By: Patrick Roy
Some independent film productions are ramping back up and include new safety precautions. And these new precautions for indies like Schrodinger’s Box actually explore the current pandemic which makes instituting new protocols much easier. Into Schrodinger’s Box began production in Canada earlier July and is now at the post-production stage. Schrodinger’s Box is a psychological drama focusing on loneliness and social pressure experienced during the coronavirus lockdown. I had the opportunity to interview Amir Ganjavie, one of the directors, where we discussed the process of writing the screenplay and working during pandemic.
Patrick Roy, Phoenix Journal (PJ): How did you find the subject for your new film, and how did you decide to make it in such a short time?
Amir Ganjavie (AG): The idea for our new film was the result of a conversation with a group of people. I tried to see how people reacted, changed, and adapted while facing this new situation during the coronavirus crisis. Nasim, my wife, once told me that she felt as if the walls in the house were trying to devour her. Behzad Javahery, who is one of the producers of the film, shared with me an interesting story related to the virus. I thought about it for a while, did my research, and then discussed the idea with Alireza Kazempour, who agreed to take the lead on writing the film’s screenplay. Alireza is the main screenwriter of the project and working with him was a unique experience since he’s patient and meticulous and I believe that he’s one of the most creative Canadian writers. It was important for the dialogue to be natural and to make sense to the English-speaking audience. Arash Azizi helped us translate it into English and he played a crucial role in writing the English dialogue. We really wanted the screenplay to be written in a simple, straightforward way that could be translated for the English-speaking audience to understand easily. That’s why we also used the help of Chris McClure, who works with the Austin Film Festival and did a great job of making the screenplay ready for English.
(PJ): How was the experience of working during this difficult time?
(AG): Well, most film projects in Canada have been postponed since coronavirus has made filmmaking a high-risk activity. Most producers won’t even go near film projects right now and we were among the very few who managed to work under these conditions. Making the film in this situation was not easy and we felt extreme pressure as we tried to follow the health protection regulations. We asked the cast and crew to be tested for COVID-19 before coming to work and we had gloves, masks, and disinfectants on set and we asked everybody to follow social distancing guidelines. Although the cast and crew were anxious and feeling stressful at first, once they’d worked together for a while, coming to the set early in the morning and leaving late at night, they got to trust one another and saw each other as family. The experience of facing a common fear turned the whole shooting process into a unique experience and although the group was comprised of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, they managed to become close friends.
(PJ): How long did shooting take, and who are the cast and crew?
(AG): It took us 24 days to wrap up shooting. The film is in English and the cast and crew was a mixture of Canadians and other nationalities. When we were casting and choosing the crew members, we tried to have individuals from all ethnicities in Canada. In fact, we made a film in which all genders and people from different races appear, just like Canada itself, where one can clearly see this multiculturalism and co-existence of people from different backgrounds. Similarly, we tried to have locals from Canada and people from countries like Brazil and or from Asian and European countries. It created a great experience for all of us. The actresses who play the leads are both Canadian and I am very happy to have worked with both of these talented people who showed lots of passion and love while making the film.
(PJ): Is the film unrelated to the world of non Canadians?
(AG): Coronavirus has impacted people around the world and they’ve all experienced similar things regardless of where they live. The film can be relatable for Canadians in this respect but it’s not directly related to the Canadians. It’s a completely Canadian film with an international subject.
(PJ): How did you secure the budget for the film?
(AG): I learned from Denis Côté that a great way to make independent films in North America is to collaborate with several people. We made the film with a budget provided by three of my friends, each of whom played a role in helping us to complete it, so we can say that the film was completely self-funded. It didn’t require a big budget though, especially since it was shot in a single location with minimal requirements.
(PJ): How was the experience of working with your wife, Nasim Naghavi?
(AG): This film was our first collaboration in cinema but we had collaborated on many architectural projects in the past and, naturally, we know each other well. Although we had our differences regarding our roles as directors and sometimes had completely opposite ideas, we reached an understanding about our vision after talking it through. It was a good experience having Nasim beside me while making the film since she added her unique feminine voice to it, which one can sense in the acting and the atmosphere of the film. It was a truly pleasant experience, especially since we were dealing with a film that was set inside a house, and which had a female protagonist.
(PJ): How much progress have you made with the production?
(AG): We’ve finished shooting and now it’s in the post-production stage, which I hope will be done in about a month.