ToY is a gripping story of two lost souls finding love and each other. That’s the way writer/director Patrick Chapman described the movie to us when we spoke to him and Kerry Norton, who you will all know as Layne Ishay on Battlestar Galactica.
How Edward James Olmos became involved in casting Kerry Norton and gruelling shooting schedule. The challenges that went into creating this film gave us all the more reason to get in touch with Patrick and Kerry for this double-feature interview.
ToY is available on ITunes, Google Play and Amazon starting TODAY!
BSG-M: Tell us a bit more about the ToY universe and what you’ll be catapulting the viewer into?
Patrick Chapman: ToY beautifully captures the story of two lost souls finding love and each other. Chloe (Evigan) inherited her late mother’s wealth, as well as the demons she desperately tries to keep hidden. Her newest work leads her to Kat (Norton), a beautiful but aging sex worker who doesn’t have a clue how to navigate her future. They seemingly find one another at a time when they need to connect most.
Kerry Norton: It is a movie about unrealised dreams, about two lost souls who through their own tragedies find a connection. It highlights the inner struggles that each and every one of us faces on a daily basis. So take life by the horns. Live your dreams. Be compassionate and kind.
BSG-M: How did Kerry get involved with the movie?
Patrick Chapman: Now this is an interesting story. We had a extremely tough time casting Kerry’s role because of the nudity and financial constraints. Matthew Lessall, our casting director, did an amazing job! He worked tirelessly until he found us Norton. She not only came on last minute but committed herself to the role completely and truly. Without her this production wouldn’t have turned out half as good as it did. Kerry Norton and Briana Evigan gave it their all and it shows. Their chemistry was unmatched when you’re talking about indie filmmaking and that had a lot to do with our casting director getting us the best.
BSG-M: How would you, as an actor describe the characters in the movie and how do you approach a role such at this?
Kerry Norton: Complex! One is facing her own mortality, the other the death of her career and livelihood. Disparate souls united in desperation. Perhaps I’ll get in to trouble for saying this but Kat and my profession aren’t really that dissimilar. I was able to draw parallels with Kat’s character and my own experiences as an actress. We spend a lot of time as actors trying to whore ourselves about. We have to learn to live with constant rejection. We are under constant scrutiny and for women the industry is even harsher. Like Kat, as you age the roles become fewer. I think it’s getting better because, as Helen Mirren once said, art seems to mirror life, and as we see more women in positions of power, that is reflected on our screens. But the ratio of parts for older women compared to those for men is disproportionately lopsided. In fact there are more male roles no matter what the age. Drama schools take in more boys than girls because of this, agents sign more boys than girls, and next time you watch your favourite show count how many male leads (or just male roles) compared to female roles there are.
BSG-M: A little birdie named Patrick Chapman told us Edward James Olmos played a big part convincing you take the role of Kat. How did he help?
Kerry Norton: I loved the script when I first read it but I called my agent straight away and said there was no way I would ever be brave enough to do it. Her advice was to take the audition and cross that bridge if it came to it. And then it came to it! It was all quite last minute and I had to make a decision overnight as the table read was the following day. I really wanted to do it because the piece was such an actors piece. Such a character driven story and such a diverse range of emotion to portray, it really was a role to sink your teeth in to. But the thought of all the sex and the nudity had me breaking out in a cold sweat. Also, because I knew the point of this character was to portray an “aging prostitute” at the end of her career, from a vanity point of view, I knew they wouldn’t be shooting through gauze and lighting me to look like Kim Cattrell in Sex and The City! So, I called Eddie to ask for his advice. We are very close to Eddie and his family – he is Godfather to all our children and I trust and value his opinion. He has always been supportive of my career, it was he who suggested to the Battlestar team that they should audition me for the role of Layne Ishay. It was also Eddie who suggested me for the role in Filly Brown. After the birth of my three children (all within the space of fourteen months!!) I lost a lot of confidence in my professional life and Eddie has (still is) been of tremendous support to me. I love that man. Anyway, I digress… So, after a long chat he asked me if it was a story I wanted to tell, and then he reminded me that we are artists. This is what we have trained and worked hard for. We are story tellers and the person that is up on the screen is a character, not me Kerry Norton. He reminded me that my children and my family know that. Not that this is a film I’ll be showing my children anytime soon. And besides, haters always gonna hate no matter what you do. He thought I should do it. I also asked my husband to read it and for his honest opinion – his response was similar, he felt I couldn’t turn it down, he said I would have to be the bravest I’d ever been and that he would support me all the way. So I said yes, and once I had committed I threw all caution to the wind and gave it my all. Literally…
BSG-M: Tell us about auditioning for the role.
