Interview: Director Chris Folkens on ‘Diversion’ Premiere at 2010 Hollywood Film Festival

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CHICAGO – The festival premiere of a new film is a great day for a director, and Chris Folkens is celebrating his new short film, “Diversion,” with an opening at the 2010 Hollywood Film Festival on October 23rd. Diversion is a taut thriller shot all in Chicago, as great a valentine to the city as a well-done paranoid narrative.

Barret Walz and Doug James are featured in a telephone conversation on the streets of Chicago. As the the conversation gets more personal and dangerous, Walz ventures deeper into the depths of the city, a smart addition to a tense game of cat and mouse.

Director Chris Folkens has developed his craft through work in the advertising industry, and has worked on several high-end film and video projects. Diversion is a benchmark for the filmmaker, showcasing his technical and storytelling skills to perfection. His stated goal: “to impact my audience through dramatic, compelling and cinematic experiences.”

The Director on Set: Chris Folkens of ‘Diversion’
The Director on Set: Chris Folkens of ‘Diversion’
Photo Credit: Mystic Films

On the eve of his big premiere at the 2010 Hollywood Film Festival in Los Angeles, Chris Folkens did a phone interview with What type of film, either when you were growing up or in your movie journey, were the type of films that inspired Diversion?

Chris Folkens: I really loved the type of films like ‘Enemy of the State.’ I resonate with Tony Scott, Ridley Scott and Christopher Nolan. Cinematically, films like ‘Taken’ and David Fincher’s ‘The Game,’ those were the type of psychological thrillers that I really want to do. And that’s the vein that Diversion takes. I was very specific before I started regarding the shots I wanted to use and the lenses I wanted to try out in those shots, to give it that specific cinematic style. It’s all part of a big formula, not formula in a bad way, these are the ingredients that go together to make it work. You spoke in the production notes of “scoring” the visual style of your films as you would music. What notes or rhythm are we seeing in Diversion?

Folkens: Well you see these two different characters. There is Sean Murray [Welz], the main character and the mysterious caller [Doug James]. The way I really wanted to utilize musicality and rhythm in that regard is how I choreographed the camera to emphasize the chaos that our main character is experiencing, with the heavy use of steady cam and inter-cutting with shots of Doug’s character, where he is very slow and methodical. I cut to music while I’m editing the film, so I picked some tracks from my composer that we were able to use as temp work, and edited to that, and in the end it turned out great. Your screenplay has paranoia as an overriding theme, with a touch of stark reality thrown in for good measure. What were you trying to represent in the larger context of the world as we know it, through the step-by-step desperation of the characters?

Folkens: Well, you don’t know who to trust in the film, and as shown in the trailer, the idea of illusion and the public perception of what you see may or may not be controlling what you think. The idea of ‘diversion’ in general is that you don’t really know who you can trust, and that public perception of reality is what people tell you, and they have a vested interest in what their information says. That’s an undercurrent in the film. You use the Chicago cityscape in a very specific and effective way. How were you using the city as a character in your film?

Folkens: I really wanted to show the levels of the city, the stark difference between the upper Plaza near the Chicago Tribune building and the lower level below. It has the effect of going into the underworld, and as the main character turns away from the stasis of his normal life, he dives into this gritty reality underground. I wrote it with the intention of doing exactly that way. As he goes deeper and deeper, he gets further away from the light and the character gets to a prison-like state there. You are premiering your film in Hollywood. What does the concept of Hollywood mean to you, either as a romantic or a realist?

Folkens: By premiering at the Hollywood Film Festival, which is the one film festival I set out to get into, everything else is icing on the cake. For that matter, it was an honor to be selected as one of the thirty short films.

I want to making movies full time, so as much as I love Chicago, it’s pretty clear that everything begins in Hollywood, on the scale and scope of films that I want to be working on. I will continue to come back to Chicago to shoot films, but it’s much easier to get investment capital and studios that green light films here in Hollywood.

Call Forward: Barret Walz as Sean Murray in ‘Diversion’
Call Forward: Barret Walz as Sean Murray in ‘Diversion’
Photo Credit: Mystic Films You are on the cutting edge of the current digital technology that is replacing film. What does the technology need before that complete transition will occur or has it already occurred and those still using film just don’t know it?

Folkens: Here’s the thing, I love the advent of the ‘Red’ [digital camera] technology and high-end digital cinema, but film still has its place to a certain degree, and the organic nature of it should stick around for as long as it can. There is always pros and cons using the two methods. The pros for digital is that you get a clear, high-end image on set that you can pull into post production. It was easy to see and easy to move quickly on the set. There are different concerns in shooting digital vs. film, I don’t know that one is definitely better than the other, I think each has its own purpose. Finally, what specific part of your life or journey as a director have you been thinking about on the cusp of this very important premiere and why?

Folkens: This is the beginning of a new chapter. It’s the beginning of what I feel is the capstone project in what my projection reel now presents. I love directing a cinematic psychological thriller, that kind of style for film is what I want to do. I just want to keep working, directing and being creative, and this project has been nothing but an incredible creative journey.

I see things coming together, and I’ve been really fortunate and blessed to work with the best people in Chicago. We’ve created something that stands up even outside the city. I want to see that happen more often.

“Diversion” premieres at the 2010 Hollywood Film Festival in Los Angeles on October 23rd. Featuring Barret Walz, Doug James and Victoria Floro. Produced by Sam Carmichael, Cannon Kinnard and Chris Folkens. Written and directed by Chris Folkens. senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2010 Patrick McDonald,

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