FFF 2017 Day 8–Katie Says Goodbye

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Olivia Cooke in the Role of a Lifetime

I knew Mrs. LanceAround was going to be angry after this film. I suspected just about every women in the theatre will be upset. After all, Katie, the gentle, loving, kind-hearted  and sensitive protagonist of this movie is constantly put upon, abused and betrayed by so many people. Given Mrs. LanceAround’s strong positions on issues regarding women’s rights, of course this movie was going to make her upset. I turned to give her a knowing glance, only to find…she’s tearful. She isn’t angry at all. The woman from the FFF selection committee comes to the front of the auditorium to introduce the writer/director of the movie and she’s also in tears. I then notice that almost all the women in the auditorium are blowing their noses.

What’s going on here? I have questions I don’t even know how to ask. And I want answers I’m not sure I’m willing to accept.

My initial reaction at the end of the film is that I didn’t like it. I think I hated it. The protagonist was such a good person. She did not deserve all the heartbreaking betrayals she experienced at every turn. It was so unfair. I realize I’m the one who is angry. In some ways, I’m just as emotional as the moviegoers around me. But while they are tearful, I’m enraged. What happened to this woman is not fair.

I take a breath and attempt to logically sort through my emotions. What did I expect? Did I want the movie to have a happy ending? YES! Did I want the characters who betrayed Katie to have their comeuppances? YES! Did I want everything tied up into a neat bow…YEEEUUUHHHH…wait a minute. It suddenly hits me. One of the reasons I love independent film is because it does not follow the mundane, formulaic, Hollywood, cookie-cutter, happy endings, mindless tripe that we so often get from high budget, low risk films. We love the FFF because the movies are real, gritty, honest and true to life. We love the FFF because the films are, generally, an independent work of art made by filmmakers willing to buck the traditional system and create something…magical…if not occasionally dysphoric

There is no question this is a high quality movie. The characters are well developed, sympathetic and nuanced. The acting is superb. Olivia Cooke gives the performance of a lifetime in the lead role of Katie. The direction is crisp and affecting. All other production elements, sound, lighting, costumes, cinematography, sets, etc. are exactly as they should be. The story is a fresh look at something all too common. The ending…well…without spoiling the movie, all I can say is, you have to watch it for yourself. And it is well worth watching. This was an exceptionally well made movie. It’s understandable why Matthew Curtis, Programming Director for the FFF, said that as soon as the committee saw this movie, they knew they were going to accept it into the festival even though it was very early in the selection process.

Except, it made me feel angry and unsatisfied.

But that was not the reaction of the moviegoers around me. They felt connected. This protagonist spoke to them. Is it possible that so many people in this auditorium experience the same sense of betrayal and heartbreak as Katie. Is it possible they identify with this protagonist?

Wayne Roberts, the writer and director of this film, is at the screening. As he comes to the front for the Q & A, his demeanor is also obviously emotional. He explains that this might be the last time he ever sees this film on the big screen with an audience. It was not picked up by a distributor.

During his talk, Wayne explains that the character of Katie came to him in a vision. “This is her story,” he emphasizes, “I was obligated to write it exactly the way she told me to.”

Normally I would sneer at such an outlandish, metaphysical claim with marked skepticism. Yet I cannot deny the overwhelming vibe coming from all the film watchers. Everyone was touched by this movie. Many are nodding their head in agreement and blowing their noses. They are in complete sync with what the filmmaker is saying.

I’m puzzled. My initial reaction was I didn’t like this movie. But as Wayne speaks, he does so with such earnest passion it’s almost impossible to deny the reality of the very unreal things he is saying. It’s the same reality I saw in the film we just watched. At first, I thought it demeaning to women. I thought it was cruel. Inside I am torn. I’m torn between wanting to see humanity and justice and my appreciation for the artistry that I just experienced and the truth it revealed that so touches those around me.

Make no mistake about it; Katie Says Goodbye is a masterful work of art.

 

Wayne Roberts Q & A

Wayne Roberts During the Q & A

Q: Is this based on a real event?

A: No

Q: So why would she not defend herself?

A: She is defending herself. She is incredibly strong. She is not allowing herself to be classified or labeled a victim in anyway whatsoever. The world is simply stacked against her. The world works against her. If she were to defend herself, as a sex worker, I don’t think she’d be taken seriously. She made a promise. As screwed up as that actually is, she made a promise and Katie is someone who, her word is her word. She means it. It’s infuriating for us, at times, to see her go through these things. But in terms of her morality–in terms of her ethics–I think she is a saint. She is something to aspire to. I try to aspire to her way of thinking; certainly not my own, but I’d be a better person if I tried to think like that.

