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Let's Get Physical

August, 2017

I heard a great interview with Christopher Nolan where he spoke about the process of creating empathy between a character and an audience. He believes that the process is a physical one and gave an example from Hitchcock's Psycho. Norman Bates has killed a woman who the audience already sympathized with and, in that scenario, Norman is the antagonist. But he has to clean up after his actions - removing all traces of his crime - and it is then, during the minutes of watching Norman engaged in urgent physical tasks, that the audience suddenly changes their allegiance from the victim to the perpetrator. We become absorbed in what Norman is doing and therefore start to identify with him and root for him to succeed.

I couldn't agree more with Nolan's assessment of what happens during physical activity; it's something I've always been drawn to as an actor and it's the kind of thing I love to watch on screen. I think it's why I lean towards survival stories or stories involving extreme physical demands on a protagonist - because they go straight to the core of what's basic and universal to human nature.

HELLS CANYON is a physical story through-and-through. There's enough dialogue to move the story along and to give some insight into the characters but the majority of the film is visual, physical, and set in a wilderness environment. After hearing Nolan's thoughts - a director I've deeply admired for many years - I feel excited and confident about what will make our story accessible and compelling to our audiences.

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