Matvey Fiks’s (BFA Directing 2016) film Douggy is screening at this year’s New York Film Festival Shorts Program on October 4th and 6th – followed by a Q&A with Matvey. Here, he writes about finding the right actor for the right role.
In preparing for my thesis project for the School of Visual Arts, I was particularly concerned about finding an actor for the lead role. I was adapting the short story «Pavlov» (by collaborator Evgenia Nekrasova) into a script – an intimate psychological drama of a man with elements of mysticism. Once, after getting a flat tire on the highway, I encountered a tow-truck driver sent to help me. This stranger’s demeanor (his movements, facial expressions, manner of speaking) made me feel that he might be undergoing something similar to that of the fictional character of the short story. His name was Douggy (Douglas Bottomley) and he was the character I had been looking for.
I was so convinced by his presence, that I decided to bypass the script in its academic form and instead build a film around Douggy’s everyday life, with surroundings and circumstances from his real life. However, I wanted to let fictional components of the short story remain, which, later, to my surprise, found many similarities with Douggy’s real life. In doing so, I was trying to reach a certain minimalism and simplicity in the narrative. I wanted the tragedy to be anticipated, but hidden – evident, but thinly marked. On the contrary, I tried to focus more on suspense – time, the relationship between the character and space, and in the intimacy of moments.
As I was getting to know Douggy, I created a one page shooting plan – a script partially based on his real life events, that I wanted to recreate and capture on film. According to those notes, we followed Douggy around Brooklyn in the curse of 4 nights. This was a very unacademic shooting process, where mainly I was following my intuition. I’m now very pleased to screen the film at New York Film Festival – in the film’s city of origin.