Hello József Gallai, it’s a pleasure to have you with us for this interview. Congratulations on your award at last season of the “Casablanca Film Factory Awards”.
Q: Your new movie is “I Hear the Trees Whispering”; in a few words, what is it about?
A: I Hear the Trees Whispering is about a lonely man named Will, who takes a job in the middle of the woods after running from his tormented past, only to find his quiet life shattered when it soon turns out nothing around him is what it seems.
Q: When did you plan to do this film?
A: I put my first ideas on paper back in 2017, I believe I already had a story that seemed quite complete, but I didn’t feel ready to tell it at that time, though I kept coming back to it time and again during the years, having the title A Hidden Place first and then Treeline. I finished the script in 2020 as I had time to work on it during COVID,. It took its final form and title around May 2020.
Q: What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
A: No, I have never received any formal training, I learnt everything myself, I was happy with the successes and tried not to give up after the failures. I have always loved films and storytelling very much, and in the early 2010s I decided to try my hand at it and strive to do my best. Since 2015 I have been making films in English (my mother tongue is Hungarian) and had the privilege to work with more than 400 filmmakers during my career.
Q: What can you tell us about your film work prior to this film?
A: I’ve directed mainly supernatural thrillers, mystery films and horrors, including my country’s first found footage horror film titled Bodom as well as Spirits in the Dark, The Whispering Man and The Poltergeist Diaries with Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts, but this year we completed Project Skyquake with Golden Globe nominee Tom Sizemore, Robert LaSardo and Simon Bamford from Hellraiser.
Q: Can you explain or tell us some of the important elements of this film that makes it interesting?
A: What makes this film really unique is its narrative, and the fact that it practically disrupts the ordinary structure of film as we barely see the actors. The locations become quasi-protagonists, as every little nuance you see or hear can have an important meaning. To my knowledge, very few films operate with such tools and take such risks, but that’s why I loved filming it and loved every minute of it.
Q: How big was your team and what were the cameras that you used?
A: With just a few of us on the crew, it was quite a family atmosphere, but the aforementioned approach to the films allowed for that. We shot for a total of nine days, there was room for experimentation, and all the while we were working in places with a fantastic atmosphere. We used a DJI action cam with a gimbal as well as two SLR cameras and a simple handycam for the flashback scenes.
Q: Directors (and indeed actors) who inspire you and what are your favourite movies?
A: The absolute favourite is M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs), but I have a lot of respect for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Synchronic, Moon Knight), what they’ve reached as independent filmmakers, but my favourites include Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Foxcatcher), Jamin Winans (Ink) and James Ward Byrkit (Coherence). In an ideal world, Jennifer Kent (The Babadook, The Nightingale) would be known and recognized by far more people, she’s a genius filmmaker, as are Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) and Nicholas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother). Regarding actors, I don’t think I’ll ever respect and admire an actor more than Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Q: Where can people see your work?
A: It’ll be released Video on Demand and on DVD/BR worldwide in September, but one can get every information including its release at https://www.facebook.com/ihearthetreeswhispering
Q: What are your future projects?
A: I am currently working on a mystery/sci-fi feature titled Aftermath with my longtime collaborator Gergő Elekes, based on our short film we made back in 2019/2020. We are planning to film the majority of it in November. On the other hand, I am going to start writing the script of a single-location mystery horror (A Stranger in the Woods) very soon.
Q: Thank you for this very inspiring interview, József Gallai. Here at the “Casablanca Film Factory Awards” we look forward to seeing and appreciating your new film productions!
A: It’s been my privilege, thank you very much!