"The Sound Eye" is about Vincent who is an obsessed videographer dealing with a broken romance. He decides to take on a job for an engaged couple who we discover are deeply connected to his past and desire for vengeance. A dark psychological thriller where the fractured mind of an intense man narrates us through a path of faith, culture and discovery. We spoke to Rodney Mansour who has written, directed, produced and edited this award-winning project.
What draws you to the language of cinema?
Cinema is an exciting form of media. Referring to it as such suggests that it serves as a mediator/buffer between actual reality and how we process reality in our minds. There is an invisible dialogue occurring where the language of cinema invites your mind to understand what it has seen. How? Well, Motion pictures arranged in an ordered fashion tell us stories. For this visual power to work there is a language in how shots are delivered to us. Anybody that loves movies understands this hypnotic experience of engaging with this language. The chase to authentically use the language of cinema to accurately express the story you want told is addictive, absorbing and all encompassing. I love this storytelling challenge of trying to capture the image and then assemble it with the proper "Grammar" so that a cinematic "Sentence" is generated. There's nothing quite like it.
How and when did you start studying films?
My earliest memories as a boy are of watching movies. I couldn't have been more than four years old at the time but the visual and audio stimulation exhilarated me beyond belief. I would walk outside and lost in my imagination I would reconstruct what I saw on the screen. If it didn't feel right I would go back and do it again. Accuracy was paramount to me and a building block for whenever I created something.
As I got older I would find books on cinema or any other subject that I was reading and found that it helped me articulate what I experienced when viewing a certain film. In my university days they taught us to deconstruct meaning in media and that gave me the tools to break down movies. Why did I feel X,Y,Z in this film? The music or the sound or the performance or the cinematography. In a sense I find I am still doing all those things today to help me get better at knowing films.
When did you realize that you wanted to work in media and make films and what was the first film project that you created?
When I finished high school I knew that I wanted to go down this path. I used to record shows on videotape for a media company and I knew that creating content was what I was called to do. Being the audience wasn't enough - I wanted to be behind the camera working. I bought my first camera and editing software in my mid twenties and never looked back. I shot special occasions for family where I honed my craft as well as doing movie promos for work. Shooting and editing and experimenting with style was my focus. Every video had to top the one before it in my eyes. I spent a lot of time doing work for other people until I felt I was ready. The Sound Eye short is my first proper film project.
Which directors have been influential in your work and why?
Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are two sides of the same coin - master filmmakers. Scorsese has this otherworldly obsession of cinema and drive to tell the story at its most optimal. He loves movies and wants others to share in that love. He knows cinema inside out and draws from a wealth of knowledge and technique making his work top tier.
Spielberg makes you dream beyond this world as he crafts in superior and unmatched fashion some of the best movies ever made. It's unexplainable how astonishing he is at this. High entertainment and artistic merit often shake hands in his movies.
I love Sergio Leone because of his comprehensive approach to making movies. The epic scope of his work is inspiring.
Oliver Stone is relentless and passionate and driven to seek truth. He is fearless. He writes and directs that way and I love it. His cinematic run from Salvador (1985) to Any Given Sunday (1999) blows my mind.
Stanley Kubrick - obsession and devotion and not being bound by time allowed him to make movies that we'll never forget. Nobody knew the story better than him and in his hands he delivered gold. His work is infused with intelligence and an unrelenting curious mind.
William Friedkin - an experimental Maverick who makes exciting movies that are always a reflection of his robust and amazing intellect.
How difficult is it to find the right audience for an indie film and what is your distribution strategy?
The Sound Eye is a medium length short that runs just under 40 minutes. It is a psychological thriller wrapped in an experimental style. This automatically makes it different. Finding festivals receptive to this has been quite good. Many festivals embrace the length and it has allowed the story to be seen. Equally there have been many festivals that haven't selected it. Indie in nature but perhaps not entirely accessible with its exploration of faith and culture. However many people love how different the story is because of these factors.
Regarding distribution, my producing partner Wassim Hawat and I are seeking streaming platforms for the film. It has the ideal length for a pilot episode where the aesthetic or story elements could be widened but the market always dictates the realisation of these things.
What was the inspiration behind the making of The Sound Eye?
This short was something I had to get out of the system. Ideas, reflections, observations, inspirations, contemplations and creative thinking applied to my experience of growing up as a Lebanese Australian. I took a serious approach to the story because I wanted the strength of the ideas to provoke thought in the viewer. Faith, philosophy, romance, marriage, desire and vengeance are mythological in that the human heart responds immediately to them when presented. I knew the story would resonate but I knew that the supernatural/religious aspect would give it an edge and display something alternate and unique. It's a journey many are familiar with.
Films like JFK (1991) Dir. Oliver Stone and Goodfellas (1990) & Casino (1995) Both Dir. Martin Scorsese was inspirational in many ways. The relentlessness of the how the images move in the editing, the unifying power of the voiceover and the heightened viewing experience of these movies activated that creative impulse in me to tell my story in The Sound Eye. Complicated ideas and complex characterisation are manifested in wall-to-wall delivery and I loved that.
How can cinema change the world and have an impact on society?
Cinema is like a safe platform where we can comfortably engage with stories and ideas to help us understand life. This makes it entertaining to me and boundless in its value. Humans have that fascinating phenomena fused into them called memory. We recall the past and we imagine the future while trying to live in the present. The undisputable 'here and now' of the present fuels our memories. The moving images we encounter with cinema can allow us to see different perspectives on our existence. Through movies we can learn without actually experiencing and apply the logic we encountered. You can say things in a film that you might not be able to with words. This materialises a dimension in our minds to process the story and shape our lives accordingly. It stops and starts with our minds - cinema can complement and supplement that.
Please tell us about your next project.
My friend Wassim Hawat was my collaborator on The Sound Eye as the main actor, co-writer and co-producer. We are teaming up again to make a feature film that is a psychological thriller. It's a genre that is compelling to us. There are certain nods to Jaccob's Ladder (1990) but essentially we are diving into memory in a very ambitious way. The delicate dance between truth and delusion will fuel the story for our main character dealing with a trauma. We are still scripting it in collaboration with a writer but we have a strong outline that we are constantly shaping. We are confident of the themes we want to present but the building blocks of a legitimate working script is our priority at this point. It'll be intense but fun and exciting too.