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[Interview] ‘1BR’ Director David Marmor, Producer Alok Mishra, Composer Ronen Landa, and Actress Naomi Grossman Discuss the Film



[Interview] '1BR' Director David Marmor, Producer Alok Mishra, Composer Ronen Landa, and actress Naomi Grossman Discuss the Film

1BR continues to be a well-discussed movie on Twitter following an incredible reception to its release to video on demand (VOD). Currently, it is still sitting strongly at 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and had a nearly instant trending status upon its release to Netflix. I was recently able to get a chance to chat with writer-director David Marmor, producer Alok Mishra, composer Ronen Landa, and actress Naomi Grossman to discuss the film.

(This interview has been edited and condensed.)

How much of the script was inspired by your own experience of moving to L.A.?

David Marmor: The apartment complex in the movie actually looks weirdly similar to the one that inspired the script, which is kind of just luck because we didn’t really have much choice in apartment complexes. We didn’t really have that much budget, I think that there were two options that we could afford, but it just happened that this one looks very similar to the one that I used to live in. The original inspiration was just the feeling of the weirdness of places like that, where you’re very packed in with people, but you’re also very alone. It’s a weird, artificial environment that I’d never been in before and it made a strong impression on me. So, there’s that feeling, there’s the sort of look and physical feel of the place, and then also, there were some sort of people and incidents that inspired certain things. There was this old lady who I used to see when I would come home, up on the third floor breezeway leaning on the railing and wearing this sort of house dress and smoking a cigarette and she looked forlorn and I always just sort of wondered who she was, and she was my inspiration for Edie.

In the original draft of the script, the Jerry and Janice characters were European with some sort of slightly undefinable accent because that’s who managed the apartment complex that I lived in. So, there were characters that were inspired by my time there and then also, the noises. The very first night I was in that apartment complex, I was settling in to go to sleep and I heard footsteps going back and forth above me and it went on for hours. I remember lying there awake for hours thinking ‘I’m never going to sleep again’. The other major thing was that I had a cat that I wasn’t allowed to own, which brought its own kind of paranoia because every time you open the door, you’re like ‘Is this cat going to run out into the breezeway?’ You’re always just sort of just looking around suspiciously. There are a lot of little and big things that inspired the script.

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What sort of inspiration did everyone find, or what sort of direction was given, for the roles that they were given?

Naomi Grossman: Well, that’s interesting because I never heard that about the couple. I think had I known, if I could have had a thick accent I would have gone to town. But we talked about the fact and you know, these people don’t think that they’re bad guys at all. They’re doing the right thing. Janice in particular, she’s trying to be a good mom, lay down some rules, and teach her daughter discipline. She’s trying to be a good example and neighbor. That’s very important because just because there are villains out there, they’re not necessarily twisting their mustache; we’re not trying to do these caricatures. It’s not clear black and white – we’ve all got a little evil in us and good as well. In my case, I tend to be a real naysayer and rule breaker. I like latching on to the differences in a character. I don’t want to be myself, in general, in acting – I will always go for a character that is someone else. In this particular case, that was my choice to really play a rule abider.

David Marmor: A part like that (Naomi’s), it is more important to have a strong actor because there aren’t a lot of lines, but it’s a really important part. She plays a key role in the community as kind of the liaison between Jerry who is fairly detached, you don’t see him a lot, and the rest of the residents. And she is a bit the disciplinarian of the complex so it was important to have somebody who could convey that danger without saying a lot and Naomi did it fantastically.

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With word of mouth being so important for independent films such as yours, do you think that the release to Netflix and VOD has actually been somewhat beneficial for the film’s success?

Alok Mishra: We didn’t get a theatrical release, but we did get a festival run so the festival run did help build awareness of it. We had a certain amount of press through interviews, so we got awareness in different pockets, but more importantly awareness with our core audience which was technically horror. However, the movie itself actually straddles two lines, it’s like a psychological thriller, as well. So, we got a little bit of traction there and then our theatrical run got cancelled, but the good luck was that we did really well on VOD and had a nice publicity push at the beginning. Keeping that push alive from when we knew that we were going to be on Netflix, we made a conscious decision to keep the flame alive with building awareness through podcasts and interviews. Then, when we actually launched on Netflix, this little film somehow infiltrated the top five on its first day and stayed in the top five for the first week and actually got to number one. But I think it was because of all of our efforts as a team; it’s been very much a team effort to get to number one on Netflix.

