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Photo Credit: Danielle Freiberg (IFC Films)

On this edition of SNAPSHOTS, its not everyday that a real-life family get to play a fictional family on screen. This is the case with our guests in the new highly anticipated film, Ghostlight, from IFC Films opening this Friday.  When a construction worker joins a local theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet, the drama onstage starts to mirror his own life.

I recently sat down with husband & wife Keith Kupferer & Tara Mallen and their daughter Katherine Mallen Kupferer to discuss family life on and off screen.

Well, this was one of the best films I’ve seen all year, and it’s so great to talk to a family who’s playing a family in the film. My first question to you is, how did you all come to star in the film together, and what was your initial thought of acting with each other in the film?

Keith Kupferer (Dan): Well, we all came to it sort of at different stages. Kelly, who wrote the script during the pandemic, wrote it with me in mind, unbeknownst to me. And after the first table read, I asked to audition for the role, and she said,” I wrote it for you.” I was happy to hear that, and awesome. Then there were a few more table reads, and Katherine was involved in one of them, and Kelly & Alex really enjoyed hearing it with her in mind. So, she came on board, and then Tara came on last. Kelly knew her work from the theater in Chicago, and Alex looked at her reel and really liked her work on that. And they, they asked her to be the wife.

Tara Mallen (Sharon): It was really close to when they were starting to film. It was only two weeks before they started. I think it’s important to say that they had been working on the film, and then they had put it on a back burner and they were going to be doing another film, and then the strike happened, and so they returned to doing Ghostlight because they was a much smaller film, and they thought they knew they were going to be able to get the waiver from SAG more easily. And they brought in a very dear friend of ours in the Chicago community as a casting director. Keith is going to was going to be involved with it from the get go. She wrote it for Keith. But when our friend Mickey Pascal, who cast it, read it, said to Kelly and Alex, “oh, you wrote a film for Keith and also for Katherine and Tara, you just don’t realize that you wrote it for them. So, she was advocating for us all the way through.

KK: As far as working on it as a family, I think it was a unique experience, something we never did before. Tara & I have worked together. Katherine and I worked together when she was six, but we’d never done anything as a family together.

TM: It was great. It was really wonderful. We have a shorthand. We all know each other really well.

KK: We get along.

TM: Get along. We have fun.

KK: Yeah, that’s what Alex and Kelly were looking for. There would be moments when the cameras weren’t rolling and we’d be talking, or, you know, getting into a little bit of an argument, and they would say, “yeah, yeah, let’s keep that. Let’s do that again.”

Well, I’m so glad to hear it. Katherine, I’m going to ask you a question because you were a firecracker as Daisy, and I know when I was a young person, that parents can be your backup directors for you. How did it change or evolve when they were your now costars, instead of your directors?

Katherine Mallen Kupferer (Daisy) It just more directing, since they were near the all the time. I think that it was definitely helpful to have been both on set with me, because if I didn’t understand something or correction or a note that I was given, they were really close by, so I could just go over and ask for their assistance. And also, obviously, I think it was nice having them as my parents, because I felt a lot more comfortable, and which let me to be a lot more natural on camera.

Absolutely, it definitely showed in the film. Now, Tara, I love the character’s name, Sharon, because it’s actually my mother’s name. And you were really holding a family together, and you’re holding yourself together. Can you talk about approaching a character like that and the relief of finally getting into that role?

TM: Well, it was easy, because I hold my family together. I think I bet your mom would say this too, that that is often the role of the mom in the family is to keep everybody going. I’m certainly that’s not always the case, but I think it’s often the case is that you are the person who is keeping things together and making sure everybody has what they need and moving things forward. And certainly, my role living with these two clowns is to make sure everybody is clothed and has food…

KK: I can cook…

TM: Not really, he can’t really, Like, what would happen if I wasn’t around? And Keith’s like, “well, I don’t know. She wouldn’t make it to school. I don’t know what would happen.” I mean, certainly in my life, thank God, I have not been struck with the kind of difficult circumstances Sharon has been hit within the film. And there isn’t a lot of space for Sharon in the film to put that, but I think through the beauty of theater, she finds a space by witnessing, Romeo and Juliet and getting to witness her family in that play. She finds the space to release so, you know, it’s a beautiful thing.

Keith, I felt like you had a lot to do with this. You had a wide range of emotions as Dan, you never know he was going to be calm or he’s going to explode. Can you talk about navigating that line? And did you ever surprise yourself with the rage that he had to go through?

KK: Well, the thing about the film, making a film is you have a one scene at a time, one shooting day at a time. So, you would prepare yourself for whatever was necessary for that day. The structure of it is Alex and Kelly and how they how they pace it, how they shoot it, how they edit it. So, I didn’t really worry about that, because you can’t worry about that. The rage is unsurprising to me, because

TM: it’s right there, at all times

KK: Below the surface. So, it’s easy to tap into. So, I think I surprised some

TM: everybody else

KK: in the audience. I was sitting in front of two people who, when I exploded the very first time, and they went “Jesus…”

Yeah, yeah, tell me about it. I mean, you scared me a few times and I was just watching a film. Now this question to all three of you, what’s there a particular moment of the film that you feel so noticeable in the movie where you talk to each other, but it feels like it was real life, not just your characters.

TM: There was a there’s a lot of places where it just felt like us that.

KK: Like when you smashed me.

TM: Oh yeah, I’ll tell you my favorite moment on the film. My favorite moment on the film was when I got to run out of the house and run across the lawn and slam into his chest when I think he’s cheating on me.  Not that it felt like our real life. It just was my favorite moment in the film. It was like…

KK: You got to release some…

TM: I got to release some stuff. And the first time I did it in the rehearsal, he was like, “You’re hitting me a little too hard.” I’m like, “I’m hitting you just right, baby. I’m hitting it just right.” And Alex and Kelly were like, “we like it, keep it!” So that was a good moment. But no, there were so many moments. There was a moment when she’s laying on the floor watching TV, and I’m sitting working, and he’s sitting holding the channel changer. That really was just right out of an evening in our living room, and it we had lines to say. But literally, they could have been anything. It really could have been a slice right out of our life.

KMK: I think there’s a part when I’m talking to my dad, I’m like, “Well, you know, you either just blow up or like” I could see and of course, you know, I’m yelling at him as I’m saying this, and I feel like that’s true too, because I do a lot of yelling.

KK: One of my favorite scenes is when we’re in the truck, Daisy and I after our first therapy session, and she’s putting on my work equipment. She says, “I drew a picture for you. And had this kid with bloody smirk. I really want to laugh so hard, but, and it’s something that she would have done, and I give a little smile, I thought, “yeah, that’s my kid.”

TM: And also, the batting cages. That’s a very key thing,

I have a feeling that Ghostlight is going to be one of those sleeper hits and one of the best movies of the summer. See it in theatres this Friday, June 14th from IFC Films

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