Interview: Robyn Babina & Kylie Garcelon
I blogged briefly as a volunteer for a film festival on the West Coast and found that interviewing others who are paving the way for entertainment industry shifts in culture and inclusion was a pretty fun thing to do.
So why not just continue on my own?
I couldn’t really answer that question to be honest with you, so check out my interview below with Robyn Babina and Kylie Garcelon, co-owners of Gladiolus Productions and creators of the psychological thriller The Dog Walker (IG) and comedy pilot Wellness Inc. (IG).
LAW: Tell me about your first feature film, The Dog Walker. Where can I see the full film when production is complete?
GP: The Dog Walker is a psychological thriller about a world-renown investigative journalist who breaks a story that traumatized her so badly that she decides to retire from the field and relocate to NYC where she can become anonymous amongst the millions of people who live there. Also where she can also be close to her two best friends. A short while after she moves someone begins stalking her and all of these terrible things start happening. Throughout the film you see this already fragile woman falling deeper into a tailspin, eventually having to decide if she is going to continue to be the victim or regain control and fight for her life.
The film was completed in April 2019 and has already won 7 awards as an official selection at 10 film festivals across the country.
Currently it has been ordered by InDemand, Cinedigm, FandangoNow and Amazon and will start streaming on those platforms on our official release date of March 6, 2020.
LAW: I love psychological thrillers. What were some of the challenges you faced in bringing the complexities of the narrative of The Dog Walker from start to finish?
GP: Great question. First, Kylie (who is the writer and director), didn’t want to have cliches or stereotypes in the film.
She didn’t want a helpless female protagonist running around making stupid decisions which seems to happen in so many movies in this genre. These are easy pitfalls for writers, even women writing about women.
She was very conscious of this when writing the screenplay and also when directing Robyn (who plays the lead role), in the actual movie. Also, she felt she needed to have the ensemble of characters be relatable and likable, but ultimately flawed. Another major challenge (an exciting one) was that she wanted to really exploring the connections between isolation, honesty/dishonesty and trust. She wanted to put on display how interconnected these experiences are in people’s lives.
LAW: What was the motivation behind this film? As a young woman who has personally dealt with stalking in the past, I was very drawn to this film after seeing the trailer. What was the motivation behind bringing this to the screen?
GP: Kylie too has had uncomfortable experiences with mild stalking and obsessiveness. She had an experience with a dog walker while living in Manhattan that inspired the plot, but in the end it turned out not to be about that particular person. That event is just what inspired the screenplay. It was Robyn, who after reading the script, pushed to get the film made. She was very drawn to the story of Samantha and really wanted the challenge of playing her.
LAW: The mission behind this film is to experience the thrill of making a compelling thriller. What was the method to your madness in your post-production workflow?
GP: We had set aside additional funds for this specific project, knowing it was going to take a lot more effort than our previous productions, Moral Compass and Gluteny, which were short films.
Next, we decided that we should look for a local editor in Austin, where Kylie had moved after filming ended. The editing process took a lot longer than expected because we didn’t have the money to pay our editor to be exclusive to us until the job was finished. Therefore we had delays when he took on other work to pay his own bills, which is completely understandable.
The biggest post-production challenge was after meeting and signing with our distributor, Leomark Studios, who ultimately pushed us to get the film to a higher level. We went back and painstakingly re-did the soundtrack, the color, and re-edited a bunch of scenes with sharper cuts to increase the intensity of the suspense.
In the latter stages of getting the film ready for QC and distribution, we had truly run out of money, so it was literally just Kylie (in her living room) fixing things on her small laptop and calling our editor and sound guys whenever she panicked or couldn’t figure out something on her own. We are lucky that we had such a wonderful post production team that helped us through to the very end. All in all, it was worth every effort because now The Dog Walker will be released on March 6th to a number of platforms.
LAW: How did you get your start in filmmaking? I see your production company, Gladiolus Productions, has now four multi-award-winning films to its name. What did you do prior to starting the company?
ROBYN: I’ve always wanted to act and I’ve been sitting on a BFA in film/drama from Syracuse University that I haven’t used until recently. I was a middle school teacher for 15 years and taught middle school drama for about 10 before I finally decided to become an actress and producer full time. In one of the first classes I ever took back in 2012, I met Kylie who had written a script and asked me to act in the film that she was going to have made. She already had a producer lined up who was going to take on the project, however, shortly after bringing me on board, she realized that the producer wasn’t the right fit so we decided to create Gladiolus Productions so we could produce it ourselves.
