Charlie, an anthropomorphic moves to China to fight his fear. As he only exits his apartment at night, he develops a unique relationship with a Chinese girl who is going through a rough patch in life.
Here is our conversation with the talented Hasan Qureshi
CULT CRITIC: You had won many awards for your amazing works. How does it feel?
Hasan – It feels great. While making the film, I didn’t expect any accolades. I made it because I liked the concept and felt it was different. It certainly feels all the hard work has paid off well because the film has traveled across the world and been appreciated a lot along with winning the awards.
CULT CRITIC: How come you came into the world of filmmaking? From whom you have got the inspiration to become an independent filmmaker?
Hasan –Initially I only wanted act and write scripts, but I realized no matter how good or bad my script would be no one else could capture it the way I can because I get to live the characters and the world during the process of creating it.
There were films by great filmmaker that inspired me. There are too many, but to name a few Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese, Udaan by Vikramaditya Motwane, Volver by Pedro Almodovar, & most recently Joker by Todd Philips & Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho. Inspiration never ends.
Cult Critic : You are not only the director of the film “Charlene” but also writer, producer & the actor. How difficult is it you balance all the roles?
Hasan – It’s tough to direct and act at the same time, but it also allowed me to establish the character exactly the way I wanted it to be. But for characters like Charlie it tough to cast because it is a very quiet character and it has to portray real life mannerism. There isn’t a lot of action going around it.
As far as writing and producing goes, writing is the easier part because it is a lonely process. Being a producer and director you combine the two things together because both roles require working with people and putting the team together.
Cult Critic : Let’s talk a bit about the casting. How do you choose the actors for your film? What are the criteria?
Hasan – There are several factors. I’ve mostly worked with theater actors and they’re usually castes on the basis of their acting skills and if they look like the character or they’re willing to transform themselves into the character I have in mind. I’ve also worked with non-actors in three out of 5 films I have made. They’re chosen mainly on the basis of their real life personality. Initially it’s a bit harder to work with them because of lack of experience, but the advantage of having non-actors is they come with a clean slate unlike professional actors who have references from their previous work. Once you’re able to win their confidence, it becomes easy to tweak their personality and they will go an extra mile for you.
CULT CRITIC: Tell us some memorable or funny incidents that happened during the shooting of “Charlene”?
Hasan – The funny and memorable moments were the painful moments of shooting around the park bench because of the mosquitos in summer. It was tough to get the shots right with the mosquitos flying around and landing on the characters face.
One of the most memorable moment of shooting was the first day of shoot when the actress of my first film “Obsession” had joined us to help out with the filming process on the exact same day as we started my first film with the same crew. It turned out to be a fun day reminiscing about the old days.
CULT CRITIC: Please explain a bit more about the mental dilemma of Charlene & Angela
Hasan –I read an article about a girl who walked out of her marriage because of domestic violence. She was the second and secret child of her parents so she had no identification to prove her existence. She moved to the city but failed to survive because was not educated and eventually committed suicide. The story was stuck in my head for sometime until Angela Hou, the actress of Charlene posted a video of her dance on her social media. That’s where the idea of showing emotions through dance came from. I got in touch with her and after she was on board, I started developing the script because I thought dance could be a great tool to use to show the characters psychological state.
Along with that the film is from an outsider’s perspective because as a writer I saw that article from that perspective. I personally do not encourage the decision of the girl from the article or the character I created, but it is an unfortunately reality of the world which is why it was important to have another character with a serious issue to balance things out and see the outcome. The mistake of one character leads to being a lesson for another.
CULT CRITIC: Your Film is filled with serious information’s are there any specific reason behind it
Hasan – The story moves forward with the information because the narrative is developed around the social and psychological themes. Issues such as cultural restrictions, domestic violence & suicides unfortunately exist all over the world, but people don’t feel it until someone they know experience it and that’s how it goes in the film. It’s because we’re all busy with our problems. Like previously mentioned,the mistake of one character leads to being a lesson for another. The situations of the films required seriousness and subtlety.
It’s was also important to break it down into chapters so the audience can really see how the characters react act different stages and what is the context behind the action.
CULT CRITIC: Say something to the aspiring filmmakers about modern day filmmaking. What should they do to become a successful indie filmmaker?
Hasan – If you’re really serious about just go out and make a film, it can be a short or a feature based on what resources you have. You have to take the initiative to fulfill your dream. The technology is accessible to everyone in the world at a very low cost or in your pocket in the form of a phone. So just utilize it and get your feet wet. Each film you will make will be a step towards success and the most important thing is it will be yours. Just be creative and establish your style hits and misses will be a part of the journey.
Cult Critic : What’s the status of your upcoming project?
Hasan – My next “untitled” film is currently underproduction and about 60-70 percent of it is shot. We still have a few more days to go. It’s a drama and it explores darker themes than my previous films.