Anna Bamberger on ‘Just Within Reach’ and Her First Directorial Experience
Anyone that has ever worked on a film set knows that it can be quite a challenge, and Anna Bamberger became aware of this idea firsthand as she worked on the new film Just Within Reach as the producer, writer and director. Luckily, the rising talent was more than capable of tackling these positions, and as a first-timer no less!
I had the opportunity to chat with Mrs. Bamberger and discuss her process as a filmmaker, and I quickly learned that her prowess was years in the making, even if her IMDb page may not have alluded to that notion.
. . .
Nick Kush: What was the last great film or series you saw either on streaming or in theaters?
Anna Bamberger: My favorite genre generally is sci-fi that deals with artificial intelligence — that sort of thing. But I’ve enjoyed the TV series Gotham and the Batman trilogy. I also really like House of Cards and maybe the first season of True Detective as well.
NK: For Just Within Reach, what sort of films did you pull from or which inspired you to create this kind of narrative?
AB: Just Within Reach was created as just an idea, then we met with a couple different people and we thought about what the story should be from there. If you wanted to compare it to a few films, it’s something in the direction of Eyes Wide Shut or Belle de Jour, maybe even with some elements of Traffic even though it’s not an action movie.
NK: You have 18 years of professional ballet experience as well as a law degree. What exactly pointed you towards film after handling those pursuits?
AB: When I dancing, I was introduced to acting through directors and choreographers that I was working with at the time– that was the initial approach. But I also acted onstage myself which was how I was introduced to that whole world.
Then, I got the chance to work on a musical in London which was for the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ Let it Be. It was more of a celebration of their songs but it was a hugely successful production that went on a national tour for a few weeks, and I was the co-producer. From there, some of the major producers and I discussed some ideas for certain projects and eventually decided to work together. That took me to the world of backstage producing and writing, and I enjoyed that a lot more.
Even though I love dancing and performing, I never really got into the acting side — it’s pretty limiting and it didn’t really give me the opportunity to express stories the way I wanted to express them. But with producing, I was put in that position. Obviously, I was working with writers and directors so I sort of had the story in my hands — I could give life to it in the way I saw it in my mind. I found that idea incredibly inspiring.
NK: Do you think your background shaped how you worked on set and how you interacted with your actors and everyone else working behind the scenes?
AB: Absolutely. Ballet is such a rigid environment — I’ll always love it and still do — but it’s something that requires very high discipline and work ethic every single day. It has the concept of constant repetition that eventually — once you master it — brings out a better result. That’s something that I could directly relate to filmmaking. Even though the wide idea is that it’s very glamorous and that there’s not a lot of work involved, filmmaking is obviously quite the opposite. It’s a huge amount of work and the work is not always very pleasant. There’s a lot of different people who you need to get onboard while keeping your ultimate goal in mind. That focused mindset that I got from ballet — and also from my law studies — is something that certainly helped me out eventually.
NK: With being the producer, director, and writer on Just Within Reach, did you ever hit that moment on set where you thought you were over your head? Or did you always feel that you were in charge of your surroundings?
AB: Because I had so many hats to work with, I certainly had some moments where I thought, “this is a lot of stuff and I don’t really have anybody to turn to for advice.” Obviously there were other people involved but they weren’t directly on set with me. However, I’m generally someone who enjoys taking charge of a situation, and I love to be in a situation where I’m able to say, “this is what I want to do,” and then also do it. I actually found it very liberating to have on all those different hats. I wish I would have had other people who were on the same wavelength as myself on set, but you can’t get it all!
NK: Did you have any goals set out for yourself upon starting production? Was there anything that you felt you had to accomplish for the movie to be successful?
AB: The difficult thing we had to work with was our very tight schedule. We only had ten days to shoot the whole film, and that was extremely challenging. Getting everything done and getting all the actors to do what we wanted them to do was an enormous challenge. That was definitely at the forefront of my mind as you can imagine.
