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Division 19 director Suzie Halewood talks governmental power, drones

In an exclusive interview, Suzie Halewood talks division 19 and what her concerns are with future governmental dominance.

Suzie Halewood recently took the time to share with Commyounicate magazine about her passion project, a movie she directed called Division 19, in which she tackles governmental supremacy and stirs up a conversation about how much power we are willing to give to governing bodies.

Division 19 is an abstract work of art rooted in Halewood’s deepest fears about what the future could hold for a powerless society held under the microscope of facial recognition software and an abundance of cameras — a future she hopes we can avoid.

If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth the watch. Division 19 can be found on Amazon video.¬†Here’s what Halewood had to say about creating and filming the Detroit film Division 19.

Mekkes: So I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve been wanting somebody to put together a movie like this for a long time. You basically created a dystopian type of universe where the government takes complete control and cameras are rampant. Then you basically took it to the nth degree of what really could happen with [the abuse of] technology. Can you walk me through a little bit of what your thought process was for coming up with the concept of this movie?

Halewood: Yeah, it was initially about 15 years ago when I wrote it. It was about two years after 9/11, and they were talking about bringing in all the new laws. They’re kind of what I saw as the erosion of civil liberties. And obviously, there was a need for containment with this worry about terrorism. And, of course, I was terrified about that, especially after 9/11. But then again, you’ve got 10 times more likelihood of winning the lottery than being killed by a terrorist. So I saw [the increase in government control as an opportunist excuse]. So I wanted to make a film about — what is the nth degree? What could happen at the last point?

Mekkes: It’s really interesting. This stuff fascinates me because we passed the Patriot Act, right after 9/11 so that we could preemptively stop terrorism. And Americans wanted it too. We were mad at the FBI for letting this happen. They weren’t allowed to go after leads because they had data but they didn’t have the legal ability to chase after those leads. Now they do, but we just sacrificed our freedom for safety. And it hasn’t really teetered back since. For example, cameras are a huge thing right now — you’re almost constantly on a camera at this point whenever you’re in public. And it’s only gonna increase over time. You had a scene in the movie where somebody was smoking cigarette, I believe, and a drone called him out for his infraction. And then the scene cuts or whatever. But I was like — that’s not really an impossible scenario in the future.

Halewood: Right. That’s the whole point of this facial recognition.

Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.
Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.

Mekkes: It’s a crazy debate that people aren’t talking about really. But if you take it to where your movie took it and you’re always on camera, the government always has its thumb on you. People aren’t talking about that very much. I mean you just hit on all these concepts that are not so far fetched. It’s a little stretched, for fiction’s sake, but it’s just such an important thing to talk about.

Halewood: Yes. Some people have reviewed the film, and it’s got half and half — some people have reviewed it saying the character’s this, the character’s that — I’m not trying to make a normal film, okay? I don’t care about that. It was this work for pointers, if you like, and different people represented those elements, story elements, that represented those points. The Jamie Draven character is us sleepwalking to our graves, Alison is the data warehousing, and Nielson represents the research into people’s behavioral habits and all the rest of it. Charles, to me, was the most interesting in the sense that democracy hasn’t quite died. I think now that we’ve got the internet, we the citizens, the taxpaying citizens, should be the ones making the demands. We pay the taxes — the government works for us.

Mekkes: If you had to summarize why you made this movie, what would you say?

Halewood: I think the reason why most people make films or write or anything else is because they’re angry. I felt very passionately about this — the problem was I always knew it was a cold, analytical look at something. It’s an essay, if you like. With the erosion of civil liberties, what people are willing to put up with amazes me.

Mekkes: So, getting into a little bit of the filming of the movie, what was it like on set? What was it like filming this project, with the awesome crew and cast that you had?

Halewood: Well it was absolutely joyous. Everyone was so film-friendly. I just had a very good vibe about it. Everyone loved Detroit. It was joyous, really.

Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.
Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.

Mekkes: Well you guys made an incredible movie. I loved the scenery. I mean, the cuts and camera work — it was beautiful to watch. I noticed you did a lot of parkour in there. Who did you have doing the stunts? And what was your reasoning behind going that route?

Halewood: Originally, I really wasn’t going for parkour. But it came from the premise of — if you really lived in the future and wanted to avoid CCTV cameras, most CCTV cameras or surveillance cameras don’t point up at the roof, they point down the street; they point into people’s rooms.

Mekkes: Okay.

Halewood: So rooftops and sewers would be the places to travel. So I thought it would be the least risky option to get proper parkour people to do those stunts. So it wasn’t just to have parkour, it was literally because this is where they’d live. So I went to Chase Armitage, who at the time, I think was the world champion. So he came over to Detroit and trained some guys up, but they were also brilliant. They had a local parkour team in Detroit, they’ve got it everywhere; it’s the fastest growing sport now, parkour. So they trained, and there was another guy, Jeff, who was a champion here. So they were just great. And, of course, there were loads of rooftops, brilliant rooftops in Detroit. And there were another two stunt guys named Mark Kass and there’s a guy called Dan Le Mo. But he did all the stunts there. He was great.

Mekkes: That stuff was really cool. Were you using drone footage to capture it?

Halewood: Yeah, little drones.

Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.
Still from Division 19 by Suzie Halewood.

Division 19 is now available on Amazon Video.