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Coming to Cannes: Anna Mastro on ‘Walter’

January 4, 2015

James A. Molnar

The Cannes Film Festival (or Festival de Cannes in French) begins May 14 and is a big deal in the film industry. It’s one of the most prestigious festivals of the year and attracts big names to the Côte d’Azur on the French Riviera each May.

While some films may not make the official docket, there are other screenings looking for attention and — most importantly — buyers.

One such film is “Walter,” a quirky independent comedy about a movie theater ticket taker who thinks he is one of the sons of God. The film boasts enjoyable performances from some big names, including William H. Macy, Virginia Madsen, Peter Facinelli, Justin Kirk, Neve Campbell and Milo Ventimiglia.

While it may not be in the festival competition, first-time feature director Anna Mastro hopes viewers — and buyers — will connect with the quirkiness of her film.

“It had these great themes and these great characters,” Mastro said, speaking of when she first read the script.

“I felt like it was this kind of great universal story about the lengths that someone will go to — to avoid dealing with grief,” she said in a phone interview from Los Angeles with Toledo Free Press. “That is a really universal theme and concept I know I can relate to and I’m sure other people will.”

At a young age, Walter (Andrew J. West) deals with the death of his father. His mother (Virginia Madsen) also shares this grief and pain and is there to support Walter on his journey of realization.

“Walter” star Andrew J. West with director Anna Mastro. Photo courtesy Anna Mastro.

“Walter was such a strong character with such conviction,” she said.

He goes to great lengths to hide this whole world for himself, Mastro said.

Besides being a ticket taker, Walter gives final judgments, deciding whether passersby are going to heaven or hell.

After meeting a man named Greg (Justin Kirk), his whole world is turned upside down when he can’t figure out where Greg is supposed to go.

“Walter” debuted in 2010 as a short film also starring West as the title character and written by Paul Shoulberg, who expanded his story into the 94-minute feature.

Mastro calls her path to directing the feature-length “Walter” nontraditional.

Having grown up in Seattle, Mastro graduated from the University of Washington before moving to Los Angeles.

She worked with producer and director Joseph McGinty Nichol aka McG for eight years.

“He was the best teacher I could have ever possibly asked for,” Mastro said of McG. “It was kind of incredible.”

With a background in photography and dancing, she transitioned to music videos. After directing a few shorts and an episode of “Gossip Girl,” Mastro landed her first feature film gig — “Walter.”

However, with the small budget for the film, Mastro was in her element.

“Having a music video background, we never have any money,” she said. “We always have to strive to make it look really good, really high budget, even though there’s nothing.”

“Walter” — filmed for 17 days in Los Angeles and four in Indiana — achieves a high-budget look. The cinematography and production design are meticulous, especially at the beginning of the film when Walter’s life seems highly put together and organized.

The look of the film is well polished, just like Walter’s ticket stand that he obsessively cleans and shines throughout the movie.

“We spent a lot of time designing all of the set pieces and the locations and the colors and the shots and all that stuff to really reflect his mental journey,” Mastro said. “That was a really fun part of making the movie.”

With the film complete, Mastro is hoping the film gets distributed, which is the goal of the screenings in Cannes.

“I think our movie is commercial in a lot of ways, like our cast is commercial and it is sort of like lighter and more enjoyable fare. It’s not extremely dark, subject matter-wise,” Mastro said. “I’m really hoping audiences have a chance to see it.”

Learn more about “Walter” screenings on the Beta Cinema website.

Courtesy of variety.com

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