GIFF interview: Lanre Olabisi of Somewhere in the Middle

The writer-director explores causality and relationships in his latest film.

click to enlarge Cassandra Freeman (left) and Charles Miller star in Somewhere in the Middle. - PIERO BASSO
PIERO BASSO
Cassandra Freeman (left) and Charles Miller star in Somewhere in the Middle.

In his latest film, Somewhere in the Middle, writer and director Lanre Olabisi points his lens at a relationship to reveal that truth has more facets than it seems. The story revolves around a couple, Billie (Cassandra Freeman), her husband Kofi (Charles Miller), and two women the couple pull into an intertwining affair.

“I think our reality is very subjective,” Olabisi says. “When you meet somebody, that impression can change once you get more information. But what often happens is we have a tidbit of information and we make a very strong opinion of somebody or someone. But if we knew why they did a certain thing and we had the entire story, then perhaps we would have a fuller idea of what the truth is.”

Olabisi approached his story by sharing the perspectives of each of his central characters. In one scene we see an angry Kofi in a heated tête-à-tête with his wife Billie that seems to be the last word on the matter, but after a quick cut we see the circumstances from Billie’s perspective, with events leading up to and including her confrontation with her husband. This unique methodology was developed during six months of improvisational sessions with the actors. As scenarios were acted out, Olabisi noticed something that led to the uncommon direction the story took.

“When I was creating the characters with the actors and helping create the situations, one thing I noticed was, this person has this point of view, they don’t know all this other stuff that has happened,” he says. “They don’t know why this person made XYZ decision, and I thought it would be interesting to illustrate that.”

The film also stars Marisol Miranda as Sofia, a freelance graphic designer; Louisa Ward as Alex, an employee of Billie's who inadvertently gets swept up in the melee; and Dennis Rubin Green as Nelson, Kofi’s brother and coincidentally Sofia’s therapist

To finance the project, Olabisi turned to Kickstarter to raise the $100,000 needed for his film. He recalls the experience as both interesting and stressful. “It was definitely a part-time job,” he says.

On average Olabisi recalls spending three to four hours a day on Kickstarter during the week and even more time on the weekends responding to potential investors and getting the word out. “The first wave is the people who love you,” he says. “ … They want to see you win. The next phase is getting the people who just like us, and that’s a little more difficult because now we have to prove that this is something that they want to put their money into.”

Olabisi exceeded his goal, raising a total of $104,429 in April 2013, and Somewhere in the Middle is already scheduled to screen in several film festivals around the country, including the Gasparilla International Film Festival. The next hurdle for his film is distribution. Olabasi’s previous film, August the First is currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu, but he says the distribution channels have changed since then.

“I find myself having to relearn everything completely anew,” Olabisi says. “Netflix was not a player back then. It was more impressive to say, ‘My film is in Blockbuster!’ Now you have to be the cream of the crop to get yourself into those prime distribution services. I’m just glad I’m one of them."

Somewhere in the Middle, directed by Lanre Olabisi, will be shown 5 p.m. Thurs., March 26, Plaza Theatre. $12. For more info, visit gasparillafilmfestival.com.

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