as one of the "top 10 directors to watch" in 2001 by the Hollywood
Reporter, Kari Skogland has worked extensively in film, television
(both series and TV movies) and music videos in Canada and the U.S.
Her TV series credits include Queer as Folk (Showtime), Family
Law (CBS), and Global La Femme Nikita (USA). Television
films include The Courage to Love (Lifetime, with Stacey
Keach and Diahann Carroll) and White Lies (nomiated for 6
Gemini awards). Series pilots include The Crow (Polygram),
Riverworld (Sci Fi Network). Kari's feature films include
Men With Guns (w/Paul Sorvino), Zebra Lounge (w/Stephen
Baldwin), and her latest, Libert Stands Still (w/Wesley Snipes,
Lisa Fiorentino, released by Lions Gate Entertainment).
Kari, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. We're trying
to keep our readers aware of directors to keep an eye out for, and
you definitely fit in that category.
started in TV, working as a director for both series and movies
of the week. What made you decide to venture out into independent
It is a natural step as my writing seems to want to bust out and
leap all over the screen!
As woman in a male dominated field, what have been the challenges?
Do you think being a woman brings any advantages to your role as
There have been lots of challenges, most of which I have just "put
the blinkers on" and blasted through. Sometimes the toughest
is the crew -- it's a very macho world and some have issues to work
through (that of course I get the thrill of slamming into). TV is
-- there are not many women directors in that domain -- but, these
days I am pretty good at sidestepping most problems and keeping
my eye on the prize. I have the advantage of having a strong commercial
background where I did lots of male domain stuff -- beer, race cars,
cowboys, etc. -- so moving into the male world of action was easy.
Also, I knew my stuff so the crews soon learned to trust me.
hope I bring a different face to the action I've done -- slashing
or shooting has no value unless there is a realistic human element
attached -- and of course, because I am inherently afraid of violence
(as perhaps we all are), I want the message left that violence doesn't
ultimately work. So, I lean toward the tragic rather than the heroic
are lots of advantages. As a female I am immersed in the emotional
side of filmmaking which bonds me with the actors who are dealing
with that arena in their work. The guys particularly seem to feel
a little free to experiment and dig because the male/female dynamic
can be more forgiving.
sometimes women are a little more leery of a strong woman as they
are more used to that role being male (which is comfortable territory),
but we usually get past it and then of course I demand they work
as a real woman, rather than as a woman as seen through a man's
perspective. At the end of the day, the female actors seem to get
a real empowerment from it and we are able to do some great work.
I was particularly fascinated by your tackling the issue of violence
in your film LIBERTY STANDS STILL, and how you apparently
were inspired to finish the script, in part, in reaction to the
Columbine killings. Can you talk a little bit about how the script
I had started the script a year or so earlier, but got busy on other
Columbine happened and my guts were suddenly in a knot about the
future and how we might be screwing it up.
the event sparked debate in the news media for a short while, it
has not shown up in a meaningful way in other forums. Why are we
so hesitant to stir up the debate? Our apparent collective belief
that guns are integral to our notion of freedom as an interpretation
of the 2nd Amendment -- that needs to be discussed.
a documentarian, I learned debate was my place as a filmmaker. I
hope this film (LIBERTY STANDS STILL) will make people think
about the terror we have come to live with every day when we send
our child to school, or drive on an open road, or work in an office
whether public or private. We wonder how people live in conditions
of war in so many other countries, yet, how closely does our own
situation mirror theirs?
could go on about the politics and the corporate agenda's of huge
business -- where there is a lot of money at stake -- but hopefully
the movie says enough.
will say that fallout from gun violence has reached epidemic proportions
according to the Department of Health -- and yet, we still cling
to aging rhetoric while our children's mental and physical safety
are at risk.
intention was to cast and execute this film with an irony that resonates,
and a tension that makes you feel. I hope, along with all the others
who have supported this movie, that we make the audience think,
no matter what side of the issue they are on.
You shot your film sequentially, in 19 days, using multiple cameras.
I was wondering if you saw TIMECODE and were inspired by
that film at all? Of course that film was shot absolutely real time,
with 4 cameras… but the concept is similar. What inspired you to
take this approach to shooting?
Yes, TIMECODE was a direct inspiration, and I even considered
shooting a similar process -- completely real time -- I would have
loved to try it but, that is a scheduling nightmare and my actors
had conflicts. So we opted for a more traditional approach where
we had a little more control.
Editing must have been a challenge. It seems like with all those
cameras it would be almost like editing a documentary. Who was your
editor and how did you approach the editing of the film?
Jim Munro edited and he is amazing. In fact, he found elements and
emotions in the footage that I didn't know we had -- and it was
a deck of cards. To change one thing meant to change everything,
and he diligently went down many roads. We had a budget challenge
in post production, or I would have used more split screen. But
that gets expensive so we stuck with the traditional back and forth
approach, which meant rhythm and pacing were critical for such a
dialogue-heavy film. Jim has done lots of work in commercials so
he is great at making every second count. The great thing about
post production is you get to "redirect" your movie, and if you
have an editor capable of surprising you with the new possibilities
that they uncover in the footage, then it becomes a fantastic journey
of discovery. Wes (Wesley Snipes) in particular was really happy
with how Jim edited his performance.
