Tashi Bieler is one of the producers of a Canadian-Maltian biblical film about Saul, whose life and faith for everything changed during his journey to Damascus.
During the European Union Film Festival, I had the great pleasure of talking with Tashi Bieler right before the screening of Saul, The Journey To Damascus– about how and where the film was made.
MMM: How was the idea of making this film born?
Tashi Bieler: The film actually was circulating for quite a long time, from one producer to another until we finally found a way of having it produced, because sometimes biblical films are expensive to make. Biblical films are sometimes very big for the audience, and people go to see them. So the market was right. That`s why EONE and LEIF FILMS sort of found our way, to come together over various projects; to connect the dots. When EONE came on board, this gave the project the green light. The notion of filming in Malta really came from Mario Azzopardi and attached itself to the film. That really allowed the film to be made at a budget level everyone could afford. When you turn the camera 360 degrees – everything was there.
MMM: What about the cast? Did you already know who would be casted?
Tashi Bieler: No, we went through a casting process. So we used a couple of different casting directors; one from UK, another one in LA, and Canada, and just started looking for an actor, who stood out, to play the role of Saul. So we went to some Canadian actors we already knew from a few other shows. Kyle Schmid was an easy decision, because he is really wonderful; sparkly eyes, and a smart actor.
MMM: I heard there was an intermission during screening of the film in Malta.
Tashi Bieler: I don`t know what happened during the screening in Malta, because I was not there, but they did have lots of intermissions during the screening in Malta, so people could get up and walk and talk. (laughs)
MMM: Where was the film itself filmed?
Tashi Bieler: It was filmed primarily at Fort Ricasoli, which is one of the key filming locations in Malta. It’s an old Fort that has been used for many different films, including “Gladiator” and the Mini Series, Julius Cesar. Different parts of the fort were transformed into Roman streets. There is a lot of value in the set; parts are very old, with ancient stone, and rock. And part of the set was built, and leftover, from another show-. so we used both. Dino Banelo, a Maltian designer, drew water painted plants for the set ahead of time. So, you can look at each area of the fort, and see how he transformed it, color wise and space wise.
MMM: What about cinematography?
Tashi Bieler: Russ Goozee is a Canadian cinematographer. He is interesting and was chosen by us because of his extremely varied background. He`s done everything from life doc, to straight up drama and comedies. He also spent quite a lot of time doing docs in Jerusalem and Israel, so he sort of has a sense of that typography and what the Mediterranean quality of life might be. Because, we knew if we brought someone from Canada, we wouldn’t have somebody with the sense of that area and time. That`s how everything started, and then when we got there, he had already worked with the director and with the production designer. He made this all look real.
MMM: What is your expectation from the European Union Film Festival?
Tashi Bieler: Oh, I think it`s wonderful that people actually get to see something far reaching that was made with Canadian participation, because you would not think that kind of film would be made in Canada.