Fantasia Film Festival Interview: Director Simon Rumley for FASHIONISTA

Following FASHIONISTA's Canadian Premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival, Shannon had the chance to speak with director Simon Rumley about his film, the breakdown of addiction, and the obsession society has with material things. 

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Simon, thank you so much for speaking with us today. For those who may not be familiar with your film FASHIONISTA, could you tell us a little bit about the film? 

Simon Rumley: Well it stars some of the coolest actors and actresses in the genre world right now - Amanda Fuller who was in my film Red White & Blue, Cheap Thrills and Starry Eyes, Ethan Embry who was also in Cheap Thrills and The Devil's Candy, Alex Essoe who was in Starry Eyes and Eric Balfour who was in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. 

The film itself is about a lot of things; consumerism, addiction, clothes, love, loss, breakdown and gentrification to name a few. 

It's definitely not a film for everyone; it's a non-linear thriller which deliberately doesn't answer all the questions an audience asks of it but if you like being challenged and seeing something relatively different from the norm, this is for you. Like most of my more recent films, it has genre elements but is not so much a horror film as a psychological investigation...

NC: What was your inspiration for this story and do you feel like it's a reflection of how obsessive people in our society get, especially with material things? 

SR: The inspiration comes from a few different sources. I wanted to do a film about consumerism and wrote a script which I ended up not really liking so I started thinking about my own stylisation and what I liked in films which I hadn't tackled before. I like addiction movies such as Requiem For A Dream and Cristiane F so I thought it would be interesting to do a drug film, of sorts, but without drugs. I knew I wanted to film in Austin, Texas because I had such a great experience making Red White & Blue there and some of the key people on that, such as Tim League, Paul Knaus, Karen Halford, were friends I wanted to work with again. In Austin there's a whole vintage clothes scene which I love and which fit into the consumerism/addiction conceit. Lastly, the film is edited in a non-linear fashion because I'd just worked with the incredible Nicolas Roeg who'd executive produced my previous feature Crowhurst; I've always admired his films and wanted to try my stylistic hand at something similar and felt the time was right. Usually I have an idea and it all evolves from that one idea but here I had quite a few which percolated and came together. 

Yes, the film is very much a reflection of how people become obsessed with material things. The irony here is that April (Amanda's) character doesn't even know she has this addiction until halfway through the film when her circumstances change... 

NC: The film works so well because of the actors involved. What was the casting process like and did you have particular people in mind for specific roles? 

SR: Thanks! Well, I wrote the role specifically for Amanda because I'd worked with her on Red White & Blue and she's a great actress, a great person and a great collaborator so it was a no brainer to be honest. The other person I'd worked with before was Devin Bonnee who played Johnny Frank Garrett and I liked his energy which was obviously very different from what he played in that film. Thereafter the casting process came together relatively easily. I was a big fan of Ethan Embry and Eric Balfour. Amanda has worked with Ethan so she sent him the script which he loved; he'd worked with Eric Balfour and had a few words with him and similarly he loved the script and my manager represents Alex Essoe. Rather than going through tons of agents, everyone kind of helped everyone else to come on board so it was a good atmosphere on set with everyone pretty much knowing at least someone. 

NC: I've talked with people who have seen the film and when it came to the ending we both had differing views of what happened. Are you hoping that people come up with their own interpretation or is there more of a clear cut ending? 

SR: No, I'm very happy that people have different interpretations. I know what I was trying to say and do with the ending but there are a few different places in the film where I've deliberately left things open ended to make the film more easy for the viewer to interpret and put his or her mark on it. Usually in films, the first thing you do is to make sure that the audience understands exactly what's happening but because this is about addiction and breakdown and nightmares, different interpretations makes the experience more interesting and, I'd like to think more subjective and emotive. Of course, some people like to be told exactly what to say and think so this probably won't work for everyone. 

NC: When it came to filming FASHIONISTA, what type of challenges did you face? 

SR: To be honest, we had a great team of people, many of whom I'd worked with before so although we shot the film in a very short period of time, it was really well prepped and organised. I supposed the toughest thing was working on the schedule and shooting what was a non-linear script. We didn't have a continuity person but for the costume designer especially, this was a very tough shoot. That said, our designer, Olivia Mori, did an amazing job and we must have spent a couple of lengthy mornings going through every scene of the script working out what the linear time line was. It was quite a crazy and draining shoot for Amanda too because she's in almost every scene and there's a lot of intense things she has to do. 

NC: Last but certainly not least, what projects are you working on that we should be keeping on our eyes out for? 

SR: Well, I have a film called Crowhurst which Studio Canal is release in the UK in November and I'm currently editing a London based gangster film set in the 1940/50s which is shaping up really well. Both are true stories. Crowhurst is more a psychological exploration about a man who enters a race to sail around the world and the latter is about a couple of gangsters and their relationship with each other - completely straight, linear drama for a change!