Friday, 18 February 2011

Interview with Aaron Poole, actor of Small Town Murder Songs

Aaron Poole (left) with Peter Stormare in Small Town Murder Songs

The following is a transcription of an interview with actor Aaron Poole of Small Town Murder Songs where we chat about the quiet understated nature of his character Jim, what draws people into crime stories, the response of the film ans what it was like working with Peter Stormare and writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly.

Small Town Murder Songs is set in a small town Ontario community which is strongly affected by the crime that has appeared. A powerful score, compelling characters and fantastic performances creative an extremely powerful viewing experience. The film stars Peter Stormare (Fargo), Aaron Poole (This Beautiful City), Jill Hennessey, Martha Plimpton & Stephen Eric McIntyre and opens in Toronto and Edmonton Friday February 18, 2011.

Rather listen than read? You can! This interview is on Episode 25 of the Movie Moxie Podcast where I also chat with writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly.

Shannon: I’m here with Aaron Poole of Small Town Murder Songs and thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today.

Aaron Poole: My pleasure.

Shannon: I’d like to first ask you what drew you to this project?

Aaron Poole: Well I was involved with it early on as a story editor, so when the opportunity came up to play the role of Jim, considering the cast and Ed’s vision of the project it was a guaranteed yes.

Shannon: It was a yes for you?

Aaron Poole: Yeah, absolutely.

Shannon: Your character of Jim presents such a beautiful, quiet calmness to the film. Can you tell us a little bit more about him and the choices you made?

Aaron Poole: from the beginning, Ed & I were interested in exploring the younger demographic in that town. Often people move away to the larger cities to pursue their career, and it’s really interesting to speak with the families that are younger and choose to stay and raise their kids there. From the beginning Jim was emblematic of that demographic. And as well from a story perspective he really plays a support role to Walter’s main plot and so we didn’t want to choose idiosyncrasies that were to drastic or over the top, we wanted him to fit subtly into the background so we created a quiet, pensive, unremarkable man. Which was a lot of fun to play and really interesting to create.

Shannon: It’s interesting that a calmer, non-idiosyncratic role was fun. For me it sounds like it was so understated, that it’s feels like a really brave choice to go there rather than to go over the top.

Aaron Poole: Thanks. Well roles with lots of weight and without teeth are really fun to play, for sure. For me the juice this time was as I say being unremarkable and just being a tiny piece in Ed’s larger puzzle. That was the juice for me, the inspiration.

Shannon: It’s interesting to see such a small town cop but one who has such keen insights and very important to the film overall.

Aaron Poole: Thanks, I’m glad you think so. Nobody walks away from Hamlet remembering Horatio.


Aaron Poole: But definitely from a plot perspective, from a narrative perspective, he provides some insights some essential insights into Walter’s character.

Shannon: Walter is such an interesting character, what was it like working with Peter Stormare?

Aaron Poole: It was amazing. He’s a real clown as a man. The intensity that he brings to his roles is not something you see present in his life. That sort of burning, quiet intensity that he is known for. He has an Adidas sponsorship and is always parading around in brightly covered sneakers and sweat suits, and that paired with his moustache was a pretty funny combination. He looked like some Eastern European guns dealer.

Shannon: That must have been really interesting during the filming, because it was filmed in small town Ontario, right?

Aaron Poole: It was, so we would descend upon the bar at night and it was a lot of fun being in Listowel for 6 weeks and hanging around with this famous character actor. It was a great experience.

Shannon: It’s amazing to hear the energy because there is such a solemn tone to the film from the viewers perspective. Was it a challenge at all to keep that tone while filming?

Aaron Poole: Interestingly enough I think that majority of the tone that the audience experiences is set by the frame that the director of photography and Ed, the director, choose as well as the Bruce Peninsula soundtrack. I think that while we were investigating a violent act which is new to the characters in the film, a lot of what is communicated to the audience is done outside of performance. So for us, it was just sort of living a quiet life and asking questions. It was a lot different than the final product communicates.

