Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

After years as a cinematographer for films like You’re Next and A Teacher, Andrew Droz Palermo is finally making his narrative directorial debut with One & Two.

Recruiting two of today’s most promising young actors, Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men) and Timothée Chalamet (Interstellar), Palermo (who co-wrote the script with his childhood friend Neima Shahdadi) tells a supernatural tale about the powerful and unbreakable bond between siblings.

At first glance, Eva (Shipka) and Zac (Chalamet) appear to be normal teenagers. But to say that Eva and Zac have a typical upbringing would be a major understatement: They live with their abusive father (Grant Bowler) and ailing mother (Elizabeth Reaser) in a farmhouse, away from modern civilization and enclosed by a twenty-foot wall.

And if that wasn’t mysterious enough, the siblings both inherit an incredible ability: teleportation.

Although the two live a seemingly lonely life, that only fuels their curiosity about the world and their place in it. And with their ability to teleport, that adventurous spirit becomes to hard contain, proving both to be a gift and a curse.

I spoke with Palermo to talk about the transition from a cinematographer to a director, how his own life inspired the story, and the potential for more stories about Eva and Zac. Check out the interview below.

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

ScreenPicks: You went from directing a documentary about a group of impoverished boys in a small Midwestern town to this supernatural drama about this secluded community of just four people. Although those films are very different, they both explore the territories of youth and familial bonds. What draws you to those subjects?

Palermo: “I think both of them have a connective thread, and it’s born from my experiences growing up in Missouri. Rich Hill takes places in my hometown. A lot of that was very personal. The real core of the film is my relationship with my sister as a child and this really intense bond that she and I had; I think that was a real seed for this film.”

ScreenPicks: For this film, you’ve got two up-and-coming stars from Mad Men and Insterstellar. How did you get both Kiernan Shipka and Timothée Chalamet?

Palermo: “Through casting I met both of them on Skype. Timothée, he was incredible. We had such a great time talking. He’s just a really bright kid. He did a tape for me, he read a scene. I was completely sold on him right there. I saw the tape and was like, ‘this is the right guy.’ I knew it immediately.

“With Kiernan it was the end of the show [Mad Men] and [she] really wanted to work on it. Her name came up, and I thought it could be really interesting. Once we talked on Skype I knew she was a great fit, because she has such an irrepressible vitality to her. She is going to be herself no matter what. She’s already so comfortable and confident, but very kind and generous. She’s a really great young actress; we were very thrilled that she was interested in doing the film.”

ScreenPicks: And I have to say that it’s commendable that you actually cast teenagers to play teenagers ’cause it adds authenticity and you’re not distracted as a viewer ’cause you know they’re actually minors. (laughs)

Palermo: “Yeah, it’s such a headache for a movie to do that. It’s so crazy that Hollywood movies have 20-year-olds playing 16-year-olds.”

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

ScreenPicks: Since your film had a modest budget as opposed to a big studio budget, do you think that helped you keep grounded in keeping the visual effects very refined and subtle?

Palermo: “Yeah, it also forced me to really find the effects early on whereas maybe if we had a bigger budget I might’ve been able to play a little more and maybe do a few more things. But I don’t think that it would’ve helped the film, and I think that ultimately it’s a very small film about family and about emotion.”

ScreenPicks: I was reading some of your past interviews, and it seems that you’re more concerned about the characters and the relationships rather than the supernatural aspect of it.

Palermo: “Yeah, I think that’s ultimately the thing that people will hold onto the most; those are the things you care about when you’re watching a film. You wanna root for a person. It’s not really interesting to have a soulless person who can do all this amazing stuff. Yeah, it’s amazing that we got to do all these effects, and I love our effects guy [Joshua James Johnson]. The thing that I loved most about him is that he cared about the story the most. It was like, ‘You know, Josh, I’m thinking I might cut this scene. I don’t know if we have the money, I don’t really think it fits the film… He was like, ‘Totally, I agree. Absolutely, 100 percent.’ And that’s the kind of team effort that the film loves.”

ScreenPicks: On a similar note, I was surprised to learn that all the underwater scenes were actually filmed in an aquatic center. Can you explain how you filmed those? I actually thought they were swimming underneath that lake. (laughs)

Palermo: “I would’ve loved to shoot it naturally, but it’s almost never done naturally. Almost any underwater scene you see in movies isn’t really filmed in the lake or ocean. It’s just really a matter of the clarity of the water. There’s sections of film I shot in the water… And it also provided us some safety. We were able to control it. But yeah, we had a scuba diver with an underwater rig, and he had a little talk box so that he could hear us underwater. We had it storyboarded out, and we knew exactly what we wanted.

“There was actually a big stunt that was pulled from the movie that Kiernan sort of passes out from teleporting too much, and ultimately that was cut. But that was one of the reasons we were there. We knew we could have all the safety needed to do all the stunt effectively and safely so that the actor wouldn’t be hurt.”

Photo Credit: IFC Films

Photo Credit: IFC Films

ScreenPicks: You worked with cinematographer Autumn Durald (Palo Alto). Would you say that your approach in directing a cinematographer is different from directors who don’t have that background in cinematography?

Palermo: “In my experience, every director is different. I’m my own unique director, I guess. I don’t know if I’m necessarily more equipped. There’s a lot of directors I work with that don’t really know anything about cameras… But that didn’t necessarily help me to be able to tell Autumn or talk to Autumn very specifically. We worked together really well, and it was very collaborative. I think having someone as talented as she is on the film really freed me up to focus on other aspects of the film.”

ScreenPicks: Although the film can stand on its own, the ending kind of opens a window for more stories about Eva and Zac. And I know that you’ve expressed interest in a prequel, but can we expect to see a sequel to see what happens to those two?

Palermo: “I don’t know. It totally depends on the performance of the movie. I’ll certaintly be open to the idea. I really love working in this world, and I think I learned so much about both the characters throughout the course of filming and the post-production. I think there’s a number of avenues we could take. But yeah, I’m certainly open to the idea.”

ScreenPicks: Based on the work you’ve done to date, it seems like you’re the type that doesn’t really wanna be limited to one genre and always wants to be challenged. What can we expect for your next project as a writer and director?

Palermo: “It’s totally up in the air. I’m honestly looking at a number of different things. For a while we’ve been up for something that was rather comedic and satirical, and then we’re also looking at a young adult or college drama. It can be anything. I just need to find what it is exactly, and hopefully I’ll get digging in really soon. I’ve already started working on one script, and there’s another that I’m after.”

One & Two is available in select theaters and on VOD.