Best Picks of The Month

A male #metoo story set in the classical music world.

Can you tell us what inspired you to bring this story to life?

What are you willing to sacrifice for your ambitions? It was December of 2017, the Weinstein scandal rocked the entertainment world 3 months prior, and the classical music world turned upside down with the unraveling of James Levine, the famed conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. The floodgates opened and story after story tumbled out of the classical music world. I was shaken. As a violinist since the age of 4, this was my community, these were my organizations I was a part of. Suddenly, this distant MeToo movement was right near home. And in the classical music world, the nature of our craft makes it especially difficult to uncover and convict sexual predators who prey on the ambition of younger artists.

Here is where I believe film has a unique opportunity to bring us behind the doors of the private lesson and allow us into the emotions and questions of the victim. Is this worth it? What if I don’t? Then, after the culmination of physical abuse, we linger in the “caesura,” or pause, of emotional trauma. A gap silent and void of identity and song, a place where the musician cannot utter another note because the pain is too near, a moment when crippling doubts and questions spur reflection. But, like a caesura in song or poetry, this pause is not the end of the piece, but a necessary part of the journey to resolution.

These stories are incredibly difficult to write, what was the writing process like and how did you go about getting these difficult emotions on screen?

After I spit out a first draft, I took it to a friend studying screenwriting, Emma Palmbach, for feedback. We had a great discussion about it over coffee and at the end of the meeting she offered to take the next pass at it. That sparked a really rewarding writing partnership where I could bring my music background and familiarity with the subject matter and she could help mold and shape that into something that played better on screen. It took several months to get the script to a place where we felt confident and along the way we intentionally brought it to people who both directly and indirectly experienced sexual assault to make sure the beats resonated honestly.

What was the most challenging part of this shoot?

Besides hauling a piano to the desert, the hotel scene was by far the most challenging. I was internally terrified as a director to get to that scene but my amazing crew and actors (Brendan Shannon and Matthew Rhodes) placed an incredible amount of trust in me and each other. After lighting and art did their thing we had everyone leave the set except the most essential camera and sound personnel so I and the actors could rehearse the scene a few times before seamlessly stepping into takes. As I sat at the monitor during the final close-up both my DP (Tyler Skillings) and I were visibly shaking; the tension in the room was palpable.