Interview: Joey Klein Talks “The Other Half”

Joey Klein, THE OTHER HALF. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
Joey Klein, THE OTHER HALF. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Everyone can make a movie with enough money in the pocket, a decent producer and compelling story to reach to the audience’s heart. Yes, the appearance of big names in the film is also important, however, those names do not work sometimes, by ruining the entire impression from the film you could have… especially, if that impression was a positive one.

The Other Half written and directed by a first time full-feature-length filmmaker, Joey Klein who instead of telling the story of some happy couple with many kids and no problem in life, touches upon a heavy story, which according to the filmmaker, was personal matter.

Nickie and Emily might look like two different people that have nothing in common – but as you get to know them better you will see – they are more alike than they could have even imagined. Nickie does not have much money to fulfil his life with dreams he would wish to come true. One thing he would love to redo – his painful past and the feeling of mourning that won’t ever leave him alone. Emily is a woman with a ticking time bomb behavior… That happens because of her uncontrolled bipolar disorder,  which soon, will make both Nickie and Emily to readjust their relationship.

I could have gone on and on about the movie and write how good it is. Yes, it is. But The Other Half of course, is better than that, but not as entertaining, as you would imagine. After all, bipolar disorder, its consequence, and impact on human behavior is not something you could enjoy seeing, but surely, educating.

As the film continues, I’ve been certainly thinking about the questions I should have asked the filmmaker during our scheduled one-on-one interview in Toronto. As I was getting ready for my meeting with the filmmaker, I certainly did not expect such an outcome, as the answers he gave could not please me more, as one wonders how far Joey Klein can go if he allows his imagination to flow and the images and bright ideas to become real.

MOVIEMOVESME: Where did this subject come from?

Joey Klein: It was not an autobiographical story but it was very personal. You live on, you survive but when you lose someone you love very much that was young, your life changes. I guess as I grew up I found that time doesn’t heal always and it’s a silly Hollywood show. I guess I was just compelled to write about that. Starting from writing about grief it grew into a love story because I was writing about someone I loved so much and it became this!

MOVIEMOVESME: How was it creating the connection between Nikki and Emily as both of them are pretty complex characters?

Joey Klein: In the beginning I think they are just two sides of myself, my life, my experiences and my personality. Little by little through sheer will, through writing, they became their own people. You find their voice and they find their voice and all of a sudden you have these amazing two actors playing them and then they really become their own people. Obviously with actors like that you know they’re going to bring so much of themselves to the table. So over the years it just goes from being two sides of you to having two extraordinary artists; so much of Nikki and Emily coming on screen is not just to do with their amazing acting but also their minds and hearts. They brought so many phenomenal ideas and owned it so much that it became a thing we all created which is fun, sexy and cool!

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the decision of making Emily suffer from Bipolar disorder?

Joey Klein: Nikki’s story is something I sadly know much more literally about and I wasn’t ever worried that you could not like that side of my movie. But I was coming from literal experience more or less and with Bipolar disorder my father collaborated with me on the script for years before I met Tom and Tat. One day when I was writing and my dad read it he said I was writing about Bipolar disorder whereas I hadn’t strategically decided that. When I did a lot of research I found out that it indeed was the direction I’m going. I abhor movies that pretend to be about mental illness but just use it as tropes to tell a marketable, commercial silly little dance-off rom-com. So I did a lot of clinical research before I made the movie. My sister who’s a child psychiatrist worked with Tat one morning and we just took everything and had the desire to need to try and look at these two different illnesses in as real way as possible. Having the luxury of actors who can go that far was such a privilege.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about how you set the location?

Joey Klein: I think my obsession as a filmmaker will always be that my films all feel like the subject matter. I don’t enjoy films that are about grief or mental illness when it doesn’t represent the feelings of the movie, the story. The film was wrapped in a coat of darkness and that reflects their state of being. But there is also a lot of beauty in their life together. So we were trying to balance the feel and the look and with sound as well depending on what moment and what was going on with them. We shot in Toronto because we live here; this wasn’t a film where the city was a character.

MOVIEMOVESME: Do you believe that a creative person needs to be in an unstable state of mind to do what they do best creativity wise just like in the case of Emily?

Joey Klein: I don’t think on a sweeping scale all artists have to be in some kind of manic state to make their best work. Definitely I have some annoying difficult sleepless nights when my mind won’t shut up. It’s just something about when you’re supposed to go to sleep that little purgatory between being fully awake and fully asleep where the subconscious gives you a couple little jolts and you get lucky that way. Much of the good stuff I feel came from making notes at 3 AM in the morning. But Emily works the way she does because she’s very unwell and great art can be certainly made by people who fortunately wouldn’t be quite that unwell. For her that whole thing comes out as a sad truth like my research where I found out that a lot of Bipolar patients feel amazing at times and get a ton done but it’s a manic fit they’re having and it’s dangerous. I think in real life you need to find balance.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the filming process, the challenges you faced and bring those actors together?

Joey Klein: You got to love the process and get lost in it. My process of filmmaking is very much influenced by my experience as a method-actor. I think no matter where you’re going and no matter how much imagination facets it has in it, it has to be about finding a way to ground it in those two things. So when I would write I would come from a point of view of checking it. I would literally play it in my mind and see if there’s something active, something that drives the scene. I would certainly share my script with my father and Tom and Tat. We did a reading here and there and they always had terrific feedback. So you just kind of chip away at the script. From the filmmaking point of view, I have my obsessions with Steve McQueen, Len Ramsey, Jonathan Glazer etc. and I’m obsessed with making a film that feels like the subject matter. In terms of music I found the track at the end of the movie in a New York record store and became obsessed with it I knew I’d use it. I guess my process is just about trying about as much as possible to engender that feeling so we edited it in a way that was quite similar to what I pitched to the funders. So you have jarring cuts in the middle. I guess I’m an an experiential filmmaker and a first person point of view filmmaker and am interested in finding ways to put you in the character’s shoes and that’s basically how I work!

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