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Five Questions for Paul Dalio and Luke Kirby of Touched with Fire

The film Touched with Fire from writer-director-editor-composer Paul Dalio about two bipolar people named Carla and Marco (played beautifully by Katie Holmes and Guelph, Ontario’s Luke Kirby) is the type of film that demands to be seen on a big screen. In fact, Kirby mentions the importance of shooting on film, and how 35mm is the perfect format for the film. We spoke to Kirby and Dalio from their suite in Austin during SXSW.

Scene Creek: What do you enjoy most about being in Austin for SXSW and how does this draw into the motif of seasons in the film?

Kirby: I’m only in Texas for a few hours. I’m going back to Georgia to shoot a show called Rectify, (which premieres on SundanceTV, and streams on Netflix Canada). Spring is coming here and it’s gorgeous here. I love Texas. We did hit spring and summer (for Mania Days), we got into it in early spring, so it was kind of still cold, and I think that we finished into July, or was it August, so we definitely got around.

SC: What did Holmes and Kirby bring to the roles?

Dalio: (Holmes and Kirby) both struck a chord with their characters, there was something in them, something in their souls. I knew that they would be able to embody the character, bring it to life, and take it to another level than I’d even written. They had an intensity in their eyes, both of them, about the characters.

Kirby: And the camaraderie with Katie was special as well. We had a lot of laughs. She’s an exceptional person and a great actor, and brings all sorts of seriousness and focus to her work. And she also likes to have a laugh, and maintain some levity in the whole serious game of acting.

Dalio: I created like a fifty page Lookbook, super dense, before I hired anyone. The people who I hired, who embraced that Lookbook, and that worked out great! I found some people who could implement but also play.

SC: How did Spike Lee becomes involved in the project?

Dalio: Spike was my professor at NYU, and he was a great mentor. He executive produced my classmate’s film which was at Tribeca this past year, Manos Sucias, you know, he did Pariah. Sometimes, he sees a student that he believes in and offers to executive produce.

My wife really encouraged me to do this story. She felt strongly that your first film should be very personal. I showed it to Spike, and he loved it, he believed in it. I think he’s someone who cares very much about de-stigmatization. He’s very much someone who believes in giving a voice to a marginalized group of people.

SC: Did you feel like you were playing Paul, (who is bipolar), or a fictional character?

Kirby: It’s kind of hard to figure out how to name the wave, I mean, you can feel it when you’re on it, do you know what I’m saying? On a couple of occasions that question stepped in, and it kind of made me stumble more than anything.

We fleshed it out into some sort of heightened version. Paul allows the time to wrestle that out. In hindsight, I kind of relished that allowance. It involved a lot of kicking and screaming and Paul managed that very well. He was trying to key into something that was specific but elusive. It’s rare that you get that sort of opportunity and allowance.

SC: How did you find the balance?

Kirby: It’s all control and release. Everyone needs some pressure and to release the gasket once in a while.

Touched with Fire is now out in theatres across Canada, including Cineplex Yonge-Dundas in Toronto.