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Emory Cohen, Callan McAuliffe, Zoe Levin Talk 'Beneath The Harvest Sky'

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Today on May 10, 2014, Examiner.com is excited to share our exclusive interview with some of the the stars of "Beneath The Harvest Sky," which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is now available on cable VOD, and other digital platforms. The film is a coming of drama set during the fall potato harvest in a small northern Maine town. Actors Emory Cohen, Callan McAuliffe, and Zoe Levin reflected on the project.

Can you tell me what each of you loved about this script?

Emory: Yeah, I think I was in to this guy that everybody had called trouble since the day he was born and what parts of him weren’t that, where he had a sort of goodness and vulnerability and care and loyalty. And then also what were the cool things about trouble? They are that he does what no one else can do in this script and to me you have to find another way into the enticing things about being that kind of guy.

Callan: For me initially coming on to the project I was slugging out auditions in LA at the time and I did this one and they were kind enough to cast me in it. So that’s where it began, I was very shallow and superficial, but once I actually read the script it was fantastic and so it made me excited to do it. I enjoyed reading the character because I felt like I could see myself in the character. And of course the idea of going to Maine, I love the travel aspect of being an actor … it’s half the reason why I am doing it. So going to Maine was very exciting, especially to the rural area; not like any place I’ve ever been to before.

Zoe: Tasha seemed like a really fun character to play and kind of like Casper she has this bad side to her but I also love those kinds of characters that you can bring such vulnerability and humanity to them. When you can do that it’s so fulfilling and really film.

You have two movies that premiered at TFF: “Palo Alto” and “Beneath The Harvest Sky.” Your characters are similar.

Zoe: Yeah well we filmed this one first and that helped me immensely for the second one because just that experience improvising and you know getting to work closely with other actors and directors, I learned a lot and that helped me in “Palo Alto” too. I just kind of think just even reading the script I just had completely different ideas for the character but they’re weirdly similar. They’re just really insecure and just deal with it in very different ways.

What kind of projects are you interested in doing as an artist?

Callan: I was very excited to get a hold of because it was very much an indie film and it did take us away to another world and it was very intimate, it was very personal and so that was very exciting to me and a lot of the films I’ve done in the past have been the opposite ilk and that makes it no less enjoyable but … I find that there is a lot more opportunity for artistic license, creativity and of course on this there was a lot of improv. Just the ability to perform is far more present in these types of films, which are why I appreciate them. I love to mix it up but the more of these I can do the better because audiences these days especially with how simultaneously large the world is with the internet … a lot of actors and their careers can be disposable and with over-exposure … so to be able to balance it and have that exposure plus actually making decent films I think is very helpful because audiences are smart and they respect that.

Zoe: Well I actually just filmed a TV pilot so … I try not to get to worried with the choices I make because if I like a script and I like a director or something is drawing me to the project there’s something there in it for me. I think I just want to have fun and do good work and every experience is so great and I’m so fortunate to even be working that … I don’t really read too much into it, I just go with what I get.

Emory: Well I’ve done mostly indies and I guess for me it’s about being creative and it’s about is there a story or do they need me to just be an everyman or do I need to make bold character choices, which is just something that I enjoy doing. Well we were talking about the voice on “Pines” and I’m really more interested in being creative … I’m about to go do a love story in about a week, it’s something I’ve been interested in, each character presents a set of questions for me that I feel like I have to answer and so when you look at a story thematically, [I consider] what some of those questions would if you have been battling them in your life and that’s kind of how I decide to do it

Did you learn about farming?

Callan: Yea we did some prep. We came in a few weeks early and knocked about on the machines and in the slums and it was beneficial because it just gave us that experience and it made it a lot realer. When were working machines, when you see those shots, we actually know what we’re doing to an extent so it helped to make the whole thing a lot more authentic.

Can you speak about immersing yourself in the culture of the town?

