Interview: Anna Axster Director/Writer of ‘A Country Called Home’

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Writer/Director of A Country Called Home – Anna Axster

How did the idea for the film originate?

The idea for A Country Called Home was inspired by extensive travel throughout the US while on tour with my husband and seeing so many different cultural landscapes all in this one country.  Additionally it was inspired by the loss of a parent and how that speeds up the growing-up process.

A-Country-Called-Home-2DWhat was the writing process like? Did you have an outline from the start?

I felt this story brewing but didn’t find the time to really focus and write it down and so I went to a cabin in Lake Tahoe and locked myself in for a few days without phone or internet and wrote the synopsis.  Then I collaborated on the script with Jim Beggarly, a great writer from New York and he really fleshed out a lot of the scenes and dialogue and we kept sending ideas back and forth.  It was a great experience working with him. When we had a first draft I went to New York and we sat down together for three days and went through the script with a fine comb and after that I gave it to some people to read for the first time.

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Ryan Bingham as Jack in the drama “A COUNTRY CALLED HOME” an ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment.

Did you always know you wanted to direct what you’d written?

I always knew that I wanted to direct this story.  I consider myself a director first and a writer second I guess and while I am writing a new story at the moment I am also interested in the possibility of directing someone else’s material at some point.

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Mackenzie Davis as Reno in the drama “A COUNTRY CALLED HOME” an ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of ALCHEMY and ARC Entertainment.

Who are your biggest influences as a director?

There are so many different storytellers and directors that I admire for different reasons and the list is too long to cover here.  I recently saw Lisa Cholodenko’s “Olive Kittridge” and loved it and thought it was an incredibly inspiring piece of filmmaking.

How did the production blog influence your process?

The blog didn’t really influence my process too much.  It was just fun to know there’s some people out there who want to know what we’re up to.

How did social media/Kickstarter updates impact the production?

Kickstarter obviously impacted the production by allowing us to raise more money through crowdsourcing and therefore allowing us to really make this movie happen.  The updates were honest updates about what we were doing and so I don’t know that they really impacted the production in any way.  We just let the generous backers know what we were doing.

The cast is filled with strong females. Is that something you set out to do?

It’s not something I consciously set out to do, it’s just the story that came out and that I felt compelled to tell.  I do however believe that it’s very important for more real female stories to be told and I feel lucky to have worked with such strong and powerful female actors.

Did you shoot with film or digital? Do you have preference for either?

We shot digital on the Arri Alexa.  I used to shoot on film a lot and while I love film it was not really a sensible choice for our budget and I really liked working with the Alexa and I like the visual look that we were able to achieve.

How were you influenced by the fact that many independent films are now being viewed at home rather than in theaters?

I obviously knew throughout the whole process that most people would see this film on a TV screen and so it probably influenced me in some way but our cinematographer, Charlie Wuppermann, and I worked on the style and feel we wanted to achieve for a long time and we were not strongly influenced by fitting it into any certain size or format but rather by serving the story the best we could.

ACCH-0094-2How was the editing process? Were there any scenes you had to cut?

I love the editing process as there are so many things you can questions or rethink.  Shooting the film is like trying to get the best ingredients possible and editing is putting them together to make the best out of what you have.  We did cut a couple of scenes, simply because it became clear that the story worked without them.  Luckily I am not that attached to my own writing or the stuff we filmed so it was not too hard to make the choices of cutting some things out.  But overall we didn’t leave to much on the editing floor and the story stayed pretty true to the script.

Do you any other scripts in the works? What’s up next for you?

I am currently working on a new story that I’ve started writing and I am looking forward to developing it into a screenplay.  And I am open and looking forward to anything else that might come my way.

About Melissa Hanson

Melissa Hanson aka Dial M For Melissa - Managing Editor / Podcast Producer - Growing up, Melissa’s favorite destination was always the video store and would agonize over whether to watch something new or to rewatch a favorite. Things have not changed. Follow on Twitter @DialMForMelissa