Adrian Tofei’s “Be My Cat: A Film For Anne” is being touted as the first Found Footage film in Romania, an appealing snag if I ever heard one. Not wanting to miss a first I checked out the trailer and synopsis. What struck me about the film, now completed and preparing for release, was it’s timely commentary on our obsession with celebrity. I had the pleasure of talking with Adrian about a great manor of things, and now dear reader I present the culmination of that talk.
DA: Your film is about a deep obsession with celebrity going far out of hand. As our world seems to get more and more caught up in everything celebrity, what truly inspired you to tackle such a timely issue? Also what about Anne Hathaway made you focus your character’s obsession on her?
AT: “The Monster” one-man-show that I wrote, directed, produced and played in 2012 was an early inspiration for the movie. The character I played in that theater show is obsessed with an actress and also has some issues with cats. Initially, my plan was to make a movie adaptation of “The Monster”, but then, as things evolved, I finally decided to make a movie with an entirely new, original story and keep only some of the psychological traits that my character in “The Monster” had. The actress of whom my character was obsessed in my one-man-show was a real Romanian actress, but the one of whom my character in the movie is obsessed needed to be a very high profile one, known by everybody worldwide! She also needed to have some connections with cats because of my character’s psychological traits related to cats. And she also needed to be an actress that I personally admire very much, because, since I was to be the one playing that guy obsessed with her, my genuine fascination with the actress would have boosted a lot the authenticity of my performance in the movie! So, Anne Hathaway had all the elements: 1. Oscar winning, worldwide known, glamorous movie star; 2. She played a great looking Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. 3. I personally was extremely impressed by her performance in “Les Miserables”.
DA: What was it like playing such an unhinged character on top of directing the film? What did you do to prepare for a role that really required you to proverbially swing all over the map of performance and nuance?
AT: I started at the beginning of 2013 to create in my real life the circumstances of this character’s life. I also merged at a psychological level my daily efforts in preparing this found footage movie and selecting the right actresses with my character’s daily efforts in preparing his found footage scenes (that he wants to send to Anne to convince her of his film-making skills) and selecting the right actresses for his scenes. In other words, I lived a lot in character since I started to work on this project, to the point where we needed during filming a switch to differentiate the fictional relation between the guy I play in the movie and the fictional actresses whom he directs on one hand, from the real relation between me and the real actresses that played the fictional actresses in the movie on the other hand. That switch was primarily a switch in the language: whenever we talked Romanian, we were the real us and when we switched to English and turned on the camera, that was the sign that we’re switching to our characters. I won’t go into details, because I’ve just wrote yesterday about this in the “Facts” section of the movie’s official website, where those who are interested in production insights can find out more: http://bemycatafilmforanne.com/facts/
DA: Why the found footage format and what do you enjoy about working within the style?
AT: I will tell you what a non-found-footage film doesn’t have compared to a found footage one. When people watch a regular movie, there’s something in their subconscious mind telling them that what they watch is not real, because someone filmed those events, someone that had no place in those events and neither his/her camera! That’s why the audiences are able to see what they see: someone was there with a camera to film those scenes, a camera that was not part of the movie’s story! So, no matter how realistic the performances and the direction, there will always be that subconscious thing reminding the viewer that it’s not real and this will stop him from empathizing in a total way with the events and the characters. But in a found footage film, the events are filmed by the characters in the movie! It is justified within those events that we are able to see them! Because the camera was part of those events, was part of the movie’s story! This way, if the acting and the directing are realistic, lifelike, there will be no element whatsoever to remind the audience that what they see is not real and they will totally empathize with the events and the characters! A lot of people don’t like found footage films because of the bad acting, but a found footage film with Oscar acting performances would be much more powerful than a non-found-footage film with the same Oscar performances!
DA: What films would you say have influenced you most intimately over the years, and specifically what ff films do you feel define the genre?
AT: What I was a teenager, Stanley Kubrick’s ’2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968) opened my eyes towards the art of cinema and art in general! Before seeing that movie I was not interested in anything artistic, but after that… OMG… biiiig revelation!! Changed my life forever! Another film that showed me the power of film-making in talking about the meaning of existence is Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Seventh Seal’ (1957). My first contact with total realism was in my high school years when I saw ‘The Blair Witch Project’ (1999). But at that time I didn’t understand the found footage concept at a professional level, the movie just had a very powerful effect on me without understanding the motifs. Only years after that, when I discovered Ion Cojar’s method acting in college, I began to make the connections and realized the huge potential of the found footage film-making concept! Other found footage films that have impressed and influenced me a lot are ‘Exhibit A’ (2007) and ‘Zero Day’ (2003). I was also very impressed by Ashley Bell’s performance in ‘The Last Exorcism’… the movie had some problems at the end, but I view Ashley’s performance as the greatest acting performance ever in a found footage film! I talked a lot more about the huge hidden potential of the found footage concept, its relation with Ion Cojar’s method acting and the found footage films that define the genre in my Found Footage Manifesto: http://bemycatafilmforanne.com/found-footage-manifesto/
DA: The future film makers and the indie spirits out there are so important to me. What advice would you give them, and what cautionary tales can you offer directly from your experiences making this film?
AT: This is my advice: 1. Try to figure out what is your greatest creative potential in this life, what is that thing that you would love to do for your entire life and do it like no other person! Is it acting? Is it directing? Is it writing? Is it producing? More than one at the same time? Try and figure it out! 2. Dream! Dream daily about your goals! No matter how impossible they seem, never stop dreaming! 3. Think, make plans! Make plans on a daily bases to achieve your goals, no matter how impossible they seem! 4. Act! Act in order to achieve your goals! Take real life actions on a daily bases, take risks, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! 5. Constantly check to make sure that your daily actions are all aligned towards achieving your biggest dream! If not, make some changes in your life, change the course of your actions and align them with your goals! 6. The obstacles are not your enemies, they are your friends! They are not there to stop you from achieving your goals, they are there to show that the path may be wrong and that you may need to change it in order to achieve your goals!
You can check out the trailer for “Be My Cat: A Film for Anne” below.