Interview: Joshua Lim on Release of Latest Film ‘Godless’
Joshua Lim is a 35-year-old filmmaker who came here from Singapore in 2001 to study at USC. His first American feature was The Seminarian (2010), which got picked up by Breaking Glass Pictures, based in Philadelphia. It won Lim the Directorial Discovery Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. TLA Video, one of the top sellers of gay entertainment, awarded the film an award, based on the popularity of the movie.
There aren’t too many outlets that provide information on DVD sales, which would give a better idea of how well the movie is doing financially. For Lim, the only measure he had was social media and other online responses. Lim says that he stills get emails about The Seminarian now six years after the fact, mainly through Facebook. An Italian playwright even offered to adapt Lim’s 2010 film.
Lim says a lot of response comes through Twitter. Yet, he admits he’s not good at updating his own Twitter page. The bulk if not all the Twitter response or activity about his film comes through his actors, particularly his 2010 star, Mark Cirillo. Lim says Cirillo is a social butterfly, a social media butterfly. Lim does agree that independent films like his need social media, or grass-roots efforts to be successful. He calls it cinema activism.
Last year, Lim released his latest film Godless (2016) through Breaking Glass Pictures, again on DVD and VOD. It premiered at the Rhode Island International Film Festival the year prior. It also had a screening at Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs. It follows two brothers in the wake of their parents’ deaths, as they realize a stifling incestuous relationship between them. Lim’s agent said the screenplay didn’t exploit the subject, and in fact was a tender way into that kind of relationship. Lim thought the film would be very polarizing and that most would not like it.
The distributor tells Lim the DVD has been doing well. Lim says the online response isn’t the same as with his previous. The DVD contains two commentary tracks. One has Lim talking over the movie with his two actors that portray the brothers, Craig Jordan and Michael Pitts. The other track has Lim with his Director of Photography, Wey Wang (pictured below). In both tracks, you can hear more insight into how Lim thinks as a filmmaker and what Lim calls his “dogmas,” or the strict rules he has on his film sets.
Of most interest is Lim’s conversation with Wang. They talk a lot about the lighting involved. Lim has chosen a visual palette that makes the foreground of almost all his shots darker than the background or where the background is hotter or more brightly lit. When asked about it, Lim said this is a dogma that has been present in his previous films. He says he likes the camera subject to be under-exposed, as a way to draw the audience’s eye closer and invest more in the character.
One story that Lim talked about that isn’t on the DVD commentary is a conversation he had with Pitts and his assistant director about whether or not they should film the movie’s one and only sex scene. Lim said he almost scrapped it because Pitts expressed fear about doing it. However, Lim took the advice of his A.D., Helena Bowen, who said not doing the sex scene would be untrue to the spirit of the rest of the movie, which lets things unfold without cutting away.
Lim also mentioned his rehearsals. He likes to have the actors do rehearsals of scenes that aren’t in the script. The scenes are often moments that take place before the actions in the actual screenplay. Lim said he had about two or three days of rehearsals in the house where the entire movie was filmed. Speaking of the one and only sex scene, Lim said the rehearsal scenes were often sexual in nature in order to get the actors who are both straight comfortable with kissing and being intimate with one another.
Lim says he continues to write everyday for six to eight hours. He says he wants to do more political films. He’s currently working on a film set in Iraq around 2009. At the time of this interview in early December, he was reading about a Shiite leader who opposes any and all American presence in Iraq. He doesn’t read a lot of fiction nor does he watch television at home. He says he does a lot of meditation and fueling his creativity in other ways.
To watch his films at home, get Godless on DVD and VOD via Amazon Video, iTunes and Google Play.
Also check out Joshua Lim’s previous films The Seminarian and The Olive Depression.