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Interview – Asiel Norton – ‘Orion’ – A Feature Film


Posted October 9, 2016 by

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Interview – Asiel Norton

Orion shares the story of a post-apocalyptic fable set in a future dark age in Detroit and was directed by the award-winning director Asiel Norton. This exciting thriller stars Hollywood film actor David Arquette, British beauty Lily Cole and has been selected for the prestigious Raindance Film Festival.

‘In a future dark age, after civilization has collapsed, there are rumors and prophecies of a savior to come. A maiden, held captive by a cannibal shaman, prays for a savior. Soon after, an illiterate hunter stumbles upon the shaman’s cottage. The maiden promises to lead the hunter to a city containing the world’s last survivors. With an aid of an urchin vagabond, the hunter plots against the shaman who may not be human at all’ 


Director Asiel Norton attended USC film school and his first feature Redland won best debut feature at Raindance Film Festival, was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award, Hammer to Nail’s Top Fourteen Films of the Year and many more awards. Norton was one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine. His second film Orion was a recipient of a production grant, the Canon Filmmaker Award.  Producer Magdalena Zyzak produced and co-wrote Redland alongside director Asiel Norton, as well as Orion.

Interview – Asiel Norton

Interview - Asiel Norton

To begin with, let’s discuss your latest film ‘Orion’, what is it about?

Orion takes place in a future world of desolation after civilization’s collapse. Very few people remain living. Enough time has passed that the population lives amongst the ruins of our civilization but they have no idea about it. The idea was influenced by the dark ages after the fall of ancient Rome. The people have no idea where the ruins come from just as dark age Romans had no idea about the ruins that they lived in, the Roman Empire, or the high art, thought, philosophy, science of anitiquity. New myths and legends have arisen and there are rumors and prophecies about a messiah figure called Orion. In this world there is a Virgin Mother enchained by a cannibal Shaman, and there’s a Hunter-gatherer who attempts to save her, and take her to a last mythological city which may or may not exist.

Where did the idea come from? How did you get involved with the film?

I got involved by writing it. Basically film ideas come to me in images. These images are bubbles from my subconscious. So I had this image in my head of a Hunter gatherer figure playing cards with this deathlike Shaman character, but the cards they were playing with were Tarot cards. But they weren’t reading Tarot, they were gambling. That’s how the idea started, in this Seventh Seal type image. I’m also very interested in the writings of Carl Jung, so that was also influential. Then I just thought about who these characters are, and what world do they live in. And I thought there’s a Virgin enchained giving birth, and the Shaman is the midwife. And I thought it would be interesting if these characters themselves are kind of like Tarot cards. And the cards the characters were playing with in the original image I had are the characters themselves. So I drew a Tarot deck, but I created my own archetypes, just because I thought it’s a different civilization so they’d have different characters and images. And I just started building image on image. All archetypes. Virgin Mother, fool, etc, and these cards where the characters in the film.

Asiel Norton film

Let’s talk about the cast – ‘Orion’ is staring David Arquette & Lily Cole – what was it like working with them?

It was a dream really. They were both a dream. They are really amazing people. Before shooting began I was nervous about Lily because she’s a super model, so I was honestly nervous she’d be this fashion diva, prima donna, and I was nervous about David because he has a rep for being crazy. But I new I had to have both of them in the film, it had to be them, and I just followed my intuition in terms of casting, and had belief in my own ability to run a set. But they were not even close to being problematic. They were totally amazing. They were super committed. David is about the nicest man in the world, and Lily is pretty close to being a perfect human being, super smart, conscientious, etc. And I put them both through hell. Really. I’m pretty demanding, and I don’t work like normal directors, and I have unusual ideas, and Detroit was a tough city to shoot in. I mean we were in real collapsing buildings, and we shot into the beginning of winter. It’s obviously cold up there, we didn’t have heat, and there was a lot of shooting where they really didn’t have much of anything on. I was scared we’d lose them to illness really. But they were always down. They did everything I asked, almost without complaint, and they always nailed it. I’d run lines with them everyday before shooting and change the scenes around their performances. Lily was really invaluable in this process because she’s a smart creative person. I mean David went to this survival camp in the desert before shooting even began. He had to survive without food and water with only a knife and string and stuff in the desert for like a week, build traps, find water, hunt etc. He like killed, skinned and ate a rat or some desert rodent to survive out there. That was invaluable both to his perfomance and to the film overall.

