Hey Yedidya, tell us about you and your experience in film.
Out of college, my friend Josh Itzkowitz and I started making ads for family friends and any anyone else we could find, with the hopes of one day making a film. We both did everything at first, but eventually settled into our roles. Josh was a producer and I was a director. After a year, we’d saved up about 15k, which felt like a million dollars to us, and thought it was time. We didn’t have any experience writing features, though, so we looked for a writer to come on board, and eventually started working with Mark Leidner, who Josh had originally met on Craigslist.
Our first movie Jammed (2014) was a trial by fire. We all learned a lot about how to write, how to produce, how to direct, how to edit, how to market our final product, and most importantly, how to work with each other in each phase of the process.
After Jammed, Josh, Mark, and I had a couple years of scraping together various film gigs full of minor successes and failures, but we knew we wanted to make a second movie to try to apply what we’d learned on the first. When Mark pitched Empathy, Inc., a sci-fi thriller, we all loved the story and its themes. It just fit into our budget, too. So we went full steam ahead with the script, the prep, storyboarding everything, casting, hiring, and rehearsals. Prep took a year. We also took our time with the shoot, and after production, we edited for another year, then worked on the music and sound for another 7 months. It was a long process, but we’re really excited about the final product. We feel like it’s perfect for fans of entertaining, horror-tinged science fiction.
The film is playing BHFF, before we talk about the film, what has the experience working with them been like?
BHFF has been extremely easy to work with. And because they are a selective festival, we take it as a high honor that we are a part of their lineup. We’re very excited to be here, especially because our team is from New York and we shot some of the film in Brooklyn.
Ok, so tell us about the film. No spoilers.
Empathy, Inc. is about a hotshot venture capitalist, Joel, who has a multimillion-dollar deal go up in smoke, and is forced to move in with his in-laws and start from scratch. At the lowest and most desperate moment in his life, Joel meets old friend Nicolaus and his business partner Lester, who are seeking investors in a new technology known as XVR—Xtreme Virtual Reality—from their company Empathy, Inc., which is said to offer the most realistic and moving experiences for users by placing them in the lives of the less fortunate. Joel gets the startup its funds, but he soon discovers that the tech’s creators have far more sinister uses in store for their creation—and the reality it provides its customers isn’t virtual.
That’s the premise, and the movie is shot in crisp black-and-white. It has an off-kilter, dark sense of humor, and it’s kind of an homage to some Hitchcock thrillers, to film noir in general, and to class low-budget sci-fi films like Pi and Primer. There are also some brutal moments, some funny moments, and a lot of phenomenal acting.
When is it playing?
Any other films at BHFF you consider can’t miss?
I’m definitely going to see A.T. White’s Starfish. I love what I’ve heard about it at other festivals I’ve been to, and I’m excited to finally get to see it.
Any other thoughts you’d wanna share?
We’re so excited to be joining BHFF! Anyone who wants to see the trailer for Empathy, Inc. can view it here. I’ll be at the screening and Q&A afterward and can’t wait for both.