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Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival Into Schrodinger’s Box Filmmaker Interview

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 09/15/2021

Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival Into Schrodinger’s Box Filmmaker Interview

Filmed during the initial hysteria and the unprecedented early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Into Schrodinger’s Box is a daring Indie psychological thriller unlike anything before it.  Here is my interview with Directors Nasim Naghavi and Amir Ganjavie who are from Canada.

Nigrin:  Into Schrodinger's Box is a psychological thriller feature film that focuses on Sophia -- a talented musician -- who must stay in her home and quarantine due to her husband's COVID infection. Tell us why did you decided to make this film? 

Naghavi and Ganjavie: The pressure of the COVID situation attacked everyone in Canada, including us. We started to realize how it is hard to be imprisoned at home. It is not all about the physical sickness but also the mental; that's the reason to start the film, to launch the story of a woman who got quarantined involuntarily for 14 days, a claustrophobic person to add more to her attention. In addition, other social and economic issues are also taking place during the covid situation; many people lost their jobs, and the financial pressure was another facade of the pandemic; this is also included in our film. So overall, personal and social situations are questioned. The first step to create the plot came to use through Behzad Javaheri, the producer who suggested that we make a film about covid's impact on family relationships. The inital plot was about the love affair of a couple and the crisis that they experience after a stranger enters their lives. With the help of Alireza Kazemipour, the scriptwriter, we finally found a way to tell this story coherently and beautifully.  We gradually developed the story and came up with the current screenplay after many rewrites, though the screenplay was dynamic and continued to change until the last days of shooting. It was important for the dialogue to be natural and to make sense to the English-speaking audience. Arash Azizi helped us translate it into English and he played a crucial role in writing the English dialogue. We really wanted the screenplay to be written in a simple, straightforward way that could be translated for the English-speaking audience to understand easily. That’s why we also used the help of Chris McClure, who works with the Austin Film Festival and did a great job of making the screenplay ready for English.

Nigrin:  The three lead actors Ada Shkalla as Sophia, Lee Lawson as Lilith, and Geoff Mays as Martin are really perfect. Tell us more about them and how they ended up being in your film?

Naghavi and Ganjavie: The casting was hard because of the covid situation, the restriction of time, and the number of people we could have on the scene. The collaboration among these people, the cast, went smoothly, and they understood each other  quite well. So, it was not that hard to work with any of them. We usually have some preconceived ideas about the characters we want for the film, and during the audition, if we see somebody that matches our idea, we will go for it; and this was the case with all of them. For example, regarding Sophia, we felt that she could be a perfect match for the character; she looks ideal in terms of age, gesture, figure concerning the character we had in mind. 

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Nigrin:  The camera work by the DP Pedro Miguez is really great. Tell us more about him and the style of cinematography used in your film?

Naghavi and Ganjavie: We were lucky to have Pedro, our DP in the set. He is a searcher, a passionate and experimental observer guy. He loves to move beyond his own capacity to create the best images possible. And I think this is what we were fortunate about. We could test and test many times again to come up with the best camera angle for the frame

Nigrin:  Where did you shoot your film, and why did you pick these locations?

Naghavi and Ganjavie: We shot the film in a Canadian detached house. We tried to use different lenses to give it a more claustrophobic tone. We also wanted to shoot in an isolated home. For us, it needed to be a home in the suburban area of Toronto. It was the major location of the film; other locations were a few empty public spaces in the area around us. 

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you would like to relay to us?

Naghavi and Ganjavie: Well, in past year most film projects in Canada have been postponed since coronavirus has made filmmaking a high-risk activity. Most producers won’t even go near film projects right now and we were among the very few who managed to work under these conditions. Making the film in this situation was not easy and we felt extreme pressure as we tried to follow the health protection regulations. We asked the cast and crew to be tested for COVID-19 before coming to work and we had gloves, masks, and disinfectants on set and we asked everybody to follow social distancing guidelines. Although the cast and crew were anxious and feeling stressful at first, once they’d worked together for a while, coming to the set early in the morning and leaving late at night, they got to trust one another and saw each other as family. The experience of facing a common fear turned the whole shooting process into a unique experience and although the group was comprised of people from different backgrounds and ethnicities, they managed to become close friends. We had so many moments of fun together. Every evening after shooting some scenes, we gather in the backyard and sometimes have barbecues, sometimes play around, before moving to the night scenes. The friendship and the community that we met, especially during the pandemic, were great, and we think this film was about work and enjoying our company and friendship.

Into Schrodinger’s Box screens at the Fall 2021 New Jersey Film Festival on Friday, September 17th where it screens live at 7PM in Voorhees Hall #105 (Rutgers University, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey) and all day via Video On Demand. A purchased ticket gives you access to both these screenings.

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Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.



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