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Interview: Dusty Mancinelli talks “WINTER HYMNS”


Everything in this life has its cost. Even a damaged relationship demands a higher price to be paid if you ever want it to be fixed. Dusty Mancinelli, in his short film, explores the bond between two brothers that defined their relationship. Joshua tries to the earn affection of his elder brother, while Cain’s violent attitude has no limit. This is what is told in WINTER HYMNS, written and directed by Dusty Mancinelli, who recently won the Jury Award for Narrative Short at Slamadance Film Festival.

After having some technical difficulties, I finally managed to establish a phone conversation with Dusty Mancinelli, who was kind enough to go through the same questions all over again. Saying that, I am very pleased to share it with you.

MOVIEMOVESME: What is it that inspired you to tell the story of the two brothers in such a radical way?

D.M: I was interested in exploring the complex dynamic between the two brothers who have a very tumultuous relationship. I think that what was interesting to me to explore the dynamic where one brother was seeking the other brother’s affection while the other brother’s trying to toughen him up and projecting a lot of his anger and frustrations on his brother. So it’s a complicated relationship that isn’t healthy and quite dysfunctional. The only way for them to learn how to connect and to build a healthy relationship is through tragedy; so I see the ending as a cautionary tale that in the end does bring them together. Kane will now not take his brother for granted and know how to take care for him and he’ll have to repent and atone for what he’s done.

Winter Hymns | Left to right: Joshua (Sam Ashe Arnold), Kane (Kyle Peacock), courtesy Inflo Films

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk more about the character of Kane and his anger?

D.M: Since it’s a short film it’s challenging to communicate to the audience what his motives are throughout the film. Working with Kyle, the actor, we came up with a backstory for the character. Kane, the character, is feeling a lot of aggression and frustration and does not have a healthy outlet and so he is taking out his frustrations on his brother. Another reason is that he wants to toughen his brother up; he is very frustrated that his brother is not willing to do the things that he’s asking and challenging himself. So Kane is looking to toughen his brother up out of love.

MOVIEMOVESME: How did you end up casting these two young actors because not only was playing their roles hard but they also had to act in difficult weather conditions?

D.M: Yeah we knew that acting was crucial and without powerful, realistic performances we would lose the audience. So we were really diligently, during the casting process, auditioned hundreds of kids and we used unconventional casting methods. We went to different schools, drama programs and community centres and reached out to everyone we knew who had worked with children before. We also did the traditional casting. We tried really hard to find the two boys we were looking for and we found Sam and the boy who plays Joshua mid way through the casting and Kyle was very challenging and tough to find. We didn’t find him until we were almost about to start. They weren’t really lacking experience, which was nice, and it created an environment for them to learn how to work together and to help them get into character more easily.

MOVIEMOVESME: I went through your filmography and you have some really interesting subjects like “broken heart syndrome”. What is it that attracts you to these human characteristics, makes you want to study them and make films about them?

D.M: I think film is a transformative medium and I think we can use to change or understand the world we live in. I’m really interested in looking at human behavior and studying dysfuctional relationships, trying to examine the intricacies and the complexities of these unhealthy relationships to help me better understand ourselves. So I’m hoping to create a film that asks us where dysfunction comes from and how can we resolve dysfunction within family dynamics. So despite the tragic ending, I do see it as a positive ending in that it does bring the brothers closer together. So I’m hoping to better understand these relationships, these human behaviors in ways that I hope will allow us to have new understanding of the human experience.

MOVIEMOVESME: Is there any subject you’ve thought of implementing on your next project?

D.M: I’m currently working on a feature film that explores deception and infidelity. And I’m looking at dysfunctional relationships, examining how one can unravel slowly because of manipulation and deception and  how can that ultimately destroy two people’s lives.

MOVIEMOVESME: While filming, what was your most unique experience?

D.M: I think what was most fantastic while making this film was we worked with super talented young actors, hard-working crew and we were filming in a very rural, harsh condition (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). We wanted to keep the crew small and because of that we had an intense bonding experience. It was especially amazing how the young actors powered through, with the crew often having to force them to head inside breaks! I think it created a unique environment and everyone was really invested in the project. We were all supporting each other, trying to work and do the best we could. I think the energy shows in the film and it was a unique experience for everyone.

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