Interview with “Reparation” Director Kyle Ham
Kyle Ham is a graduate of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. His first feature film, “Reparation,” was filmed in and around Greencastle, using mostly local talent. The result is one of the best films of 2016. Unfortunately, without the backing of a major studio, “Reparation” never gained the widespread popularity it deserved. It did show at several film festivals, including the Indy Film Festival in summer of 2016. Recently, Ham spoke with The Film Yap about “Reparation.”
The Film Yap: Again, let me express my congratulations for creating one of the best films I’ve seen all year. In fact, I believe the screenplay is the best in any film so far this year. In “missing memory” films, it’s easy for the revelation scene to feel as though the screenwriter is pulling the proverbial rabbit out of the hat (in which the “answer” to the protagonist’s memory lapse isn’t directly related to the rest of the script). Not so with “Reparation.” The ending made perfectly good sense within the context of the story. I realize this is probably a question better suited for Steve Timm than you, but since you’re listed as a co-screenwriter, I’ll ask you: How did you & Steve so deftly manage to mate the ending with the previous 90 minutes? Did you write the ending first, and then work backwards?
Kyle: Because this was an adaptation of a play, there were a lot of “bones” of the story that we had to work with when we started, though the film’s bookends only exist in the film. After putting aside the play, and sketching each character’s full story arc and backstory, the opening and closing came to us as one unit — knowing that the circle would come around to close. Once it did, the middle points were a lot of fun to draw out.
The Film Yap: I was also impressed that the character of Jerome was evermore inquisitive as the film progressed, but how did you keep him from devolving into “madman” territory (like Robert De Niro in “Cape Fear”)? Jon Huertas walked a very fine line with that character.
Kyle: Yes, Jon Huertas did a wonderful job. We very specifically wanted to keep Jerome real. In many ways that’s the point of the story – that we are all seeking balance, and our actions are a means to that end for better or worse. Many Hollywood execs tried to convince us to go the “Cape Fear” route, by the way.
The Film Yap: Thank you for staying away from that style. It works in some pictures (like “Cape Fear”), but it would not have worked here. I admire your integrity. It took me a little while to realize that no one else could see or hear Ralph – that his role (at least early on) was more or less a Jiminy Cricket role – providing a conscience for Bob as seen through the eyes of a boy. I realize that as Bob becomes more surefooted and confident, he doesn’t “need” Ralph as much. But it seems somewhat like Ralph disappears completely when Charlotte is born. For a minute there, I wondered what happened to Charlotte’s older brother? Did you consider writing Ralph out of the story more gradually? Is this where the cut scene would have been inserted?
Kyle: No. That sequence was exactly as written. Ralph is an extension of Bob himself, in many ways. It’s an incredibly difficult — and brave — decision for Bob to let him go. So even though Ralph says, “She’s got your eyes,” and walks away, it’s actually Bob sending him away, just on an unconscious level. And that’s a leap of faith that Lucy, and fatherhood, will suffice going forward.
The Film Yap: I’ve known your scientific expert, Wade Hazel, for over 30 years, and he knows I know nothing about science. But in layman’s terms, what is the science behind genetic memory? When Charlotte first began sketching her father’s Air Force memories, I feared “Reparation” was going supernatural. Fortunately, you and Steve didn’t go there either.
Kyle: Thanks. We pushed the genetic memory aspect beyond science a bit, but just further in the direction that it’s already headed. Some epigenetic studies are finding that trauma can be passed between generations on the RNA of the male sperm. Others find that the brain activity of the grandchildren of holocaust survivors moves to a very different part of the brain when presented with trauma or stress than the rest of us. Or, as the Greek dramatist Aeschylus theorized (and the Bible echoed), the sins of the father are visited upon the son.
The Film Yap: Where did you find Marc Menchaca, Virginia Newcomb, and Jon Huertas? They were all outstanding!
Kyle: Yes, they were outstanding. We had a veteran casting director on the film, Matthew Lessall. (Also a DePauw grad, by the way, and he studied theatre under Steve Timm as well. In fact, he played the originating role of Jerome in the only staged version of the play, “The Activist,” in 1993.)
The Film Yap: And what about Brody Behr and Dale Dye Thomas? They were so convincing I can foresee their having big acting careers!
Kyle: Both kids were wonderful and brought a lot of joy to the set. Brody is from Fishers, Indiana. Dale is a Greencastle native, and twin daughter of one of Steve’s colleagues, Ron Dye.
The Film Yap: Why on earth did no major studio back “Reparation”? It’s an excellent story. Is it because none of the actors are “famous”?
Kyle: That’s a great question. Yes, I think studios — but also even the smallest distributors in the indie world — are afraid of films without name actors. It’s a shame.
The Film Yap: Remind me where “Reparation” will be available.
Kyle: We plan to announce availability for pre-order on iTunes (and others). Stay tuned, though, as we are awaiting Apple to give us the details. Nov 1st release on iTunes, Vimeo on Demand, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, as well as on our website for Blu-ray and DVD. (Possibly selling discs on Amazon as well …)