‘Orion’ has been selected for Raindance Film Festival – one of FilmDebate’s great partnerships! Are you going to be attending? Are you looking forward to the festival?

I won’t be attending.

What are your influences as a director?

I’m really a film geek, so I always tell people there are too many to list. Honestly there are so many. I just went and rewatched Rules of the Game at a revival house last night. Such a great film. I’m a huge classic movie fan, huge fan of cinema from all ages, all around the globe. The pantheon, the 4 pillars of cinema are Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, and Tarkovsky. They’re the best. Those guys will be remembered. They are like Bach and Mozart, Michelangelo, something like that. But there are so many filmmakers that I love and admire, and totally influence me. Going back to Chaplin, Murnau, Pabst, Griffith, Eisenstein, Pudovkin. etc in the silent days. But I love classic Hollywood film, and I like a lot of the studio directors back then like Curtiz, Cukor, and Flemming. I also like the maverick auteur directors of old Hollywood like Huston, Welles, Capra, Hawks, Ford, Mann, Hitchcock and the guys who straddled the line like George Stevens, all those guys were amazing and made really great movies. My favorite films and filmmakers are from basically all around the globe in the post war period. That was the high point of the form really. From basically 1950-1980. The generation that were teens and lived through the war and basically came up to make movies right after the war, and then mostly retired during the 80’s, or died, they were really the greatest. And the baby boomers were great in the 70’s. But from neorealism to modernism, to new wave, to Japanese film, to Russian film. I mean that’s when the greatest filmmakers from all over the world lived. You’re talking the four guys I already mentioned and Kurosawa, and Antonioni, and Godard, and basically everyone, all the titans. It was just a super vital, mature, inspired art form that really said something and mattered. Those guys were really awe inspiring.

Where & when can we expect to see ‘Orion’?

For now at film festivals. Then at your local art house theater and online. But I really would like for people to see it at a theater because that’s how this film was meant to be seen. I made it to be seen in a theater. Watching a film on a laptop while texting or looking at Facebook is really sacrilege. But that’s how people do it nowadays. It’s really tragic. I feel like everybody’s IQ has dropped about 50 points. Just sit down and pay attention and watch a movie or read a book. It’s not so hard to focus on something for a few hours, and you’ll really get a much better experience, and learn and feel so much more, and be a much more interesting, well rounded person. Don’t constantly look down at your phone, learn to pay attention to something for more than 15 seconds. All you get is superficial experiences that way, and you become a superficial ignorant person. There’s nothing that interesting on your phone, nothing that you’ll remember in 4 hours. Not to rant or anything… what was the question…

Do you have any top filmmaking tips for the readers of FilmDebate?

Don’t watch films on your phone, or your laptop. Don’t text while watching movies. Watch a lot of movies. To those who have DVD’s watch great films with the director’s commentary. You learn a lot. Then read a lot, go to museums a lot. Learn about stories and visuals. Then have experiences. Have great sex, have your heart broken. I never joined the military but I kinda wish I did just because the greater the experiences you have the greater artist you’ll be. Artist nowadays are a bunch of bougie hipsters that never experienced anything therefore they have nothing to say. Have something to say or an interesting take on life. Then just shoot. Shoot and shoot. And follow your instincts. Have the courage of your convictions, and don’t let anyone block your vision, and never give up. Filmmaking is hard, very hard. Just making one film is so hard. There are so many times when you think you can’t make it, but you always do, so don’t give up. And you’ll meet so many people who tell you, you can’t do this or that. Never listen to them. Follow your own instincts.

What is the next step for you? Do you have any other projects in production?

Yeah I’m developing a few projects.


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