Check out our interview with Roel Jeijten, the director of the new sci-fi thriller, Buoyancy. Learn about his career, his new film, the inspiration behind it, and much more!
PopHorror – Hi Roel, it’s great to talk with you. How’s your 2021 so far?
Roel Leijten – Coming out of the bad 2020 year, starting in 2021 is going great. The world has changed in terms of production and the work that can be done. Livestreams and working remote is now everyday life and for creatives, this gives new challenges but I like how we will always need to tell stories. Only the way we do it changes.
PopHorror – Completely agree. How did you get involved with filmmaking?
Roel Leijten – I have always watched a lot of movies growing up. My first memory of going to the movies was Space Jam haha. Going into the dark and being pulled into this fantasy world always gets me.
Things started back in high school when I had to do an art assignment. I borrowed the 8mm camera from my dad and started out with friends making short films. This was a really fun period. No pressure and just start to write and think of stuff to film. During college, I kept making shorts and I turned into a freelance videographer with my passion projects on the side. Then one day I felt it was time to create a feature.
PopHorror – That’s awesome and Space Jame is great! Who are some other directors that inspire you?
Roel Leijten – I have to say that Nolan was the first director that triggered me into writing. Memento is a classic that made me feel that there is so much we can do with how we tell a story. And I love how he is always pushing his boundaries in every film he makes. No matter how big his budgets get. But as you grow older you also meet the ‘darker’ side of cinema. Gaspar Noé, Michael Haneke, Darren Aronofsky, Andrej Tarkovski. These are real artists who have affected me. Great storytellers with such a distinct vision. You can only admire what these people have done, especially when making films yourself and knowing how hard it is to get your vision and story across.
PopHorror – Yesss! What is your favorite film of all time?
Roel Leijten – I think that has to be Inception. All-stars aligned in that film: Nolans world-building, Marion Cottilard in the lead with DiCaprio, Hans Zimmer with a perfect score. What a great ambivalent ending as well. Some of my other favorites are Eyes Wide Shut, Paris, Texas, Enemy, Perfect Blue, Into the Wild. Films that take you on a trip and give you something to think about.
PopHorror – All of those films are amazing. Do you enjoy the horror genre?
Roel Leijten – It has grown on me. I really like how the genre is doing successful crossovers with directors such as Jordan Peele and Ari Aster. This will inspire other filmmakers to look for new ways to tell stories. The latest horror I saw was a Japanese film called Audition. That ending has some suspense that I didn’t have for a while. I’m also watching The Servant currently and it is a piece of art!
PopHorror – I love Auditon! Where did you come up with the idea for your new film, Buoyancy?
Roel Leijten – It was born out of economics haha. I was always looking for stories and write short stories and synopses, but they almost had to be produced with big budgets. Then I saw this news article about a submarine murder and 2 things triggered me: what the hell could they have discussed on board? And I thought 2 actors in 1 location seems like a film that can be made with a small budget. The idea grew and grew, characters came to me and the story developed into a feature film. You really need to be 100% convinced about your story if you want to make it into a film and this idea just felt right and I went on with it.
PopHorror – That’s awesome. I love that you had an idea and it just continued to grow. How did the casting come about?
Roel Leijten – Where I live (The Netherlands) it is hard to find English actors. So I decided to put out a casting call in London, flew out there, and did the casting sessions there. There is a lot of talent in the UK, so it was a real luxury to pick out the right actors. I immediately felt that Rebecca and Michael were the right fit for this film. They both bring out that mystery about their characters which is hard to do. They connected and it definitely shows in this film.
PopHorror – This is your first full feature film. What was this experience like?
Roel Leijten – You realize how much work is being put into every film production. Every film that gets made from small to big budget is a miracle. You are really tested on every level, so preparation is key. And if all things go down south, you still need to come up with a creative solution and roll with it. My attitude about making films can be obsessive, which helps because otherwise, you would drop the project a long time ago. But being on set with everyone creative and on point is such a great feeling. When things come together as you planned, nothing can beat that.
My girlfriend who has helped a lot during this production said once we wrapped, “I love you and I’m happy that we did this, but if we are ever going to make another film, I’m doing it if there is a bigger budget.” So yeah, it’s very rewarding, but making a low-budget feature consumes you entirely haha.
PopHorror – Haha, I love it. Any favorite scenes?
Roel Leijten – Writing Buoyancy, I came to realize that I love writing monologues. That’s something that I didn’t know upfront, sometimes minutes and on. So yeah at the end there is a monologue scene which is an intimate scene that I really like how it ended up with the emotional impact. No spoilers!
PopHorror – Anything you’d do differently?
Roel Leijten – As I said, a bigger budget. I hope this film shows the skillset that we had at the time and the story we wanted to tell which is most important to me. It’s very meta and there are layers in the film through which you can see it. There is The Who done it thriller, there is the metaphorical one and a very personal existentialist way of viewing it. I hope that came through and we can convince people in the future the way we want to tell a story.
PopHorror – Any other upcoming projects that you’d like to talk about?
Roel Leijten – Currently writing and coming up with new story ideas, but nothing that really sticks that can be made into a film. I’m thinking of maybe writing a book, because of the lower cost in creating it and then later make it into a film. There is no pressure, time will tell when it is ready. But first, let’s hope for this pandemic to be over soon! Buoyancy is a film about social isolation, so on that remark, the topic is very relatable.
PopHorror – Thank you again for chatting with me Roel. I wish you the best of luck in your career and looking forward to chatting with you in the future.
Buoyancy is now available everywhere on Video-On-Demand