I love the daylight. While I love the brisk air of autumn and the smell of wood burning fireplaces, summer is my favorite season because the days are so long allowing you to easily lose track of time. When I heard Autumn Lights was filmed in Iceland during their longest daylight season, I felt an instant connection. After watching a preview of this film, I was engulfed. Like the long days of summer, this movie flew by with it's beauty of scenic Iceland and the complexity of the story. Which brings us to Guy Kent, the lead actor, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing.
Autumn Lights is about an adrift American photographer (played by Guy), who after discovering a deserted crime scene in remote Iceland, crosses paths with an intriguing European couple (Marta Gastini & Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson). As his fascination with them intensifies, he slowly finds himself entangled in their mysterious lives. Guy does a great job in this film. His character, "David" is quite mesmerizing and I couldn't wait to find out more about him as the film went on. The story is very layered in plot, but like the photographs Guy's character "David" takes, the layers are slowly peeled back revealing the truths you are trying to figure out in the film.
Autumn Lights will have a limited release starting October 21, including Cinema Village East here in NYC!
1. This October, your film, Autumn Lights, is being released. Angad Aulakh wrote and directed the film, while you produced it. You and Angad met by chance after a death in your family. Through that tragedy came a really great partnership between you two. How, through your pain, were you able to focus enough to connect with Angad? The circumstance of what led to us meeting was definitely unique. At the time, I had just graduated from film school at USC, where I also was studying theater, and I was hoping to meet someone who I could collaborate and create with. But it’s not every day you meet someone who you want to scale a very large mountain with, and then scale another mountain, and then another. And meeting Angad out of that was very much a gift. We’re likeminded and we both thrive when we’re working hard, so it was very natural to fall into working with one another. Less than a year after discussing what would be our first script of four, we were entering pre-production on Autumn Lights.
2. How did you juggle being both actor and producer? What did you learn from the process? From the beginning, we had a very clear idea of the film we wanted to make, and I think I can also speak for Angad when I say that it was crucial for us in juggling two different and demanding jobs, no less for our first feature film together. It was important for us to build trust and create an open line of communication with the entire team during pre-production so that when cameras were rolling, I could focus on my work as an actor and Angad as a director, and feel comfortable with that. I enjoy being busy and I enjoy both of these jobs immensely, so it never once felt like "work" in that sense. And, I learned a great deal about myself in the process and gained a greater understanding of what it means to collaborate with a team. I definitely look forward to continuing to juggle both of these roles.
3. Autumn Lights is about an adrift American photographer (played by you), who after discovering a deserted crime scene in remote Iceland, crosses paths with an intriguing European couple (Marta Gastini & Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson). As his fascination with them intensifies, he slowly finds himself entangled in their mysterious lives. What do you relate to most about your character of "David"? I found "David" to be incredibly intriguing on the page. I immediately connected to his curiosity, that sense of rootlessness, his ability to carry on despite circumstances. There’s a lot going on underneath the surface and it’s through his fish out of water experience that the audience gets to experience this very foreign, almost fantasy-like world. And that fish out of water feeling is something I’ve experienced more than a few times myself. It can be an interesting, sometimes surreal thing. You sometimes find yourself taking on the role of observer, which "David" very much so did, and sometimes your actions surprise you, which again for "David," was certainly the case. I also think anyone who’s been in a relationship can relate to the heartbreak he endures and the sadness he carries with him as a result of that.
4. Since you are playing a photographer, what do you, as a person, look for when taking your own personal photos that make you go, "This would make a great moment to capture"? I am a lover of photography. I love photos that have an unexpected candidness to them, ones that encapsulate a moment that can’t quite be replicated. I think my personal tastes in photography actually align somewhere in between "David" and the character of "Johann." In the film, "Johann" shares his love of portraits with "David," portraits that he’s taken of strangers he’s come across. There’s something both fascinating and haunting about those images. They’re mesmerizing in a way.
5. Autumn Lights touches on themes of obsession, loss, and loneliness. When have you been obsessed, suffered loss, and been lonely in your life? How did you get through those moments? For me, the most important thing is how you get through those moments in time, who you surround yourself with and who your support is. I feel very fortunate to have friends and family whom I love very much and they have been instrumental at certain times in my life.
6. Most of these themes are seen through the eyes of a stranger in a strange land. When have you felt like a stranger in a strange land? What’s interesting is that I don’t think it’s a feeling that is always a result of physical location. I’ve been in Los Angeles of all places, a city where I grew up in, and have felt like that. I’ve been to several dinners while traveling where I did not know the language people were speaking in. And it is during moments like those that you tend to see things very clearly because you’re slightly removed. It can be surreal in a way. There are several moments in the film where "David" experiences that.
7. What were the top three funniest moments to happen during filming? Perhaps the funniest moments were when delirium set in after long nights and long days shooting. Then add in constant sunlight, we didn’t know up from down. We really enjoyed the company of everyone we were working with. Marta [Gastini] and I were always laughing with one another when we were not filming, and I think we needed it given "David" and "Marie’s" intense scenes together.
8. Autumn Lights marks the first independent American-Icelandic co-production in history to have been shot and fully completed in Iceland. What does it feel like to be the first independent film to have this co-production? Why did you choose to have the film take place in Iceland? The decision to shoot and then also complete the film in Iceland just felt like we were doing what was best for the production. But we didn’t have any awareness of its significance when we were doing it. It just felt like the right decision.
As for the initial choice of Iceland, it happened fairly organically and began with my and Angad’s love of Scandinavian film and Scandinavian chamber films. It also came out of practicality, given the region’s geography and isolation and what that meant for the story. And, the time of year we chose to film gave us nearly 24 hours of sunlight. That was instrumental in helping to create a surreal sense of time. You can lose sense of where you are in the day.
Originally though, we were focusing on production in Norway because of Angad’s family ties, however, production there wasn’t feasible and so we started to broaden our look of the region. We had been in contact with our Icelandic producers prior to that and the timing was right, so it made the decision to go in that direction fairly simple. I remember seeing a film shot in Iceland just before then, and afterward, I was in complete awe over the landscape. I remember my friend saying to me, "you’re going to shoot in Iceland, aren’t you?" It just felt like something that had to happen. But Iceland is a real jewel in so many ways and I think you can see that in the film. And it’s a country that is incredibly film-friendly.
9. Since the film is called Autumn Lights, what is your favorite part about the fall season? I can proudly say that Autumn is my favorite time of year. It’s a time that brings people together. And I enjoy when the air is nice and brisk. I also think the sunlight in the Fall is the most beautiful. Angad has spoken about the title of the film, and how it’s not so much about the time of year that the film takes place in, but instead, it’s about the feeling that the season and its beauty evokes, that melancholy sense of time passing. I love that sentiment.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Probably to keep reminding myself that it’s my world just as much as anyone else’s. Someone very wise has told me that on one or two occasions.
Guy Kent is both an actor and producer. Guy’s entrance into film was twofold, receiving his B.A. in Film Production from the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles and training in theater at USC’s School of Dramatic Arts and the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. Following Guy’s introduction to NYU Tisch filmmaker Angad Aulakh, the two began a collaborative partnership forming Last Carnival. During the course of seven months, they developed four feature projects and produced two short films, one of which starring Guy alongside American Crime’s Caitlin Gerard. AUTUMN LIGHTS marked their fourth script developed and after just a year of meeting, Guy and Angad were entering pre-production on the project. The film signifies their first feature film collaboration, Guy as both actor and producer.