I've also heard you describe LIBERTY STANDS STILL as being
"like a play." What do you mean by that?
It is a morality play, and staged as such. I wanted the actors static
so we weren't so distracted by the environment or "action."
This also allowed me to shoot it in a faster schedule, as the actors
were doing twenty pages a day. The play within the play was no accident
-- it mirrored us in our dualistic lives -- and it was a play about
war just to drive the point home... but I won't go into subtext
I understand you prefer an organic approach to directing. With Wesley
Snipes and Linda Fiorentino that apparently meant they had a lot
of input, and also a lot of pages of dialog per day (as you already
stated). Please explain a little bit about how you work with actors.
I am very collaborative. My job as a director, while keeping the
vision, is to allow the process to work toward a common goal. Everyone
wants to make a better movie, so that makes everyone's opinion valuable.
I have to weed out the most relevant and use what I think is best,
all within the context of time, budget, as well as producer/distributor
concerns. And they are not always in agreement. Sometimes I have
to take the chance that I know best and that once everyone sees
it, they'll agree. Yet I'm not infallible, so I need lots of butt
coverage. I love to hire people who are gifted in each department
-- "surround yourself with people better at what they do than you
could ever be" is my motto -- then there is a lot to mine from.
spend their time preparing their character (and hopefully thinking
about them) in ways that have not occurred to me. Sometimes, if
we are not in agreement, then we need to find a way to see the same
character just as we need to make the same movie -- but that has
never been a problem for me. I like things to evolve and move forward,
so letting the character live and breath is expected. I am not rigid
about much, so that when I dig in, people pick up on how important
it is to me and often come around. Communication is key and when
I get it wrong, or have a bad idea, I am the first to cop to it.
That helps to open up an environment where people are not afraid
to make mistakes. You can't live outside the box unless you are
willing to try stuff. That is scary and sometimes that means you'll
fall like a brick -- but, if those around you are supportive, out
of that (more often than not) comes discovery. And that is exciting.
I was curious if you cast your film prior to going to Lion's Gate,
or the other way around? In other words, would you have moved forward
with or without a distributor in place? Or did Lions Gate also produce?
No, we had cast interest first, then Lions Gate backed it up.
I'd like to turn back to the theme of the LIBERTY STANDS STILL.
Was there anything in your personal life that made you feel compelled
to speak about the responsibility of the individual when it comes
to violence? How did you become concerned about this issue?
Oddly, no. I have had little connection with guns other than some
close members in my family hunt -- and I have some issues with killing
wild animals. It was more that as a member of the film community
-- where we use violence to sell box office in the same way advertising
preys on our fears to sell product -- I was compelled to go down
the road of social responsibility.
it is the mother in me. One woman changed how we think about drunk
driving and has spearheaded a social change that spawned laws etc.,
and now we feel socially conscious about getting behind the wheel
of what amounts to be a weapon (if used irresponsibly). That is
how we need to start thinking about guns, and I don't think entertainment
has yet had the guts to really dive into it. We generally don't
let actors smoke anymore, as they are role models (particularly
in TV), and we are very politically correct about race issues etc.,
yet, we are happy to let someone blast away with a gun as if there
are no consequences. What is that about?
And yet, LIBERTY STANDS STILL has many "commercial" elements
to it, with your producer Gary Pearl really seeing the film as a
marketable suspense thriller. Do you find yourself most attracted
to suspense, or would you like to explore other types of genres.
I understand your first film was a comedy.
I love comedy and period. I have eclectic tastes and I find crossing
genres exciting and challenging. I bring my experiences with me
which allows for richer characters and hopefully fewer missed opportunities
as I allow myself to mix it up a little. Life is like that -- sometimes
we are funny in the face of adversity, or tragic in the face of
hilarity. With the experience to draw from, I try to bring a scene
to life with ingenuity.
I hear you're developing a film titled WILLIAM THE BASTARD.
Can you tell us a little bit about that project?
The greatest story never told. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 --
the one time the French beat the English and changed England forever.
Two men, one a reluctant king, and the other a man who believed
he deserved to be king, had to face each other in the field knowing
that one would die. They were friends and respected each other so
it made victory bittersweet.
Finally, a "literary" question for our SolPix readers who love
both film and literature -- if you were to have the chance to adapt
any book you wanted into film (that you haven't already done, of
course), what would that book be and why?
Ahhhh. I have just adapted The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence.
A wonderful book about false pride and how it rules us -- I hope
to shoot that in the next year or two. And I have another personal
favorite, American Gods by Neil Gaimon or My Life as Pi.
As you can see, my tastes are rather hard to pin point other
than they all involve grand themes, I guess!
this article on the nextPix FORUM by going to its discussion
LIBERTY STANDS STILL, the film referenced in this interview:
Copyright Web del Sol, 2003