Janvier, 2024




Andrew, tell us a bit more about yourself. Where does your desire to be a director come from?

I studied acting, direction and editing in high school and college. Direction was where always I felt the most comfortable, even turning down a scholarship offer from the Strasberg school to pursue other aspects of filmmaking more directly related to the director’s craft.

What is your background?

While my education revolved around cinema, my apprenticeship has always been about visual design. Personal heroes like Ridley Scott and Stanley Kubrick cut their teeth on design and photography, and it shows in their work. I wanted a similarly broad background, and spent the better part of two decades as a working graphic designer before venturing first into motion graphics and then, finally, into digital film.

What were your references for SPYMASTER?

Academics and journalists, along with their scholarly works. I love them, and they’re always happy to talk about a favorite subject on camera! My interviews this time around were legendary New York Times bureau chief Stephen Kinzer and renowned intelligence historian Richard B. Spence. I would’ve relished my time with them even if I hadn’t been making a film.

Andrew, you won Honorable Mention at the RED Movie Awards, what does that mean to you?

There is no greater honor than one that comes from colleagues and peers in recognition of what you do, so my RED award would mean the world to me regardless of circumstance. But this was also a very difficult year, having lost two members of my immediate family. Yet from my initial participation at RED, through your own recent nomination for the beautiful and unique RED man statuette, your festival has been a very bright light.

The story of Sidney Reilly that you describe in your documentary is fascinating! The Ukrainian “James Bond” who spies on Russia. Years later we see that this story can still resonate with our times, right?

Absolutely! The Ukrainian fight for territorial integrity and against Russian aggression is a very old one indeed, to the point that it even produced the model for Britain’s most famous spy, a man who still resonates with us today over a hundred years since his death! It is also a cautionary tale of epic proportions in a much broader sense: as individuals and groups, we must be wary of the effects of overreaching and subterfuge.

You yourself worked in the intelligence services, how did that inform your ideas for the documentary?

I worked in the intelligence business, not in any particular service. I was a contractor. I also believe that to be good at a job one should learn its history as well as its tradecraft, and it was in this capacity that I discovered Sidney some time in the late 1990’s. I have been fascinated with him ever since, but he was still selected from a number of others to be the subject of my first film. It was his ties to Ukraine that served as the perfect starting point for my documentary career.

Do you think there could still be “Sidney Reillys” today?

Fantastic question, and no I absolutely do not. In this era of perpetual surveillance you always leave a trace, even when you think you aren’t. You can’t just grow a beard, put on glasses and get a new passport any more – facial recognition sees through this things, as would modern technology through most of his ruses.

Do you have an anecdote to share with us in particular?

One of my favorite filmmaker anecdotes involves one of my heroes, Stanley Kubrick. When his longtime assistant, Leon Vitali, was asked how Kubrick keeps production costs so low, the answer was as instructive as it was unsurprising: he did as much as he could himself, personally taking on tasks normally delegated to an AP or EP. A control freak and perfectionist? Sure. But did he know what he was doing, from cameras and lighting to color theory, typography, design, and a myriad of other disciplines? Absolutely. He saved time and money while maintaining tight control over his process. And his example bears out elsewhere in the filmmaking world – John Carpenter scoring his own films, for example. The lesson? Learn absolutely everything you can and learn it well.

What is your next project?

I love making movies about spies, but they make for lousy houseguests if you have to live with them for years at a time – Sidney Reilly much more so than most. My next project is a documentary about classic film… Which is all I can tell you right now. Other than the fact that it’s festival candy. You’re going to love it at RED. See you soon 😉