Blue Glass is an interesting, powerful and beautiful experimental film by Janusz Madej.
After a decade of struggling to come to terms with his comatose wife, Alice’s deteriorating condition, Adam accepts the unusual offer from a pioneering Doctor that will aid his grieving process. But what happens when 3 becomes a crowd? And how far does the rabbit hole go when you are lost, in the illusion of reality?
The following is an interview with Janusz Madej about making of BLUE GLASS:
Bijan Tehrani: How did you come up with idea for BLUE GLASS
Janusz Madej : It’s bit of a long story… in 2017 I started to be involved in 48 hour Film Projects in The Netherlands and that year our team won the 48 HFP – Eindhoven with short film “RESOLVE”. We won 4 main categories and our short was send for the annual screening to Paris, where our team was invited by HP the sponsor of the Cannes Film Festival to participate in the “Masters of Short Film” competition under Cannes Film Festival in 2018. We were part of 25 teams that had to write a pitch for a 5:30 minute short which had motto “Magic of cinema realized by Visual Special FX”.
We received 6 days for creation of the pitch and eventually where selected as 4 finalist of this particular competition. We had 28 days to shoot the movie and were invited to Cannes for the premier, which happen on the 13th of May, 2018.
After that success sadly our team experienced what I call “The Beatles” syndrome, where out team simply fallen apart. Sadly I felt like I need to start from the scratch.
British actress Henrietta Bryant who I worked with on “RESOVE” and “SH!FT” has asked me to Produce another 48HFP – Eindhoven, 2018 creation “ARCANUM”.
Coming back on the train from this particular shoot, she asked me if I would be willing to direct and produce a basic treatment of the concept called “BLUE GLASS”.
It was basically 3 pages overflowing with dialog, which she wrote during script writing workshop with British actor Shaun Prendergast. She has shown that treatment to numerous filmmakers without anyone showing much interest.
I on the other hand saw some potential. I told her that for me to be involved I would need to put my own stylistic stamp and the whole concept would need to be developed and rewritten to fit mine narrative and stylistic criteria. In early 2018 we have met over SKYPE 3 hours a day to write the script which ended up being our movie. For me the most important thing in the script was to tell the story visually without use of redundant dialogs as means of narrative exposition.
Henrietta being the social light that she is made an appointment with head of sound department Bruce Gibb and film course Patrick Thomson at SAE Institute audio visual school in Amsterdam to come in association with my production company PINEAL FILMS PRODUCTION to produce ‘BLUE GLASS’. I pitched to them the movie which they became very enthusiastic about.
SAE unable us use of their RED camera package, as well as their facilities and we on our part agreed to give credits in credits roll as well as giving students opportunity to join our crew so they gain hands on film experience as well recognition on IMDb. 5 students joined our team and received positions in sound, camera department, production assistance going as far as 1st and 2nd Assistant Director positions. All in total we had 5 shooting days and in the period of 10 days I lost 10 KG (22lb). But it was worth it. We all had magical time we will remember for a long time.
BT: Most of experimental films have abstract ideas and only visual values, but BLUE GLASS touches very humane subject.
JM: As a filmmaker though I received Degree in Film from The Los Angeles Film School in 2010 my filmmaking inspiration comes from country of my origin, Poland. I always admired work of Krzysztof Kieslowski who had an ability to create visual images that would stimulate the subconscious part of the viewers brain. This is what I have been interested to explore in “BLUE GLASS”. The subject of cloning and MK-Ultra experiment needed to be treated very carefully to avoid traps of associations the audience has been conditioned to up to that point. Bottom line the movie can look visually interesting or beautiful but if it doesn’t convey emotion it only becomes an eye candy and not narrative tool to tell the story. Normal viewer engages with drama of the characters first and if it happens that the story is told with visuals that are pleasing to an eye, its only adds to the all around quality of the narrative aspect of the story. From the purely story telling view, I just wanted to explore hypotheses of what would happen if we could clone our someone we loved who possibly passed away or are in coma and how the survivalist instinct of the replicant effected their character when the original person comes back in their life. Sometimes threesome is not a magic number.
BT: Please tell us how did you come up with the strong, effective and beautiful visual style of your film.
