Tuesday, 14 October 2014

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The Girl on the Roof - Q and A with Amelia Jackson-Gray

"The Girl on the Roof" a new #ShortFilm from Skeet Ulrich and written by Amelia Jackson Gray. I asked Amelia a few questions on the film and give my review.

Lennie James, Amelia Jackson-Gray and Naiia Ulrich star in Skeet Ulrich’s award winning directorial debut The Girl on The Roof

Skeet Ulrich is a popular face on our screens with credits such as the cult classic movie “Scream” as well as starring as Jake Green in the hit TV series “Jericho”. However Skeet’s talent doesn’t stop there, as he is set to release his first directorial debut The Girl On The Roof that already has highly regarded accolades to its name. This enticing film stars many familiar faces Lennie James (Hung, Columbiana), Todd Lowe (True Blood, Princess Diaries), Susan May Pratt (CSI, 10 Things I hate About You), Naiia Ulrich and the writer/producer of Girl On The Roof, Amelia Jackson-Gray. The Girl on The Roof recently won the award for Best Short Film at ITVFEST

The Girl On The Roof tells the story of a young girl Lila who Faces increasing abuse from girls in her class at school and an equally unlovable home life. Lila’s world slips from bad to worse when she witnesses a crime from her roof. Suddenly confronted by all her fears a plan begins to form when she meets an unlikely saviour.
This engaging film had its world premier at LA Shorts as well as screening at Action On Film International Film Festival, where Amelia Jackson-Gray won Best Supporting Actress. Skeet has worked with several Oscar winning directors including Ang Lee, James Brooks & Bruce Beresford. His 20 years of experience have made him a very seasoned creative force in the film & TV world.
The Girl On The Roof won the award for Best Short Film at ITVFEST and will be enticing the audience of WILLIAMSBURG INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL between Nov. 20th-23rd.

" A Great and engaging Short Film"

So, the other week I was sent a "screener" of a short film called "The Girl on the Roof" starring a young girl who escapes to a roof daily to forget about her daily worries of bullying and home neglect. The Short was roughly 20 minutes long and I was suprised how quickly the film went. I personally love a film with a twist, if anybody has seen my short film "LOVE (re)CYCLE" will understand my love of twist endings. 
This film was beautifully shot, if very simple and not too complicated. Sometimes Directors and Editors can fall into traps that cause them to over stylise something to make up for a lack of story. There was none of that here, as the story was the heart and the visual was used perfectly to capture the tone of the story.
I was extremely impressed with the Acting. From some seasoned professionals in Lennie James (with a great American Accent), Todd Lowe and Susan May Pratt (who is great as the OTT obnoxious Mother) to a young girl Naiia Ulrich who really holds the film well considering she is in every scene and the film hinges on her performance.

All in all I was very impressed with this great and engaging short film. I love Short films, being a filmmaker myself I strive to learn the art of creating a decent short, and this one ticked all the boxes for me. The length was just right, any longer and it could have outstayed it's welcome, but the story was served well.

Anyway, to the meat of the article. I was lucky enough to ask the writer and actress who played "Lucy" Amelia Jackson Gray a few questions on the film. 

Hi Amelia, I recently finished watching the short film. "The Girl on the Roof" and found it a great watch. For the readers, could you explain what the story is about.

Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the film. The story is about a lonely, isolated girl who is bullied at school and ignored in a loveless home, but after witnessing a crime from her roof she meets an unlikely saviour. 

You are credited as writer on this as well as appearing as "Lucy".How did you come up with the idea for the film?

I wrote the film as a birthday present for my Step-Daughter Naiia, to play her first leading role on screen. She often goes up on the roof to listen to music and when brainstorming ideas I thought it would be interesting if she saw our neighbours getting robbed, while on the roof one day and what if the thief caught her watching him? To heighten the drama of the story I thought what could possibly be wrong in this character's life that could drive her to the roof? I've had to attend parent-teacher conferences at her school on bullying, as it's a big issue these days. It was an organic marriage of ideas that fell into place from necessity of the female lead being 12 years old and that centred around a location available to us.

What inspirations did you take from when creating the story.

One of my favourite Hitchcock films is 'To Catch A Thief', which is about a cat-thief that breaks into houses from people's roof's. I was also inspired by the short film series "Hitchcock Presents" & "Twilight Zone". I like the suspense of these stories and the twist that comes at the end of each one. I thought it would be fun to do something similar, set in our day-and-age and hinged on issues that take place in society today.

The short is directed by Scream and Jericho star Skeet Ulrich. How did he get involved with the project?

