"A powerful archetypal journey from unenlightened living, dysfunction and despair to spiritual awakening."
-Eckhart Tolle, Author, 'A New Earth' and 'The Power of Now'
THE STORY OF RIPPLE EFFECT
Philippe Caland knows that the beauty in good filmmaking lies in allowing actors the freedom to improvise and accepting changes not spelled out in a script.
“Clearly, you have to plan because you can’t make a movie without planning,” he said. “But you have to make room for accidents because that’s when authenticity comes through.”
Caland, of Los Angeles, wrote, directed, produced and stars in RIPPLE EFFECT, an introspective, state-of-mind movie about a fashion designer facing crises in both his marriage and business - crises he believes are the result of a wrongdoing he committed 15 years earlier.
The designer, Amer Atrash, sets out on a journey to make amends with the man he wronged and, along the way, experiences a sort of spiritual awakening.
RIPPLE EFFECT is full of lessons about what is important in life as it explores how people and events are connected how, as Caland says, every action causes a reaction.
“And like ripples in water, as they intersect, they alter each other.”
The film boasts a stellar cast, including Forest Whitaker, Minnie Driver, Virginia Madsen and John Billingsley. The characters, like the plot, continue to surprise throughout.
Caland says he has learned through intense life experiences that the largest problems one perceives often are bigger in the mind than in reality a theme that reveals itself in the movie’s conclusion.
“This is something we are all victims of,” Caland said Tuesday. “It’s fear.”
Caland encourages improvisation in his films and, instead of cutting, allows the process to unfold organically, he says.”That is the difference between small art and Hollywood productions. Hollywood production is on a clock because every second is accounted for and it costs dollars. Everything is a bit choked by a rigid process.”
In a defining moment during the film, his character, Atrash, relinquishes control and lays his soul bare to Phillip, the man he believes he has wronged (Whitaker).
Caland said as the scene was being filmed, he momentarily had to step out of his role as actor to break up a fight between two grips working behind the scenes. When he returned to the set, his weariness was apparent and the emotion worked.
“This is where it was a reckless, very unorthodox way of doing this,” he said. “This is when you allow yourself to be mad and break the rules and have fun with the work, and stuff comes out of it that rigid systems do not allow the same opportunities.”
Magic played a role in his finding the perfect cast, Caland acknowledges. He called Whitaker at a hotel in Uganda where Whitaker was filming “The Last King of Scotland,” and asked him to play Phillip.
“He didn’t know me, hadn’t seen a script for RIPPLE EFFECT, was strained from the role, then the lights went out in his hotel.”
Caland says the darkness allowed them to speak quietly and deeply without distractions, and Whitaker accepted the role. Virginia Madsen, an old friend of Caland, was doing another movie but got an unexpected break and joined the cast as Sherry, Atrash’s wife.
“When we then offered parts to Minnie Driver and Virginia Madsen, I had the same kind of experience. Virginia was an old friend who I had been searching for years for a way to work with. And the story required Minnie to do a stage performance, which was something she was passionately working on in her life and wanted to focus on.”
The typical, time-consuming way of signing actors was bypassed.
“It materialized in ways that things usually do not materialize in L.A.,” Caland said.
Caland now is working on a film he wrote called “Tripping Tommy.” He expects it will be released sometime next year.
“It’s going to be a bit of a thriller a state-of-mind movie,” he said. “It’s going to be an odd little movie because it has some very complex characters who, in the end of it, will reveal the better side of themselves.”
Excerpted from MORNING SENTINEL: New film to premiere in Waterville by Amy Calder, Staff Writer June 4, 2008