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Interview with Robi Michael, writer and director of Every Time I Die
By James Whittington, Saturday 5th October 2019
Robi Michael

Grimmfest 2019 is well underway and one of the stand out movies so far has been Every Time I Die from director Robi Michael. Here he chats about this gripping movie.

HC: Was there one person or movie that you saw that made you want to be a director?

RM: Hard to think of one person or movie, because as long as I remember, it was clear to me that all I want to do is make movies - I was in love with films and decided to pursue it from a very early age. I was too young to realized what it takes to make movies or what is the job of a director. I can say that an early big influence in story telling is the legendary graphic novel writer, Alan Moore. Books like "Watchmen" and "V for Vendetta" really blew my young mind and opened it up to the possibilities of what you can do as a storyteller: the way you tell and unfold a story is just as important as what you actually say.

HC: Where did the idea for Every Time I Die come from and did it take long to lock down?

RM: For some reason, I find myself interested in exploring consciousness and the human mind. Basically, everything that makes us who we are. My mind always goes to those places. So, when I sat down to write my next project, I came up with the idea of exploring one's true self through the bodies of other people. After all, if you're trying to understand who you are, what will be more challenging than to do it when you are not you? When I figured out the basic idea, I got my writing partner (Gal Katzir) involved and together we started a 6-year journey of writing and re-writing the screenplay. There were a lot of different drafts and it took some time to find the right tone. When we started, it was skewed towards a classic possession movie, but it ended up being much more psychological and grounded in reality, which both of us found more interesting.

HC: Drew Fonteiro gives an exceptional performance as Sam, was the part written with him in mind?

RM: When we wrote the screenplay, we didn't know Drew. We found him through a vigorous casting process, headed by our great casting director, Gabrielle Almagor. We saw a lot of actors in LA and NY, but Drew brought a sense of intensity to the character which was very unique. He seemed to have a special connection to Sam's character and could really identify with him. He was also 100% committed to the role. At the time of his audition, Drew was in a very athletic shape. After he got the part, he decided to lose a lot of weight before we started shooting. His new demeanor added fragility and vulnerability to his character, and combined with his intensity, he elevated the role to another level. The rest of the cast did an amazing job as well. They all came through the same casting process and I just couldn't dream of a better ensemble.

HC: Did you have much a of a budget to play with as the effects are quite something?

RM: We originally wrote the idea of this movie with a budget constrain in mind. It was important for us to be able to actually shoot the movie, and not just have a screenplay in hand. So, we were trying hard to not include any scenes or set pieces that will be too complicated to shoot or will cost too much money to accomplish. But the mind wanders. And we ended up writing some stuff that was beautiful and integral to the story, but production wise, it was definitely challenging to include in a low budget movie. The quotes we got from several medium size FX companies were 7-10 times the budget we actually had, so when we got down to the postproduction process, we found out we need to get creative. We enlisted Thomas Marinello, a good friend and a colleague that is a visual FX master. We worked together many times before, but never on a scale this big. He did most of the VFX shots himself, for a fraction of the price they usually cost. For the light tunnel shots, we came up with an idea of shooting ink elements in a water tank. To put it all together, we enlisted another friend, Pascual Sisto, who is a vsual artist and a filmmaker. He managed to put it all together in a specific design, that turned out amazing. I guess the moral of the story is: It's good to have friends. (Especially talented ones).

HC: This is your first feature length movie, were you nervous the first day you stepped onto set?

RM: Hell yeah. You feel so much pressure knowing all these people on set are here to accomplish the realization of an idea you had 6 years ago. You kind of have to ask yourself is it worthy? And all that money that was invested. What if it's all for nothing? At the same time, these exact worries are also the reasons this is so exciting and breathtaking. You are accomplishing a dream. There's nothing like it. It gets you focused in a very distinct way.

HC: It's had some amazing reviews but is there anything you would go back and change?

RM: Depends on the day you ask me. Sometimes I think it's perfect. Other times I think nothing works and I want to do it all over again. There will always be small things I will want to try differently, and you can really drive yourself insane with doubt. But as a friend told me once, doubt is what makes you a filmmaker. Bottom line is that I'm very proud of this movie.

HC: You're a multi-talented person but is there one role that you prefer?

RM: Thanks for the compliment. I enjoyed (and suffered) in all the different roles I had in this movie. But I mostly enjoyed working with the actors and coming up with shots to tell the story. It's hard for me to see myself writing or producing for projects that are not my own. But I will be happy to direct other people stories in collaboration with different writers and producers.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

RM: I am currently writing the next film and developing a script for a TV series. Can't talk about it much right now but stay tuned!

HC: Robi Michael, thank you very much.


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