JM: It started with the script where all sections of the movie where written in a descriptive visual sense. Together with directors of photography and Joas Burggraaf w Alessandro Felicie knew we wanted to tell the story with visual symbology avoiding the standard coverage. This is indeed how the movie was written. Exposition through camera movement with dialog that is only absolutely essential. By doing so we were trying to establish a new pathways in to telling the story visually focusing on effecting subconscious mind of the viewer. Each shot became proverbial “eye candy” but used for narrative purposes. The whole idea of micro/macro universe was something we wanted to explore in “BLUE GLASS”. For extreme Close Ups of props like Greek blue beads and cricket we used in one of the sequences Laowa 24mm Macro Probe Cine T14 lens which let us come very close to the subject adding to the surreal vibe of the picture.
The whole idea was to use a lot of close ups to create the feeling of claustrophobia which characters feel.
In standard coverage you set up each location with long shot to establish geography of the location. We wanted to avoid that to create sense of confusion where the audience would feel claustrophobic sense of entrapment. We end up using 3 cameras RED and ARRI AMIRA and for the “sink” shot where the protagonist is submerging the face in water we used BlankMagic 4K pocket camera. The importance of choosing correct angles where camera would be placed in relation to actors or objects, created subjective perspective essential to overall narrative experience.
BT: How did you go about casting of BLUE GLASS and how did you work with your actors?
JM: The casting was actually very straight forward. With Henrietta Bryant I have worked with on previous 3 projects and we know each other very well. She came from theater background, but also spend 20 years working as a recruiter for different companies. Over the years she build network of actors and filmmakers and in a way the filmmaking world is relatively small in The Netherlands specially English speaking. From the beginning Marcel Romaijn was in our minds as Adam in our script and that because he and Henrietta had a scene together in the movie which was shown in Cannes titled SH!FT. It was important that both leads have onscreen chemistry and because I saw them together before the choice was very simple. Henk Botwinik was a senior actor which we wrote the part in mind. However after completing the script we were looking in to a different Dutch actor which eventually due to scheduling differences needed to step out of the movie. It was a blessing in disguise because in the end we went back to the man we wrote the script in mind for.
I myself come from acting background being long time student of Ivana Chubbuck.
By being myself an actor, this unable me to put myself in actors shoes and try to help them with conveying performance, as I would want my director to do when I act. Considering that “BLUE GLASS” doesn’t use standard coverage there were moments where actor would feel confused, because I asked
them to do things which they haven’t done before. I always told them to trust the process in were together we would work out best solutions for potential problems. The biggest acting challenge was on Henrietta’s shoulder considering that she had to play two characters, often playing in the same scene reacting on one another. We had wonderful stand in for Henrietta actress Anastasia Reshetnikova which I also has given a little on screen part of a nurse. We did not use green screen, but with smart blocking and interesting coverage we created illusion of Alice and Alison interacting together in multiple scenes, This was the biggest challenge to achieve, but I think we accomplish that successfully.
BT: How your film has been received at the film festivals. By critics and audiences?
JM: In terms of festivals we have send ‘BLUE GLASS’ to numerous festivals in December 2019 and currently we are awaiting replays from them so the film haven’t been premiered anywhere. However on 23rd of January 2020 it is being unofficially screened as part of AFN – Indy Screen at LAB 111 in Amsterdam where ‘BLUE GLASS’ will be shown to limited audience followed by Q&A. I treat this screening as a test of DCP and wanting to see the impact our short makes on the audience.
In terms of critics we actually received first very good review in 2020 from The Independent Critic – Richard Propes which reviewed my previous films “STIGMA” and “11”. He always has a great assessment of films and here is couple of sentences from his extensive review and I quote:
“From the opening notes of Alberto Bellavia’s sparse, emotionally vulnerable score for Janusz Madej’s 17 minute short film Blue Glass, it becomes apparent that this film is different, even for the always
unpredictable Madej, and that we are in store for a cinematic journey that will challenge both our hearts and our minds. “Filmed with an emphasis on the power of visual storytelling and exposition by image, Blue Glass is a visual feast for the eyes that tells its story as much within the film’s silences as when dialogue is spoken. It’s a film where every little thing is meaningful and draws us in both emotionally and intellectually. “ There’s surrealism constantly at work here, an unknowing of what is real and what is fantasy and this
is masterfully captured through the film’s claustrophobic structure. Often without a word spoken, we come to realize what a character is thinking or feeling or experiencing solely through the power of the visual storytelling.”
