At the heart of any great film is a visionary, a champion who leads and guides every aspect to become a cohesive whole. For Restoration that was Tim Tsiklauri. Tim combines a collaborative spirit with a clear vision, taking on the ideas that work but still ensuring that the film has a clear focus.
Of course also critical to a films success are solid performance from the cast. We were incredibly lucky in Restoration to have stellar performances from our cast Milo Cawthorne and Alistair Browning. In this post we hear from Tim about his vision from the film, as well as his approach to the performance and also from Milo on his thoughts about the film.
What was your vision for the project?
Tim: My intention was to tell a sombre mysterious morality tale in the tradition of classic gothic psychological horror, a visually haunting tale of desire versus fear that is meant to creep under your skin and leave you pondering after its end. We mainly relied on things suggested and unseen for suspense rather than gore, violence or alien creatures. I was inspired by the works Edgar Allan Poe, E.T.A. Hoffmann, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, as well as The Twilight Zone and The Night Gallery TV Series.
While never intended as a horror film at the time of writing, the film evolved more and more into an eerie atmospheric piece with several horror beats. The gradual evolution of the painting’s hold on Francis’ reality is mirrored with the Gentleman’s growing proximity to the edge of the canvas. Francis has more than one chance to escape, but his desire for success is too strong, and restoring this painting may be just his only ticket to fame. I focused on the growing sense of inevitability and the dread of what it would actually mean for the protagonist to have the painting fully restored.
What interested you in the project?
Milo: I was attracted to the role mainly because of the creative team behind it. I had seen Nicola and Tim’s previous feature and knew that they liked making things that pushed the boundaries. This project specifically was interesting because of the focus on one character, also the fact that what happened to Francis in the film could have been a part of his imagination or reality, I liked that the distinction was left open to the audience for most of the film.
In terms of performance, what preparation techniques did you use/find helpful to prepare for the role?
Tim: We certainly rehearsed. Because a lot of the film has Francis alone and silent, the traditional rehearsal wouldn’t have worked. So I arranged a couple of sessions in the office late at night where Milo was in character and used props and sounds to freak him out.
Milo: He would creep around with all the lights off, while I ran through the beats of the film. There were moments during those rehearsals where I was absolutely terrified. It was particularly useful to have those memories of absolute terror to fall back on during filming.
Tim: With that anchored and fresh in his mind and body, we went through the scene with actual blocking, that also allowed me to adjust my coverage and gave me shot ideas. Once we spent an evening in characters. I was playing a rich and ominous benefactor. We went to a restaurant. Milo changed into his character costume and we had a job interview of sorts. That gave us a creative exercise to expand his character beyond the page and build a bit of a backstory.
Was there any particular scene or moment you particularly enjoyed?
Milo: I remember filming a few scenes at James Wallace’s incredible house, that house is filled with so much art and beautiful things, it is a very nice place to spend a day shooting. Also, I did some driving for a scene, the car was an old humber silversnipe, if I remember correctly, big, heavy, comfortable thing, and we were weaving it down a windy little driveway. Two highlights out of a very enjoyable shoot.
Why this film? What are your hopes for it?
Tim: I chose to make this film for two main reasons: firstly, I think it’s both entertaining and meaningful, a character driven horror meets morality tale; secondly, I plan to use it as a platform for a feature film based on a similar idea, a-deal-with-the-devil character driven story that can be realized on a tight budget and still manage to have a wide commercial appeal.
I hope this film works both as a self-contained piece, playing around the world in various festivals, and as a working concept for my next film, a feature length story of Francis putting his soul in peril when he comes across another haunted and very cunning painting.
Milo began acting in Whangarei at age 11, appearing in several ‘Northland Youth Theatre’ plays up to age 17, when he travelled to London as a member of the ‘New Zealand Young Shakespeare Company’. From there he assumed he would breeze into drama school… He didn’t. Instead he worked as a pizza deliverer for a year. He was eventually cast as the ‘Green Power Ranger’ in the 17th season of the franchise, then ‘360’ at the NZ international arts festival in 2010. Milo then went to Los Angeles in 2011 to act in a noir thriller ‘Blood Punch’, and stayed in the US for two years. Since then he’s: re-visited ‘360’ at the Civic, acted in a NZ WWI drama series ‘When We Go to War’, and shot a NZ horror/comedy feature called ‘Deathgasm’. ‘Restoration’ was a passion project for Milo and he was keen to be involved in the production from the moment he read the awesome script.
Tim Tsiklauri – Director
Tim hails from the Republic of Georgia. After spending his youth pursuing finance and immigrating to New Zealand, Tim realised he couldn’t put away his crazy dream of making movies. He went back to studies, graduated with Directing and Scriptwriting Majors and began making short films. Several years later he made his feature debut “Crackheads”. Despite its humble beginnings and shoe-string budget, the film went on to win numerous awards in New Zealand and the USA. Tim’s lifetime ambition is to make entertaining character driven films that also leave you with something to think about afterwards.