SHOOTING TO MUSIC
Sun's Gone Out
While the power of music is a major theme of A WINTER ROSE, music also weaves through the song-fueled film as a narrative device. As casting and pre-production got underway, Riz Story was already writing a diverse slate of 26 Pop, Hip Hop, Country and Rock songs that twine with the moods and emotions of A WINTER ROSE – including four powerful anthems sung by Kim Whalen as Winter: “Blossom”, "Blue", “The Storm,” and "Yesterdays Over". As in the film, these songs have become Whalen's debut to the world.
Indeed, as a musician Story says that sight and sound are always braided together for him, and the driving forces of rhythm and musicality lie deep within all of his creative choices. It’s for this reason that he prefers to do his own camerawork while directing. “I like to be able to move the camera to the music that’s in my head,” he explains. “It’s all part of the process of creation for me. The music and the movement are connected.”
That connection between music and drama was infused through the entire film. “Riz is truly like a one man band,” muses Robert Miano. “There’s no creative element that doesn’t excite him.”
Adds Kimberly Whalen: “Riz is an incredible musician and song writer and what he wrote for the film was so beautiful. It made the making of this film an even more unique experience.”
Shooting in Los Angeles with a minimal crew, the sets were intimate, keeping the focus intensively on the performances. Visually, the lighting and scenery traverses from dark to light as Winter’s view of life expands and she moves from her dilapidated apartment and back-room bars to the sun-dappled open spaces of Rachal Love’s modernist Hollywood Hills mansion. "It was a subtle, yet effective subliminal cinematic device that I employed" explains Riz Story, "All of the scenes in which Winters is struggling occur in very dark lighting. Then, when she enters the world of her idol, every scene is brightly lit, often in a symbolically limitless outdoor setting... and the music was composed with full adherence to this same dynamic structural concept".
It all builds to the climactic moment, filmed at Los Angeles’ historic Fonda Theatre, when Winter hits the full-on spotlight of the international stage. For Winter, it’s a bittersweet moment of triumph. Fame has been foisted on her and she experiences a homecoming she never expected.
Recalls Whalen: “It was incredible shooting that scene, especially because Winter has just had these two incredible experiences of tragedy and amazement right beforehand. I tried to really tap into all that in the performance and in that moment, the performance became something very surreal to me. Riz had written this amazing song, ‘The Storm,’ and that’s what it was all about: Winter surviving the tumultuous storm that her life has been to get on the stage.’”
In early screenings, Riz Story found the audience’s reactions to the crescendo of the finale deeply gratifying. He summarizes: “It’s something really special when you see strong emotions like that evoked – and that's what I always hoped Winter’s story could be.”