Kerry Norton: My first audition for the role I did in an American accent (the character was originally meant to be American). But then we discussed it and decided there was no reason why I couldn’t do it in my native accent. This changed my approach to the character as I don’t think us Europeans are as hung up about sex and nudity as our American counterparts. I had to lose all my inhibitions with regard to being naked around strangers, and make it seem like it was second nature to me. Which I guess contradicts what I just said about comparing Europeans to Americans!! I learnt how to smoke properly for the film, and I researched the effects of taking drugs, how to smoke crack and the immediate physical effects it has on you. My kids were astonished to come home from school one day and find me butt naked in the garden smoking a cigarette (herbal of course). If casting hadn’t been so last minute I would have liked to spend time talking to women in the profession and explore the psychology more. I had to just imagine how the experience would feel and make up a good back story for why my character was doing what she was doing. None of which prepared me for how I actually felt shooting some of the scenes. I remember one day in particular, it was when we shot the sequence of events that depict Kat’s decline. We shot in a really dark, dingy, dirty apartment, we had all these sordid sex scenes to shoot, I was snorting coffee creamer (to look like cocaine), inhaling fake crack, then the beating in the culmination of the scene was shot, and throughout the day the stark reality of the situation, and how this IS reality for some people was just too much to bare. I don’t think a word was uttered on set other than what needed to be said to navigate the scenes. We were all so depressed by the end of the day. I think we all went home and hugged our loved ones at the end of that day’s shooting.
BSG-M: Briana and you were very well cast together and you made your scenes meche very well. How did you experience that bond on-set?
Kerry Norton: Bri is a treasure and was a delight to work with. We instantly hit it off and spent a lot of the shoot in fits of giggles. With such dark material you have to find humour in some of the situations. The sex scenes were awkward, I don’t think any actor will tell you that sex scenes are a piece of cake, but we shot them all within the first few days. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, on the one hand it’s good to get them out of the way but on the other, call me old fashioned, it’s quite nice to build a relationship and get to know someone before you go sticking your tongue down their throat!
BSG-M The trailer is visually quite stunning and raw; we love the cinematography! Will this dark-set mood be carried out throughout the entire movie?
Patrick Chapman: Yes, the film is extremely dark and grainy throughout. Our cinematographer, Vernon Rudolph, decided early on that this film needed an edge, something special. So he made the call to shoot low light and use old lenses to give the film a unique look.
BSG-M: Your character Kat experiences the complete downfall, starting off being fully in control over her life and largely also her line of work to the exact opposite. What do you think – if there is any – is the deeper meaning behind her story?
Kerry Norton: That we are never in full control of our lives. Life takes many twists and turns and the choices we make at these junctions defines us. Kat was under the illusion that she was in control. The power Kat once had started to wane when she started to age, which in turn revealed her insecurities and fragility. Her old tricks no longer worked. This is a tale of how we cope and what do we do when we hit rock bottom.
BSG-M: Early in the movie when they start introducing the character interviews, your character alludes to the importance of always being in control and letting people believe a story…is that what she was initially doing with Chloe?
Kerry Norton: In my mind she certainly starts out treating Chloe as just another work transaction, but I think she is surprised by how quickly the relationship develops. Kat has built up many protective layers in order not to reveal her insecurities and vulnerability. When Chloe starts to peel back these layers Kat’s modus operandi is definitely thrown out of kilter.
BSG-M: What can you tell us about the message you’re hoping to convey to the audience watching this movie?
Patrick Chapman: Everyone deserves a second chance. No matter who they are.
BSG-M: Can you tell us a bit more about the actual production?
