Interesting and True: Arielle Javitch Remembers Making Look, Stranger
Look, Stranger, a Cinereach grantee, is the story of a displaced woman making a dangerous journey home. Set in an unidentified world at war, it is an intense character and landscape study exploring the destiny of lost souls.
In this guest blog post (with photos by Gus Powell), Writer/Director Arielle Javitch shares fourteen pairings of thoughts and images emblematic of her experience creating Look, Stranger.
The film screens Wednesday, May 23, at 7pm at the SVA Theater in New York City.
by Arielle Javitch
1. A page from an early draft of Look, Stranger. The dialogue is in Uslan, an imaginary language I invented for the film.
2. Gypsy children at a Belgrade casting session. A major challenge of making my film was creating an imaginary world using real people and a real place.
3. Drawings I made when the film was still a dream, before the script.
4. Two books that are central to the film. Consciousness, mysticism, and madness. My only regret is that there isn’t more silliness.
5. This radio was a character in one of my short films. I liked it so much I cast it again in Look, Stranger.
6. The Russian nanny of my cousin from Tblisi, Georgia. A creature from a fairytale. She died before anyone could make a film about her.
7. Central African men at a Belgrade casting session. They didn’t believe I was the director, and would only discuss important matters with my husband.
8. A taxi driver asked me what my film was called and I said, Look, Stranger. He asked what it was about and I said, strangers looking at each other. We looked at each other.
9. During a location scout, someone unfriendly hocked phlegm into a coffee meant for me. I didn’t drink it, but it was hard not to cry.
10. My sister was there for me a lot over the years it took to make the film. She also brought candy to set.
11. There was ping pong and poker playing at night during the shoot. Unfortunately, I had to re-write the script each night and couldn’t join in.
12. My favorite part of directing a film is rehearsing with the actors and the text. Our hearts would beat faster when something was interesting or true.
13. Our female co-producers in Belgrade were nicknamed the Pitbulls. When I met them for the first time, I realized I’m a Pitbull sometimes too. I quickly grew very fond of them and now think of them as Labradors.
14. In rehearsal with a child of eight, I asked him to make a wish, any wish, out loud. He said, “God, please make me a bigger person.” When lost, I think of what this might mean.
Arielle Javitch, born in 1975, is from New York City. She came to filmmaking from a contemporary dance and performance background, and in 2002 began making short dance films that gradually evolved into short narratives. Her work has been awarded support and recognition from Cinereach, the Sundance Institute/Annenberg Foundation, the Edit Center, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and Dance Films Association. She has been cited as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 Filmmakers to Watch.” Javitch is a former Fulbright Scholar in modern history. Look, Stranger is her first feature film.