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Interview with Orion Director Asiel Norton

Orion shares the story of a post-apocalyptic fable set in a future dark age in Detroit and was directed by the award-winning director Asiel Norton. This exciting thriller stars Hollywood film actor David Arquette, British beauty Lily Cole and has been selected for the prestigious Raindance Film Festival.

In a future dark age, after civilisation has collapsed, there are rumours and prophecies of a saviour to come. A maiden, held captive by a cannibal shaman, prays for a saviour. Soon after, an illiterate hunter stumbles upon the shaman’s cottage. The maiden promises to lead the hunter to a city containing the world’s last survivors. With an aid of an urchin vagabond, the hunter plots against the shaman who may not be human at all.

Director Asiel Norton attended USC film school and his first feature Redland won best debut feature at Raindance Film Festival, was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award, Hammer to Nail’s Top Fourteen Films of the Year and many more awards. Norton was one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film by Filmmaker Magazine. His second film Orion was a recipient of a production grant, the Canon Filmmaker Award. Producer Magdalena Zyzak produced and co-wrote Redland alongside director Asiel Norton, as well as Orion. Editor Michael Palmerio’s portfolio includes Lions Gate’s Dummy, starring Adrien Brody, as well as television credits Fox’s documentary series Preps, Sony Television’s Pat Croce – Moving In, and the syndicated extreme sports show Adrenaline TV.

Lily Cole stars as The Virgin. As well as a successful modelling career, Lily is known for her work in The Last Days of Troy and Snow White and the Huntsman. Starring alongside Lily as the Hunter, Hollywood star David Arquette’s vast filmography includes Scream, Chunk Hank and Never Die Alone. Goran Kostic stars as the Magician and is known for Taken, as well as the TV series Legends.

David Spear - Orion

Exclusive Interview with Asiel Norton

Orion Director, Asiel Norton

I caught up with Asiel for a chat about the film, filmmaking and more about the world of movies.

Q: Was there a moment when you recognised that filmmaking was going to be a big part of your life?

There are two different answers to this question. One is when I wanted it to be. That goes back to about 3rd grade when I was a kid. I was an odd kid in that I really loved classic movies. I grew up without TV in the very rural country, I was born in a cabin and not a hospital, and my family raised chickens, sheep, and rabbits, limited electricity, water came from a nearby stream, etc. Ultra left wing. Sort of like the family in Captain Fantastic if you saw that movie, but real, not so far fetched. So my folks would load the family up in this junky jalopy and cruise to the closest town about 45 minutes away. In this town was a university, and we would crash film courses to watch movies, so I’d be watching these very sophisticated classic and international movies from the time I could barely walk. So by the time I was in 3rd grade I really wanted to be in movies. In terms when I knew it was real, that I could actually do it… When I got into USC which is a really prestigious film school, that was a big moment, I started to think this might not just be a dream, but maybe this could happen. Then on set of my first film Redland, there was one point toward the end of the day where I came up with this real difficult shot on the spur of the moment which is something I do, and I said we’re doing it. And the crew all started mumbling, but I said we’re doing it. And we got on it, and nailed it, and looking through the video feed, I knew it was fucking beautiful, and I was in my head going Holy shit, I can do this, I think I’m good at this.

Q: What directors/producers/actors have been inspiring and influential to you and why?

Honestly there are so many. I’m a huge classic movie fan, huge fan of cinema. I would say to me the four greatest filmmakers, four of the most important artists of the 20th century were Kubrick, Bergman, Fellini, and Tarkovsky. Those guys are like Bach, or Mozart, Tolstoy, other level. But there are so many filmmakers that I love and admire, and totally influence me. Going back to Chaplin, Murnau, Pabst, etc in the silent days. Through to Huston, Welles, Capra, Hawks, Ford, Mann, Hitchcock, etc. in the classic Hollywood days, through all the great international film in the post-war time period from neorealism to new wave, etc. I mean so mean so many great filmmakers from all over the world, Japan, Russia, etc. Then there’s individual movies like Chinatown, I always say you could watch Chinatown over and over instead of going to film school. It tells you all you need to know.

