Call Answered: Ari Gold Interview: "The Song of Sway Lake" at Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema
When I read about Ari Gold's new film, (co-written by Elizabeth Bull), The Song of Sway Lake, was not only premiering at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema, but opening the festival, I just knew I had to interview him to find out more!
The Song of Sway Lake is about a music collector, "Ollie Sway," who recruits his only friend, a rowdy Russian drifter, to help him steal a 78 record from his own family's estate. The brilliant cast includes Mary Beth Peil, Rory Culkin, Isabelle McNally, Brian Dennehy, Jack Falahee, Elizabeth Peña, and Robert Sheehan!
The Song of Sway Lake will open the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema on Friday, August 3 at 6:30pm at UA Midway Theater (108-22 Queens Boulevard, Queens, NY). Click here for tickets!
1. I have known you as a singer/actor for many years now. As a musician and actor, what made you interested in directing films as well? The first thing I wanted to be was a writer, actually, but shifted quickly to film when I realized I didn’t like working alone! But even when I was playing in bands, I always wanted to return to making movies - it just can take so long to raise money and get a movie off the ground. Music and acting are immediate - you live inside the creation in the present. Filmmaking is a long drawn-out attempt to create the feeling of presence - which is what The Song of Sway Lake is all about actually. So I’m combining my passions here.
2. You co-wrote The Song of Sway Lake and also directed it. What was the hardest part about directing a film you wrote? I did a lot of re-imagining after we shot. That was very hard, but I felt I could deepen the story. I take comfort that Picasso said something like “If I knew what would be in my painting before I painted it, what would be the point of painting it at all?” The challenge was transforming the film from an interesting tale into a what is for me a powerful spiritual one - that was the third process of discovery for me.
3. There is a great line at the beginning of the film, "When words fail, there's music. When music fails, there's silence." When do you feel you had to use music to convey what you wanted to say? When have you had to go silent to get a message through that you couldn't speak or sing? Romantically, I have used music all the time to convey my feelings for a person or an experience. Who hasn’t? But I would say most often I use music as a way of saying for something to myself. Accessing a feeling of excitement, or grief, or hope, that I wasn’t able to get to.
Using silence to communicate is the toughest thing, perhaps with the end of a friendship, perhaps with the beginning of one. But both parties have to be sensitive to the meeting of the silence.
4. The Song of Sway Lake is about a music collector, "Ollie Sway," who recruits his only friend, a rowdy Russian drifter, to help him steal a 78 record from his own family's estate. What is something from your family that you are just dying to get your hands on? Now, I don’t really have that kind of covetousness. But when my grandparents died I went through a kind of frenzy of wanting to buy their paintings from the rest of the family. Afterwards I looked at the painting some thought, these aren’t my style, why do I have them? I thought I wanted them to hold on to my grandparents, but it was kind of psychosis.
5. I loved how The Song of Sway Lake was filmed. It uses a lot of flashbacks. What is something from your childhood that you keep seeing in your mind? Strangely, for my early childhood I don’t remember anything real, but I remember some of my dreams vividly. Climbing a piano to get to a window to wave to my father, and getting sliced by knives at the top. I think a lot of people have strong memories of their dreams and nightmares in early childhood, and in my case they are stronger than real events. Although I do have a fond memory of looking at a clock and being able to report the time to my parents and their friends, at age 3 or so. I remember the feeling of pride in figuring out the clock.
6. There is a fantastic scene in the film where "Charlie's" desk ("Charlie" is played by the incredible Mary Beth Peil) gets moved down to the lake, which is very pivotal to her character's storyline. When has there been a time you were forced to face something that you closed the book on because you weren't ready to deal with it? Dealing with death, objects can force people to awaken to their own grief. I remember being booby-trapped by a bottle of soap that I was going to smell to remind myself of an ex-girlfriend, and then the peppermint unexpectedly reminded me of the candy canes on my mom’s Christmas trees, and I had to deal with my grief about her death.
7. There is another terrific scene where "Charlie" tries to save the lake from getting polluted from the increased number of boaters using the lake. What is something in your life that you feel got polluted that you were trying to keep pure & clean? My own soul. We have to fight for purity at the same time as accepting the dirt. This is true for our ecology and our hearts.
More on Ari:
Ari Gold is an award-winning writer, director, producer, installation artist and musician whose films are linked by musical and environmental themes. His multiple-award-winning film The Song of Sway Lake will be released in theaters September 21, 2018. The film features Rory Culkin, Robert Sheehan, Mary Beth Peil, Elizabeth Peña, Isabelle McNally, Jack Falahee, Brian Dennehy, John Grant, and The Staves, and has played 35 international film festivals, including six as Opening Night Film.
In addition to The Song of Sway Lake, he directed the cult comedy Adventures of Power ("One of the funniest films in recent years" - NY Magazine), and dozens of award-winning shorts and videos that have been presented everywhere from Sundance to Karlovy-Vary. His student-Oscar-winning short Helicopter, about his mother’s death in a helicopter crash that killed rock music promoter Bill Graham, is being expanded into a feature film, and also being featured in Alejandro Jodorowsky's next film, Psychomagic.
Ari’s most unusual distinctions include winning High Times Magazine’s "Stoner of the Year" award, and being enshrined in the Guinness Book of World Records for commanding the largest ever air-drum ensemble on earth.
His next major project, currently in development, is a game-changing action-adventure fiction TV series about ecology, war, shamanism, and the liberation of the human spirit.
PS Yes, Ari's name was borrowed by a TV show, and this was his response.