Completely Normal (US, 1:29:42)
Directed by: Robert Vornkahl
Written by: Paul DeKams, Christopher Vespoli, Robert Vornkahl.
Cast: Seth Kirchner, Jenny Grace, Whitney Kimball Long, Geneva Carr, Kate Hodge.
'People are always hounding me to stick to a schedule, but I figure a little unpredictability in our lives keeps things interesting.' Greg is a hopeless romantic whose sincere yet awkward affections are a little too much for most 'normal' girls. Gwen is an average New York City maid: she likes yoga, artisanal coffee and heavy metal music, and she just happens to suffer from multiple personality disorder. After another failed relationship, and some really terrible fatherly advice, Greg spots Gwen on the subway and instantly falls in love with her from afar.
Robert Vornkahl is a New York trained, Michigan raised filmmaker. In his feature film debut, Robert explores the unique love that can blossom in the most unlikely places. Shot against the stark beauty of winter in Queens NY, this is a film for anyone who has ever followed their heart when everyone was telling them to play it safe. Peppered with awkward dark humor, it is ultimately a life-affirming tale about love, identity and what it really means to be 'normal'.
Interview:Robert Vornkahl directed his debut feature film Completely Normal which will screen at the 6th annual New York City Independent Film Festival.
Q: Thank you Robert for taking the time out to get in touch with us. Can you to tell us about yourself and talk about your background how you were introduced into film?
Robert: Originally I’m from the New York area but I did a majority of my growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I decided to go into film because I had such a wide variety of interests and professions and it seemed with film I could incorporate all of them in some way, either through story or the other kinds of technical challenges. I’m the son of a scientist and musician so I have that natural collaboration in my brain of the technical and the creative. I realized that watching films really pushed me one way or another in what I wanted to be when I grew up. I watched Backdraft and wanted to be a Fireman, watched Robocop and wanted to be a Police Officer, not necessarily a robot police officer but hopefully you catch my meaning. With film if I developed an interest in any subject I could write a film about it, learn as much as I can then move on to another subject.
VHS and films taped from HBO were also a big part of my film education as we only had a duplex theater movie theater in town for a while, but eventually an 8plex opened. I also worked at that 8plex sweeping up popcorn and watching free movies. I finished with high school and went on to Hofstra University in Long Island, NY where I studied for my B.A. in Film Studies and Production.
Q: With Completely Normal being your feature film debut, can you describe the differences and difficulties you faced in comparison to previous projects?
Robert: I set out to make Completely Normal mostly to prove that we could do it. I had been working on a few independent films previously, watching a lot of them run off the rails and that frustration led into wanting to just show that a quality film could be made how I wanted. In 15 days with a tight crew, a small footprint and a different take on a genre film. The really only difficult part of this film was finalizing our locations and actors. Once we are up and running, lighting, camera and sound are easy for us, I know what works in the edit and what doesn’t so we can make decisions quickly and get tons of great footage. Having that tight knit, highly skilled and multiple hat wearing crew really worked to our advantage. We looked at it as if we were making a short every day for 15 days, and by the end of it we would have a complete film.
Compared to previous films and projects, those were very heavy on the art department and visual effects side. With Rom Coms it’s all about the acting, story and locations. You don’t have that more difficult element of trying to get that blood spatter right, or making sure the green screen is lit correctly outside of the spaceship window. I enjoy those types of challenges but for my first feature I wanted to concentrate on the story and acting as much as possible.
Q: Greg and Gwen are unique characters, where did you draw inspiration for the quirks in their personalities?
Robert: Originally the film started out as short which is pretty much our first few scenes and grew into the much bigger love story from there. Greg was a character specifically written for Seth Kirschner. I had worked with him on other projects and I knew he was a super talented comedic actor. But we wanted to give him something that would be a bit more challenging and dark, than the lovable nerd type he had been previously cast as. Gwen’s character sprung out of necessity in the script being what we thought of as a worst case scenario for Greg, a very pretty girl that he decides to stalk, but then his usual stalking is difficult because her personality is always changing so he can’t get a read on her.
Q: New York City has been in the center of many great films, how has the city influenced your work in this film and other projects?
Robert: I love movies like Ghostbusters, Manhattan and Taxi Driver so having NYC as a home and the setting for my film is amazing. We wanted to feature the Queens side of the city in that we live and work here and the exteriors of Queens usually aren’t featured, its always very heavy on the Manhattan side and not so much the outer boroughs.
Q: Romance in New York City seems to be inevitable, what are your thoughts on the chances of finding love on a NYC subway?
Robert: The subway lends a very NYC element to our story as millions of people ride it everyday and I’m sure there are love connections all the time. Hopefully not like how ours plays out in the story of course!
Q: Completely Normal has already received much acclaim; do you have any projects in the works that you can tell us about?
Robert: We have been very fortunate in our short run so far and are super excited to be featured again in our hometown at the 6th Annual NYC Independent Festival. We are working on our next feature now and are in the midst of casting and fund-raising. The next film will feature the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is more of a crime-thriller-comedy.
Q: What would you like to share with new fans of your work and viewers anticipating to watch Completely Normal at the New York City Independent Film Festival?
Robert: We hope everyone has a wonderful time at the festival and gets to see as many of the films as they can. We will do our best to have as much of the cast and crew there for any questions or comments our new viewers of the film have.