Review Fix chats with “Thank You” writer and director Roy Shellef, who details the origin in the production and so much more. Producer Rinati Rokach and cast member Chantal Casutt also chimes in about their role in the production.
About Thank You:
“Thank You,” written & directed by Shellef, is a simple story of a nervous fellow landing a date with a stunning young woman who – we get the feeling from him and from the clever camera work of Shellef – is out of his league. Sounds funny? In the hands of Shellef and his team, it is a beautiful visual poem.
Garnering vast acclaim, “Thank You” has been part of a litany of festivals:
Winner for Best Student Film: Accord Cine Fest; Winner for Best Student Film: Imagine Rain Independent Film Festival; Finalist: Prague International Monthly Film Festival; Finalist: Kosice International Monthly Film Festival; Semi Finalist: JellyFest Season 6; Official Selection: Miami Independent Film Festival; Official Selection: FlickFair Festival; Official Selection: Gold Short Film Festival; Official Selection: London International Web & Shorts Film Festival.
Lavishly produced by Rinati Rokach & Shellef, this indie film looks like a major studio had a hand in it from its cinematography to editing to music to casting and setting. The cast is Chantal Casutt and Thato Mothobi.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Roy Shellef: What happens when you mix a breakup after 2 years of relationship, a good Old Fashion cocktail and a stranger? The answer is—A poem! In 2017, a week after I broke up with my ex girlfriend, I went to a cocktail bar in Tel Aviv. I set there by myself drinking and looking at my surroundings. Since I was a regular there, I remember the bartender telling me: “Damn you look broken!” And all I did was smiling (she was right, I was broken). I decided to just leave the word “Love” behind and really focus on what’s truly matter – life and not fantasy. After twenty minutes or so, a random girl sat on the bar (also by herself). She looked at me, smiled and I smiled back out of curtesy. I had no desire to talk to anyone. I just wanted to enjoy my drink and be in my thoughts. But, the girl next to me had a different mind set. She and the bartender talked about so many things and after 30 minutes or so she looks at me and asks me: “Do you believe in soulmates?” At first, I didn’t understand that she was talking to me so I ignored the question. A second later: “yeah I asked you – do you believe in soulmates?” Surprised and shock by how forward she was, I put my glass down and uncomfortably said: “Yes”. Our conversation started there as we spoke about relationships, people, the world and love. I asked her a simple question, “what is your dream?” and she replied: “I want to be in love.” That sentence came out from her mouth with such glow that it had an immediate impact on me as I decided to thank her, get up and leave the bar. We had such a wonderful conversation and I thank her for it! I went back home and wrote a poem called “Thank You.” When I came here to LA, I knew I have to make this a poetic film. So I turned this poem into a story which turned to a script and now, it is an actual film!
Rinati Rokach: I met Roy during school in one of our break as I overheard him saying something about a poem that he wants to turn into a movie. I had no idea he is Israeli as well, so with my Israeli “Hutzpa,” I asked: “Do you need a producer?” I remember Roy looking at me, saying: “I am already producing it, but I will be happy working with a fellow Israeli”. We both laughed, and I got to be in the project. We talked about the movie and how he wants to make it, and I was blown away. I knew this is not an ordinary “bad date movie”. So when he told me the story behind it about his breakup and the girl at the bar who opened his heart, I knew I wanted to be part of this movie! Roy’s inspiration, motivation and story made me reflect on my past and inspired me to bring 1000%.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Roy Shellef: My creative process changes from one script to another. It really depends on the tone of the film I want to bring to life. Regarding “Thank You” – I remember reading every line I wrote at least ten times and imagining the location, the atmosphere and the acting. As I run with my imagination, I come across problems, solutions but most of all, emotions. If the way I imagined it doesn’t make me feel or excited about it, I am resetting and going back to the beginning. In general, as a write, I love act as if I am the characters and I record myself (vocally only—there’s a reason why I am behind the camera). One thing that helps me get my creativity going is a glass of wine or whisky (only one glass per session!). I don’t know why but with every sip I find myself finding new ways to ignite my story and imagination. How do I come up with stories though is a different process. Most of my ideas are coming to me in my dreams. I remember almost every dream I dream and when I wake up I write them down immediately. Dreams are something that really keeps me going while awake and asleep.
Rinati Rokach: As a producer, we have a different kind of creativity. Our creativity comes from a rational and logistic perspective. My job is to make sure that everyone has what they need to bring Roy’s vision to life. I need to be 5- 10 steps ahead and solutions to problems that didn’t even occur yet. I have been a problem solver for years due to my experience in the entertainment industry back in Israel. As a producer, your creativity must be logical and very creative on set! For example, during this shoot for “Thank You” the person who was supposed to help us with the parking situation decided to leave the country for a vacation without letting anyone know about it. Immediately I managed to make a deal with the restaurant owner (who was extremely helpful and an incredible host!) As he opened his own parking lot for no extra charge although it was completely packed with vendors, trucks and his employees cars. You have to be on top of every situation – a producer’s job never ends.
Chantal Casutt: It really varies from project to project! My starting off point is always the script. That’s my blueprint. I read it many times and take note of the facts about my character, what other people think of my character and what the character thinks about themselves, as well as a character’s actions. From that information I then start to develop a three-dimensional character through backstory as well as emotional point of view. I always ask myself a lot of questions: How does my character feel about this person? About this place? What is their relationship to themselves? and so on. Then I go through the script again and make my choices. However, I think one of the most important elements of filmmaking and acting is that it’s a collaborative process. If in any way possible, I will have a discussion with the director or showrunner beforehand and discuss certain elements to understand how they see the character. I believe performances are the most impactful when we all work together to create something we love. For “Thank You” it was particularly great because I got to have many conversations with Roy about Laura and how he viewed her and it really helped me once I actually got to set.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Roy Shellef: This movie is very special to me since it is my first film ever. It is the first time that I ever exposed my emotions completely to the world. It is something unusual to me since I open up only to certain individuals who I truly trust! “Thank You” is my way of saying: “it is time to open up your heart and accept who you are.”
