call me [and] I’d come in. I mean, I was presenting ideas and competing with others and because of the way he works, he’s so collaborative and willing to work with all of his creative people and support them and encourage them rather than tell them exactly what to do. And so as a result of that, he gets the best work out of those people. 

And just the way he casts his actors, I see that he casts his costume designer and he casts his cameraman and he casts his title designer as well. So he chooses the right person and then he lets them do what they do. And as a result, he gets their best work. It then allows him collectively to do his best work. That’s why his films are so good.

I’ve done my best work with him cause of how he’s collaborated with me and supported me and always loved the ideas I’ve brought to him. So I can do them at my best, make all of the choices and the decisions along the way, and then bring the final product to him. 

Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Sequence — photo courtesy of Sunshine Sachs.

CHM: And a follow-up on that, just because I’m curious about how the process works, this can be in regards to any of the films you’ve done, but when you’re brought into a certain project, what have you seen at that point? Like, I don’t know if the film’s finished or if you have anything that you can base the font on and then how do you then come up with the ideas?

Perri: Well, I’m always brought in while the post-production process is taking place. Usually, they’re still cutting, so I need to see the film in whatever form it is in so I can have my own emotional reaction to it. And out of that ideas just come into my head. I still don’t know how that happens, it’s still a mystery, but fortunately, they still come.

And not just one idea; it’s always three or four or more ideas. So I have to sort through all of those as if another designer has brought me these ideas and I’ve gotta look at them all and decide which one I think is best. So I’m working with myself in that way, and these ideas come to me. I always work in the exact same way since the very beginning: an idea that pops into my head and I have to literally scramble and find a piece of paper, something to draw it on, on the paper with a pencil — it’s always a regular old pencil with me eraser on it so I can erase something and change it — but if I don’t jot it down right away, sometimes it goes away. It evaporates, it’s gone. I can’t even remember it. 

So it’s that process has always been present in my work. Ever since I was a kid, when I started designing graphics and doing sign painting when I was in high school, I work with a pencil and a piece of paper and that has worked for me. So it has never changed. Of course, after I’ve made the drawing, I will scan it and take it into the computer and then I can manipulate it. [When] I would do that on paper and, one after the other would paint and brush and now I use the computer for that. But the idea still comes the same way and putting it down to visualize it is the same way I’ve always done.

CHM: That’s amazing. It’s like a musician when they think of a melody or something and they’ve gotta run home and jot it down. 

Perri: Yeah, exactly. I was on a plane one time with Stevie Wonder — he was on the same flight [and] I wound up having dinner with him — but he and his assistant were together in two seats and every so often Stevie would motion to him and this guy would jump up and go to the overhead and bring down this little machine. It looked like a court reporter machine that Sony had made for him. And instead of typing letters and so on, it would type notes and anytime Steve would get a musical idea, he would write it on this machine that had been made for him. 

So he worked exactly the way I worked and I think a lot of creative people do. You have ideas and you get them out in some way that you can translate and develop them. It’s a successful way of operating. 

CHM: Not to keep you off of the topic at hand too much, but I do wanna transition to your exhibit. Is this the first time your work’s been in an exhibit before or have you done something similar to this before?

Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Sequence — photo courtesy of Sunshine Sachs.

Perri: It’s the first time. I’ve never shown my work except for occasional screenings I might have for friends who wanna see the body of work together. And this is the third phase of a program that I’ve wanted to develop and apply, and that is the process of sharing my work, which has come out of my desire as a teacher to pass on and share what I’ve done and what I know.

So it’s my knowledge and my work that I feel obligated to pass that on to mostly students because that’s who would benefit [from] it, but there are lots of people who are fans of the work and fans of film and of title design and so on and I regularly talk to those people. But it’s mostly students and schools that I visit. I’ve had tours all over London, France, the U.S. Two weeks ago, [I] spoke to USC, their film department, and I’m talking to Cal Arts out here in L.A. next week. So I keep getting invited to these different places and I simply show my sample reel, which is like a minute-and-a-half collection of just the logos of different films and then there are tons of questions and they wanna hear the stories and like [what it’s like] to work with Scorsese George Lucas or whatever it might be. So, I greatly enjoy that. The sharing is where it’s come from, and that’s the first stage is to teach and share it with students, the second phase is I wrote a book about my career, which I self-published. It’s now on my website, danperri.com, and people from all over the world are buying it. I’ve sold about 500 of the 1,000 that I printed, but I get orders all the time from every part of the world and I shipped them a lot myself personally. So that’s the second stage to reach more people and share the work.

