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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Centaur Director J.P. Allen Stays True to His Main Character and Makes the Film Alone

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM

J.P. Allen is about as close to a true film auteur as you'll see. Over the course of a year, Allen directed and filmed his "indie-noir" feature Centaur alone. The film is structured as a video diary of a man seeking vengeance for the death of a loved one. It opens Friday (March 23) for a short run at the Lumiere Theatre.

We talked with Allen recently about making a film largely without a cast and crew.

Why did you make the film in this way?

Centaur came from a very personal experience. I had lost someone who was very important to me in a similar way as the main character. It stayed with me, and I thought about the idea and how it could be translated into a screenplay. I sat down and wrote it in just 33 days, the exact amount of time that elapses in the film. It was on purpose. When I'm working on features I try to find a way that makes it as honest as possible. I want to do this exactly how that character would do it from the very start. After I finished the writing portion, it just seemed like we had to make the film in the exact way the character would.

centaur.jpg

Was the challenge of doing it by yourself enticing to you?

There is an appeal to that, sure. I'd rather work with other people, but this is the way its supposed to be via the virtue of the character of the script. It's an interesting challenge. There were times, and I still can't be objective, that I didn't know whether it was working or not. I asked myself, "Am I telling the truth?" and as long as I was doing that I could move forward. There were times though, when I was shooting when I was like, "This is so bizarre. Is anyone really going to watch this?"

Describe your shooting schedule.

It varied widely. His first monologue I probably did more than 100 takes in different locations. I had to find that first shot that really got you in to the film. It took quite a while, several months, but once it happened the other individual shots in the film came in an hour. I looked at the take and if it was honest, I was done. It wasn't that the first shot wasn't honest, it just had to set the stage. The schedule was up to me, and it was a big luxury. I filmed it at odd times in odd places.

What were the technical limitations?

It was shot very simply. I didn't use any equipment he wouldn't have used. We couldn't light the film like we usually would. We used the low-key lighting, the fact that things were just going to be a little darker and lit it in a way that we thought made sense for the character. It lent this sort of indie film noir feel to it.

Looking back, how do you view this entire process?

It was, in some ways, liberating. All that mattered was whether I believed in what I was doing. It may have been difficult if I had shown people because I could've distracted myself from what I was doing. The character was doing it this way, so I stayed in that world myself. It was lonely, but I think the right way to do it in the long run.

Centaur opens Friday (March 23) at the Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $8.50-$10.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Noah Sanders

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