Sunday, November 29, 2015

Q & A with Writer & Director of "I am Henry", Jan Hendrik Verstraten

Q & A with Writer & Director of "I am Henry", Jan Hendrik Verstraten

Trailer of "I am Henry" 
Written & Directed by Jan Hendrik Verstraten

I had the great privilege of having a Q & A with Jan Hendrik Verstraten.  Please enjoy the Q & A.  Thank you Jan Hendrik Verstraten for taking the time to do the Q & A and we wish you all the best. 

Q: Please let us know what we should expect from the short film, "I am Henry”.

A: I Am Henry is essentially a two-hander between King Henry VIII and the ghost of his second wife Anne Boleyn, though Catherine, his first wife, also appears as do his dead children. The King is dead, and the monk who sits with him appears to be a manifestation of The Grim Reaper, St Peter or perhaps God himself. There is a yearning quality to the story as Henry finds himself in purgatory (limbo) and is confronted with his misdeeds, especially his betrayal of Anne. Though Henry insists he regrets nothing, we’re left uncertain this is actually the case.

Q: What inspired your team to do a short film about Henry VIII?

A: The story of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn is without doubt one of the most fascinating love stories in English history. It’s full of drama, intrigue and suspense. 

When I set out to write the screenplay however, it wasn’t my plan for it to be about this famous Tudor monarch. All I envisioned was a middle-aged man in an empty white room. While I sat down behind the computer, and felt this man’s presence. I started to realise it was King Henry VIII, that he just had died, and that he had not fully grasped yet what that meant. 

A strange concept perhaps, but from then onwards I got really excited, started my research and looked deeper into his life. 

The voices of Anne Boleyn, and Catherine of Aragon came alive quite easily, as if they were eager to share their experience and grief, especially what they felt when they were alive, and how Henry had tragically impacted their lives. It was the King himself who initially struggled to find his own voice, as if over the years, he had become lost, as a result of his misdeeds. 

The characters are widely known, and I quickly realised that this was an advantage. There is no need to introduce them as most of the audience already knows about them, and Anne Boleyn, in particular, has a huge following worldwide. All of these elements were very helpful in making this short. 

Q: Who is the actor who portrays Henry VIII and why did you choose him as your Henry VIII?

A: The quality of the actors we saw during the castings was incredible. We found Fleur Keith, an amazing Anne from among 150 applicants. Catherine and Henry the Duke were easier roles to cast. Maria de Lima brought an emotional intimacy to the role that was mesmerizing. The only one that was missing was the King himself.
After much effort, I searched IMDB and other sites and found a trailer starring Sebastian Street. He came across as a very versatile and strong actor to me, and he had just finished his Scorsese film ‘Tomorrow.’ I immediately thought he would make a great Henry.
I sent him the script right away and didn’t expect to hear back from him but to my surprise, he called me the very next morning. He had just returned from Cannes, where he was promoting his new feature. He told me he loved the script and was interested in being in the short film.  He asked, “When were we going to shoot it?"

Q: Tell us about the director of this film.  What does he/she hope the audience will gain from watching "I am Henry".  How will this film standout from other Henry VIII films?

A: The film is told after King Henry VIII’s death. As a writer I could see the dramatic benefit of this approach. It’s fascinating to be able to hear Anne tell us what she felt while she was in the tower, and how it was to walk towards the scaffolding and her tragic death. 

In a lot of my writing, I have a strong interest in the feelings of the characters, but I am also curious about the forces in life that cannot be seen, and the things in life and beyond that we merely can sense or can only speculate about. 

Death, and the possibility of life after death, intrigues most people as much as life does, and I feel as a writer drawn to explore it, and venture into the unknown. 

Each one of us will die one day, and it raises fundamental questions: ‘How will I feel? Nothing? Is there a God? What’s the ongoing journey that awaits us?’ 

Q: When do you anticipate "I am Henry"  to be released?

A: Early 2016.

Q: How would we be able to watch "I am Henry" when released?

A: The most likely scenario for the audience to see the film is online.

Q: Have you introduced the short film in film festivals?  What has been the general response about the film?

A: We have submitted the film to various festivals and hope to be able to inform the audience in the coming months that we have been accepted into one of them.  So far the response to the film has been excellent, but I have to admit that we have shown it only to a select few. The response to the trailer has been excellent. The film itself has been watched to a select few only so far.  We’ve asked a historian author to review the film this week, and she has agreed, which is great. I hope to post her feedback online very soon.

Q: How can we view the trailer?

A: The trailer is as well on Vimeo as on Youtube.

Q: Is there a page to follow "I am Henry”?

A: Facebook: with daily articles and updates

Instagram:  with tons of photos and images