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David A. Holcombe - Yellow tells the story of Arianna, a young woman new to the city and not faring well. Every facet of her life fills her with dread and feelings of isolation. The film begins with Arianna reaching out to a phone sex operator, Jackie, in a desperate attempt at human connection. Jackie turns Arianna's world upside down. She tells Arianna exactly what she needs to hear in order to begin taking charge of her life. But Jackie may be taking things too far. Those that have wronged Arianna begin dying in gruesome ways...
Not only the title of your film suggests that Yellow was at least in part inspired by the Italian giallo (= yellow) movies - so what do you find so appealing about that genre of old? And to what extent did you follow genre conventions both stylistically and narratively?
Giallo films have a highly stylized visual palette as well as a very heightened style of acting. It creates a nightmarish world that assaults the viewer and makes them putty in the storytellers hands, when done right! In Yellow I wanted to take the viewer into a living nightmare of paranoia. I wanted to draw the viewer in and gain their trust by making Arianna as relatable and sympathetic as possible because the story is told from her point of view, and very subjectively. I wanted larger-than-life characters to throw at Arianna. Classic giallo films typically dealt with psychosis and sexual perversion. They included nudity, knife violence, flashy camerawork, moody lighting, etc. They were definitely not naturalistic.
Matt O'Shaughnessy, our gaffer, created a very expressionistic lighting design that gave Arianna's world a surreal feel. Lots of color and contrast, shadows and reflections. Our director of photography, Adam Blaszkiewicz, used techniques found in giallo films to choose lenses and camera movements that heightened the paranoia of Arianna's world. Fish eye lenses to distort character's faces, tracking shots to give depth to scenes and to disorient Arianna. There were also a lot of point-of-view shots during scenes with violence (black gloves, a knife) that paid direct tribute to classic giallo films such as Deep Red. Another huge element of giallo films is music. Chris Emmons and Sean Foran have worked on scores to several of my films and I love working with them. They were able to take the classic giallo sound, bands like Goblin, and give it a modern interpretation. Arianna's world needed to be seductive to the viewer. Even though it is a nightmare world, it should be sexy and vital.
Where we tried to break from convention: classic giallo films were exploitive in their portrayals of sex. But, our story is motivated by strong female characters living a truthful drama under extraordinary circumstances. Jackie and Arianna need to have a strong connection and a real intimacy that allows them to do things they aren't capable of doing individually.