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BAMcinemaFest: Craig Zobel Talks Conversation-Starting True-Crime Tale 'Compliance'

Photo of Cory Everett By Cory Everett | @modage June 28, 2012 at 2:45PM

As many festivalgoers know, attending a film festival can be both an exhausting and rewarding experience. Fortunately for those NYC-ers who don’t have the stamina to attend Sundance, Cannes or SXSW, BAM has culled some of the best of those lineups and selected a few dozen favorites, which are now playing during BAMcinemaFest. One of the films that we caught at Sundance that hasn’t eased it grip is Craig Zobel’s “Compliance.”
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Compliance Sundance
How did you deal with discomfort of consistently putting Dreama Walker in such compromising positions? Was it difficult to film some of her nude scenes?
I’m glad you asked that question because that is the one thing I’m shocked that some of the film reporting has been so ignorant [about]. [Dreama] knew what the movie was. And it was important for me that I had someone who recognized the situation and was interested in the same story as me about why it happens. She and I went through every shot that would have some sort of nudity in it and knew ahead of time what they were. On set she wasn't nude as much as the film makes it seem.

If the only reason I was doing it is so that her breasts could be in the movie for a random scene or in a sexy scene seems incredibly exploitational. To me that is much worse than what we were doing. It’s funny, a lot of people were asking me if I was putting her in uncomfortable situations. "No, she is an actress, when we called cut she’d be on her iPhone laughing and stuff." She’s a very talented actress. I now have an eagle eye towards when I see [more gratuitous nudity]. I was watching an old Elliott Gould movie ["The Silent Partner” (1978)] last night and there were two actresses topless for no reason that has anything to do with the story, and it’s one of those things that seems uncomfortable.

Did you consider whether or not to show the nudity? It’s something you could have easily cut around but by forcing the audience to look makes it more uncomfortable and involved in what’s going on?
I certainly didn’t want to shoot any of the big stuff offscreen and I did think at some point whether we needed to do any of it. But to me it grounds everything. That’s where it gets serious. It helps there be some sense of threat in the situation and uncomfortability which is not unimportant to the bigger conversation.

I loved the score to the movie. It was used sparingly but the pieces at the beginning and end had a Philip Glass feel to them, can you talk a bit about that?
The composer is amazing. Her name is Heather McIntosh, I’ve known her forever, she’s been in a ton of bands and she’s a really accomplished musician outside of film music. I knew I wanted to work with her on this and when we were talking about the score, I was trying to make the movie be objective. I didn’t want it to be inside Becky’s head the whole time. That version of the film is totally possible but it turns into a horror movie that is only in one room and it makes everybody a bad guy except for her. I felt like [it would be better] looking at the film as if you’re an alien looking at all these people and going, ‘What’s going on?’ The reason I bring up the subjectivity vs. objectivity is because music tells the audience what to feel. And I was hesitant to do that. I didn’t want to be hewing emotion that way and we talked about the score being emotional breathers and to highlight giant shifts [rather than telegraph every beat]. So when we started picking these scenes she started sending me these cello sketches and I fell in love with this idea of it having a 20th century composer feel. I feel like indie movies are usually in the guitar universe.

You mentioned back in January that you were working on a few different projects, do you know what’s going to be up next for you?
I’m close to the finish line on two different things and I’m waiting and hoping by August that I’ll know the answer to that. But I don’t right now.

“Compliance” screens at BAMcinemaFest this Friday at 9:30pm and opens in theaters on August 17th.

This article is related to: Craig Zobel, Compliance, BAMcinematek, BAMcinemaFest, Interviews


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