We made our first short film "Point Mugu" before this, set at my favourite camp ground in Malibu. The location always felt like a Hitchcock'ian type story waiting to happen with it's natural beauty and timeless charm, but underpinned by a sinister & eerie vibe, sandwiched between the PCH highway and the ocean where one's tent sits isolated on the sand, under the towering rocky cliffs that are lit up by car headlights throughout the night. Skeet plays the role of a mysterious Hitch-hiker in the film opposite myself and Co-star, Erin Ross. "Point Mugu" worked out well, winning awards and critical acclaim at festivals nationwide and the team was eager to continue the momentum that we had created and make another film. I am blessed to be working with this collective and keeping the team together is my priority. I knew Skeet wanted to direct one day and Naiia was keen to act in one of our films, being the beautiful 12 year old blonde girl that she is I just felt like she was destined to play the innocent, Hitchcock'ian victim in our second short film and Skeet destined to direct her in his directorial debut. 

The short has a great cast from Established actors such as Todd Lowe and Lennie James but the film hinges on the central performance the main character played by Naiia Ulrich. Was her performance exactly how you imagined the script or did it evolve during production after her casting?

Lennie James loved the script and ever since his iconic collaboration with Skeet on the hit TV series Jericho they have enjoyed working together. Skeet and Todd Lowe recently completed a feature film called "50-1" directed by Jim Wilson and similarly when reading the script loved it and came on board. Naiia is a talented young lady with a passion for acting and has experience playing the lead role in many school plays. She has a scene opposite Robert Downey Jr. in the film "Due Date", but her role in "The Girl On The Roof" is her first leading role on film. Skeet guided her in rehearsals towards being more still and full from an organic emotional place and other ways to lure in an audience. 

Without giving away spoilers, the film does have an air of mystery surrounding the entire narrative. What sort of reaction are you looking from the audience to get out of this film?

I want the audience to eventually expect a twist from my short films. I want people to want more of these fun little stories packed with suspense, thrills, style, charm and a desire to guess the endings, but surprise them every time with twists and turns they might not expect, by setting up red herrings to throw them off the scent. 

How was the shoot? How does an independent short film production usually go?

The shoot was very smooth. The hours are always long and that can be a challenge for everyone. It was an eye opener for Naiia, playing the lead and being needed in every scene, juggling her school schedule and homework during the shoot, but she handled it well and made it an easy and wonderful experience. Pre production is crucial for low budgets as every penny counts and a lot can be saved from careful and meticulous planning. I had to wear many hats to pull it off, but the hats I didn't wear were covered by a seasoned and highly skilled team and so I was happy to wear as many as necessary to pull it off as best as we could.

So what next for yourself?

We are currently in production on a third short film called "The Test" Directed by Francis Dries (Director of "Point Mugu" & Cinematographer of "The Girl On The Roof") it's about an ambitious Entrepreneur who works at a startup bio-tech company and when her DNA data falls into the wrong hands she becomes homeless, but learns what is of true value in her life. It's the third installment of these short films we want to string together and launch as "Shot In The Dark" (Volume 1), a series of short dramatic stories with a twist.

Thank you Amelia for answering these questions. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Thank you. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the collective group of film makers that made this team so strong. 

Skeet Ulrich (Director, Producer) Francis Dries (Cinematographer, Producer), Charles Salmeno (Executive Producer), Emma Willis (Hair & Make-Up Artist), Robert C. Webb (Camera Operator), Chad Early (Editor), David Collier (Actor, Associate Producer), Maris Demo (Art Director), Jeff Malen (Sound Designer, ADR Master), The Angel (Composer, Music Producer), Kevin Hurley (Music Supervisor), Eoin Waxel (Marketing Designer), Alexander Dawson (Sound Mixer), Nick Novotny (Camera Assistant), James Honaker (Colorist), Vreg Paskmakian (Assistant Director), Adrian Carr (Post Technical Advisor), Agatha Nowicki (Story Consultant), Catherine Lynn Scott (Publicist), Wes Weisser (Associate Producer), Johanna Halsmith-Weisser (Associate Producer) 

and the friends that lent a helping hand when we needed it most without your passion and drive for filmmaking, none of this would have been possible. It is your courage to be creative that inspires the fire inside me to keep blazing and your high standards of excellence that make it count. Thank you deeply for your contribution to these mile-stones of dreams-come-true.

Check out the Trailer for "The Girl on the Roof"

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  1. I follow with interest this talented family! I love independent short films, as most of them are make by people who really loves cinema!