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Lonely Wolf International
Film Festival 2022 
Interview

Daniel Fries
Runaway
lonelywolffilmfest.com/Tickets
May 6, 2022

Sue, an enslaved woman attempts to help 2 runaway slaves under the nose of a seething overseer, all while trying to keep her daughter from being sold off the next day.

 

Hello Daniel, it’s great to get to talk with you, how have you been keeping after everything that’s been happening?

 

Where to begin. The world is really upside down, and while the day to day has become a bit more normalised, I don’t think I have a good sense of what is to come. It can be tough as a filmmaker because there’s always a desire to work in a way that’s relevant, but shit moves so fast its really almost better to compartmentalise just to stay sane. All of this is to say that I’m doing ok all things considered, but its tough out there.

 

How have you managed to stay positive and busy?

 

Its not easy, but I always have a lot of projects going, both commercial and personal and aspirational, that it keeps me appropriately distracted. Family helps as well. I have 2 young girls and so it just never stops.

 

You have had an amazing festival run with Runaway winning multiple awards, what do you think it is about this film that has connected with festival audiences so much?

 

I think Runaway has resonated for a couple of reasons. People often tell me they didn't know about slavery in the north from this time period – so the circumstances are enlightening. I think the quality of the performances have also resonated with audiences. As this was based on real people Jasmine Carmichael really went deep in trying to honour the experience Sue would have had during this time. Lastly I think we did a good job creating a world for these characters to inhabit. As it ends, I want the story to go on, I want to know what happens to Sue and where things go as you imagine this story continuing.

 

Runaway is part of Lonely Wolf, what has it meant to you to be part of such an amazing line up of films?

 

Its really amazing. LW has created an extraordinary festival with an enormous amount of talent. Its very much due to Adrian and his zeal and enthusiasm for filmmakers and the industry at large.

 

How important are festivals like Lonely Wolf in championing and supporting indie filmmakers?

 

There are a lot of festivals out there so its important to qualify the ones that do indeed champion and activate the community. When they work, they’re important for exposure and momentum when you’re building a career and trying to connect with other filmmakers.

 

Can you tell me how Runaway came about, what inspired your screenplay?

 

It was a commissioned project by a Museum In Tarrytown New York. This was based on historical knowledge the museum teaches as a part of their program. Slavery in the North specifically, so we developed a fictional story based on what may was likely to have happened at the time, working with the resident historian and using a theatre script he had written as source material and the people and facts known at Philipsburg Manor, where we shot the film.

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What was the biggest challenges you faced making Runaway?

 

As it was a commissioned film, via a grant, we had an obligation to serve a specific audience. In this case it was meant to be friendly to a younger crowd, 14+. So there were requests to limit violence which in the case of slavery can be limiting in the truth of the subject matter. So we did try to focus on the overarching threat of violence, and the trauma of tearing families apart to ensure we were true to the material.

 

When working on a film like Runaway how close did you like to keep to your screenplay, did you give yourself much flexibility?

 

The shooting script was more robust than what is left on the screen. I always welcome room for change as we’re working especially when in a situation like this we aren't really rehearsing. I also did some minor reshoots after the rough cut in an effort to clarify some of the storytelling.

 

Looking back is there anything you would do differently on this film?

 

So many things. More writing revisions for sure. I would have liked to have more time to improve the shot making and the coverage we shot. And the list goes on.

 

Have you aways had a passion for filmmaking?

 

Totally. Ive been in production for a long time, as a commercial director and have always studied film and story as a passion. Regardless of my level of success, I’ll do it 'til I'm dead.

 

How different was your approach to writing and directing Runaway compared to you other films?

 

It was more collaborative as I only really outlined the film and worked with a couple of writers, then wrote a final draft, as opposed to just helming it solo.

 

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer anyone thinking about making their first short film?

 

I’ve mentored a lot of young filmmakers over the years and I feel like there is so much to know that its hard to reduce it to just a few things, but some of the things I remind people about are to stay focused on your themes, because having a good understanding of your overarching ideas and themes of your film can inform so many choices you will have to make.

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"With everything I make, I hope they’re emotionally invested in Sue and the world and they can take some small piece of knowledge about what it must have been like to be treated as property."

What these will you explore with future films?

 

I tend to be drawn to issues of identity and philosophical themes, but I still like genre storytelling. So at the memento Im working on a thriller TV series with an existential crises at the heart of the story.

 

And finally, what would you like audiences to take away from Runaway?

 

With everything I make, I hope they’re emotionally invested in Sue and the world and they can take some small piece of knowledge about what it must have been like to be treated as property. Ive think we’ve seen stories like this before, but the story of callousness of losing a child in such a casual way cannot be told too many times.