Patrick Chapman: My incredible producer, Lije Sarki, organized the unbelievable team that helped me shoot the film in 18 days. The entire productions was shot in and around LA and it wasn’t really that fun. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Shooting 100 plus pages in 18 days is near impossible. It leaves no room for error. Each scene had to be precisely executed in order keep us on time. That also means no unnecessary takes. Which sucks when you’re a director.
BSG-M: Talk to us about the process from writing the movie to getting it made and now seeing it come to life to a broad audience?
Patrick Chapman: As the writer/ director is was an extremely long but grateful process. To be able to write a script, raise the money, cast it, shoot it, edit it then watch it get it distribution is unbelievable. I feel like I have really accomplished what I set out to do.
BSG-M: Was the movie you shot the one you see on-screen?
Kerry Norton: It actually exceeded my expectations. Patrick Chapman is a visual artist and there were times when the set up and the way he was shooting a scene didn’t make sense to me, but he would always reassure me that he had the end visual in sight, and knew exactly what he wanted and needed from a set up and how he would edit the scene. That proved to be true. Pat also had an incredible DP in Vernon Rudolph – the synergy between Vernon and Pat proved to be a highly effective one. Also, when you factor in the budget and time constraints on this movie I’m amazed we got the footage we did.
BSG-M: You’ve premiered at Cinequest Los Angeles in March.
Patrick Chapman: Cinequest was one of the best festivals I’ve ever attended. We had three screenings that were all well attended. The other films were fantastic and the whole environment made you feel like “this is why I’m a independent filmmaker.”
BSG-M: Cinequest hosted your first US screening and it’s available on VOD today. From what we’ve read, and also the review we received on our website have been widely positive. What has been the reaction so far? How did you experience the red carpet premiere?
Kerry Norton: Both festivals we’ve screened at, Cinequest and Reelout, had very positive reactions. The premiere at Cinequest was both exciting and terrifying. The red carpet was a good three hours before the screening so after the interviews and photos we all went out and had dinner. It helped me a lot to have a couple of drinks to calm the nerves before seeing it on the big screen for the first time (not that I am condoning drinking btw). Most of the audience stuck around for the Q&A which I took as a good sign. Festival goers however are a different breed. They love all types of film and are there to see as many diverse movies as possible. This is definitely an arthouse movie so how that will sit with the general public, I really don’t know. To quote Kat, “Are you ready to get weird…”
BSG-M: Did you reach out to Cinequest or did they reach out to you?
Patrick Chapman: Withoutabox. It really does work, sometimes. But I would warn other indie filmmakers not to use it (WITHOUTABOX) for the big or international festivals. You’re just throwing your money away. You should really have an ‘IN’ before applying to those festivals.
BSG-M: Is ToY short for something? Why not TOY or toy or Toy?
Patrick Chapman: The title was based on how each character, Chloe and Kat, toy with each other, positively and negatively. The uppercase Y was just for marketing reasons. To create a look and for the film.
BSG-M: Would you consider this to be a happy ending? Both from Kat’s point of view and Kerry’s point of view?
Kerry Norton: I’m not really sure you can call it a happy ending, and that is a tough question to answer without giving the ending away. This story is a tragedy. Chloe is the tragic heroine and she senses from the outset that she is doomed. However, in her final journey she gives an opportunity to someone else to turn their life around, therefore giving the audience a sense of catharsis and maybe even hope. We shot two endings for Chloe’s character and I’m very happy we went with the ending we did. Kat has been given an opportunity to turn her life around so from that point of view she has been given the potential to be happy. When I read the script I was drawn to the fact that Kat’s salvation didn’t come in the guise of a male, knight-in-shining-armour type. That made me, Kerry, happy.
BSG-M: When will ToY become available?
Kerry Norton: The film will be released today on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon!
BSG-M Note: You can go to the Itunes link by clicking any of the photos posted in this article.
We would like to thank both Kerry Norton and Patrick Chapman for providing us with these exclusive insights into the making of ToY! Watch the trailer below (viewer discretion is advized)
ll rights reserved, no portion of this interview may be blatantly copy/pasted without prior consent or backlinking to the original article © Battlestar Galactica Museum 2015 – All images are © ToY/Patrick chapman and used with permission of the content owner.