The Interview project is a new personal project by which I interview models I meet at castings or that I have worked with in the past. The interview is then processed into a shoot idea and offered as images rather than words. Hopefully the result has neither the insincerity of advertising nor the narcissism of self published social media.
I have known Charlbi Dean since she was 14 and already a busy working woman. I have had the rare opportunity to work with her over the years and was thrilled to be passing through the same city and to get the opportunity to interview her.
Her Instagram bio says it all “You know they’s a kind of bird that don't have legs so it can't light on nothing but has to stay all its life on its wings in the sky?”. It’s an excerpt from “Orpheus Descending”, a play by Tennessee Williams*, and does well to describe the shape Charlbi Deans life has to it.
I met with Charlbi at Molten Toffee, a little coffee shop on Kloof street in her home town of Cape Town. I have been following Charlbi’s career since the beginning and was already pretty certain as to how I wanted the interview to go. I had photographed her as a model before but now was vastly more inquisitive about her blossoming acting career. The idea is simple. One scene shot in a car. Charlbi’s character is coming from an experience prior to the scene that has brought her to an emotional summit. She plays the emotion all the way through to conclusion in the car without a single line of dialogue. What better way to simply celebrate an actors skill.
Whether we believe in an inspiration bearing muse or that ideas come from an accumulation of our life’s experiences, either way, we can agree that there is something deep inside that is hard to identify that fuels our creative offerings. I have had this theme present in so many unfinished ideas for a while now. I have folders hidden among locked away hard-drives, boxes of note books with romantically penned out-lines of photo essays, book ideas and short films, all revolving around one simple theme: Triumph over sadness or more specifically, that the experience of each emotion (sadness and happiness) is the very reason for the others existence. This scene (below) with Charlbi is the perfect opportunity to see that theme realised.
It feels great to eventually “have a good cry” (and get it down on camera). I can not express enough the extent of the talents I found myself surrounded by. Charlbi who just seemed to turn up and without any effort or elevation of importance manage to transform the idea into an outstanding reality. We shot three takes of the scene and each one begs to be its own unedited version, perfect from beginning to end. I only realised afterwards that she had also delivered all three performances with perfect continuity. If she pushed her hair back at 1 minute in the first take she again pushed her hair back at roughly one minute in takes two and three. Anyone who has ever attempted editing will know how helpful this is for the flow of narrative between camera angels. Thank you Charlbi for a lesson in acting and in film making. You can catch Charlbi currently staring as Syonide in the second season of DC comics Black Lighting. Also a massive thank you to Nicol Dippenaar who was on camera for the film. His empathy for performance and his talent to risk convention for a more real experience are outstanding.
* Excerpt from “Orpheus Descending” by Tennessee Williams continued… “That's true. I seen one once, it had died and fallen to earth and it was light blue colored and its body was tiny as your little finger, that's the truth, it had a body as tiny as your little finger and so light on the palm of your hand it didn't weigh more than a feather, but its wings spread out this wide but they was transparent, the color of the sky and you could see through them. That's what they call protection coloring. Camouflage, they call it. You can't tell those birds from the sky and that's why the hawks don't catch them, don't see them up there in the high blue sky near the sun.”
A massive thank you to Charlbi Dean Kriek for her time and talent.
All images: Justin Polkey
Directing & Editing: Justin Polkey
DOP: Nicol Dippenaar
Production Assitant: Reece Menteath