Q: Did you have this cast in mind?

A: Our casting director has an amazing eye. All the credit goes to them. Chris Abbott and I are friends so I had him in mind from the beginning. But everyone else came to us through the agency. They’re not making any money off of this–it’s a passion project for everybody. We found passionate people.

Q: I was going to ask you where you found Katie

A: We found Olivia through her agency. We had another actress who was attached for a long time and it fell through for whatever reason. Olivia’s agency suggested her for the part. Olivia and I sat down and really hit it off. We really lucked out.

Q: She’s British?

A: Yea, she’s a Brit, too. She’s an international talent. I think a talent like Olivia comes across four or five times in a generation. We lucked out to find her and connect with her. She’s an incredible human being, too. Just to know her as a person, one would be lucky.

Q: I’m wondering if you have a distributor.

A: No we don’t. And I got emotional tonight because this might be the last time we get to see it on the big screen.

Q: What advice do you have for filmmakers who don’t have the means to produce such a quality film?

A: Well, I had no means either. I’m still broke, too. Just keep on doing it. You just have to write the strongest script you possibly can. There are so few scripts that are out there that really get people excited about it. If you can tell a story that is true; I think this is a given; you try to make a difference–just aim for that. The rest of the world is already making crap that is just supposed to be pulp and entertainment. Tell a story that can make a difference in people’s lives and you will find that people will be drawn to it. It’s a long road. And even after you make something, life doesn’t change. Just keep at it.

Q: Was there a decision that was made to actually show whether Bruno and the Mom slept together?

A: That’s up to the audience. There’s no reason to really see that. I also felt uncomfortable anytime we left Kate which only happens like 45 seconds in the film.

Q: So it’s up to us to decide?

A: Yup…but they did it. [audience laughs]

Q: How long from the time that you wrote the script until you got it into production, raised the money, got the cast? It seemed like it might have taken awhile.

A: It actually was quite quick. But the idea wasn’t quick. The idea came while I was in college; when I was about 21. If I can’t keep myself in check…if I can’t control my emotions on set…then I have no right to direct that film. So I had to wait awhile. That includes writing the script as well. I wrote the script about four years ago. I wasn’t initially going to direct it myself because I thought…well, I don’t need to get into that…then about six months down the road I sort of had it with the way it was going. I pulled it from what was going on and decided to pursue it myself. It took about a year from that decision to get it on the set. Maybe about a year and a half.

Q: Did you Kickstart it?

A: No.

Q: It’s the first of a trilogy…why don’t you talk about that? [audience claps]

A: Don’t get your hopes up. Katie’s not in the next film. The second film’s a dark comedy. But Kate will come back in the third and final film.

Q: Where did you go to college?

A: NYU

Q: I see Neflix is listing the movie. They say it’s not available yet. What’s the story with that?

A: A computer doing its thing. I don’t think there’s a person typing that thing in, I just think they automatically pull it.

Q: Well, you could save it to your queue, which means they at least have an interest in it…

A: Oh, really? Well…They told us they were not interested in it.

Q: But I see Netflix will allow us to write a review of it.

A: Oh, great. I really want the film to be seen. I think it’s an important film. So if you were drawn to the film–even if you weren’t–please post something. Even rating it on IMDB will make a difference. There are a lot of distributors in the United States who worry about films that might be polarizing or divisive. They don’t want to touch them. Everyone wants to keep their jobs. We’re doing well outside the United States. Inside the United States, we’re not doing well.

Q (From LanceAround): I’m curious to hear about your inspiration for this particular story, particularly the way it ended. What was it that made this be the story that you wanted to tell?

A: It’s odd–the motivation and the sense of this film is never going to get the screening it deserves. I wish that it would. But I felt I had a responsibility to Katie to make the film. Katie came, as a vision of sorts, like 12 years ago; 13 years ago. I felt she had chosen me for something (This sounds crazy, I know) and I had a responsibility to tell her story.

Q: (Follow up from LanceAround): Are you speaking about a real person or just the character?

A: No, just the character who came to me. With that, it just wasn’t really up for debate or negotiation or anything like that. I kept that channel that I had with her–that connection that I had with her–allowed her story to be told; did not interfere with it and made it. But that’s not going to exist–it hasn’t existed yet–for any of my other work. This is the only film I’ve done thus far but the other stuff I’ve done the inspiration is different. It’s much more mechanical. It makes me feel like an engineer; where you feel like a mathematician but not for something like this where you feel like you are channeling something.

 

 

 

 

 

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