Nicole Beger On Tribeca Film Festival's Magical New Film
The Place of No Words--featured at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival--follows the story of a father and child who embark on a journey through fantasy realms filled with mythical creatures. In searching for clarity over a seemingly unanswerable question (“Where do we go when we die?”), the twosome is forced to look at the world in a completely different way, as they are challenged to consider myth versus reality, life versus death. Teen actress Nicole Berger--who plays Esmeralda, the garden fairy--was immersed in the magic each day on set, and now she’s ready to let readers in on her behind-the-scenes secrets.
What was the audition process like for the movie?
I previously worked on a film called Clover with Mark Webber, the director and writer of The Place of No Words. He was one of the bumbling brothers and I was a young “mobster-in-training.” One day on set, Mark pulled me aside and asked me if I would be interested in playing an angel in his upcoming reality-fantasy film shot in Wales, UK. I jumped at the opportunity, read the script, and fell in love with the storyline. Two months later, we were on the five-hour train ride from London to Snowdonia, Wales.
What was your initial reaction when you found out you were cast?
I was ecstatic when Mark made the offer. This film is different from others I have appeared in since the director picked me for the part without needing me to read or try out for the film. I guess you could say he knew what I could do, which is why he picked me without auditioning. I wish every film or TV show had this type of audition process!
How did you tap into your character, the garden fairy?
I worked closely with my acting coach to prepare for emotionally draining or challenging scenes. We analyzed the script together and picked examples from my real life to help me bring out emotions that were needed. I related the characters in the script to people in my life and then imagined that I was actually speaking to real people, not just made-up characters from the story.
How are you and Esmeralda similar? How are you different?
In the real world of the film, I play the daughter of Bodhi, played by one of Mark’s closest friends, Phoebe Tonkin. I often take care of Bodhi, who looks up to me and sees me as a source of love and comfort and someone who brings magic and playfulness into his life. In Bodhi’s imagination, I play the guardian angel who guides Mark and him on their journey towards death--the place of no words--not in a sad or fearful way, but in a way that reminds us to cherish each moment we have with the ones we love. Overall, I share many personal qualities with Esmeralda. Most importantly, we are both kind and loving people. In the film, she embraces young Bodhi and helps him enjoy his playful character. I help the two of them understand Mark’s journey through cancer and his treatment (represented by “fizzelberries”in the film). I consider myself compassionate and always willing to help others. In that way, I am reassuring and imaginative, just like Esmeralda. In the imaginary world depicted in the film, however, Esmeralda has huge white wings, which I do not have now and doubt I will ever have.
How does the film differ from previous movies you’ve acted in?
The film is quite different from the films I have previously worked on. Firstly, Mark loves improvisation and taking people out of their comfort zones to try to achieve a level of realism not often seen in traditional films. He pushes the boundaries of filmmaking using elements from his own life to develop a method he calls “reality cinema.” The Place of No Words takes the process one step further to become “fantasy-reality cinema,” which expands his filmmaking style to the fantasy genre through Bodhi’s imagination. This approach to filmmaking differentiates the film from all of the previous films I’ve been in--actually most movies in general. Second, this film is made for audiences of all ages. While the topic of the film is serious, it was created to appeal to a broad range of those who want to engage in the topic. My other films cast me as a dark or tough character, such as a shooter or gangster-in-training. And lastly, the film relies on magical creatures known as the Grumblers, large-nosed, hairy creatures that need to blow their noses often. The only other film I worked on that had any type of alien characters was Ali’s Realm, a film about a young girl who witnesses her best friend’s death and his transformation into a seven-foot tall alien. The Place of No Words is a unique film that pushed me to think differently about my acting.
Any memorable behind-the-scenes moments you can share?
In Snowdonia, Wales, there were visually-breathtaking scenes, stunning lakes, mountains, forests, castles, and snow on the ground not far from where we filmed. It was incredibly cold and windy on set, so much so that the tent that we used for warmth and isolation on the mountain top flew away several times. It got so cold on the mountain that we needed gas heaters just to stay warm. Unfortunately, most of the portable heaters did not arrive until the last day of filming in Snowdonia. The area where we filmed was so desolate that there were far more sheep than people (also true for all of Wales).
What do you hope will be the main message people take away from the movie?
The main message of the film, in my opinion, is to teach others how to conquer the fear of death by embracing the beauty of being alive through using their imaginations. If we could bring child-like wonder into the dying process, we may even be able to see beauty in death.
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