And the third stage is to exhibit the work. So I approached, uh, the Museum of the Moving Image and suggested they do an exhibition of my work and they loved the idea. So over the months, we developed it and cultivated and discussed the approach and so on. Barbara Miller and her guest curator, Lola, who runs Art of the Title, you know that site [and she] collaborated with Barbara, and they together curated the show.

I haven’t seen it yet — I’ll see it Sunday when I go there for the reception opening of it. But I’ve seen pictures of it, I imagine you have too, and it looks wonderful. I’m really thrilled with what you’re done with it. 

CHM: Well, I’m going on Saturday and I’m so excited to see it. It seems like you had this yearning to start the exhibit, but how long did these conversations take and what exactly was being discussed? Was it hard to pick and choose what would go into the exhibits?

Perri: Uh, yes. Barbara initially had a good idea [when] noticing that a lot of films I’ve done happen to be set in New York or with New York directors. Like most of Marty [Scorsese]’s work is based in New York. Walter Hill, for example, did The Warriors which was set in New York so we were looking at the notion of the show being heavy on films that are set or take place in New York.

And so the films that Barbara selected were in that vein. But there are many that I felt were important to represent my work that wouldn’t have been in the show because they [weren’t] New York-based films, but still, they’re good examples of what I’ve done. So we kinda expanded that and there are now two video presentations.

One [features] sequences from the core films and then a group of others that are more general, that represent things I’ve done that were important to my growth as a designer and some of those films that are not as successful perhaps, but good pieces of work. So that’s how that happened. 

CHM: My last question for you is, I know you kind of mentioned that the presentation of some of your work, what else can people like myself that are gonna go expect to see? Are there storyboards or anything like that?

Perri: Uh, no, I don’t really do storyboards much. There’s, there’s one on, on, I think the, uh, excuse me, the Species sequence, which I hand-animated, but it’s just the opening of the actual title. So there’s a storyboard on that, but I don’t. I don’t find [that] storyboards are effective to present ideas.

There are lots of artifacts from different films. I like to create things in reality whenever I can. Like [with] Caddyshack, the idea was the golf ball instead of the word “Titleist,” it has the word “Caddyshack” and it’s in the same type style as the word “Titleist.” So I had a ball made and they couldn’t make it the size of a golf ball cause it’d be too small to properly letter the letters so they made it the size of a softball. I then filmed it, and without anything around it, it looks like the size of a golf — so it served the purpose. But that [the golf ball], that is in the show. It’s in a glass case somewhere. 

Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Sequence — photo courtesy of Sunshine Sachs.

The license plate that I had made from Star 80 is in the show, which I had made and had chrome-plated and filmed it live and moved lights around so it looked like it was alive. There’s the logo from Freebie and The Bean, which was a big saddle with multiple colors of neon lights on it. So I painted that by hand like an animator would, and I filmed it with a live camera and then superimposed it over shots from film. 

There are a number of original designs that I did on tissue paper and pasted down onto a piece of cardboard and put a flap on it and brought it to George Lucas on Star Wars. A few of the alternate ideas that are there in the case as well. There are the wooden letters that I used for Gangs of New York [which] were original letters that were used to print headlines in newspapers from the 1850s, which I found at an old type shop and assemble them, photographed them, and became the logo for the film. Those letters are there as well, and a few others that I can’t remember at this moment. 


Dan Perri and the Art of the Title Design is on display at the Museum of the Moving Image now until January 1, 2023. For more information, click here

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Frankie Corio on Aftersun, Olivia Rodrigo, Paul Mescal and *that* Karaoke Scene | Interview

‘Aftersun’ is in theaters now.

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Aftersun is my favorite film of the year, full stop. It’s a beautiful portrait of a father and his young daughter as they take a holiday in Turkey. The film is so tender and melancholic and sure to require tissues upon viewing. But on top of all of that, the film not only serves as an amazing feature-length debut for writer-director Charlotte Wells and another great performance on Paul Mescal’s resume, but it also features the amazing debut performance of the young Frankie Corio.