BT: Please tell us about your next project , are you thinking about making feature film?
JM: Interestingly my next project will be an acting related. As I mentioned before I am also a trained actor and young up and coming Actress/Filmmaker Liza Koifman send me her newest script “Vlinders” (“Butterflies”) which is very promising. We worked alongside each other in the Ivana Chubbuck acting studio in Amsterdam and she approached me to play in her newest short. As a reference of her filmmaking work she send me her first short film titled “NEST” which has a very successful festival run including in “Shortcutz” Amsterdam. Watching “NEST” I realized she is very talented and said yes to participation in her new short.
In terms of feature film aspirations it must be noted that I already achieved this filmmaking milestone. Believe it or not the first movie I have ever made was not a short film.
In 2007 together with my then girlfriend I wrote 59 page long script titled “11”. It was a story of retired US Marine who awakes in a hotel room in Amsterdam. His girlfriend is nowhere to be found. A mysterious note sends him in search of her, on a journey through the shady streets of Amsterdam, only to discover the secret of ’11. We shot “11” during 18 shooting days back in 2008 before I went to Hollywood.
This was arguably hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It took 6 years to finish it, but eventually was premiered in Temecula Valley Film and Music Festival in California, 2014. Through this film, although far from prefect, I have learned how to make films. As famous quote from Stanley Kubrick” states:
“If You want to learn how to make films, make one”. That is what I did. Though by making “11” I burned out a little, I needed few years to fully recover from this monumental challenge, which comes by working on independent feature film. But it must be said I also gain plenty of confidence, that if I can make feature film on budget of 5000 Euro, I can truly accomplish anything I put my mind in to.
Janusz Madej is an actor, director, producer known for Sh!ft (2018) (premiered at Cannes Film Festival), Resolve winner at 48 Hours Film Project – Eindhoven (2017), 11 (2014) and Stigma (2011). He was born in Warsaw, Poland and was trained as a ballet dancer in Warsaw School of Ballet and Central School of Ballet in UK. He left Poland when he was 17 to pursue the career of a professional Ballet dancer. He subsequently had a 12 year successful career as a ballet dancer in two world known ballet companies. Northern Ballet Theater in Leeds, UK and 10 years with Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. In 2007 Janusz met in Amsterdam renown Hollywood acting teacher Ivanna Chubbuck who invited him to study acting in her masterclass in Hollywood.
After his retirement from ballet in 2008 he moved to Los Angeles to pursue Acting and Filmmaking career. He graduated from The Los Angeles Film School with Science in Film Degree in 2010 and his theses short film STIGMA had since received a critical acclaim and was selected on numerous film festivals around the world. In 2014 his feature film debut “11” was premiered at 18th Temecula Valley Film and Music Festival in California. Janusz in his acting/directing career was fortunate to encounter many Hollywood prominent celebrities such as: Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Peter Bogdanovich, Virginia Madsen, Jemie Kennedy, Jeroen Krabbé, Oren Peli, Billy Dee Williams, Joseph Bologna, Connie Stevens, Brett Ratner, Matt Craven, Patricia Velasquez, Stu Stone, Rob Schneider and John Travolta, to just to name a few. Janusz’s experience both in front and behind the camera makes him very accomplished artist that is able to direct actors with ease being an actor himself. His directing/producing experience ranges from feature films through short films to music videos and commercials. Following in footsteps of Polish master directors like Krzysztof Kieslowski and Roman Polanski Janusz specializes in affecting the viewers subconscious mind through technics like Neuro Linguistic Programming (nlp) and always is searching to ad an extra layer of narrative communication in to every project he is part of. In 2010
Janusz started his own film production company called ‘Pineal Films Production’. In 2018 he fulfilled his dream by premiering SH!FT which he produced as part of HP “Masters of Short Film” Competition at Cannes Film Festival. On April 13th, 2013 Janusz founded the Janusz Madej Technique Acting for Camera that offers an acting and filmmaking workshops for the English speaking actors and filmmakers.