Interview: Zachary Wigon talks "The Heart Machine"

Interview: Zachary Wigon talks "The Heart Machine"

By Nick Leyland | October 23, 2014 04:21PM EDT
Film Buff

Young director Zachary Wigon is working hard to make his mark in the world of‭ ‬film and his new drama/thriller The Heart Machine may do just that.‭ ‬The film‭ ‬revolves around a young couple who met online and have spent their entire relationship on video chat.‭ ‬At first,‭ ‬Virginia‭ (‬Kate Lyn Sheil‭) ‬tells Cody‭ (‬John Gallagher Jr.‭) ‬that she is in Berlin working but after a‭ ‬while he begins to suspect that she‭ ‬is not being completely honest with him.‭ ‬He believes that‭ ‬she may‭ ‬actually‭ ‬be in the same city as he is.‭ ‬He‭ ‬then‭ ‬begins to travel the city in search of her.‭ ‬Zachary was gracious enough‭ ‬to sit down with us here at The Movie Network and tell us all about this new film which comes out November‭ ‬24th.

Nick Leyland from The Movie Network:‭ ‬Hey Zachary,‭ ‬your new film‭ ‬"The Heart Machine‭" comes out on the‭ ‬24th,‭ ‬right‭? ‬For the final time‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬it's the‭ ‬24th.‭

TMN:‭Yeah.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬it's been a long journey I'm sure for you,‭ ‬huh‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬it's very surreal.‭ ‬Definitely very,‭ ‬very strange.‭

TMN:‭ Yeah,‭ ‬I saw it premiered at South By Southwest in March.‭

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Right,‭ ‬right.‭

TMN:‭And how'd it go down there‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬It went really well,‭ ‬it was a lot of fun.‭ ‬I had never been to Austin before,‭ ‬and Austin is like a really intense party kind of town,‭ ‬I guess especially during South By,‭ ‬so it was really intense.‭ ‬And‭ ‬then we did a ton of press,‭ ‬so that was also a lot,‭ ‬but it was a lot of fun,‭ ‬man,‭ ‬and I enjoyed it very much.‭

(Zachary Wigon - Photo Credit: Film Buff)

TMN:‭So,‭ ‬let's talk about this film a little bit,‭ ‬‘The Heart Machine‭’‬.‭ ‬It's a cool film,‭ ‬it's a smaller cast.‭ ‬And I love the character of Cody,‭ ‬because...‭ ‬One reason I liked Cody was because you're watching it and he seems super creepy in a way,‭ ‬but it's because he's under a microscope.‭ ‬You know what I mean‭? ‬Most people are like that,‭ ‬I think,‭ ‬in a lot of ways,‭ ‬wouldn't you say‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬I think when peel back the layers,‭ ‬everyone has their own s#$%‭ ‬that they're dealing with and that they're going through.‭ ‬And I was interested in having the stuff that is ruminating around in his head,‭ ‬slowly coming more and more to the forefront of the film,‭ ‬as his behavior gets increasingly creepy,‭ ‬for lack of a better word.‭ ‬In the beginning of the film,‭ ‬so much of‭  ‬his doubts and his paranoia are contained inside his head.‭ ‬He's taking actions to try figure out what's going on,‭ ‬but he's also trying to‭ ‬sort of hold the fort together,‭ ‬with respect to his relationship.‭ ‬And then it's only as the film goes on that his paranoia,‭ ‬and his doubts,‭ ‬and his anxiety really start to take over as they become more and more clear.‭

TMN:‭John Gallagher,‭ ‬who plays Cody,‭ ‬he did a great job,‭ ‬he gave me those uncomfortable chills you get when someone's like that.‭ ‬And Kate also did,‭ ‬she did a good job at making me not really believe anything that she was saying.‭ ‬Can you tell us a little bit about the cast,‭ ‬your two main characters‭? ‬And how they got involved and what they brought to the table‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬we were so fortunate to have wonderful actors.‭ ‬What I really liked about Kate,‭ ‬in terms of what she brought to the table,‭ ‬I mean there's a number of things.‭ ‬She's very,‭ ‬very intelligent,‭ ‬she has seen like every movie.‭ ‬She's seen way more movies than I've seen,‭ ‬or anyone else that I know frankly.‭ ‬She's just extremely smart about understanding films and understanding character,‭ ‬and she really had a very nuanced and sophisticated take on where to take the character of Virginia.‭ ‬And what I liked about Kate as an actress was that,‭ ‬she's able to play an introverted character in a very unusual way,‭ ‬which is,‭ ‬most actors when they're playing someone who's introverted,‭ ‬their‭ ‬behavior is either too subtle,‭ ‬or it's very,‭ ‬very obvious that they're trying to show the character is uncomfortable,‭ ‬or passive aggressive,‭ ‬or whatever.‭ ‬But with Kate,‭ ‬she's able to play an introverted character in an extroverted and interesting manner,‭ ‬without having it feel cheap,‭ ‬or fake,‭ ‬or contrived,‭ ‬or unnatural.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬that's very...‭ ‬It was a great asset,‭ ‬to be able to have her do that.‭

