Resident Video 3: Twice Daily

Resident Video is a monthly series that provides exclusive access to short films from emerging artists. The third installment is Gina Marie Ezzone’s  Twice Daily, a film about the complex intersection of personal and interpersonal relationships.

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Twice Daily is an exercise in cinematic asceticism. Its meditative pace, minimalist approach to narrative, and bare-bones cast and crew culminates into a poignant character study and reflection on the limits of control in our daily lives.

The film takes us into a very intimate space with one central character, Cary, a young woman grappling to control her “healthy” lifestyle. We follow Cary through her daily routine, watch her slight movements, and peer into small – mostly dialogue free – moments in her life. This allows the narrative to accumulate, compelling the viewer to sift through and assemble a collection of illuminated nuances. As Twice Daily writer and director Gina Marie Ezzone points out, this process not only leads us to discover interesting things about Cary, but also about ourselves. A step beyond catharsis, perhaps.

Find more from Gina Marie Ezzone on her Vimeo page, and, in the interview below, read about her filmmaking process, her thoughts on the ethics of depicting mental health issues, and about how fruitful it is to be a perfectionist.

In Twice Daily routine is extremely important. Not only through Cary’s somewhat obsessive routines, but also in relation to the quotidian – those small occurrences that usually fall into the background. How much of this attention to detail is indicative of your filmmaking style and how much is an expression of Cary as a character?

Admittedly, I’m a perfectionist and obsessive – especially when I’m working on a film. We shot Twice Daily in my apartment over the course of 3 months on various weekends. Then, we had to do reshoots in February. Continuity was a huge concern considering our scheduling gaps. It was imperative to me that we keep the details of Cary’s life consistent, such as the order of the pill bottles in the cabinet or dates on her calendar.

Beyond continuity, details reveal intricacies and realities that, like you said, may fall into the background. Cary is very detail-oriented because she has an overwhelming need to feel safe, healthy, and comfortable, especially in her home. I wrote some of her gestures and routines into the script while Michelle created others on set. The close up of Cary’s hand adjusting the bottles in the cabinet, the routine of throwing out the mask and using hand-sanitizer, and the way in which she locks the door in the opening shot all reveal her mental and emotional states. These moments express how extensive – even disruptive – details and routines are to her daily life. They may seem mundane to us, but not to her.

On the other hand, details exist without such obvious meaning: the cleanliness of the toaster oven, the health of the plant on the bookshelf, the matching colors in her apartment. We’re conditioned to focus on action and dialogue and tend to lose these minute details in the background. Upon first viewing, we may not notice them, but we do internalize their meanings within the larger whole. These kinds of details are my favorite to play with because they say everything without really saying anything.

Throughout film history, romanticized representations of mental health issues greatly outweigh more realistic or nuanced approaches. To what extent, if at all, was Twice Daily shaped by this history?

As I began writing, I knew I didn’t want to depict the cookie-cutter stories we tend to see: romanticized depictions of those who succeed through obstacle or extreme depictions of those destroyed and alienated. There are plenty of renowned films that explore mental health in meaningful ways – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Taxi Driver, Girl Interrupted, and Requiem for a Dream to name a few. However, their portrayals reveal extreme situations. At that same time, our culture often associates mental health issues with sickness, insanity, or abnormality.

With Twice Daily I wanted to explore how addiction and betrayal affects a relationship subtly over time. Cary’s lifestyle doesn’t seem wrong, but it doesn’t seem right either. By not naming a specific disorder or giving Cary any kind of diagnoses, I think it inspires viewers to be reflective instead of critical. If we’re not working through our own psychological issues, then we know someone who is. We all can become lost in our own routines and our need for control. Watching friends and family around me become victims to themselves in this way inspired the film’s story. My hope is that as you watch the film unfold, you connect to the character and her struggle. Ultimately the film asks you to reflect on your own relationships – not only on how you treat those you love, but also yourself.

Being in control, lacking control, seceding control … these are all main concerns of the film. The title even gets at a very important aspect of pharmaceutical control, something that obviously has a hold on Cary. As a writer/director, how much of the filmmaking process do you want to have direct control over and how much do you leave open to outside influence or chance?

Like I said, I’m a perfectionist and that can lead to a desire to control everything. My sense of being in control is to always know exactly what I want and how we need to get it to create the final vision. That being said, there has to be a balance between controlling the film (narrative, mise-en-scène, editing, etc.) and giving yourself the freedom to let chances or new ideas inspire you.

I truly believe film is a collaborative effort. Part of my process involves meeting with the DP and actors prior to shooting so we can generate ideas and be on the same page. The thing I love about Logan (my DP) and Michelle is that they, too, are perfectionists yet always push to try new ideas or take a chance. I always wanted to do more than one take for every shot, even as much as eighteen, and they were always on board. We exercised a lot of creative control in this way by working towards our perfect vision; but it also allowed for freedom and chance as we could really explore the character and what she would or wouldn’t do in each take.

My favorite scene is when Cary stands in her bathroom doing her morning routine. I threw out my old plan the day of shooting and only knew I’d edit together whatever she did in front of the mirror. Logan lit it and set up the camera; Michelle came in with various props. We shot several different takes and I edited them together with the jump cuts. It was the most spontaneous scene to shoot and is perhaps the most revealing scene in the film.

Compared to my other work, Twice Daily was extremely challenging because I was going through a lot in my personal life. More often than not, I didn’t feel in control and had to learn to let go of my own compulsions to let the story tell itself. Perhaps the film is self-reflexive in this way.

For Resident Video 2, Matt Spevack and Joey Fishman mentioned that they wanted A White Suit to be slow, but not boring. Twice Daily definitely fits in this category. For you, what does it take to create a slow, but not boring film?  

Currently, we live in a time where our eyes and ears are bombarded with imagery and sounds every second.  It’s all very fast and exciting, but it’s easy to become lost in the shuffle of access and excess. I think slow pacing creates an experience that counteracts this norm and sets a dramatic tone. It’s only boring when the sense of wonder or suspense disappears. Watching A White Suit, I was never bored because of the character study and the constant desire to know more about Gabe and what he would do next. When I made Twice Daily I wanted to create a similar experience.

The pacing is slow to be exploratory and contemplative. We witness Cary in her day-to-day life and experience it with her over the course of several weeks. We’re never privileged her direct point-of-view except in two shots, so we need to do extra work to see the world through her eyes and understand her. Her routines, the voyeuristic camera movement, and the editing style all create suspense and slow pacing. Even the jump cuts throughout Twice Daily seem to extend time rather than their usual duty of condensing it.

It would have been easy to depict mental health issues with manic aesthetics such as fast pacing, quick camera movement, or loud sounds. I really wanted to do something more realistic and nuanced, which I think is inherently different and, therefore, more intriguing. It’s honest and raw. If we’re given a chance to explore characters different from us and connect with them, how can we ever be bored?

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Resident Video series. While the films are no longer available, the interviews remain. Forever.

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