Production Insights

(also found on IMDb Trivia & partially on Wikipedia)

This is the first installment in Adrian Tofei‘s planned indie trilogy which includes We Put the World to Sleep and Pure. All three movies are radically different from each other, yet together they form a cohesive universe. Be My Cat was anchored in irrational instincts and impulses, We Put the World to Sleep is anchored in the rational mind, and Pure will be anchored in mysteries beyond reason.

Be My Cat: A Film for Anne is Adrian Țofei‘s first film and Romania’s first found footage horror movie. The main character played by Adrian Țofei (who’s also named Adrian) is also shooting found footage scenes to send to Anne Hathaway to convince her to star in his first film.

Adrian Țofei: “My filmmaking method usually consists of working for months or even years on an alternative psychological reality for the actors including myself, partially living in character, so that when we start improvising, I mainly need to record the unfolding events and to make sure the improvisation goes in the right direction. The script mostly consists of plot points. I shoot tens of hours of footage guerrilla style (25 hours for Be My Cat: A Film for Anne), and then I watch the footage like a documentary filmmaker would and create the details of the story in post-production during the editing process. This method of filmmaking, combined with the mockumentary / found footage approach, leads to incredibly creative and realistic results in terms of both acting and storytelling, but it’s almost impossible to work in the system this way. Since there’s no traditional script, I have no traditional ways to convince investors and production companies to finance my films, other than the success of my previous works. Therefore I rely on crowdfunding and those who appreciate my films and trust my method.”

Adrian Țofei, who came from a background in method acting and theatre (Ion Cojar‘s method), partially improvised the movie in his hometown in Romania on a limited budget as director, producer, writer, lead actor, editor, cinematographer and most other jobs usually performed by a film crew, he never used a camera before in his life, had no crew present during shootings other than him and the actresses, partially lived in character, met the actresses for the first time in character with the camera on and kept only first takes in the final cut. A language switch was used during filming to ensure the safety of everyone involved: speaking English meant everyone is interacting in character, and speaking Romanian meant everyone returns to be being themselves (with a few exceptions when the characters had to speak Romanian). Filming was preceded by months of preparation via emails between Adrian Țofei and the three actresses.

Adrian Țofei kept his character away from any sexual crimes, first because it would be grotesque and no one would watch the movie, second because Tofei wanted him to have a child-like innocence to become paradoxical, and third because he only belongs to Anne Hathaway in his mind, so he wouldn’t cheat on her by touching other women. On the contrary, he severely punishes the second girl for hitting on him. The character is quite principled in his “relationship” with Anne.

A year in advance before shooting the movie, director, producer, writer and lead actor Adrian Țofei moved to his hometown Rădăuți with his mother Dorina Țofei and began to experience some of the circumstances that surround his character’s life. The guy played by Adrian Țofei in the movie (who’s also named Adrian) lives with his mother in a small Romanian town, raises money through an Indiegogo campaign, makes an online casting call and selects the actresses by their pictures and videos, then rents a pension and waits for the actresses to come. For the psychological realism, Adrian Țofei also raised a part of the production budget through Indiegogo campaigns, selected the real actresses (who played the actresses in the movie) only by the pictures and videos they sent, rented a pension and met the actresses for the first time at the filming location. 

Director and star Adrian Țofei told actress Sonia Teodoriu to respect the indications that his character in the movie (the filmmaker) was going to give to her character (the actress) during improvisations. Therefore, when he asked her to reject him, she unexpectedly called the police for real in character while shooting one of the scenes, surprising Adrian both in and out of character. The language switch they were using while filming helped Adrian understand that Sonia called the police in character, not out of character on him personally, since she continued speaking English. The policemen who came understood the situation and just wrote a warning for calling the emergency number for no valid reason. The moments were caught on camera and some of them are in the movie.

Adrian Țofei chose Anne Hathaway as his character’s obsession in the movie because she had to be a worldwide known celebrity so audiences everywhere would connect to the film, had to have something to do with cats since Adrian’s role was inspired from a character he played in a one-man-show that had some issues with cats, and had to be an actress Țofei genuinely appreciates so he could transform his appreciation into obsession for his role. Adrian Țofei was blown away by Anne Hathaway’s performance in Les Miserables and his character in the movie was blown away by her performance in The Dark Knight Rises.

Adrian Țofei never meant Be My Cat to be a shock film, he reluctantly included a torture scene knowing that genre fans would want that, but felt traumatized shooting it and later editing it, and still can’t watch that scene. He meant the movie to be a character study about the paradoxical human nature, a meta study about filmmaking and acting and a lesson in cinematic realism. Also a launchpad for his acting and filmmaking career.

All the movie’s credited cast members are professional actors. Adrian Țofei studied Ion Cojar‘s acting method.

One of the reasons why Adrian Țofei chose to make a horror movie was his theory that horror films put a mirror in front of the audiences, a mirror in which they see reflected their darkest and most violent subconscious impulses, and so they become aware of them and get to control them in real life, which might also be one of the the reasons why most horror fans are nonviolent people.

There were no crew members during filming. Looking for authentic acting performances, director and star Adrian Țofei decided to shoot the movie alone with the actresses in order to create similar circumstances to those surrounding their characters in the movie. This also fit perfectly with the budgetary constraints.

Adrian Țofei worked over five years on the movie from the moment he came up with the title on December 6th, 2012, to the release by Terror Films on April 27th, 2018. He moved from Bucharest to his hometown Radauti, didn’t socialise and stayed at home all the time the first two years in order to live in character on one hand, and save money and concentrate only on the project on the other hand, working for hours each day and night, learning and applying at the same time all the aspects of filmmaking. He suffered from anxiety for the first time in his life and hasn’t fully recovered since.