Shannon: It certainly does ask a lot of interesting questions and being centred in a small town where a body is found. These kinds of crime dramas and crime thrillers, what do you think draws people to these stories again and again?

Aaron Poole: You know, it’s interesting trying to figure that out. I think it has something to do with that rubber neck quality that people are always fascinated with the train wreck. It’s a dark side of humanity but one that is endlessly fascinated and reoccurring. I mean the number of cop shows on TV are a testament to that.

Shannon: And the film has already played not only at TIFF but in South Western Ontario. What has the response been like?

Aaron Poole: It’s been huge. We are doing a small town tour, we are getting constant weekly orders from Mennonite communities wanting to see it, wanting to play in their church or town hall. In Listowel it out-sold Harry Potter 6:1. It sold out in Rotterdam last week, I think there were about 1,600 seats sold out. In Torino it won International Critics Prize. It’s played to a large demographic, which is really interesting and it’s been very positive. It will be fascinating to watch what Toronto as an urban centre feels about it, it could be a lot different. I think a lot of people are responding to the accuracy of the small town portrayal, and it will be interesting to see what a bunch of city folks feel about it.

Shannon: It’s not often that we see films set in and around a Mennonite community, so the response has been positive?

Aaron Poole: The response has been positive in the small towns, because not only is it a Mennonite community it depicts small town Ontario very accurately and the rhythms of that kind of lifestyle. And I’m interested to find out whether the city is interested in that kind of thing.

Shannon: Well it’s interesting because when you think small town some times you think that there isn’t a huge diversity but it feels like there are at least 3 separate communities within the film.

Aaron Poole: Yep.

Shannon: Excluding work type community, so it’s quite extraordinary the layers that it brings out.

Aaron Poole: I’m glad you noticed that, that you feel that way about it. It’s something that we strived hard to do and in our research as writing we worked hard to encapsulate. Ed spend some time up there while he was researching the piece and worked hard to include those elements in the film.

Shannon: And you working together with him again, I remember seeing and you work together in This Beautiful City and really enjoying that. You have an extremely different role and it seems so unusual to get that from the same director, what was it like working with him again?

Aaron Poole: It was great. It was a lot different process this time. He was a lot more confident with it being his second film, as well there was a developed short hand that we had. Not only had his communications skilled improved and I suppose mine had as well, there was just a greater depth to the shorthand that we had. The size of the role I play in this film is significantly different than in the one that I had in This Beautiful City, so I really worked to be supportive not only as a story editor during development but also as a character who was servicing plot in this one. So it as very much focusing on Walter’s story being told as clearly as possible though the choices that I made with my character, if that makes sense.

Shannon: It makes perfect sense, and I an totally see it on the screen.

Aaron Poole: Cool.

Shannon: Well done.

Aaron Poole: Thanks.

Shannon: What do you hope people will take from seeing Small Town Murder Songs?

Aaron Poole: Well I think it will be different for everyone, just as it is when we go to a gallery and we see any work of art. What I took from Small Town was it’s focus on the human reaction to violent event. It was really interesting to me to observe, to be given the opportunity to observe. It sounds cliché, but the innocence of a Mennonite community and the slow transformation a violent act sort of causes in that community. So for me, that was a revelation when I saw it on the big screen for the first time. And I hope people can experience something like that, or at least as impactful.

Shannon: Wow., that’s amazing. And so Small Town Murder Songs will be opening in Toronto and in Edmonton Feb 18, what else is next for you?

Aaron Poole: I’m shooting another film in April with the same producer of Small Town and a different writer/director team, so we are working on that. I have a series that’s starting next year sometime called “King”, that is on Global or Showcase, it’s a cop procedural. And Ed & I have a couple of films in development as well, so there will be more from our partnership.

Shannon: Well I look forward to seeing that as well.

Aaron Poole: Great, thank you so much.

Shannon: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.

Aaron Poole: My pleasure.

Small Town Murder Songs opens in February 18, 2011 at the Royal Theatre in Toronto and the Metro in Edmonton. See the film website for more information on upcoming screenings.
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