By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Prague-based filmmaker Gem Deger’s debut feature film Playdurizm recently dropped its first trailer so I sat down with the young filmmaker to talk about making writing, directing and starring in his own film, watching David Cronenberg as a child and his obsession with neon lighting.
Shot entirely in Prague and with Deger in the lead role, Playdurizm finds a teenager caught in a surreal and glitzy reality with his on-screen idol Andrew (Austin Chunn). He does everything he can to be possessed by the man but ignores the violence that got him there in the first place. The film is a provocative take on the blurred lines between reality and art, celebrity worship syndrome, and the pursuit of self-acceptance in a censored society.
It’s no surprise that the 22-year-old filmmaker is a fan of Xavier Dolan. Sitting opposite me in Prague queer cafe and art space Patra, Deger even looks a bit like the French-Canadian superstar.
So Gem, you’re from Turkey originally? How did you first become interested in film?
I don’t know. I guess the first time I went to see a film in a theatre… it was 102 Dalmatians. And since then I just wanted to make films. I know that’s not a very original answer!
Actually, it is pretty original. I didn’t expect that! And what about Xavier Dolan? I heard he inspires you a bit too.
Well, I needed a reason to quite high school and I heard about Dolan and how he basically just quit high school to make a feature film. So I told my parents that I’m going to do the same… and they said ‘no’ of course. So then I just made myself get kicked out of high school.
And how did you do that?
Umm, you know those box cutters? I threatened my fine arts teacher with it. She was a b*tch. I’m proud of that. I mean, there were so many things I did before that too, but this was the last straw for them.
What inspired you to make Playdurizm? There’s a lot of commentary in there about celebrity worship, sex, violence. Tell me a little bit about that.
It just happened organically actually, I worked with writer Morris (Stuttard) on the screenplay. The themes were there and I was just getting high and throwing out ideas and he was picking the ones he liked and writing it. We then shot two months after the script was finished.
What about some of the more violent scenes. Were they difficult to film?
I actually enjoyed them a lot. They were bit awkward sometimes though. I was a little nervous to make Issy and Austin uncomfortable, but for my own I would just have a drink before. And that shower scene! The water was so cold so I drank before that one too.
Are any of these scenes based on your real life?
Yeah, nothing specific but I’ve been having very fucked-up relationships since I was about 16, as well as a confused sexual life. While I was exploring myself I was also damaging myself so a lot of it is based around that.
It’s a very colourful film in terms of lighting. I’ve also heard your flat looks similar!
Yeah, I just find it visually appealing and sexy. Plus I smoke a lot so normal light makes my eyes quite tired. When they’re colourful it’s a bit cozier. But for the film I was just inspired by films I like – I wanted the colour palette of Spring Breakers.
‘In the end the film really is plagiarism. I just got the things that I liked from my childhood and made a story out of them.’
It’s visually very striking for a low-budget film. Beautiful set too.
The crew were great. They worked so hard. They didn’t sleep and worked more than I did.
I noticed a nod to David Cronenberg too. Are you a fan?
I saw Videodrome when I was 8.
Jesus, that’s a young age for such a twisted movie.
But that’s just it. When you watch those kinds of things as a child, you don’t understand the subtext so you just have those insane visions. So, I guess those f*cked-up things shaped my own weird stuff. In the end the film really IS plagiarism. I just got the things that I liked from my childhood and made a story out of them.
What was it like to both direct and star in the film?
Embarrassing. So embarrassing. Yeah, you can’t have any kind of an ego in that moment because you’re working. Also, that was my first actual set so EVERYONE was more experienced than me. I was so insecure. Sometimes I mumbled with my English in the film too so I always had to be on top of that. But you know, no one understand Kristen Stewart either, and she’s great!
You’re only 22 and you’ve made a feature film that you’ve written, directed and starred in. What are you going to do next?
I want to make another one of course. I have so many ideas but it depends on agreements. I don’t know what kind of war I’ll get into to make a second feature. If it were up to me, I’d do it tomorrow.
What do you want the audience to get out of this film?
I just want them to interpret it in their own way and create their own story lines.
Also starring Austin Chunn and Issy Stewart and co-written by Morris Stuttard and produced by The Lab Europe, Playdurizm is currently available for international sales through Wide Management distribution.
Photo: The Lab