I never thought about being a producer until I met Kylie and I absolutely love it. I’m so proud of the projects we have created and how far we have come in the short time we’ve been a company.
KYLIE: I dabbled in community theater while in Australia in the late 1990's. In 2006 I moved to Toronto, Canada and got into background performing and some short films, commercials etc. In 2011 I moved to NYC and was able to get tons of acting work. However, the more work I got the more interested I became in the writing process and being behind the scenes. I began writing my first screenplay and (ironically) it was around the time I finally became eligible to be in SAG, but never followed through with it. Before moving full-time into film and TV, I was working as a professional chef and culinary arts instructor both in Toronto and NYC. I’ve also been a ski lift attendant, dishwasher, and snowshoe guide!
LAW: How did you find the members of your team for this film? What are a few best practices you feel have helped you become successful in creating multiple films?
GP: We had started filming short scenes of The Dog Walker, as a hobby, with the leads being actors we had worked with before on other projects. When we decided to go into full production, the main characters were already cast, so we only needed to find the dayplayers and extras. Our DP, Derek Mindler, was our DP for Moral Compass and we loved his work and knew he was the right fit for this job too. Kylie found the rest of the crew through mandy.com and the New York Women in Film and Television portal as we were both members at the time.
In terms of best practices, it’s all about the work ethic. When we go into a project we are 150% committed to it in every single way and we work extremely hard to move through the production phase as smoothly as possible. Communication is everything.
We also have a lot of pride in how we run our sets with such small budgets. We have had many compliments from cast and crew about how we manage our productions and people comment specifically on our professionalism. We want that to continue and we strive to keep learning on every project we do.
LAW: What was the most memorable moment during filming?
ROBYN: Since I was the lead, I was in almost every scene in the film. I don’t think I had a “most memorable moment,” but I would say (as a whole) the experience for me was an amazing learning opportunity. Samantha was an extremely paranoid and anxiety-ridden character. I had many crying scenes, as well as quite a few where I had to have anxiety attacks and anger spells.
I found that throughout the filming process I became much more of a “method actor” than I thought I was going to be. After a few days I really started feeling like Samantha. I was isolating myself constantly from the rest of the cast and crew, I was crying a lot when not on set, I wasn’t eating much and I began to feel paranoid about things going on around me. Many times Kylie had to remind me that Samantha was a character and I was not really her.
It was the first time that I really took on a role that was so deeply-rooted in the elements of depression, so I really didn’t know what to expect. For almost 3 weeks, I truly lived the life of this woman and wasn’t completely prepared for what that meant. It was an experience that I would never change and I am SO happy I had the opportunity to do it. If I had the chance, I would definitely do it again, in a heartbeat, however, next time I would make sure I am much more prepared for what could happen and know how to handle it better.
KYLIE: I really enjoyed directing and choreographing the fight scene between the two male leads. It was my first fight scene as a director and I was very nervous about it working out. Because of this, I kept it very simple but impactful and it is now one of my favorite scenes in the movie. Another really funny moment was when we had to write graffiti on a window for a scene in large red lettering and the people in the apartment across the street were watching and thought we were crazy.
LAW: What is your preferred role in filmmaking (writer/director/etc.)? Also, in which drama do you prefer to create?
KYLIE: That is really hard to answer as I have begun to see them both as one thing since I’ve directed all of our projects. I get a real adrenaline rush when I’m writing, but I also get it when I see the direction unfolding on set. I just can’t place writing or directing as a favorite. They are both equally satisfying jobs.
LAW: Looking back, if you had one piece of advice that you could share with a student or indie filmmaker near the beginning of their career, what would that be?
KYLIE: It’s not glamorous — don’t have that expectation, or you will be disappointed. It is hard, hard work and can take years and years to see individual success, but persistence is key. Make a living doing something in the same field — it may not be as the director or the DP, but you will be where you need to be to make that dream a reality.
ROBYN: Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time, it takes courage and it takes support. Ask for help, rely on your friends and family, don’t go at it alone. Everyone needs someone or something to keep them going. Find that someone or something.
LAW: What’s next for Gladiolus Productions?
GP: We just finished shooting our first TV Pilot. It is a comedy called Wellness Inc. that Kylie wrote and directed. After doing The Dog Walker, Robyn really wanted to produce a comedy (she portrays one of the 7 ensemble cast members). The tagline is “A luxury spa, that isn’t…”. It was so much fun to shoot and a completely different experience than The Dog Walker. This is our first foray into television and we are so excited to see where it takes us. Hopefully we will be able to pitch it to networks soon. We will keep you posted.