Do you think that the concept of not being able to leave the apartment complex has helped tie into our own new reality in a meta sort of way that makes the movie slightly more relative to audiences than you may have initially intended?

David Marmor: Yeah, absolutely. Everyone is sort of stuck at home and has more time to stream stuff and watch stuff, so there was more of an audience sort of built in for a movie like ours that was going to live on streaming and VOD. But I think also, I recognized this sort of as COVID was starting and obviously no one knew how long we were going to be stuck in this limbo, but I remember thinking at that time that this movie has weirdly resonant themes with this whole COVID situation. It’s sort of all about the push and pull between ourselves as individuals and the community around us. The themes that are naturally in the movie, which I wrote years ago and we made it two years ago so we didn’t know this was coming, but those themes I feel like they’ve become very relevant. But on another level, it’s about people being stuck in their homes – these are all people that have been trapped in their apartment complex, which we all are now.

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There’s a certain point in the film where you start to get the sense that the power of community as demonstrated in the complex is bigger than what we’ve been shown, which is supported by the ending. Has there been any talks of a sequel, or a possible prequel, to the film?

Alok Mishra: It could go many different ways. Where it goes, and if it goes, is up to many fine folks. I can’t say anything about it whatsoever, but I can say that it is very interesting the ideas that we have. It’s all in David Marmor’s head, so we’ll have to see.

Was there any inspiration for the score for the movie?

Ronen Landa: There were quite a few inspirations I would say. We tried to get a lot of different ideas threaded into the score. The main one really is that the score is always an extension of Sarah’s mind, of her psychology. She’s in every single scene and she’s almost always on camera, so the score really needed to stay with her and what she’s experiencing. We did a lot of different things in the score to express that. The main theme has a sort of innocence and curiosity at the beginning of the film, but also a little bit of melancholy because she’s coming from this very sad family situation that she’s leaving behind. As it goes on and things get a little weird, we took a lot of familiar ideas and sounds like a woman’s voice or instruments you might be familiar with and processed them to make them feel a little weird, a little different, to give the sense of things not being quite right. One of my favorite little motives is every time we’re thinking about being watched, you almost hear a camera pinging as if it’s been turned on.

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What were your favorite scenes to film?

Naomi Grossman: I mean for me, coming out swinging with a knife, no question.

Alok Mishra: I really love the confrontation with her father.

David Marmor: I think for me, my favorite scene to shoot was the party in Miss Stanhope’s living room, because that was one of the few scenes where we had the whole band together. It’s one of the only scenes in the movie that almost everybody is in.

Ronen Landa: I had a favorite scene to score, because I wasn’t on set. It was just because it was so unique. There was a scene that Dave had set up to mirror classical, Renaissance art, so the framing and the design of that whole scene was mirroring some very famous works of art. He asked me to bring something from that into the score, so I got to write a very formal piece for that one scene and that was a really unique opportunity in this sort of film.

What would you say to anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film?

Ronen Landa: Some people give up on this film a little too soon. You’ve got to stick it out. There’s lots of twists and turns, so if there’s a scene that freaks you out a little bit, just hang on, don’t give up, and get all the way through to the end because I think it pays off and it’s worth it to see where it goes, and it will surprise you.

Alok Mishra: This is in the trailer, but the number one complaint is that something happens to the cat in the movie.

Ronen Landa: Alok, can you confirm that Giles the cat survived the shoot?

Alok Mishra: Giles is alive and well as far as I know, he’s acting up a storm.

Is there anything that anyone is working on currently?

Naomi: Something I’ve done for many years was some solo shows, so I’ve gotten back to that and I’ve got a new one-woman show under my belt.

Ronen: Something I’m working on now ties back to 1BR because it’s a director that I met at Fantasia Festival when 1BR premiered back in Montreal. It’s always really interesting when you work on films that are kind of in the same genre, but different filmmakers and every filmmaker has their own idea and it kind of pulls a different side of my musical brain out.

Alok: We’re working with Dave on another film that we can’t really talk about, but the next thing after that is, hopefully, maybe a sequel to 1BR.

You can check out the trailer for 1BR below.



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