Interview with Goran Stolevski: An Era

Writer-director Goran Stolevski of the deeply romantic "A Time" shares his experiences crafting the story and working with the cast.

Romance movies are universal regardless of the characters' sexual orientation. Written and directed by Goran Stolevski, "A Time" proves it with a heartwarming story about a young man who finds true love for the first time. An intimate love story originally set in 1999, Of An Age follows Kol, a Serbian-born Australian boy, in love with his best friend's brother. While the film covers only one 24-hour period in 1999, it also examines the profound and lasting impact that one good day can have on an entire life.

Of An Age is the second feature film by Goran Stolevski, who previously wrote and directed the supernatural witch story You Won't Be Alone starring Noomi Rapace. He also directed episodes of the popular Australian series Nowhere Boy, as well as numerous short films that helped him hone his skills and paved the way for his current success.

While promoting the release of "An Era", Storevsky spoke to Screen Rant about his work on the film, drawing inspiration from his own youth, to working with what he affectionately calls "children" We" young actors work together. He talked about choosing to The old-fashioned 4:3 Academy aspect ratio and the circumstances that led to his father playing a secondary role.

Goran Stolevski on Crafting Of An Age

Screen Rant: I saw your movie a few days ago and I've been watching it ever since. You've been to film festivals, you've won awards, and now the film is finally going to be in people's hands. Are you done now? Are you ready to leave the movie behind and move on to the next thing?

Goran Stolevski: No, I'm not over it at all, to be honest. I feel like we didn't do that many festivals, I would have loved to do more. I think it's a special kind of connection. Festivals audiences are so hungry to connect. That's where my soul lives, that's where I get that kind of emotional loop happening. I'd love to do more of them. But we've been going to screenings around America this week and last week, and meeting with audiences. The other thing is, I just finished editing my next film, so I've been living in a different story world for about nine months. So coming back to this film now almost carries a sense of nostalgia, as well. And the kids... Well, I call them the kids, but the three main actors are actually adults – I'm kind of "mom" – they're with me as well. Admittedly, we hang out a lot anyway, but it's a special feeling now, that you're bringing it to the other side of the world. I'm a little bit nervous about how much it connects with people outside of Melbourne, since it's very specific in many ways, but the response so far has been encouraging.

Screen Rant: There are a few slang terms that come to mind, but otherwise, nothing is foreign.

Goran Stolevski: We should add a subtitle that says, "Bogan means redneck." [Laughs]

Screen Rant: I finally figured it out! This movie is so romantic and real, but also very funny and sweet. Being part of a queer community can be difficult, but so many Hollywood movies almost feel like punishment. Do our past gay love stories have to be so tragic and depressing?

Goran Stolevski: I hope so. I don't want to dilute the confronting aspects of that experience. I want to be true to that, but we all know enough about it that you don't have to dwell on the negativity or the obstacles. That is the shape of the world these stories take place in, but there's other feelings as well. These feelings are a lot more interesting. I'm really drawn to finding the moments of overwhelming joy, beauty, or humor in these difficult circumstances. There was a question in the audience at a screening in San Francisco, from a very young queer person, a teenage woman, who said, "Normally, queer films that are nostalgic, set in a different era, despite being nostalgic, they usually have a lot of anger, but this one didn't." And I thought it was the most beautiful thing anyone's ever said to me, because I really wanted to dwell on what makes it quite special and poignant. As much as there's a special kind of loneliness from being a queer person, especially before technology made it a little easier in the suburbs, and there's an isolation, there's also poignancy when you find another person.There's something very sexy about being the only two people in a room who know something about each other. That's a fun feeling to live with! That's the story I'm interested in. Again, I don't want to minimize or dilute the surrounding context, but I think the context is clear, and we don't have to dwell on it. You can make a film like Portrait of a Lady on Fire and we'll understand that there's a lot of obstacles, challenges of emotional and physical balance these women are experiencing, but that's a film that's really beautiful the whole way through! You don't have to see the violence to know it exists, and there's something amazing that comes from the queer experience that is singular. Most stuff straight people can relate to and enjoy; it's not like it's a niche experience. It's a universal feeling. That's what I'm drawn to.

Screen Rant: This is what I was drawn to, watching it. I found a lot about the film to be deeply resonant, even as a straight person. Love and Romance, Your First Time, and Carrying Flashlight, it's all universal.

Goran Stolevski: A lot of the people who came up to me crying at the end of the film, saying, "How do you know my story?" are actually straight women, and of all ages, as well. I think that's amazing. Obviously, the queerness is not minimized in the story.

Screen Rant: As long as they're not too closely related to Ebony. She is a minority. [laughs] Bless her heart.

