This film tells the tale of a reclusive writer who becomes trapped within his own novel, surrounded by characters from his best selling pulp books, who comes to realize there is more to life than fame and the pursuit of money. Making its American premier at Riversideand showing at 5 PM on Friday, Nov. 7th at Pit & Balcony and then at 2 PM on Saturday, Nov. 8th at First Congregational Church, Reynolds will also appear via Skype to conduct a Q&A on his film.
Recently The Review caught up with him to discuss some of the intricacies involved with Xanadu.
Review: The premise of a writer getting trapped within his own creative process is an intriguing one that has been explored previously in cinema through variations in such works as Spike Jonze film ‘Adaptation’ with Nicholas Cage. How did you get the idea for Xanadu and what do you feel distinguishes it within the genre?
Reynolds: I decided to shoot a movie in February 2011 and spent the rest of the year trying to come up with a concept that excited me and in turn develop a script. I sat down with my brother John (who's also been my writing partner for many years) and we started going back and forth on ideas.
Because I had a micro budget we knew it had to be something contemporary, simple, that could be shot in one location and in a very short timescale. Equally, we wanted the idea to have a studio picture feel about it because ultimately that's the kind of stories that tend to appeal to me the most. 'Xanadu' was shot in Scotland, it's where I grew up but I always felt we could tell a story with the same level of ambition that you see in the US even if we didn't have access to the same amounts of money.
After a lot of thinking it over we came up with the idea of a writer who wakes up and all the characters from his book are wandering around his house. It was a big, fun idea, and at the same time we knew it might be possible to achieve despite the financial restrictions.
From there the idea expanded so that the central character was trapped inside the novel itself and in turn his own subconscious. 'Xanadu' is a very cerebral idea but at the same time I think it's a story that has mass-market appeal. That - for me anyway - is what makes it stand out. It's an Indie movie but you could see it working in front of a big multiplex audience.
Review: What was the most challenging component involved with bringing this film together?
Reynolds: The financial constraints. I had five thousand pounds (that I had personally saved up) to shoot the whole thing and about seven working days to achieve it. About ninety percent of the cast are professional actors and were working for free. As a result I knew if they got a paying job they had every right to walk off the set. In that event I couldn't afford to get them back at a later date. Due to the tiny amount of money available the window for shooting the entire film was extremely tight.
It's also worth mentioning that as a first time director I was really learning as I went along. I had a crew of four and all of them were rookies as well so as hard as we planned the shoot in pre-production we ultimately had to think on our feet to get the movie over the line. By the end of the shoot we were a much better team than we were the day it started. It was an enormous learning curve and I've never felt pressure like it in my entire life.
Review: What are some of the goals & objectives that you set out when making this film?
Reynolds: It was really just baby steps. At first it was simply about getting the script finished. After that gathering the crew, the cast and planning out a filming schedule with what we had.
Once the film was finally complete the biggest question was, so what now? I knew very little about the film festival circuit so at that point it was all about trying to get people to screen it. At the back of my mind the US was where I wanted it to be so getting into Saginaw was a huge thing for me personally.
This is the first film I've directed and produced but I've written screenplays in the past and had a couple of them optioned by production companies. What inspired me to make the film was probably Chris Nolan. His first feature length movie 'Following' was shot on 16mm for just four thousand pounds. Although 'Xanadu' is a very different story from 'Following' I think he's an incredible filmmaker and it served as a huge inspiration.
I decided I wanted to work in the film industry after reading William Goldman's autobiography 'Which Lie Did I Tell?'. He's a brilliant writer and made me realize that telling stories was what I wanted to do. I'd love to meet him some day. Chris Nolan as well actually!
16th November, 2023