By Mark Saldana
Two drone pilots, operating out of a trailer in a Nevada desert, have acquired a target in Afghanistan and are faced with a moral dilemma. They must follow their orders and terminate with extreme prejudice or face punishment for disobedience. This is the premise of the AFF film entry title Drones.
More like a conversation rather than an interview, I had a most enjoyable talk with director Rick Rosenthal and lovely actress Eloise Mumford of the film. On a late Sunday morning, just before noon, I met with these two talented people and discussed the message and intentions of their film and the ramifications of our military’s use of drones. Rosenthal also jokingly mentioned why he despised working with talented actor Matt O’Leary (Natural Selection, Fat Kid Rules the World).
Mark: As a fan of Matt O’Leary’s work so far, I have to ask, what was it like to work with him in this film?
Rick Rosenthal: I found him incredibly difficult and I would never work with him again. Most of the time when he calls me, I’m in the bathtub and I just drop the phone in the water. (Laughs) We had a pretty great time. We definitely had challenges. He and Eloise hit it off in the right way.
Eloise Mumford: We had kind of a brother/sister really sort of vibe, the chemistry of pushing each other to get the best performances out of each other. Sort of competitive
Rick: Out of the whole shoot in the trailer, I think we shot thirteen days in the trailer. Twelve of them were fantastic. Because you’re shooting so much footage, so many pages a day, you hit a little burnout. The second to the last day, we hit burnout.
Eloise: Because it was incredibly hard, emotionally. We would shoot twenty page chunks at a time. We were repeating the same material back to back, but over a long period of time. It’s really hard emotionally to put yourself through the same torture that the characters are going through over and over again, but days on end. I felt like my psyche was mad at myself.
Mark: Would you say that this is your most emotionally challenging role?
Eloise: Yeah I would. A testament only to how hard the actual job is of drone piloting and the sort of life and death decisions, that as an actress, I never have to make.
Mark: I have never served in the military and every time I watch a realistic movie where these decisions are being made and you see what military personnel go through, I think to myself, Wow, I don’t think I could do this. It’s an interesting morality that they live and work in.
Rick: That’s what we wanted the heart of the film to be about. It is a complex morality that we are now entering into, as if war isn’t complex enough. Hundreds of years of literature have been about war and heroism. All of these things have been about respect for the enemy and besting the enemy, a sort of weirdly life and death competition, but it’s always been with risk. Suddenly, we are able to wage war without risk.
Eloise: It’s no longer kill or be killed, it’s just kill.
Rick: Our goal in telling this story is not to make a film that is pro-drones or anti-drones, but to ask questions that hopefully get audiences disturbed.
Drones has one more AFF screening on Thursday (October 31), 8:45 pm. at The Hideout. For details on the venue and on the film, go to http://aff.festivalgenius.com/2013/films/drones_rickrosenthal_aff2013