Your new movie Sunset -
in a few words, what is it about?
Jamison: A diverse group of people grapple with the imminent probability of a
nuclear strike on the East Coast.
being by definition a rather dystopian science fiction movie, is that a
genre you're at all fond of, and some of your genre favourites?
Adam: I wouldn’t say that I’m fond of that genre and I wouldn’t say
that this is science fiction. We paid a good amount of attention to
real life scenarios that we drew from, unfortunately there was a lot
sceneries that were even happening while we were filming, i.e. Hawaii.
Jamison: I agree with Adam, I really see it more like a drama about
people with a realistic premise.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Sunset?
And since your movie's set in a not too distant future, to what extent
does the film reflect your view of things to come?
Adam: I came up with the concept while watching end of the world movies
and constant theme that I realized is that it was always about a younger
generation or younger people going on after the disaster. I felt
like it was important to touch on the people that you don’t see.
The older people who can’t do what these young people are doing, they lived their whole
lives up until this point…so what do you do?
Jamison: Adam came to me with the concept and then we developed it. We
paid heavy attention to nuclear war stories that came before us to make
sure that we were operating in new territory with Sunset. It was
important to us to add to the conversation and not tread on the same
ground. We looked at On the Beach with Gregory Peck and a lot of
How did you get together to write Sunset, and what was your
Jamison: Like I said before, Adam Ambrosio came to me with the concept
- totally his, which was exciting because I was removed from it and
could consider it’s potential almost like an audience would. We made Sunset as a short film FIRST. It was critical to
know if this thing would work…and boy did it make a WORLD of difference
in the final feature film. And incredible thing was that the short
film we made is actually the same ending as the feature film and we worked
backwards in the storytelling - the 48 hours leading up to it. You can
watch that short that got over 16,000 views on our channel here on Film
It sounded terribly exciting to tackle something like this as a feature
and very ambitious. Adam and I have been working together for a long
time now, Adam is an excellent musician and has done all the music for my
movies going back to my first union short film Midnight Catch and up
through my first feature the Depths and now Sunset. It
is important to know that this all really came from the great
collaboration we have had together on Film Valor which is a series that
Adam and I create together on YouTube. It is a series that takes a
look at how we make our films (a look behind the curtain) and also looks
at other people in the industry and what their craft looks like too.
In your movie, the characters Henry
and Julian pretty much embody very opposite points of view regarding the
bigger picture - so who do you feel closer to, and do you specifically
identify yourself with either? Or any of the movie's other characters for
Adam: The quickest answer is that you really don’t know what you're
going to believe. We haven’t been there so we don’t know how we are going to feel. I think all the characters embody the feeling
that we would have in a tragedy… you want to stay, you want to go, and
then there is confusion or not knowing information. Then there is
the feeling of “what happens next?”
Jamison: I really agree with Adam in the sense that these guys are
reacting emotionally. How could you not? Henry is angry and
scared and he wants to get even, I can understand that but at the same time
the nuclear option is the end of the world. I would probably lean
more towards Julian on it but I understand the anger. It’s hard
not to bring up the feelings you felt when 9/11 happened and how it was so
scary you didn’t know what to think. I was young but I remember
the feeling well. I think I would be the Ayden character in the
story and would have pages and pages of research because no one is an
expert on this stuff and it is really hard to sift through the options.
If you survive the initial impact, it is only half the battle
Despite the rather spectacular topic of Sunset,
you chose a deliberately laid-back pace to tell your story - care to
Jamison: While I believe the story is realistic, I also know that the
interactions between the characters are drawn out. I knew exactly
what I wanted to see in this film… it wasn’t people running away.
It was having the audience get inside of the decision process these
characters make and engage it in a pressurized way. You got 24 hours
to make a choice and you might die either way. Go. That was
the film and I have never seen anything like that before. The pacing
was meant to allow time for the audiences to digest one bad survival
option after another
Jamison, what can you tell us about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand?
off of that last one, I thought it was fascinating to make people’s
homes the battleground of this type of warfare. Not only their
conflict with each other but also the fact that something could fall out
of the sky and destroy everything that they think is “safe” in their
life. Their family, their bedroom, their life. Nothing is
safe and that is what scared me most. The drone footage was used to
create a sense of tension from the sky. In dialogue scenes we
worked very hard to create feeling of isolation, anxiety and tension.
