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IFH 381: How to Shoot in an Impossible Location w/ Peter Bishai

What if you were given permission to shoot most of your film in one of the busiest and iconic streets in the world, Times Square. Well, today’s guest did just that for his new film Rapid Eye Movement.

In the heart of Times Square, radio DJ Rick Weider is driven to the edge of insanity as he tries to break the 11-day world record for staying awake, under the threat of a deranged caller who will kill him if he fails. In his quest to stay awake, he endures a harrowing physical, mental and emotional ordeal while summoning the will to survive against all the odds.

Rapid Eye Movement was given unprecedented access to Times Square by New York City to shoot the majority of the film right in the heart of the “crossroads of the world”. This included closing a lane of traffic for several weeks to accommodate the placement of the main set – Rick Weider’s mobile radio broadcast booth where he takes on the 11-day struggle to stay awake. No film has ever had this extensive shoot in Times Square.

The mandate of the film was to create absolute authenticity. A custom-made soundproof windowed booth was built to allow live audio recording, eliminating the need for ADR. Literally thousands of “extras” were always on hand to give the film scope and realism. The majority of the film was shot using an ultra-fast 18mm Zeiss lens, creating a much bigger visual space within the confined setting. No green screens were used for any of the Times Square scenes. It is a true New York film.

Canadian-born actor François Arnaud takes the lead role of radio DJ Rick Weider. He embraced the challenge of shooting on location in Times Square, having to undergo a difficult emotional journey in the middle of the intensity of New York’s famous landmark area. We always strove to be authentic and nothing is more real than portraying mental and physical torment in the midst of thousands of real people, the cacophony of the city and the dazzling neon lights all around.

With the cooperation of New York City’s Mayor’s Office, The Times Square Alliance, a band of determined filmmakers, an exceptional cast and the enthusiasm of thousands of passersby who clamored to appear in the film, Rapid Eye Movement has become a unique and thrilling movie experience about pushing the limits of human endurance.

Peter Bishai wrote and directed the epic true-life saga Colors of Heaven (aka A Million Colours). It is the winner of two South African Academy Awards, Best Foreign Film at the WorldFest Houston Film Festival and was the Opening Night Gala film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival. He also directed the comedy-adventure The Dueling Accountant, which won Best Comedy Film at the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival and Best First Feature at the Long Island International Film Expo.

It is profiled in the book Fervid Filmmaking: 66 Cult Pictures of Vision, Verve and No Self-Restraint. His newest film is the psychological thriller Rapid Eye Movement. He lives in New York City.

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