It was my first time working as a director — even though I had worked with other actors before in other positions — and that was also an issue on occasion. You have different artistic personalities that don’t always see eye to eye, and I generally don’t like to argue with anybody. I like to keep an environment where everyone feels safe and peaceful. That was really important to me, and so was telling the story as we made frames available with the DP and the crew so that we could get the most beautiful, meaningful shots.
NK: Would you say you like to give notes right away to your actors or do you like to let them figure it out for themselves?
AB: I say to myself that there’s only so much you can do to change a person, and that’s why I think casting is so important. When someone comes in and I can see what they’re doing, I can try to twist and turn them but it’s only going to be bad for their process and it’s going to show in the final product. So, yes, I like to give notes and I’m very hands on — I understand what they’re doing from my own experiences. But, I don’t like to change people from what they truly are. If I don’t like what they’re generally doing, I wouldn’t have cast that person in the first place. I think that’s the easier route rather than trying to get them in a different pose that they just don’t have in them.
NK: Your shooting schedule was pretty quick as you mentioned earlier, but did you ever get the sense that you needed to switch things up as the director to get what you wanted out of each scene?
AB: I think the biggest challenges we had were on the practical side of things like moving the cameras from A to B in a short amount of time. There were definitely moments where we had to change simply because of the limited amount of time.
There were scenes that were cut short. Some of the beats and camera angles weren’t exactly how I wanted them, but those are very quick decisions that had to be made. I didn’t dwell too long on them because I had to finish. Every hour counts — the decision just has to be made. Luckily my DP was onboard with me so we were able to figure everything out.
NK: What do you think is the next step for you? Do you have any goals in mind at the moment?
AB: I’m actually working on two projects that I have in pre-production. We’re still working on the fundraising phase of it all by partnering with certain companies in the U.S. and U.K. so that should be very exciting endeavor. One of the projects is an A.I. piece that I sort of mentioned before. It’s going to be a piece about the exploration of singularity and what happens when machinery learns not only to be intelligent, but also learns human psychology and we’ll explore what effect that might have on humanity. That’s something I might want to explore in documentary format as well.
The second project is a true story. I was approached by the authors that wrote the novel. The story itself was written by a daughter of a Holocaust survivor who decided to start her family, to get married, and to have a baby and actually made it through the war with the help of a German woman. There was actually an exhibition that opened in Berlin this year that celebrated those people who secretly helped out those in need during the war.
NK: What exactly do you hope viewers get out of Just Within Reach?
AB: Well, Just Within Reach is a story about a young couple that has big dreams and big aspirations which is not uncommon with the younger generation. Things don’t work out so they have to try other things in order to make their dreams happen.
I hope that viewers can connect to that idea of having that dream, failing at that dream, and figuring out where to go from there. It’s a story about failure, but it’s more so a story about coming to terms that the fact that things don’t work out and what we then do when things don’t work out. I think that’s something that all of us are asking ourselves. It’s something that’s such a constant reminder in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with all the things we’re suppose to have and the expensive things that we think we need to have. And when we can’t buy those things, it’s almost like we’ve failed as people.
. . .
Grace and Vincent are forced to engage in underground illegal activities in an attempt to keep their family business and marriage alive. Having been struggling with the pressures of wealth and social recognition, the innocent couple, and their best friend Mike, soon discover that they will all surrender to the burdens of prosperity and success. Following their unstable journey, all three characters face undefeatable financial and social challenges from the “upper classes,” a group of people whose lifestyle they attempt to imitate.
While these “upper classes” lead a comfortable and seemingly worry-free life, their underlying ruthless (and at times sadistic) nature forces Grace, Vincent and Mike to push their own absolute limits, in order to keep up with superficial lifestyles. Soon enough, the trio will discover that attempting to climb up the ladder can result in devastating consequences. Through their struggles, jealousy and broken dreams, they now need to find their way back to their original goal — happiness.
Just Within Reach is available now on VOD on the following platforms:
Amazon Instant Video
Dish Network/Sling TV
Ubiquity – Frontier, Verizon Fios
To keep up with the film, be sure to follow Freestyle Digital Media on Twitter @FreestyleDM
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