We had the chance to talk to the director of our April 2022 Film of the Month – the excellent ‘Waking Up‘ – Dion Costelloe.
JL: Congrats on the awards, Dion! How is ‘Waking Up’ faring so far at competitions?
DC: Thank you so much, I really am humbled by the Love TMFF has shown my first short film. ‘Waking Up’ has been doing pretty well on online festivals. We’ve won best short, best script, best first time director, best actor and best cinematography at various online and in-person festivals. We had our first live screening a couple of weeks ago at New York Cinefest, where I was nominated for best director, and we had our second screening at Oniros Film Awards, where we won best indie short.
JL: You also wrote the screenplay – what was your initial idea for the project, and how did it come about?
DC: Well, the story is mostly a true experience I lived. The topic of pride is something I think about a lot. When does it make sense to defend your sense of pride? When does it make sense to let it go? Are there times when it is worth it to forgo your safety, well being, and others’ expectations in service of your pride? A sense of pride and where you fit in in this world is intangible but very real and important.
JL: Dorian finds himself at a real crossroads in life – how difficult was it to vividly capture his moral dilemma?
DC: It was not too difficult because it was a lived experience for me, I hope I did it justice. I just tried to put myself back in that position. Remember that who was going through it. How painful it was, how scared, how angry I felt. It’s a part of me always, so it’s easy to access but difficult to re-experience.
JL: How much of our behaviour would you say is down to social pressure?
DC: When I was young, so much of my personality was based on what I wanted other people to think about me. I was really scared to not fit in or to be preyed upon or bullied, so I over compensated by appearing tough, quick to anger and even violence sometimes. I was terrified to let anyone know I was scared, and I really looked up to people who seemed to be reckless and fearless. I wanted to be like my friends, who were seemingly completely unafraid of anyone or anything or any consequence.
JL: Any interesting aspect of the shooting process that you would like to share with us?
DC: I was really worried about the party scene, I had put out a casting call for a bunch of extras, and I got a lot of responses, but then I had to switch the day I was shooting that scene last minute. I didn’t know if people would show or how well I would manage to direct such a large group if they did come. Twenty people showed up, and they were such good actors! We didn’t have to do a lot of takes because they were giving such good performances and a scene I was worried would eat up a lot of time was a breeze.
JL: Congratulations on your excellent performance as Dorian, which won our Actor of the Month award! How did you experience directing while also starring in the main role?
DC: Being very prepared was most important. I was very clear on what I wanted out of each scene, and I had done a lot of prep so that i didn’t have to worry too much about directing the scene at the moment. I had great actors and a great team, and I especially trusted Tori Ratermanis (Michelle) and my DP Brendan Babinski to be the honest eyes on performance. There was one day when there were a lot of technical and sound issues happening that kept interrupting the scene. It did become quite challenging to remain in character and not be thinking as a director while things were going “wrong” around us. In hindsight, I could have taken some time away to give myself space so I could just be Dorian while I was in that scene. A good director would have granted me that gift, but I wasn’t experienced enough to realize I had to give myself that gift.
JL: And congratulations to Brendan Babinski for winning our Cinematographer of the Month award! Have you worked with Brendan before?
DC: I have worked with Brendan before. He is my roommate and one of my best friends in life. I love him to death, and he truly did a spectacular job with the cinematography in ‘Waking Up’; I mean, it just looks beautiful and I couldn’t be more grateful to have him in my life. I acted in a short he directed in 2020 called ‘Family Ties’ along with Josh Weinstein, who plays the doctor in ‘Waking Up’. Brendan is a treasure.
JL: Any new projects on the horizon?
DC: I am very excited about the premiere of ‘God’s Time’. It’s a feature-length dark comedy that is premiering at Tribeca Film Festival in two weeks. We are in the U.S. narrative competition, and I love this movie so much. It’s about these two best friends who are on a wild mission to stop their mutual crush from killing her ex-boyfriend. It was co-created by myself and my two friends, Ben Groh, who stars in the movie with me, and Daniel Antebi, who directed the movie (masterfully). It also stars the amazingly talented Liz Caribel Sierra and Jared Abrahamson.
JL: Thank you, Dion, for your time! We loved ‘Waking Up’, and we look forward to more projects of yours in the future!
DC: Thank you so much for watching my film, and I’m truly truly happy you enjoyed it; thanks for recognizing me.