‘Joy de V’ director Szold happy about Slamdance win
January 25, 2013
"Joy de V," directed by Nadia Szold, was given a special mention Grand Jury Award during Thursday night’s Slamdance awards ceremony at the Treasure Mountain Inn.
Other awards were given to James E. Duff’s "Hank and Asha" and Matt Johnson’s "The Dirties." (See story titled "Slamdance announces its 2013 award winners").
"Joy de V" was praised by the jury — which was comprised of filmmakers Nancy Schafer, Meira Blaustein and Chris Gore — for being "filled with humor, flawless characters and performances and a highly developed visual style," and "signals the arrival of a powerful new filmmaking talent," according to a Slamdance press release.
For Szold, the award was the perfect ending to a great Slamdance experience.
"It’s very gratifying (to hear) from an incredibly accomplished jury of film professionals that they enjoyed the film, the story and the characters we created," Szold said. "Slamdance nurtures its filmmaker, and I’m proud to have premiered ‘Joy de V’ among so many other outstanding films."
"Joy de V," which marked Szold’s narrative film directing debut, is about a New Yorker named Roman, whose wife, Joy, portrayed by Joséphine de La Baume, is seven months pregnant.
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Roman, played by Evan Louison, has conned the government into sending him disability checks for a nonexistent mental condition. One day he wakes up and finds Joy missing.
Szold and Louison met with The Park Record and talked about the film, as well as their time in Park City during Slamdance.
The idea for the film developed when Szold was working on another film while living in Paris.
"The impatience of waiting around for producers to get themselves together to green light the project wore me thin," Szold said. "So, I started this project with the intention to completely self-produce it and make it for a very small amount of money."
Although "Joy de V" was originally set in Paris, Szold decided to move it to New York, because, as she said, "It is really a New York story."
The role of Roman was always going to be portrayed by Louison, who has known Szold for more than six years.
"It so happened that Nadia came back to New York and was living in Staten Island and I was on Bleecker Street," Louison said. "She sent me the script and then six months later, we started filming."
"Evan is a New Yorker in every sense of the word that doesn’t exist as much anymore, because New York is changing so quickly," Szold said. "It’s actually rare to run into one of those fast-talking, street-smart guys."
Szold wanted that role to stand out because she remembers past friends who were like Roman.
"They were all kids who ran different scams on the side, and the city was their playground in a way," she said. "These were people who were born in the city, and became comfortable what was happening, because they knew they were hustling each other."
In addition, Szold wanted to make the point that many New Yorkers "don’t live anywhere near the social-networking grid."
"I had friends who change their cell phones all the time," she said. "In fact, Evan didn’t have a phone at the time I sent the script to him."
"The only reason why I have a phone is because Nadia bought it so she could keep in touch with me," Louison laughed.
"Seriously, I needed to stay in touch with him," Szold said.
Louison was drawn to the role because he saw himself within the pages, especially when Roman begins to look for Joy and is so upset he can’t even fill out a missing-person’s report.
"Roman, as a person, was sort of planted in my head for a long time before we shot anything, but even with the changes in the setting, there is this aspect of him that is on an adventure that goes through a sad and nightmarish road," Louison said. "It’s hard to put a label on it, or judge the quality of his trajectory, but as screwed up as some of the choices he makes are, and as misguided as everything seemed, by the time we began shooting, I had totally accepted that his decisions would have been the same decisions I would have made as well."
The shoot itself was difficult because there were scenes that took place all around New York City, Szold said.
"Since this was an independent film, we worked long hours, but there was a level of professionalism and seriousness that the staff and the crew took to," she said.
The dedication had a lot to do with the fact that everyone knew "Joy de V" was a long-form project that needed to be done quickly.
"The first day on the job, I got off the plane and went to costuming and then had to have a dinner meeting," Louison said. "We shot for 10 hours the next day, starting in the early morning, and we did that a lot."
Still, within the relentless schedule, there was always room for some lighthearted incidents, especially while filming scenes that feature Louison dressed up as a priest.
"Everything is funnier when you’re wearing a priest outfit," he said. "I mean, here’s the priest eating a hamburger, or here we have the priest hailing a cab or just smoking a cigarette."
One day there was an incident while Szold tried to film Louison, who was in his priest garb, walking across Park Avenue.
"We kept circling around the block to get the shot, but because we couldn’t empty the street, it was really tough," Szold said. "Here we were in this tiny production car, trying to go the right speed and time the lights right, while the other drivers were honking at us."
When Szold’s car got to designated spot, everything seemed a go.
"It was framed right and we timed the light perfectly, and we had 10 seconds to get the shot," she said.
Right as Louison stepped off the curb, a man approached him from behind.
"I heard someone behind me say, ‘Father, I have to talk to you,’" Louison said. "I turned around and there’s this guy and he’s with his wife and son."
The man told Louison about some personal problems and that he didn’t know what to believe.
Petrified, Louison racked his brain to come up with a Bible verse that would help the man.
"I said something about being the rock of life and then, politely, told him that I had to go," Louison said. "I don’t know how he didn’t think I was a total lunatic walking around dressed as a priest."
In the meantime, Szold was having fits.
"I’m in the car saying to myself, ‘Why is Evan talking to this man? Come on go, go, go!’" she said.
Szold got the shot, and also made eye contact with the man, but didn’t want to reveal to him that he just poured out his heart to a fake priest.
"There was a moment when he turned and saw the car and the camera," she said. "So we thought up different excuses we could tell him, like we were making a documentary about a priest, and things like that."
For more information about "Joy de V," visit http://www.joydevmovie.com.