Corio’s first professional role is in Aftersun, but you’d never be able to tell from her performance. Over the last few decades, we’ve had an increase in the number of great young performances whether it’s Jacob Tremblay in Room (2015) or Woody Norman in last year’s film, C’mon C’mon, none reach the heights of Corio in Aftersun, in my humble opinion. There’s such earnestness and authenticity in her interactions with her on-screen father Mescal, and her performance reminded me of Natalie Portman in Léon the Professional many years ago.

I was genuinely over the moon when I was given the green light to speak with Corio. Thanks to A24, I had the privilege to chat with her last week over Zoom. Corio may be a relative newbie to this whole acting thing, but she’s a total pro both on and off the screen. Of course, we talked plenty about Aftersun but we also discussed our favorite Olivia Rodrigo tracks, New York memories and that karaoke scene. I genuinely hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed conducting it. Consider this my claim of a spot on the Frankie Corio bandwagon when she inevitably wins an Oscar someday.


Coastal House Media: First off, congratulations on Aftersun and, thank you so much for all of your time. It’s my favorite film of the year, and your performance is a major reason for that. What has this whole experience been like for you? Is this what you imagined when you signed up to be in the film industry?

Frankie Corio: No, it’s very cool and different. Definitely different. It’s mostly cool and exciting because I get to travel all over the world. 

CHM: Do you have a favorite experience along the way? Maybe in New York for the film festival?

Corio: I loved [it] in New York, definitely. That was the best place ever because it was very fun. And we went to Empire State Building. 

CHM: Did you try any pizza while you were in New York? 

Corio: I don’t think so. I had lots of bagels because I love bagels [smiles].

CHM: Next time you’re in New York, you’ll have to try some of the pizza! To get into the film a little bit, the film mostly rests on the shoulders of your chemistry with Paul Mescal, who plays your father in the film. What do you think it was, in your estimation, that led to such believable chemistry? 

Corio: I am not sure, but I think even without hanging out before [I knew that] we would still get along very well. 

CHM: Really? What was it about Paul that made you think you’d get along? Do you guys have similar interests or something like that?

Corio: We both like Olivia Rodrigo, so that’s a good thing. And obviously, he is very easy to get along with and he’s cool and funny.

A still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

CHM: I actually saw Olivia Rodrigo because my cousin had an extra ticket and she took me to see her earlier this year in New York. Did you get to see her on tour at all this year?

Corio: No, I never got to go. At the time she was here in Scotland, we were gonna go, but we were on holiday.

Leona Corio (Frankie’s mother): She sent you a message for your birthday, though.  

Frankie: Yeah, I got a video of her for my birthday. 

CHM: What’s your favorite song on her album?

Corio: “deja vu.” 

CHM: I’ve gotta get your thoughts on this song. My least favorite song on that album is “jealousy, jealousy” — I just never vibed with it. Do you like that song? 

Corio: Really? I like that one, The one I don’t like is “enough for you.” 

CHM: Interesting; that’s one of my favorite songs. I guess we’re juxtaposed on that.

Corio: [laughs]

CHM: Speaking of music, I know that you have the performance of “Losing My Religion” in the film — which is great — but was this a scene that you were looking forward to, either excitedly or anxiously, and how did you prep for it? 

Corio: I was not excited at all! So me and Paul had that two-week thing before we started shooting and every time we went there we would always go over to that bit where I sing it and they would try and make me stand up on the stage and sing it. But I couldn’t, I just hated the song and I hated the thought of having to do it. 

I was excited for it cause it was gonna be funny. I got up and before we started filming, I started just speaking [into] the microphone cause I liked it but I was also nervous cause it was a bit cringe [laughs]. There were a lot of people there, so it was a bit weird.

CHM: I know you said you don’t like the song, but have you been able to listen to it ever since then? 

Corio: Every time I hear it, I’m like [jokingly hyperventilates].

CHM: So if you watch the film again, can you watch that scene? Is it easier for you to watch it than it was to shoot it?

Corio: Yes, but I went to go and watch it with my friends on Tuesday, and it was extremely embarrassing and cringy. I just like, “ugh,” I was hiding in my jumper. I hated it. But I mean, I’d rather watch it than have to reperform it again.

CHM: I read another interview where you mentioned Millie Bobby Brown as a big influence on your acting. Do you have any other influences? Truthfully, your performance really reminded me of Natalie Portman in her first film, Léon the Professional. I don’t know if you’ve gotten that comparison, but are there any other actors that really influence you?