Goran Stolevski: We won't spoil it here, but someone told me that what happens at the wedding to Ebony happens to a lot of people. Someone who used to run a wedding reception venue told me, that's actually really common. But no spoilers!

Screen Rant: Tell me about shooting in 4:3 or any particular square aspect ratio. By the end of the movie, I feel like I know every line on Kol's face like the back of my hand.

Goran Stolevski: Again, the same women who come up to me at the end of screenings... I remember being in a mining town in Western Australia, which is quite a conservative place, but these women in their 60s and 70s were coming up to me and saying, "I loved how the frame was tighter because you felt so close to them and you felt like you were with them and there was nothing else in the way of this feeling. And I'm like, "Exactly!" I loved talking about aspect ratio with these people who don't orientate towards technical questions. But that's what it is! Every nerdy, technical thing you're doing, at least that I'm doing, is tied to the feeling you want the people to experience. My mission is to put the viewer under Nikola's skin, under Adam's skin, and under Ebony's skin in certain circumstances. And I like the way you can get so close, so there's no backdrop to deflect from that. That's what the Academy ratio does, and what it means to me. The 2010 sequences, I was originally planning to do in widescreen. But a distance came with that, and it didn't quite work with the film. I needed the immediacy. It's not about aesthetics in and of themselves. It's not about trying to be stylish or anything. It's becoming so common now it's almost a cliche. I wouldn't do it to try to stand out. But I do it purely because of the feeling it gives me. I watch films from the 1940s, and when two people kiss, it's so much more intense. Even though it's such a chaste period and they can kiss for literally three seconds maximum before the censors cut it, but when you see two faces together, and there's nothing else because the frame is so close and you don't have those handles on the side of backdrop, there's an intimacy that comes with that. I feel like it's much more impactful. You feel it in your chest differently. That's why the frame's like that.

Screen Rant: Exactly. If you want those wide-angle shots, that's what Broadway theaters are for. Movies should be up close and personal, about details that are impossible on stage.

Goran Stolevski: Even in our wide shots, the sky looks bigger because the frame is more vertical. I actually feel like the widescreen kind of flattens it. With this kind of ratio, you can have the sense of a small figure against the big sky. And if you're shooting a period film, it's a lot easier to find locations that can fit in that ratio, as well! (Laughs)

Screen Rant: Takes me back to when this movie was the core of your eyes. Doing a kind, beautiful, sincere love story for our generation, is that one thought that keeps popping up in your head, or after you've made your last film, you're like, "I want to do something that doesn't have A witch?"

Goran Stolevski: I wrote this before I made You Won't Be Alone. I never think strategically. Usually, if I try to be strategic, the ideas turn out to be sh*t. Even I'm not excited about them. The only ones I get obsessed with are the ones that slip out from a subconscious place. In this case, it wasn't an idea that was bouncing around at all. I was just reading a short story in the middle of the night during Covid lockdown, and there was a boy who went to his first ever high school party, in a very different context, it wasn't a queer story or anything. But reading the sentence where he steps into the party, I was instantly transported to the one party I ever went to in high school. It wasn't just about what happened there or who was there. It was just this suddenly intense memory of the feeling of the mindset of when I was a kid, and who I was then. It's a time I don't think about anymore. I wasn't even thinking about it at the time. I was trying to get through high school until life really began at University. And then I was thinking of that consciousness in the context of who I became later, and who I am now, even later again. These personalities of the two main characters emerged, and I really wanted to live in these feelings. I was very absent from myself and my life in my high school years. It felt like everything important was happening in movies and in books. Not in Melbourne, Australia! Now, I inevitably regret that to an extent. So I was like, I want to live in that feeling again and make something that other people could plug into emotionally.

Screen Rant: Kol's not one-on-one you.

Goran Stolevski: I didn't want to write someone who was exactly me. I don't dance. I'm a terrible dancer. There's other things that are different, too. Like, my dad is alive and well and not a homophobe. Well, not a homophobe anymore. Ironically, he plays one of the homophobes in the scene where Kol goes home because I couldn't find Serbian-speaking actors. Australia is very multicultural, but when you go into the arts, there's no multiculturalness whatsoever. It's really hard to cast! So, my dad, who is the shyest man alive, is now an actor. That's really bizarre!

About Of An Age

Of An Age is set in the summer of 1999, and an 18-year-old Serbian-born Australian amateur ballroom dancer experiences an unexpectedly intense 24-hour romance with a friend's older brother. Key features coming soon Of An Age opens February 17, 2023

Check out our other Of An Age interviews with stars Elias Anton and Thom Green.

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