Rinati Rokach: Every movie is special or different. But this one, is special to me cause it was the first film I have ever produced in LA. To turn a poem to a movie, put that aside – that is one crazy idea that I knew I wanted to be part of! This movie is unique at its style, technique and storytelling. In the emotional aspect, this movie really took me places and I want to believe this is what cinema is all about. It is all about emotions.
Chantal Casutt: I always think that you can tell when a film was made with passion. And that is certainly the case for “Thank You”. Working with such a talented crew that was so passionate about the film made such a difference. Being on set felt honestly intoxicating, we were all working so hard to achieve something we love and you can tell. In terms of storytelling, what makes this movie different is the blending of genres and aesthetics. It’s a story about an awkward date and yet it is not a comedy. The protagonist does not get his happy ending and yet it feels like he did. The way the film mixes color with black and white. It has a different feel to what I’ve seen before and I love it for that.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Roy Shellef: First of all, I learned that I can make a decent film LOL!. But honestly, bringing this film to life with the incredible cast and crew who helped me, was a beautiful experience. I learned a lot about who I am as a person and what stories do I want to tell. I learned that it is OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and I learned to always be true to who I am.
Rinati Rokach: I learned a lot about myself and how I can overcome obstacles in a foreign country with a different language. This opportunity made me realize that I CAN make it here and show my capabilities as a top producer.
Chantal Casutt: I think you can always learn something from every project or set. Even the bad experiences teach you things. But “Thank You” was a wonderful experience. It taught me how to better collaborate with my director and fellow actor and how to really work with someone else’s vision. It also made me realize just how much I love acting! I had a blast the entire time I was on set and I actually felt relaxed and in the zone. I learned that it is possible to for me to trust others to do their job well and just focus on what I’m doing. It was honestly a freeing experience and I am so grateful to the talented cast and crew for making me feel that way.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Roy Shellef: As on now, “Thank You” is doing better than I thought in the festival circuit. Two festival wins, in three we reached as “Finalists”, one “Semi Finalist”. I thank all the festivals who gave my movie the opportunity! I am honored and blessed, thank you! For the future – I want to tell and produce stories that will make you feel, think and ask yourself the question: “What would I do, if I was in this character’s shoes?.” I love this industry so much and I just want to work, tell and share all these beautiful stories out there!
Rinati Rokach: The Festival circuit is going great! We are 2 times winner, 3 times Finalists and it only keeps going. This movie is the beginning for all of us, and I know we can accomplish so much more with this crew. This production is our way into the industry, showcase our talents and grow bigger from here. For the future, I want to become a producer here in Hollywood and help bringing incredible stories to your screens. I’ll do everything in my power to reach this goal.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Roy Shellef: As a director: On The Line: (short) Kate realizes she is in unstable relationship with John, a soldier in the US army. As she walks into his house and tries to fix it one last time, he tells her he is going to war. This is a story that is based on previous relationships and moments that happened to me personally. It is a roller-coaster of emotions in the form of a “oner” (One shot film). Besides this projects, I am currently writing a feature called “Yuna.” It is a story about how utopian society, where demons and humans lived together, crumbled into a civil war and those who really got hunted and hurt were those in the middle – The hybrids. Daughters and sons of half families. We will follow Yuna, a half demon girl in a post civil war world, seeking for the truth about how the war began and trying to survive a terrible and cruel reality. I am also writing a limited series about a mystic part of Feudal Japan called “RONIN.” For more information—you’ll have to wait. As a producer: A feature studio film: I cannot say much about this project. What I can say is, this movie will rock your world and will make you think to yourself: “How the hell did we, as a society, never learn”. This will be an impactful movie! An Assassin Story: (short) When a world class assassin has a crisis of faith and a panic attack during a job he must decide whether to follow through or leave his old life behind and protect his mark. It’ll be a fun, comedic but also dramatic story on how sometimes a person can change(?). See You At Sunrise: (short) Charlie, a young boy goes on a road trip with his terminal ill mother. A wonderful coming of age story. This movie has been apart of my life for some time now and I can’t wait to share this beautiful journey with you all. That’s about it for now! If I’ll have more—I’ll let you know :)
Rinati Rokach: Roy and I are currently working on another short together called “On The Line”. A story of a toxic relationship who’s about to come to an end. I am very excited for this project and can’t wait for you all to see it. Besides that, I am working with the director Ariel Vromen (Icemen and the angel) on feature film ,April 29,1992, and on some TV shows. There are more movies and shows that I am currently writing and hope to produce them one day. If you want to know more, you’ll have to wait.
Chantal Casutt: I am fortunate enough to have a few things lined up in the coming months. Roy and I will be collaborating again on a film called “On The Line” about a relationship between a young woman and a soldier in the US army. Similarly to “Thank You”, this story is inspired by true events from Roy’s life. It’s going to be an emotional one but I’m extremely excited and honored to bring this story to life. I’m also going to be working on a show called “Little Miss Perfect” about a tragic killing of a group of teens at a senior kickback. This will be my biggest project thus far and I’m incredibly grateful to have been given this opportunity.