Emory: I hung out with a lot of kids up there … people running prescription pills across the border and the drugs out there while they were out potato farming. I think we came up three weeks early to really do that, that was called rehearsal I didn’t think we were gonna go run the lines or anything. It was really set out for us to do that and we all kind took advantage of it.

Emory and Zoe, your characters have really interesting explosive relationship. Can you reflect on that relationship?

Zoe: I was actually scared of this one (Emory). Especially the first day I met him. I remember the first day meeting him I was like “Oh my God,” this is going to be something else.

Emory: Just hanging … I had looked at my character’s relationship with my mother as a hook in to my relationship with Tasha because I realized my mother would have been about 15 or 16 when she had me and Tasha was about 15 when I get her pregnant and realizing the kid is me is that I have to save that kid. So there was a protective quality to that and I tend to fit that in when I meet people. I soon as I met Callan I said we’re best friends.

You obviously put so much thought into this character. Do you do anything specifically with your directors or writers?

Emory: Normally I’m on the phone with the director once a week in pre-production talking out new ideas. I need that cause … I can sometimes talk short hand on set you know like “I’m ready to rock and roll this one” or something that like, when a guy knows me they know what I’m trying to say and it’s because I’m so nervous on set that those are the words that come out and they can understand that. We can just very quickly address issues, you know? So for me that’s important.

Can you each speak about collaborating with the directors?

Zoe: Well kind of what spoiled me with this movie was how close we worked with the directors, I didn’t realize that that wasn’t how it worked after I left this project, cause sometimes you’ll go to set, you’ll do a take and you’re like “Was that right?” For this it was such collaboration with all the actors and Aron and Gita and plus having both of them there was even better because Gita is a women and Aaron is a man and so it was kind of cool having both of their perspectives. Gita would sometimes pull me aside and she was really good at getting the honest performance out of me and really talking me through it, which I really appreciated. So that was cool.

Emory: I think for me the best thing was it was so clear that they put their heart and soul into it and that we were given the opportunity to bring that to life and to truly bring it to life. They let us go off the text and do whatever we needed. Aron has told me stories that they met in radio together and both hated it and Aron wanted to make films and had a tattoo of a camera and just seeing these people and how much they have put into it and you want to give them everything you got. You know?

What’s coming up next for everybody?

Emory: I am leaving to shoot a film called “Brooklyn” in Canada.

Callan: I’m going back to LA to run the auditions gauntlet, but later this year I’m hoping to be shooting a film called “Skateboarding with Saddam” in Tel Aviv, which is tentative.

Can you each share the most challenging scene to shoot or a highlight?

Zoe: The reveal scene… but you know it was pretty easy cause I was actually really freaking scared. They gave me boundaries though, you can’t cross this line here, don’t get up.

Emory: I didn’t want to hit you by accident or something.

Callan: It was all kind of fun and games for me because I didn’t have any scenes that were of that caliber of emotional strain.

The scene where your girlfriend decides she’s going to go off to college is full of emotion.

Callan: I even feel like I over acted that. In real life if it was me, it would be inside my head cause I don’t cry very often, so I would be looking at her and I would just talk to her. That was probably a tough scene for me because it felt so unnatural to react at all to something like that, I feel like I would just talk as if nothing happened while thinking about it in my head. But the more challenging scenes were the scenes where we were we ended up going in to the heavy improv because it has never been my comfort zone. The films that I’ve done before were always heavily scripted. A lot of them were studio films where to go off the script would mean a lot of wasted time and money.

Emory: I think we shot the reveal scene and scene where I tell Tasha I’m going to take care of her in the same night.

Zoe: Were also lucky though in that sense cause we got to shoot in whatever order we wanted cause it was such a small production. So, that was kind of nice.

Do you think Casper grows up?

Emory: Oh yea, definitely he does. I’m scared for him til this day. I’m always scared for my characters after I leave them cause I don’t know whose going to speak for them anymore or what they’re going to do and I’m not there to guide them.

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