My brother, Michael Sloan (The Equalizer, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues), was invited to be the President of the TV Movie jury at the Monte Carlo Television Festival this year.
I’d never heard of anyone speak of their experience on a jury, judging movies or TV, what goes into it, why they made their decisions, so I asked Michael about his stay in Monte Carlo and why he and his jury chose the winners, one of which was controversial.
What was it like being the President of a jury for the first time?
It was really a lot of fun. There was a responsibility that came with it, to the various filmmakers, to make sure their movies were judged with care, objectivity and fairness.
I was lucky that I had three jury members who were terrific – a French actress, Caroline Proust, German actor, Sven Martinek, and a Japanese TV director, Hiroshi Kurosaki – who were great to work with.
They tended to react with their hearts, and it was my job to make sure they understood what the filmmaker was trying to say, whether they agreed with the messages, and to look at the movies from an emotionally unbiased perspective – which they did.
Your jury caused a little controversy for your pick for Best Actor in a Movie – can you tell us what happened?
The second movie we saw was a British Channel 4 Movie about terrorism called Complicit. The principal actor was up for Best Actor. In Complicit there was a supporting performance from an actor named Arsher Ali that was very compelling. I asked if I could at least ‘nominate’ him for consideration. I was told I could.
When it came down to the deliberations with the jury, there were two other performances which stood out, both of them main leads.
Both performances were great. But I made the argument that both actors had the creative ammunition – they had terrific roles that were written beautifully. The role that Arsher Ali played in Complicit was small in comparison – so he had to bring a lot more to the table as an actor to make an impact. And he did.
The two main performances from the other movies impressed me. But Arsher Ali’s performance surprised me. That was the difference. So, in the end, even though he had not initially been in contention, myself and the jury members decided his was, in fact, the best performance we’d seen, and we gave him the award.
Your other awards, for Best Actress, Best Director and Best TV Movie went to the same film, Aglaja – why did you all feel that picture was so special?
Aglaja was beautifully shot and directed. This was a movie from Hungary, and we felt they probably did not have some huge Hollywood-style budget (which we found out they didn’t), and yet it looked like a big budget movie.
It brought the audience into this very specific traveling circus world in Europe and you believed in it completely. You were immersed in their world. There were stunning visuals, accomplished simply.
The characters were great, eccentric and believable, and the movie was diffused with warmth and caring. The dramatic confrontations really worked, and the performances were magical.
The Actress who won, Eszter Onodi, was simply wonderful. It was a luminous performance. She stood out to us immediately and there was never really a doubt in the jury’s mind that she would win the award for Best Actress.
We went back and forth about the Best Director, as there was another director we also liked, but, in the end, we gave it to the director of Aglaja, Krisztina Deak, because the depth of her work was amazing.
The movie worked on so many levels, and what she accomplished was great. As the ‘Best Movie,’ it stood head and shoulders above the others.
Can you talk about The Equalizer, which goes into production this week – how close to the TV series is it?
The movie has the same emotional springboard as the TV series – a covert Government operative, Robert McCall, quits ‘The Company’ and eventually starts to use his specialized skills to help ordinary people in trouble with nowhere else to turn.
The portrayal of the main character is pretty different from the TV series persona. Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall is more of a loner, more contained, more intense, but just as compassionate.
You’re writing a thriller book of The Equalizer?
The book is a completely separate entity than the feature version of The Equalizer.
The Robert McCall of the book will be more like the character in the TV series that Edward Woodward played, a little more ‘damaged goods,’ more emotional, reaching out to help innocents in trouble. It is two different approaches to the same character.
The book will be published by St Martin’s Press, under their Thomas Dunne imprint, in spring of next year, before the movie comes out.