Syrup is only the second feature film from director Aram Rappaport, but his unique style and visual flair is apparent in each moment of the film. The movie follows Scat (Shiloh Fernandez), a young business student and general slacker who comes up with a million dollar idea. When he presents the idea to Six (Amber Heard), an incredibly attractive and cutthroat business executive with a carefully created image, she quickly tries to take the idea for herself. Scat manages to sneak his way into a meeting about his idea, his relationship with Six, both professionally and personally, begins. Scat’s attempt to infiltrate the business world may mirror Aram Rappaport’s own journey to creating Syrup. “I fought for the book for a very long time, because I was a very new filmmaker who had done one small movie.”
Releasing in 2013, Syrup has been on Rappaport’s mind for years. “I originally came across the novel in 2010, and got about halfway through it before I was completely mesmerized by the characters, and the way they were acting and reacting in this hyper reality, almost like superheroes.” Although Aram had quickly fallen in love with the characters living in the world of Max Barry’s novel, he had a bit of difficulty convincing Barry that this film needed to be made. “Max was leery after having 15 years with the book not being made into a film, and writers writing and rewriting, and negating his notes, and various things that left him with a salty taste about how the movie could be adapted. It took me a good six months of rewriting what he had already done, and collaborating with him very closely to prove to him that I would maintain the integrity of his vision.”
Once Max Barry was convinced of Rappaport’s work, there was still the challenge of working with stars like Amber Heard and Shiloh Fernandez. “It was an uphill battle. Dealing with Shiloh and Amber, who were doing a few other big studio pictures at the time, to be able to fit their scheduling in, it was a slower process. For an indie movie to have that sort of up and coming cast that we were so thrilled to have, we had to make some scheduling sacrifices, but it ended up working out pretty well.”
Aram’s previous film, Innocent, offered some drastically different challenges. That film, about a kidnapping, was shot in real time without edits, forcing Aram to film the entire movie all at once. Over the course of five days, he shot the film in its entirety multiple times, eventually choosing the best cut. The non-stop shooting of the film offered Aram some insight into the production of Syrup. “I utilized a similar steady cam method to keep the film moving. I feel like, in the marketing world especially, everything’s moving, everything’s changing, so for me, with the film medium, the easiest way to do that is to keep all the shots moving and leave nothing static.”
Max Barry’s original novel was published in 1999, almost 15 years ago, but the satirical look at marketing is as relevant now as it was then. Although the film takes full advantage of the similarities, there were some areas that Aram just couldn’t afford to look into. “If we had the budget, we might have changed a little bit more. We’re on the brink of what could be a social media revolution or implosion, depending on how you look at it. It would have been great to centralize the plot around something like that, like how social media works and how the new age of marketing is more individualized.”
With a film centered on marketing, especially one that takes a slightly mocking tone at the whole process, I had to ask Aram what it was like having to use that marketing to sell this film. “It’s funny because it’s a fine line between, are we trying to send the audience away with a message, are we trying to let them make up their own minds, and ultimately, Max and I decided that we didn’t want to make decisions for people. Marketing’s not bad, marketing’s not good. We are just telling a story about two people who are caught up in image. I don’t think it’s as ironic that we’re using marketing to market it, but I think that it’s a movie that will be scrutinized no matter how it’s marketed because it’s about marketing.”
With that mouthful of marketing behind him, Aram spoke a little about the film’s reception before our interview ended. “It’s been generally good for people who enjoy a wink at the audience and some sarcasm. Fans of the book have really liked it, and I think it’s because Max and I delineated between the book and the movie, so they’re not really comparing apples to apples. It really is almost a sequel to the book in story, while maintaining the characters, so fans of the book have been pretty thrilled about that.”
Syrup opens Friday, July 12, 2013 at The Carlton Cinema. Check their website for details.
MORE FROM TORONTO FILM SCENE
- Sometimes it’s funny to laugh: the psychology of the teen film
- Shoah: the most important film you’ll never see
- TFS Questions: James Stewart, Director of 3D animated short FOXED!