Interview: Danny Lerner, writer/director of KIROT

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
September 18th, 2009


Writer/director Danny Lerner took some time out of his busy schedule at the Toronto International Film Festival, where his second feature KIROT screened, to tell me more about his film, his influences, and his dream projects. You can read more about KIROT in my TIFF Spotlight article focused on the film HERE.

Since I could not teleport myself to Toronto to interview Danny in person, he generously agreed to conduct the interview via email. While the idea of an "email interview" could be rife with problems - how easy it could be to give short answers, how simple to not be personal with your responses, Lerner went above and beyond. He answered all of my questions with depth and honesty. But from such a talented writer, I should have expected that. I very much enjoyed reading his responses, and I hope you do, too!

Check out my interview with Danny Lerner after the jump!

Both of your features, FROZEN DAYS and KIROT, focus on women in peril. What attracts you to creating these types of stories?

I am very much attracted to the idea of putting women on screen as the main characters mainly because I find female characters to be more interesting, rich and complex characters. A lot of genre film focus on the male point of view, leaving women to be functional characters. I like genre films where women take the lead as interesting, complex and exciting screen characters. Films like “Marnie”, “Gloria”, or “The innocents”. I think it's refreshing and exciting to see a genre film from a different point of view, not the expected one. The basic idea of "women in peril" was always cinematic but at the same time very chauvinistic. I think that films in which the female character can stand on her own and be a round and complete character in control of her own destiny is just as cinematic and exciting.

Both FROZEN DAYS and KIROT take place in Tel Aviv. What are the best parts about basing your films in your home country? What are the worst? Where else would you like to set upcoming projects, if not in Tel Aviv?

The best part of basing a film where you live is that you are familiar with the environment and know your way around. This is very helpful in finding locations. Furthermore, when you’re writing the script, you can write scenes for specific locations that you have in mind around the city.

The worst thing could be getting over familiar with your locations up to a point where the mystery of discovering new locations will be lost. In some scenes in KIROT I went back to the same locations were I shot FROZEN DAYS only because both stories take place similar surroundings. However, “Frozen days” was shot in B&W and “Kirot” is in color, so although the locations were familiar they look completely different. So rediscovering the locations was very exciting for me.

I love Tel Aviv but if I had to shoot a film abroad I would love to shoot a film in Paris.

Both KIROT and FROZEN DAYS spend a lot of time in people's apartments. How do you think the use of confined, personal spaces influences the stories you tell?

In KIROT Galia uses her small apartment not just as a shelter from the world but also as a place to project her dreams and also reestablish her sense of self through her friendship with Elinor, a friendship that grows in a confined space and promises the possibility and chance to flourish and break out. In both films I've made, the story is very subjective and told through one character's point of view. Both films are like a journey where we follow the character through each twist and turn therefore these stories are very personal to the character that tells them and take us right into their world. These stories are confined and so the apartments of these characters are not just movie locations but very much a living part of the characters themselves.

KIROT's Olga Kurylenko is primarily known for her work in QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and other actioners like HITMAN and MAX PAYNE. Even though her character in KIROT is a tough assassin, she has a lot more to her character than just that. What was the casting process for Galia, and how did you know Kurylenko was right for the part?

When I started to cast KIROT I first had to find my Galia. I did not know Olga before and have not seen any of her work until a French producer insisted I watch her show-reel. I found her amazing and I was especially drawn to a scene she played in one of her films were she projected the kind of qualities which I needed for Galia. When we met, I only asked her to tell me a sad story in Russian and since I do not speak the language I just wanted to feel the emotion she could project. She was amazing and I knew immediately right there and then that she is a wonderful actress and would be an amazing Galia. I was so impressed and taken by her that I knew I did not need to look any further. Later, we invited her to Israel to take part in the match up auditions for the part of Elinor, but I did not audition any other actress for the part of Galia. Olga was so perfect for the part, it was amazing.

What other filmmakers and projects do you look to for inspiration?

My favorite directors whose films always inspire me are Jean Pierre Melville, Roman Polanski, Brian De Palma, Sam Raimi and Jacques Tourneur.

Do you have any "dream" projects you would live to develop?

JAMES BOND! I'd love to do a James Bond film which will have him team up with a sexy kickass witty female Israeli Mossad agent! That would be fun!

Do you have an official upcoming project we can look forward to?

I'm working now on a couple of scripts from different genres but the one I'm most excited about is a "whodoneit" based on a real life unsolved murder mystery that takes place in Tel Aviv.

Big thanks to the good folks at mPRm Public Relations and Bleiberg Entertainment for coordinating the interview.

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