#12 - Ariel Kleiman (Writer/Director)


We're very pleased to bring you a special surprise episode with Ariel Kleiman, the writer/director of the brand new feature film Partisan, which received a phenomenal reception at the 2015 Sundance film festival and has only just been released here in Australia today. Ariel took us through the process of putting together the film, as well as his thoughts on creating a unique cinematic experience, his directing methodology, working with children & first-time actors, and a whole bunch of other great tips for young filmmakers.

Before tackling Partisan, Ariel wrote & directed a number of widely acclaimed short films including Deeper Than Yesterday and Young Love, both of which also did very well at Sundance and a whole bunch of other festivals. Make sure you check out those below, and if you're in Australia head on down to a cinema and catch Partisan on the big screen! You can find participating cinemas at the film's official website.

Special thanks to Caitlin Saville & Michael Matrenza from Madman for helping to organise this episode, and to Neelan Gopal for recording/engineering.

Highlights From This Episode:

On filmmaking as rebellion, and pushing the limits:

"To me, filmmaking is like an expression of rebellion. I want it to feel fresh. For me, it's always been a rule breaking experience in a way. But to break the rules, you have to understand the rules, and that's what's great about VCA (the Victorian College of the Arts) and Hollywood Filmmaking... You get a really strong grasp of what those rules are. You know what you're fighting against."

"I think anytime I've made something that I'm semi-happy with, if I think back, I was on the verge of disaster. So, it's literally like you've pushed yourself to that line where it could fail so easily, it's so scary what you're doing. But I feel like if you push yourself to that edge, you're giving yourself the opportunity to create something maybe magical or maybe special."

On directing methodology on set & in pre-production:

"A big part for me, in working with actors, is getting to know each other before we shoot. So I spent the most time just hanging out and trying to get to know everyone. And we really didn't rehearse that much at all, we didn't rehearse lines or rehearse scenes. But we really spent a lot of time hanging out and discussing, maybe the themes of the film, maybe just life in general, and getting to know each other. And I feel like once you get on set it becomes like an effortless kind of continuation of that. And really for me, directing the untrained actors and directing Vincent is really the same thing, the same concept. I don't want to get in their way, I want to give them objectives, simple objectives, and then get out of their way and try to capture it in the most interesting and dramatic way that I can with the camera."

"It was really important to us that we had two weeks with all the cast in pre-production... Because once you start shooting, the whole crew takes over the set. But in pre- we were actually able to take all the kids and the mothers in the film out to the location, and they just spent a day hanging out in the courtyard, drawing on the walls, carving their names into the set. And it just kind of gave them ownership of that space."

On the importance of finding the truth in films, and melting away the artifice:

"Filmmaking, for me, is so fake. Just the concept of all these people gathering with lights and cameras, it's a fake exercise. But what we're trying to do is we're trying to create some sort of truth. We're trying to create real moments. Moments of unexpected magic on camera. And you've got a very limited amount of time to capture it. So, everything I'm doing on set is trying to melt away the falsity of a film crew and trying to give the actors the ground where they can be truthful." 

"You can make a movie a million different ways, and everyone, no matter who you are, has got financial limitations. So you've got to put your efforts towards what's important to you. So what's important to me was building a world around these characters that was real. The film exists in this compound and it was really important to us to build the compound for real, so the camera could revolve 360 degrees. And there's no CGI in the movie, it's all real, there's basically no set extensions. There's real dust, and there's real kind of life revolving around these characters. We try to light as little as possible, and we're trying to just give them as much freedom so they can just roam 360 degrees in this space as much as possible..."

On the balance between winning over a crew and realising a unique vision:

"I just try to be myself, to be honest, and treat people with utmost respect and kindness. I feel like if people can see that you're coming from a good place, and you're working hard, and you're not being a dickhead, they inevitably follow you. And sure, there are times that are really hard on set, but I feel like if I was worried about people hating me I would really regret that. And if I didn't do things I wanted to, because I was worried that certain people were disliking me, then that's something I couldn't live with."

And Ariel's advice to young filmmakers:

"Filmmaking is hard, no matter who you are, if you're the biggest filmmaker in the world, you're going to experience the highest highs and the lowest lows and usually in the same day. So within that, you've got to work really hard, you've got to be true to yourself I think. And I would encourage young filmmakers to push the boundaries, and be brave, and bring something new to the medium, and bring something exciting, and bring themselves to it."


Ariel: Sleeping Goats & Kittens
Clay: Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris: Togetherness

Partysan Records (Karaoke Videos from Partisan):

Chris Pahlow

Chris Pahlow is an independent writer/director currently in post-production on his debut feature film PLAY IT SAFE. Chris has been fascinated with storytelling since he first earned his pen license and he’s spent the last ten years bringing stories to life through music videos, documentaries, and short films.