There is a place where pain and love reconcile that finds producer, director, writer Dominique Schilling at her most comfortable and creative. After years of paying her dues on short films, documentaries and music videos and creating a production company co-owned with business partner Caroline Risberg, Schilling was ready to take the chance on directing her first feature film.
A Reason is a family drama about Serena, a distraught misfit and her controlling brother, Nathan who gather with other relatives at the house of a dying aunt to hear the reading of her will. The film questions prejudices in its attempt to build bridges and understanding within a family. It stars Marion Ross (TV's Happy Days) as the dying aunt, Magda Apanowicz (The Butterfly Effect) as Serena and Nick Eversman (TV's Missing) as Nathan.
"I wanted to make a film that might not bring a broken family back together," Schilling notes in her director's statement on her website, "but that speaks of harsh realities faced within family units. A film that might not mend all loose ends-- it's often not that simple-- but that opens doors to a new beginning and maybe gives hopes through self reflection."
"Writing ‘A Reason’ was almost a sub-conscious experience,Schilling notes in an e-mail interview with me conducted through MoviePilot. "It was clear to me that I was also going to direct it. I’m fascinated by family dynamics and have actually written family dramas for the past few years. ‘A Reason’ isn’t a “formula” film, but an organic experience, like when you go with your gut. Some of the ideas behind it are love, forgiveness, dealing with cancer, overcoming greed, showing struggles of seniors and LGBT youth, and ultimately families finding their way back to each other."
Schilling's other family dynamics includes being the daughter of German music producer Dieter Dierks (Scorpions, Twisted Sister) and half-sbiling of actor, singer, Rock producer Michael Dierks and Michaela Dierks.
"Music in films is extremely important to me, notes Schilling. "Growing up around musicians, I gained an appreciation for how music can set the right mood and undertones in a story and bring forth inspiration for really any type of art. Regarding my directing style, I listen to music before I go on set and also while writing, because it helps me tune into the characters, the story and my vision."
All those connections have helped her through her rise, in establishing her own production company and making her first feature film.
"Co-owning Risberg Schilling Productions has made everything a lot easier for me. I like to be actively involved in every aspect of production. Caroline Risberg and I share a vision of the films we make. We like to work with the same key people over and over again, because there is trust and it helps us to communicate efficiently with them and get things done."
It also helps that you have an amazing cast of actors that also includes Marion Ross.
"Working with Marion Ross was an amazing experience. She’s an icon for a reason. She’s smart, funny, beautiful, endlessly talented, but also so very kind as a person. You can tell she’s been doing this for longer than I have been alive and I feel very fortunate that she starred in the film. Obviously, I didn’t have any challenges getting performances from her. She nailed it every time. The whole cast was really great."
Schilling is already busy planning her next project.
"Our next project is called “Little Girl, Big Eyes”, a feature film that is very close to my heart. We’re in active development. I’m set to direct and Caroline Risberg will be producing it."
Having grown up in Germany Switzerland and Italy, Schilling's tastes in movies she likes to watch is decidedly euro-centric and international. Her favorite directors include Susanne Bier, Noah Baumbach, Kimberly Peirce, Werner Herzog, Jane Campion, Marc Forster, Ursula Meier, Ingmar Bergman and Michael Haneke.
"I really loved the movie ‘Snowpiercer’ by Bong Joon-ho. I watched it more than once. Gorgeously shot, amazingly acted and directed, this film has so many hidden parallels to our political and philosophical situation in the world that the more one thinks about it, the more one discovers. It’s really smart and fantastic. Another one that I was impressed with was the film ‘Obvious Child’ by Gillian Robespierre, because I like when films tackle topics that are usually shoved under the rug. It was a courageous movie."
And for all those struggling writers, directors, doers and dreamers on MoviePilot, Schilling has these words of wisdom:
"I’m not in a position to give advice, but I can say what has helped me. I hold on to my creative vision and I have a positive attitude. I think it’s important to take responsibility and to keep going. Don’t give up just because sometimes it’s hard. You can’t finish something when you quit, so just don’t quit and make it happen."