I enjoyed Tamas Harangi’s legal thriller, The Advocate, which screened at the Durango Independent Film Festival where it won the Juror Award and the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature. It screened at the Dances With Films Festival and will be at the 13th Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles on Sunday November 17 before it is released on DVD November 19.
Tamas Harangi wrote, directed and produced the film. This is no small feat nor is it just mere luck that the screenings at the Durango Film Fest were sold out and the audience expressed their love of the film by awarding it. Wearing three film craft hats is not easy. However, it does indicate Harangi’s fervor and love of film making. His screenwriting talent is apparent. For this legal thriller he’s created a storyline with plot twists that are unshakable and a premise that is chilling in its profound logic.
Mr. Harangi was born and grew up in Hungary. At 19 he moved to the West Coast to study film. He has indulged his film passion by learning various aspects of the craft, working as a PA, grip, camera assistant and producer. With The Advocate he not only wrote the screenplay, directed, and produced, you can also catch him Hitchcock-like in the film. (Hitchcock always had a background shot of himself in his films.) I won’t tell you where, but look for him.
Mr Harangi answered some questions I had about The Advocate, his first indie feature film.
What challenges did you have?
With an indie film, I guess the toughest challenge is the time factor – having the time to get the shots with the right performances. And really, that’s the side-effect of a lack of money, but the lack of time is the unpleasant symptom that you’re trying to alleviate.
Had you worked with any of the actors before? If so, were you able to use any directing shortcuts? Can you share a bit about how you worked with the cast? Did you rehearse first?
Sachin Mehta and I had made a couple of short films together and that’s how we started talking about doing a feature. He was also my producing partner and gave me lots of notes on the script which helped in shaping his character.
When you start out, a lot of people tell you that half of directing is in the casting. It was certainly true in this case. I knew, going in, that we’d have very limited rehearsal time, so my best chance at shaping the performances was in the casting process itself and I was looking mainly for authenticity in the portrayals. In the end, we managed to find a great team of actors who I was able to work very fast with on set to fine tune the performance and find the right tones.
What specific attributes of the leads enhanced your work relationships?
Sachin was very meticulous in his approach to the story. Of course, the fact that he’s a licensed attorney in real life helped a lot with the script. His notes were crucial on how legal aspects of the case get laid out. Not to mention that the neurosis that goes along with the profession inspired his on screen persona.
With our female lead, the character of Allyson, actress Kristina Klebe, came in with a keen understanding that she needed to keep us on our toes as to Allyson’s guilt or innocence throughout the story. I think her performance is what carries the main mystery to the end.
Give a bit of your background with directing, writing, acting.
I grew up in Hungary and I started making Super-8 short films there while I was in high school and got some awards at the local independent festivals at the time. After high school, I moved to California to study at the Film and TV Department of De Anza College, and kept on making shorts and music videos, whatever I could get my hands on. At the same time I started writing screenplays. After a while, my scripts started getting some interest, but getting a first feature made within the system can be quite sisyphean, so I figured the best way to go at it would be to produce an indie feature, and that’s how The Advocate came to be.
Congratulations on your awards at the Durango Film Festival 2013. Where to from here?
Thank you! After Durango we had the chance to screen at Dances With Films Festival in LA, as well as the AMFM Fest in Palm Springs. We have one more festival screening lined up at the Hungarian Film Festival of Los Angeles on November 17. Then it will be time for our DVD release. We got picked up for distribution by Osiris Entertainment at the Dances With Films Fest.
You were also listed as producer. Any challenges wearing all three hats? Is it actually more seamless having that control?
Sometimes it does get a little tricky to manage the interests of the different hyphenates in my head. What’s good for the writer or director is not always good for the producer and vice versa. But if you can balance that, having the creative control can be a very nice reward.
For Tomas Harangi, the film’s success will be the biggest reward of all.