As the world turns to steaming videos for escapism, a film to keep on the radar is Human Capital, based on the book by the same name by author Stephen Amidon. Written by Oren Moverman (The Messenger) and directed by Marc Meyers (My Friend Dahmer), the film premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and is available on VOD release today.
Well shot and thoughtfully composed, Human Capital starts off with a bang and keeps the audience’s attention with beautifully designed locations and strong performances from a well-rounded ensemble.
Leading the cast is Liev Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate, Ray Donovan) who plays Drew, a Real Estate agent feeding into past gambling addiction with a high-stakes investment attached to his daughter’s new boyfriend’s parents played by the legendary Marisa Tomei (Marvel’s Spider-man films, My Cousin Vinny) and Peter Sarsgaard (Jarhead). When things turn sour for their children, both families need to decide what matters most to them.
The film is directed by Marc Meyers, who co-founded the production company Ibid Filmworks with co-producer Jody Girgenti.
Previous to Human Capital, Meyers’ films include the critically-acclaimed cult hit My Friend Dahmer, a FilmRise & Altitude Films release, based on his Blacklist screenplay adapted from the best-selling graphic novel of the same name. The film, starring former Disney star Ross Lynch, Alex Wolff, and Anne Heche, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and invited to numerous prestigious festivals around the world including Deauville, London, Sitges, Frameline, Rome, Fantasia, and Fantastic Fest.
Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called it “a warped wonder of a movie.” Following its strong theatrical run, it aired on HBO and continues to chart on iTunes, Amazon, and other VOD channels.
According to Meyers, Human Capital is relevant to today’s current situation, “It’s an independent film with a great cast, and a movie with substantial issues that are being addressed that felt timely before from book that was a book written over a little over a decade ago, and those themes that were written then are still relevant today, but now those themes about the loss of community and sort of a fracturing quality on how people run to protect their families and the value of human life are all on display all on display in this movie which is all about class.”
Reel 360: With the certain situation, I see this film being well-timed and very relevant to today.
Marc: It’s not a hurricane or a snowstorm, but it’s something that not regional. It’s global. But we’re all weathering it together but everyone has their own separate ability to weather that storm, based also on their financial security and that’s really being put a test right now. And that’s kind of captured in this movie in a microcosm. We’re all in this together right now.
Reel 360: How many shoot days for principle photography?
Marc: I think 23 days in total. There were 21 days before Christmas 2018, and then we came back for two more days in 2019 to finish filming a few scenes that we didn’t get to. Then we also had to wait for the weather to kind of match. In New York, March can kind of look like December, so we knew there wouldn’t be any snow on the ground.
Reel 360: I loved the locations.
Marc: That’s the New York Metropolitan area. We also had a great location team. So, you have that beautiful mansion, which was set on this sort of Gold Coast of Long Island. We also shot in Queens, Brooklyn and surrounding areas of Manhattan, like the hospital. Also, Westchester as well.
Reel 360 : I see you had a female DP (Kat Westergaard). How did you find her?
Marc: I knew of Kat. So, when it became time to prepare, we approached her, and when I reached out to her, she was totally into it and had some really wonderful ideas that contributed to the whole look and feel of the film.
I’ve completed four films in the last fours years, and on two of them I had a female DP. I love that kind of collaboration, not just because she’s a woman, but I thought Kat added a nice collaborative dialogue that happens naturally. Like she becomes my husband and wife filmmaking duo sort of collaboration that I really like.
Reel 360: It’s very fluid, you can tell where the direction is between the cinematography and then the straight direction. I’m always interested in the relationship between the DP and the director.
Marc: I’m glad you appreciate that. Honestly the fluidity of movie is something I am very much preoccupied with. And that was very important to me on this project. This movie is very much about perspectives, and so that helps you determine where you might want to put the camera and how the camera might move to best explore or express, how a character is discovering things internally and externally.
How Liev’s character notices a woman in a window or crying in a parked car, and then you revisit that from her perspective later, but now with a better understanding of what she’s been going through in her own life.
And that’s the sort of perspectives I thought married very much within the form of this film. Three separate chapters, that are like separations of American class.
Meyers lives with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, NY, where he often lovingly fills the roles of short- order cook, chauffeur, and Sherpa. Human Capital is set for On-Demand release is Friday, March 20, 2020.
Katharin Mraz is a contributing writer for Reel Chicago and Reel 360.