Q: Have you had the chance to meet any of that that have been influential to you?

Before I made Redland, one of the films me and the dp watched and talked about was the Piano. Such a great movie. That’s how great film used to be, not even that long ago, the Piano and Farewell My Concubine premiered at the same Cannes Festival, and shared the Palm d’or. Now your lucky if one decent comes out, but just a few years ago, you’d have 5-6 amazing classic films in the same fest. Anyway, I met Jane Campion on the festival circuit, which was amazing, she was totally awesome, and such a great filmmaker. I also met and hung out with Jafar Panahi before he was arrested, and I’m a huge of his films.

Q: Has the directing of Orion differed from the Redland?

Very different, but also the same. Redland was a magical dream of discovery. We were shooting where I was born, in the forest, with many friends, and we were all just out of film school. It was totally magical. Orion was more of a gauntlet. They were both tough, and I had to fight like crazy on both of them to get my vision, because I’m an unusual guy, and I don’t do a lot of things the way people are used to, and I’m super driven, so that always leads to people saying “you can’t do that.” And then me saying, “We’re doing it,” and making us do it. I mean they were both amazing experiences, but I’d say Orion was shot in the ruins in Detroit, it was much more ambitious in terms of sets, props, costumes, makeup, etc. so it was a much more aggressive shoot. We started everyday like 4 hours behind. But honestly shooting is the greatest joy in my life. It’s like a rollercoaster on drugs. Just pure adrenaline. You’re totally in the moment, and in this magic fairyland that I made.

Q: With your first movie, Redland, winning best debut feature, how do you feel that Orion has been selected for the Raindance Film Festival?

I think the producer sent it in, and we were selected. I mean, we have a past relationship with the festival with Redland, so that always helps.

Q: Do you see a difference in production or your direction with studio financing vs. private financing?

I mean, I think everyone knows, with studio financing you get a lot of money, you have bigger budgets. In terms of your schedule, equipment, facilities, cast and crew, it’s a dream. And your life is amazing. A lot of money, big parties, drugs, beautiful men and women. But you have a bunch of people telling you how to make your movie. When you do things independent, you live a much more petty existence. You have to fight for everything. You’re always worrying about money. There’s no safety net. It’s brutal. But you get creative control. You get to make your movie exactly how you want it.

Q: What is it you love about directing?

What’s not to love? It’s amazing. You get to create your dreams. As I said my favourite aspect is set. Though I love post, and prep, writing, mixing sound, editing, everything, I honestly love all aspects of filmmaking. But set is the best. Everyone asking you a million questions a minute, always under the gun, thinking on your feet, putting out fire after fire, being in a constant mode of creation. It’s a total rollercoaster. Both my films I shot on location. So I get to go off into some magical world with great people, and only live, breathe, and think about the movie. I don’ think about laundry. I don’t think about getting gas in my car, even about what I’m eating most of the time. It’s just the movie.

Q: After working with David Arquette and Lilt Cole on Orion, who would you most like to work with in the future? And Why?

I don’t know. Depends on the project – who the characters are. In terms of actors, Daniel Day Lewis is obviously the best today, but I don’t preconceive that kind of thing, or dream about it. I just like my making my movies., and I do everything one step at a time. I just write something totally as a blank. And I have my own imaginary vision of who the character is. I’ll have paintings and old photographs sometimes of who the character is, and I’ll send that to the casting director. It’s never based on the physical attributes of any actor. We just go out and start looking at people with the casting director, and I start responding to what the universe starts sending my way.

Orion Trailer

Massive thanks to Asiel Norton for chatting with us here at Blazing Minds. Check more about Orion over on the official website at

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Interview with Orion Director Asiel Norton


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