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Interview with Writer/Director of “Separation”

Interview with Writer/Director of “Separation”

Writer & director Greg White channels Hitchcock in must see film Separation

I am a huge follower and supporter of independent and Canadian cinema. There is some terrific work being done out there, and I love being able to share some of them with my audience. Separation, is no exception. It is not your typical home invasion film and really catches you off guard. Separation is a gem of a film that is packed with twists and turns. It will genuinely keep you guessing to the very end, and then urge you to watch the film all over again. I had the opportunity to speak with Greg White about writing and directing Separation, a suspense thriller you MUST see.  

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Plot: The movie revolves around Liz (Sarah Manninen: The Prince & Me, Haunter) and Jack (Peter Stebbings: Immortals, The Borgias, Never Cry Warewolf), a couple who have moved into a new home in the hopes that it will help them save their struggling marriage. However, the neighborhood they’ve settled into is suddenly gripped in terror as a serial killer stalks the residents. One strange local resident after another suddenly turn up at their front door to greet the new residents. We meet creepy real estate agent Guy Sellers and the couple’s neighbor, Geoffrey, both of who immediately have the viewer thinking they could be prime serial killer suspects.

Watch the film now:

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Check out my interview with writer and director Greg White below. But make sure you watch the film first, and then come back to read the full interview where Greg gives his insight on some of the deeper and more symbolic elements of the film. 

What inspired the story of “Separation?”

I am a big Hitchcock and Polanski fan, so was naturally drawn to suspense thrillers.  I was living overseas and I think wanted to write something that would bring me back to Canada to shoot!


How long did it take to shoot the film?

Principal photography was 18 days, but actually finishing it is a different story. After we wrapped I was on a plane the next day to Dubai. My editor, Jamie Franklin was back in Canada, so we had to go back and forth on skype and lots of files flying all over the internet, and we both had day jobs on top of it, so all in all the process was about 14 months.

What was the biggest challenge in making this film?

The challenge is really the coordination and management of millions of micro-challenges what happen every day in the process. I learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses, some directors are really good on the fly, I definitely need to take more time in pre-production to think about it. I only really pre-prepared half the shots, and funnily enough, it is when I was prepared that I felt I had more freedom to play and experiment. As a director, it is so important to both know exactly what you want AND be open to changing it.

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How did you go about casting this film, since our main characters Jack and Liz (played to a tee by Sarah Manninen and Peter Stebbings) are so vital to the film and drawing the audience in?

All casting kudos go to our casting director Stephanie Gorin. Stephanie is an extremely talented and experienced casting director that works out of Toronto. She read the script and really responded to it and wanted to help. She introduced Peter and Sarah to me and was the one that was the first to know that they were absolutely the right actors to bring these characters to life.

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MASSIVE SPOILERS ahead. Watch the film now (on Amazon or iTunes), and come back and read!

Was there any symbolism to the clown in the window of the shed? Did it represent our main characters wearing a mask?

It is one of those movies that is better when you don’t have any hints about it…but yes. Jack punching it and evil clown face, the duality of clowns in general, all play into this symbolism.

What part did the mother play in Liz’s psyche? Was she a figment of her imagination?

I leave this open so it is what the audience wants her to be. Obviously she is not real in the moments in the house, but whether she the vision of Liz’s actual mother, or a construct I wanted to leave open.

You were able to pull off an intense twist that changes the film and the characters you have connecting with. As an audience member, you just don’t see it coming! Why did you choose to tell the story from the angle you did and keep the audience guessing right up to the end?

The twisty part of it came from something I experimented with in a mostly silent short film I did. But the whole thing from me stems from my curiosity about people that have this extremely dark side. I can’t wrap my head around just one person committing murder, two people that do it together is even more bizarre for me, and I guess it was an exercise to see what life is like for people like that. So for the audience to experience this with me and see themselves in these people, we needed to observe them without the prior knowledge of their natures.

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In your mind when you writing, were Liz and Jack psychotic their whole life or was it more of a breakdown after Liz’s miscarriage (which I assume really did happen.)

So, a major theme I wanted to explore was obsession and how obsessing about things we normally see as positive, i.e. being a mother, being in love, leads to a dark path. I want to let the audience fill in a lot of blanks on their own, i.e. make assumptions about Liz and Jack’s own childhoods for instance. But what is certain is that the only thing Liz really wanted in life is to be a Mom, all of her happiness is drawn from that, and it is taken away, and she breaks and is on a never-ending search to get it back.

Jack’s obsession is Liz, he loves her so much that his love for her is where he draws his sense of purpose, he can only be happy if she is happy, but at least with Jack there are cracks showing in this, he intellectually knows that what is happening is unsustainable, he is aware of the theatre of it all, whereas Liz believes she is the mother of these children, until that house of cards crumbles and she needs to move on. Either way these are two unstable people to begin with, thrown into their own personal worse case scenarios and the result is horrifying.

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What are you working on next Greg?

I am developing a series with “The Conspiracy” writer/director Christopher MacBride, and working on a couple of new feature scripts that deal with wonderful themes like paranoia and the fragility of the social contract.

Follow Greg White on Twitter.

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