What would you do if you were given a second chance?
The Ticket follows a young married blind man who is miraculously given his sight back. But with his newfound power, he inherits a thirst for life's other offerings. In his first American film, Israeli director Ido Fluk tells the story of a man's battle with opportunity, family, and lust. Beautifully lensed by DP Zack Galler, the film makes clever use of organic and subtle camera techniques to fuel the narrative.
No Film School spoke with Fluk about creating a family atmosphere on set, lens techniques he used to simulate blindness, and bringing a small movie philosophy to a bigger set.
"As you make bigger and bigger films, you need to protect the ability to be spontaneous."
NFS: Where did the inspiration for this come from and how did you find your way into this character?
Fluk: I was always interested in this idea of a Greek arc where a character is in the soaring in the sky and then they get slapped down by hubris and sent back down to earth. On top of that, my co-writer Sharon Mashih and I were fascinated by the story of Job in the Bible and this idea that opportunities in life are a test sometimes— a test of character, and maybe an opportunity to see where that character goes when he's given a chance.
Also, we were drawn to movies that have this question of the design in everyday life: does it exist or not? I think this movie can be read as a very secular text, but it could also be interpreted in a religious way.
NFS: What was it like working with your lead actor to explore this intense character arc?
Fluk: It was incredible. It was my first American film with an actor of that caliber. I was extremely fortune to get all of the cast to join me on this adventure, especially Dan Stevens. We spent a lot of time just walking around Brooklyn talking about what everything means and what we would do or how we would react if given that opportunity.
When you hear of other people winning the lottery, it's always crash and burn within the first six months. People who become famous always break up. It's part of human nature to do what he does in this movie.
I was also fortunate enough to have some time before the filming to rehearse and spend time with the actors. We took them where we were shooting upstate and let them live a little bit, to be in the space where we were going to shoot. Letting them spend time together really paid off.
NFS: What was your shooting strategy to get such an intimate feeling?
Fluk: Our production designer did a great job at creating spaces with a tension between what the character thinks these spaces are and when he sees them what they actually are. When we brought Dan and Malin [Ackerman] to the bedroom, Malin brought some personal items and they lived in there for a little bit.
We tried hard to contain the scenes that were supposed to feel intimate. If we were doing a sex scene, we would clear everyone out, put video village very far away, and try to create a space for the performance so it feels really intimate. We [cleared out] if we had a small room with a bunch of people just hanging out or behind the camera just watching, because if you can do that for a sex scene, why not do it for a great performance scene?
"When you have more crew and rules and people on set, it's important to preserve the intimacy and not let the fact that it’s a job for a lot of people affect the atmosphere."
NFS: How did you design the mechanism through which the characters to express themselves?
Fluk: Sharon and I were in love with this idea of the dance hall because we thought it was a great setting to show a relationship. There's that movie convention of having the husband and wife sitting around the table and eat breakfast and seeing them grow apart, and we thought it would be great to use that, but put it in a dance hall.
We did a lot of research with visually impaired people and we learned a lot of things that people like doing. We even went to a party and we thought it was such an interesting idea: dancing without sight. It's not just not seeing yourself dancing, it's not seeing the other people dancing next to you or how they look at you when you dance. Using the tactile sense more than your sight to enjoy dancing.
NFS: After you made your first film, were there any philosophies that stuck with you that you brought into this one?
Fluk: For me it was really important to preserve a lot of things that I really like about making a smaller film. When you have more crew and more rules and more people on set, it's important to preserve the intimacy and not let the fact that it’s a job for a lot of people affect the atmosphere on set. Just give yourself room for unexpected surprises even though it’s a bigger machine. It was all about trying to use what I learned in much smaller films and bring it over to this world. Sometimes I was successful and sometimes not so much, but I think it was an important lesson.
Nobody went home when we wrapped every day. We stayed in a small hotel upstate, and it was really important for me that everybody became friends and that it doesn't feel like a chore or a job for anyone. I think that made it really special and I think it kind of bled into the movie.
"I wanted it to feel as if someone nudged the camera a little, like if someone kicked the tripod."
NFS: What specific things did you do to facilitate that friendly family environment?
Fluk: I think you need to be good at judging people and reading them. One of your main jobs is vetting all the people that are hired. People need to join the project because they are interested in it, they are in it for the ride, and they are excited by the actors. Repeat that like a mantra and trying to read people when they come in. When you assemble the right type of people and it works, it’s the most wonderful feeling in the world because when you wrap you feel like a family.
NFS: How did you approach this film visually?
Fluk: The same amount of time I spent with Dan just chatting about the movie, I maybe spent four times that hanging out with Zack the DP about how to change how the film was shot as we go through the story.
There were of four camera acts. First, it’s more handheld-y and the focus breathes more and it's a little more overexposed. Then when the character changes and moves into a more ruthless phase, the camera moves on track more and feels heavier. Color palette gets cooler and cooler. Then, at the end, we keep that style, but I wanted it to feel as if someone nudged the camera a little, like if someone kicked the tripod.
"You should come in with a very clear schematic but then be very open to change."
NFS: And how did you pull off the visual elements that involve the main character's sight?
Fluk: Zach wanted to keep it in-camera, so we just used all these cool lens tricks, objects in front of the lens. I used several lenses in front of the lens, and we played with the mount. There was a whole bag of tricks that we assembled in pre-production and then tested them before we shot. It was important for us that it didn't feel too CGI or sexy so it feels real. We shot with Alexa on Panavision Primo lenses.
NFS: What's one thing you learned when making this film?
Fluk: The general lesson was to really be attentive to unexpected things that can happen, and try to create an environment where people are listening to unexpected things. You should come in with a very clear schematic but then be very open to change. I think it's harder and harder as the movie gets bigger and bigger; there's more planning and scheduling issues. As you make bigger and bigger films, you need to protect the ability to be spontaneous.
NFS: Any advice for filmmakers?
Fluk: I hope that it’s all worth it in the end. It’s all about persistence and fighting to get things made and not sitting at home and waiting. Never wait for someone to call you and say come and make this movie. It’s about creating things and letting the world pick up on that while you make them.