Writer/Director: Nathan Deming
What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
“Speaking in Tongues” is loosely based on my own experiences in college when I joined a megachurch and got baptized at 19. I became an intense new convert, doing whatever they told me to until gradually I began to learn more and more about the church and how hateful some of their views are/were…and how most of their practices (speaking in tongues, visions) seem built on a mutual mass delusion.
Why did you want to tell this story?
Just 2 weeks ago I sat at a coffee shop and a scene from my film played out next to me, with 2 complete strangers: a 19-year-old and a 30-year-old, meeting to talk about Jesus and how the college-aged guy would use his semester for God and not education. It was very close to what I experienced in college, and what we put in the film – this sort of thing is still happening all the time.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
I relate to Jake, obviously, since it’s my story – I hope others can relate to it as well, the innocent, vulnerable longing for belonging and a worldview that explains things and challenges us. I also relate to the pastor, Eli, now that I’m closer to his age – he is trying to build a DIY church, I made a DIY film.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
There were lots of subplots we had to cut out, little episodes that didn’t fit into the overall story.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
That we made it at all! We decided to make the film on our own, with no source of funding, and several key crew members missing. Basically, a core group of 5 people made this film over 30 days of filming across Wisconsin and Chicago – pulling favors, running and gunning, wearing lots of hats to make the film happen. There was never any security or sense that the film could even be finished until it was finished.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
We had lots of scheduling problems – venues wouldn’t be available, or different actors. It was a large cast to juggle for a small film with no budget, and they often had to be in the same room for their scenes. We would try to shoot one character’s stuff all in one day, and not make it look awkward: I think we got away with it, I can’t even remember now how splintered some of the scenes were in filming. Additionally, the Chicago Film Office was very nice to us and gave us a letter that sort of gave us permission to film anywhere, anytime on the streets of Chicago – at police discretion, etc. This freed us up from having to be stuck in a rigid schedule when filming outside when things could quickly become chaotic.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
We wanted the visual style to be simple, a bit docu-drama, as if a camera crew were filming the movie (but without being noticeable.) We tried to keep everything in the look from the camera style to the grading to be natural, observant, and unnoticeable.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to dramatize such an inward struggle: that took the most amount of work, and there was always the risk that something wouldn’t communicate.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
JUST DO IT. Don’t want for the money, the producers, etc – just write and plan and figure out a way to make it happen with or without a budget.
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