BREATH, the first film by Simon Baker on the Director’s chair, presents this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival. We had the chance to catch up with Simon a few days ago to tell us about his journey from acting to directing and how it has impacted his life and his career.
For those not familiar with it, BREATH is based on Tim Winton’s award-winning and bestselling eponymous novel set in mid-70s coastal Australia. It is the story of two teenage boys who form an unlikely friendship with a mysterious older adventurer who pushes them to take risks and do things that will have a lasting and profound impact on their lives.
Q: So finally BREATH is done. How do you summarise the experience, from the beginning of the creative process to now that is about to premiere?
A: The whole experience was fantastic. It was profoundly educating. It helped me grow in so many directions. It brought out a creative side of me I hadn’t been able to tap into before. I was able to throw myself into the artistic side of what I do. Most of the time as an actor you are in the service to other processes whilst in this process, I was able to build and give a lot of myself to it. It was a profound experience for me and I probably won’t know until 10 years down the track the benefits I got out of it.
Q: I understand the movie is meant to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next week (TIFF 2017). When can we expect to see it in UK screens?
A: Yes, we are going to present Breath at the Toronto International Festival. We are very excited. Who knows when it will be shown in Britain. As we are an independent film, we must present the movie in a festival –what we are doing in Toronto- and then sell it to different territories where it will be distributed.
Q: So you haven’t done anything yet.
A: No, we haven’t. The Toronto Film Festival is the largest publicly attended film festival in the world. It is for people that really love movies. It is a great place to premiere. From there, we will see what happens; what is always a challenge because I have no way to influence that, it is out of my hands. I am incredibly proud of the film and I am really excited about it and how the audience will receive it.
Q: how are you handling this part of the process that is out of your hands, since I understand you do like having control of things?
A: I am ok with it. I feel at ease with it. I made the film I wanted to make and I am very proud of my work and of the work of everybody else who contributed to the film. They trusted me and believed in me and put an enormous effort into it. I can’t control the outcome though. When I screen it, it is no longer mine; it is everybody else’s experience. So, when I screen it for the first time on the 10th of September, it is not mine any longer. It belongs to the audience. I give it away. So when you say I like control, I like control in the nurturing of it, in the making and building of it. But what is the point of building it if you are not going to give it away?
Q: You’ve recently worked with Renee Zellweger, Isabella Rossellini, and Taylor Kenny in Sarah Jessica Parker’s romantic drama Best Day of My Life. How has that worked for you, being again only on the acting side of things after having all the control with Breath? Has it been hard?
A: Actually not. There is a sense of letting go, having been through the experience of being a Director I understood emotionally – I am a very emotional person and I tune in with things at an emotional level- the journey of the Director because I had just been through it. For this Director, Fabian Constant, it was his first narrative feature film so I understood where he was coming from and going through. You develop empathy and straight away wished that I felt that pain before with other Directors I worked in the past.