‬And then with John,‭ ‬John is an incredibly charismatic and likable guy,‭ ‬first of all,‭ ‬as a human being.‭ ‬And he's also‭ ‬able to do that in his performances,‭ ‬he can render seemingly any sort of character relatable and likable to a certain degree.‭ ‬And that was what I really wanted and needed for this role.‭ ‬I needed someone who would make it so that Cody didn't come across as‭ ‬like a major,‭ ‬super creep,‭ ‬to the degree that people were just totally turned off and wanted nothing to do with him,‭ ‬and wanted to stop watching the movie.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬I needed him to land somewhere more in that grey area.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬he's a little bit like a Jimmy Stewart type actor in that way,‭ ‬the model was sort of like casting Jimmy Stewart in‭ "‬Vertigo‭"‬,‭ ‬right‭? ‬Which was just brilliant casting,‭ ‬because like Jimmy Stewart,‭ ‬he's like this sweet,‭ ‬likable guy.‭ ‬And then seeing him get corrupted in‭ "‬Vertigo‭"‬,‭ ‬as he becomes‭ ‬more and more obsessed,‭ ‬and crazy,‭ ‬frankly,‭ ‬to see that transformation happen is really,‭ ‬really interesting.‭ ‬And you never totally lose your empathy and sympathy for that character,‭ ‬because he's so sweet and likable.‭ ‬And the same I think goes for John.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬yeah,‭ ‬so that was what they brought to the table,‭ ‬among many others.‭

‬And one other thing I should mention is,‭ ‬there's a reasonable amount of improv in the movie,‭ ‬I'd say maybe‭ ‬10%‭ ‬to‭ ‬15%‭ ‬of the finished film's dialog was improvised.‭ ‬Like some of the Skype scenes,‭ ‬but like the scene where John's walking down the street talking to his boss on the cell phone.‭ ‬And John is just wonderful at improv,‭ ‬very,‭ ‬very quick,‭ ‬very charming,‭ ‬very fast.‭ ‬And that was a wonderful asset to be able to rely on,‭ ‬as he did it.‭

(John Gallagher Jr. and Kate Lyn Sheil in The Heart Machine - Photo Credit: Film Buff)

TMN:‭That's awesome.‭ ‬Like,‭ ‬with Kate,‭ ‬a lot of her scenes that you see,‭ ‬she's on the computer screen.‭ ‬And I thought that was really cool.‭ ‬I talked to another director about a year ago who did a film that had a lot of Skype footage and stuff and he had nothing but headaches.‭ ‬How did it go for you‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬There were a couple of moments where it was frustrating,‭ ‬but overall,‭ ‬it went all right.‭ ‬There were only two days were we did Skype shooting‭ '‬cause we clumped all the Skype shooting together in the‭ ‬same setup block.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬the first time that we shot Skype scenes,‭ ‬it was that there's Skype scenes that were taking place inside Virginia's apartment and it was okay.‭ ‬There were a couple of headaches because we shot them live.‭ ‬We didn't pre-record the Skype‭ ‬end of the conversations,‭ ‬so it was a live internet connection.‭ ‬And there were a couple takes where it was going all right and then the internet cut out and we had to restart.‭ ‬That was really frustrating.‭


‬But what we were able to do was Time‭ ‬Warner,‭ ‬yeah...‭ ‬Time Warner is the source of many New Yorker's frustrations,‭ ‬the cable company.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬so,‭ ‬the internet was just kind of slow but,‭ ‬luckily,‭ ‬what we were able to do was we were able to get an internet booster for Cody's apartment location.‭ ‬And‭ ‬when we shot there,‭ ‬that connection was really sort of awesome.‭

TMN:‭ One thing I noticed about your directing style ia you did several‭ ‬360‭ ‬pan shots of the scene.‭ ‬Can you tell me what the strategy behind that is for you‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬there's a couple things.‭ ‬We wanted to provide a sensation of tension and anxiety,‭ ‬palpable tension.‭ ‬We wanted to have that in the film in a number of scenes.‭ ‬We wanted it to feel high stakes.‭ ‬We wanted it to feel like we were figuring out what was going on with Virginia was almost a life or death sort of situation because Cody is losing his mind as the film goes on.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬having shots like a that,‭ ‬like a slow pan around the room,‭ ‬it's a great way to build tension in a sense because since the audience doesn't understand‭ ‬where the camera is going to land,‭ ‬you start creating some tension because it poses a question.‭ ‬The question is,‭ ‬what is the camera about to reveal‭?