Actress Florentina Hariton gained 15 pounds (7 kg) for her role in the movie.

One of the found footage films that impressed and influenced Adrian Țofei the most was Exhibit A (2007). He proposed to Exhibit A‘s star Brittany Ashworth an essential role in Be My Cat, but she refused.

The character played by Adrian Țofei in the movie was developed by Adrian over the course of 5 years. It started as a 15 min monologue in a theatre-dance show in college, then Adrian transformed it into a full length 50 min one-man-show called The Monster, and then the character in The Monster ultimately ended up being adapted for the movie.

The actresses Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton and Alexandra Stroe play three actresses in the movie named Sonya, Flory and Alexandra. Furthermore, the actresses they play are playing another actress in the found footage scenes that the main character is shooting. And actor/filmmaker Adrian Țofei plays in the movie a guy named Adrian who pretends to be actor and filmmaker.

Adrian Țofei shot the movie in chronological order over a 20 days period, during which he lived in character for most of the time.

The film starts with the onscreen text “This film has been edited from the 25 hours of footage found at the ‘Be My Cat’ crime scene in Rădăuți, Romania, on May 20, 2014“. Adrian Țofei actually shot 25 hours of footage and finished shooting on May 20, 2014.

All of the scenes in the movie are first takes. Adrian Țofei did multiple takes in the beginning, but then he realised that the first ones are always the most natural and authentic ones and decided to include only first takes in the final cut.

Adrian Țofei shot the movie with a Canon Legria HF G25 camcorder using the internal microphones. The laptop he holds in the scene with Florentina Hariton (Lenovo Essential B590) is the same one he later used to edit the movie. The editing software was Premiere Elements 12.

Director Adrian Țofei asked the actresses months in advance before shooting to see The Blair Witch Project and read his Found Footage Manifesto in order to understand the found footage concept.

Although it’s a Romanian movie, the spoken language is English because the main character deliberately uses English and demands from the other characters to use English in order to achieve his goal towards Anne Hathaway, who doesn’t speak Romanian.

Adrian Țofei became inspired to make the movie after the success of his one-man-show The Monster in 2012, also about a guy obsessed with an actress. The film was initially supposed to be an adaptation of The Monster, but as the project evolved, it became an original story and Adrian kept only some elements in his character’s psychology.

The first cut was 109 minutes long, but after being rejected at SXSW and other festivals mainly for being too long, and also getting similar industry feedback, Adrian Țofei decided to bring it down to 87 minutes, which is his birth year (1987).

In Be My Cat‘s initial concept, the character played by Adrian Țofei was rescuing a captive girl trafficked by a dangerous pimp and taking her into the attic of his mom’s house. The girl’s initial joy of being saved from the pimp was soon to be replaced by the shocking realisation that the guy who saved her is a psychopath who wants to turn her into his pet cat by implanting claws into her flesh and other atrocities he claims to do out of love, not realising the pain he’s causing. When the dangerous pimp finds Adrian’s house and comes to take the girl back, she’s faced with a huge dilemma: scream for help and risk being trafficked and raped, or stay with the romantic psycho who wants her to be his cat and live happily in his attic. The confrontation between Adrian and the pimp would change Adrian and transform him into a sort of antihero. But during pre-production, the actor who was going to play the pimp mysteriously stopped answering Adrian Țofei’s messages and calls. Adrian took that as a sign that he’s not on the right creative path and decided not to replace him, but instead to change the movie’s concept to not need that actor anymore.

[SPOILER] Adrian Țofei‘s favorite part in Be My Cat is the ending. He told the actress Alexandra Stroe to convince his character during improvisations that his true mission is not making a film with Anne, but being with her personally, to make him realize that he’s actually in love with Anne. Adrian Țofei aimed to unexpectedly end a dark, violent and twisted movie with a very pure feeling, hence the final word – “love” – deliberately in high contrast with the rest of the film.

[SPOILER] One of the movie’s executive producers, John Lepper, watched online some of the footage during production. The chloroform scene looked so real that he contacted the actress Sonia Teodoriu to see if she’s OK, if she wasn’t genuinely chloroformed.

[SPOILER] In the torture scene, the character is cutting pieces off his victim’s hips, which he mistakenly calls “shoulders”. That was a mistake of Adrian Țofei during improvisation because in Romanian hips are called “șolduri” which is pronounced “sholduri” and sounds like shoulders.

[SPOILER] The blood looks a bit unrealistic because Adrian Țofei used strawberry syrup mixed with red paint for Easter eggs, since he couldn’t find professional fake blood for a good price anywhere in Romania, and also to experience the “do it yourself” indie style. The light coming from the opposite direction through the blood-stained sheets also made the blood look lighter than it actually was. Adrian later regretted these decisions.

[SPOILER] During filming, there were three kinds of relations between actor/director Adrian Țofei and actresses Sonia Teodoriu, Florentina Hariton and Alexandra Stroe:

1. The real relation between him as film director and them as actresses. This relation is not seen onscreen.
2. The fictional relation between the psycho film director played by Adrian in the movie (who’s also named Adrian) and the fictional actresses played by the real actresses. This relation is seen through the camera of the psycho film director.
3. The second fictional relation between a guy played by the psycho film director and a fictional actress played by the fictional actresses mentioned above. This relation is seen through that guy’s camera, which is also the psycho director’s camera and Adrian Țofei’s camera as well.

It was great when confusion emerged between the two fictional relations during improvisations, since this is one of the movie’s themes, but in order to clearly differentiate the real relation from the first fictional ones, Adrian Țofei used a language switch during filming: speaking Romanian meant out of character for everybody and English meant going back in character (except for some scenes that required Romanian in character).