Corio: [gleefully gasps and smiles] Again, like I already said in so many other interviews, the whole Stranger Things cast are [a] big influence on me. Tom Holland, Mason Thames from The Black Phone and the girl [Madeleine McGaw] also from The Black Phone. But yeah, all the modern stuff [laughs], all the people that are in modern stuff are my influences. 

CHM: So you’re a Stranger Things fan… I’ve actually never seen the show. 

Corio: [gasps]

CHM: I’ve seen a bit of the first episode and then my cousin tried to force me to watch part of season four, but what is it about the show? Why should I watch it? I’ve never gotten into it.

Corio: It’s just really cool and it’s great to watch because it just is. Plus, the main character is some sci-fi girl with weird powers, like, who wouldn’t want to see that? Plus, Millie Bobby Brown is in it and her acting is amazing. So like, who wouldn’t want to watch it? 

CHM: Okay, well maybe I’ll give it a shot. Did you pick up anything from your director on this film, Charlotte Wells? What was she like as a director? 

A behind-the-scenes photo from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

Corio: Uh, [she] was amazing. [She was] such a great director and she just helped me [with] so [much] stuff. Not stuff that I would be able to remember right now, but at random points, she would be able to help me with stuff, to see stuff and yeah, very good. 

She would make me do it — not make me [laughs] — but me, her and Paul, before we started filming, this was mainly for my sake, we would do like a two-minute mindfulness thing so that we could all calm down — mainly me [laughs] — but yeah, she has some great tactics [and] directing skills. 

CHM: I don’t know if you would remember whether or not the film was shot in chronological order or not, but was it? 

Corio: [shakes head]

CHM: My next question has to do with the final scene where you’re kind of waving goodbye to Paul. Was that shot last by any chance? 

Corio: I think that was shot last actually. I think they had to go back to London to shoot that, didn’t we? Yeah, I think those were definitely shot last, the airport bits, but I think those were the only things that were in order; the rest of ’em were filmed at different times. 

I had to wear long sleeves so I wouldn’t get tanned [laughs], so I wouldn’t be going through different shades every scene. 

A still from Aftersun. Photo courtesy of A24.

CHM: So then with that final scene, did it feel emotional for you given that it was the final scene? I know that once “Cut!” is called, you know, you could still hang out with Paul, but did it feel like a final goodbye at all when you were filming it?

Corio: Not really; I dunno why. I don’t think [during] the whole [time] of filming, I was never really like, “This is gonna be the last time I’m gonna see you for ages,” [laughs]. After I left, we just like hugged. I was like, “Bye; see you soon.”

It was mainly at all the film festivals. Even though that’s when I’m gonna see them next, I’m still just like, “Do we have to leave? I don’t want to,” because people love being around me [laughs] — I’m joking. 

CHM: Do you have any sort of mementos from the shoot?

Corio: Yeah, I’ve got two t-shirts with signatures on them.

So for my birthday, I got a white t-shirt and everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to [me] — I have that still. I was very close with all the teenagers that were [in] the film, and obviously, Michael, who I kissed [smiles]. The boy that plays Michael is called Brooklyn [Toulson], [and] it was Brooklyn’s last day — well, [the] day before [the] last day — so we all signed shirts, like six or seven of us, and we’ve all got the hand prints on the back of the shirts where we have our names and the people that we play. 

CHM: That’s cute! And did you say it was your birthday during the shoot of the film?

Corio: Yeah, it was my 11th birthday on the 7th of July. 

CHM: So did everybody sing “Happy Birthday” like you do to Paul’s character in the film? 

Corio: Yeah, I got a big chocolate cake. I never even knew what was happening, I just got told that I was gonna go to the catering for lunch today, I was like, “Okay, sure,” went down [and] sat down with Paul and my family. I should have been more suspicious because everyone was there — normally they were all doing their own thing — and then they started singing “Happy Birthday” and brought out a big, fat chocolate cake with strawberries and meringue on it. And I got a flower crown. 

And it was after doing a pool scene. I remember [that] because when I look back at the videos, my hair was all soaked and I was wearing my dress and gown [laughs].

CHM: My final question for you is, looking back at this whole experience, I know that you’re gonna have a lot of work ahead of you, but is there anything specific that you’re gonna take with you from this experience on Aftersun and apply it to your next films? 

Corio: If I ever have to do a karaoke scene again, I will make sure I sound a bit better next time, that’s for sure. 


Aftersun is in theaters now.

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