‬And so,‭ ‬you raise this question.‭ ‬And whenever you raise a question like that,‭ ‬the audience likes that.‭ ‬And then the other reason that I liked that shot,‭ ‬those kinds of shots,‭ ‬is because there are so many films that it drives me crazy.‭ ‬There are just so many films,‭ ‬especially indie films,‭ ‬where the photography is so generic and you almost feel like you're looking at like a sitcom or something.‭ ‬It's just like a single on one character,‭ ‬a single on the other character and then like a two-shot of the two of them.‭ ‬And you never really get a feel for the environment space.‭ ‬And for me,‭ ‬when I watch a movie,‭ ‬I always‭ ‬like to really feel like I'm actually there in the room with the characters and I understand where everything is in the room,‭ ‬and how it's physically laid out.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬that kind of‭ ‬360‭ ‬shot provides that sort of...‭ ‬It pulls you into the environment physically.‭ ‬And it makes it feel,‭ ‬for me,‭ ‬more real which is why I like it.‭

TMN:‭ Yeah,‭ ‬I think you nailed it.‭ ‬That's exactly what I was thinking in my head a little bit but I wanted to hear what your thoughts were behind doing it.‭ ‬But I thought it was great.‭ ‬And did you put yourself in the film at all‭? [‬chuckle‭]

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬No.‭ [‬laughter‭] ‬It's so funny someone asked that in an interview the other day.‭ ‬He was saying,‭ "‬I commended you,‭" [‬laughter‭] ‬which I thought was kind of funny.‭


Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬There's so many indie filmmakers and Hollywood filmmakers who are able to do that.‭ ‬Hats off to them.‭ ‬I am totally incapable of doing that.‭ ‬I'm not a good actor.‭

TMN:‭ [‬laughter‭] ‬Well,‭ ‬you could have been drinking coffee or something.‭ [‬laughter‭]

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬I like being able to be behind the camera and actually get...‭ ‬I have very specific thoughts in mind in terms of how the composition should work and whatnot.‭ ‬And the idea of having a little cameo,‭ ‬it would feel,‭ ‬I think,‭ ‬too much,‭ ‬like I was just trying to‭ ‬use my Ego or something.‭


Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬I'd rather try to just keep the shoot moving quickly.‭

TMN:‭ ‬I'm sure that you had a budget,‭ ‬obviously.‭ ‬Now,‭ ‬one thing I wanted to ask you creatively is,‭ ‬if you had a never-ending budget on a film like this,‭ ‬what would you have liked to put the money towards‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬that's such an interesting question.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬let me think about that for a moment.‭ ‬No one's ever asked me that before.‭ ‬If I had had an unlimited budget,‭ ‬much bigger budget on this film,‭ ‬I suppose,‭ ‬one thing that's extremely expensive to do is big crowd scenes.‭ ‬Because you need a location that is big enough to fit a lot of people.‭ ‬You have to pay all the extras to show up and then of course,‭ ‬you also have to feed all those extras,‭ ‬which costs a lot of money.‭ ‬So we had a number of...‭ ‬We had a couple of scenes with a reasonable amount of extras,‭ ‬but the really big crowd scenes,‭ ‬there were two of them,‭ ‬the scene in the opening and then the scene at the warehouse,‭ ‬and we shot those on the‭ ‬same day to conserve that group of extras.‭ ‬If I had had more money,‭ ‬I guess,‭ ‬it would have been interesting to have more scenes that took place in really large public spaces like a nightclub,‭ ‬for example,‭ ‬to sort of see a bit more of one of the characters‭ ‬being alone in a very popular environment.‭

TMN:‭ ‬That's a very reasonable request.‭ ‬I think some people would've gone with the‭ "‬Oh,‭ ‬I'd need like‭ ‬18‭ ‬editors and...‭ " [‬chuckle‭]

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬yeah,‭ ‬no no.‭ [‬chuckle‭]

TMN:‭ ‬I really enjoyed the film and I‭ ‬wanna know what I'm gonna be able to look forward to seeing from you in the future‭?

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬thanks.‭ ‬That's so kind of you.‭ ‬Well,‭ ‬I'm sort of hesitating to say too much about it because you never know quite what's going to be the next thing and also you want to try to preserve some anticipation,‭ ‬but I feel like I can say that I'm finishing a new...‭ ‬Or,‭ ‬well,‭ ‬I'm getting ready to go out with a new script at the moment,‭ ‬and it'll be...‭ ‬This thing is another film that deals with the internet and the ways in which the internet affects our lives,‭ ‬but this one is less about how the internet and technology affects intimacy and it's a little more about about how the internet and technology affects identity.‭

TMN:‭Well I look forward to seeing it,‭ ‬and this film comes out October‭ ‬24th,‭ ‬and thank you very much.

Zachary Wigon:‭ ‬Yeah,‭ ‬it does,‭ ‬and thank you.‭ ‬I really appreciate it.‭


Tags: The Heart Machine, Zachary Wigon, Nick Leyland