In the ending sequence I wanted Liam Mitchell (Henry) to be waking up in a
war zone and I talked a lot to director of photography (Nicholas
Pietroniro) about making that final scene resemble combat footage -
hand-held, messy and chaotic. This is really the basis of the
filmmaking done here - the impending doom that was set against the battles
that we would have to have with the ones we love to survive.
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
Adam: We worked with everyone on the cast before. It was a
very comfortable feeling working with them. We knew what we could
expect from everyone and they gave us even more. If you look at our
other film you can see that we used pretty much everyone except Austin
Pendleton, who we just met before making this film and we really wanted him to
Jamison: They all are amazing and we knew them prior. We wrote the
characters for the actors. We knew them - we wrote it for them.
Pretty unconventional but it really worked!
words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Adam: Easy. We shot in my home. It was like having a party and
having guests over. More work and less space! Getting to the
set on time was not a problem for me! We ONLY had a 4 person crew -
Jamison (director/sound), Nick Pietroniro (DP), Adam Ambrosio (producer),
Mike Pacyna (gaffer).
Jamison: Yes I did the sound too! And it was very wonky at first
but we got into it. I’ll tell you this - a director has to listen
to the words the actors say closely anyway so it was sort of a no-brainer…
but it was not fun when camera and sound had to be in two
different places! I hated that. But all that I really had to
do was watch these performances in times like that, the set is like a
stage and that is a director’s primary function is studying those and
knowing when to jump in… or let things develop naturally. The
focus for a director is always that. Play back makes these things
possible, it makes it so you can study it live and also see if the camera
captured it that well too.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
i-Tunes, X-box, Google Play, Vudu on July 3rd, 2018.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Sunset
Adam: Yeah! A lot of people where surprised how young we are to write a film like this. They did not expect that something like this
would be of interest for us to write. When people think about two
young writers making a nuclear bomb movie… they think of action but
actually there is no action.
Jamison: We had a cast/crew screening that was very very positive, and
we gave our IndieGoGo donors a place to see the film FIRST for supporting
us! We were very happy with the excited response. It served as
our compass. We have won some awards including Best Ensemble at the
2018 Los Angeles Film Awards, David Johnson won Best Actor in a Leading
Role in the International Independent Film Awards 2018, we were an
official selection of the Miami Independent Film Festival and we are an
official selection of the Manhattan Film Festival where we will world
premiere in New York City on April 27th, 7pm!
Ticket info here:
Any future projects you'd like to share?
We actually have a few feature film projects in the works right now.
got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
Adam: What I wanted to do was be a musician. I started off when I met
Jamison just doing the music and helping out on set. My family has a
background in the entertainment industry. I knew a bit about how
movie making worked already and eventually I just got interested in making
movies while scoring these projects.
Jamison: I received my B.F.A. from Montclair State University but I
have been making movies for a long time before that. I often would
rent gear from my college and just go out and shoot things (nothing to do
with an assignment) and that is how my team made our first professional
short films together. You learn the most from doing that and
submitting those projects to festivals and getting feedback, growing.
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Sunset?
Adam: We started off with shorts. 7 SAG shorts or shorts that we
made with Screen Actors Guild actors. Shorts are easier to get
going. It is easy to create a concept and just go with instead of
going with a full feature. We knew we wanted make a good amount of
quality projects and get the ball rolling.
Jamison: I worked on a lot of little things in high school including two 40
minute short film projects that were pretty ambitious for some kids in
high school. I had enough already to get right into the film program
and I just kept forging ahead and was guided by Louis Ambrosio, who served
as my producers on these first short (he was an experienced professional)
and I was then introduced to Adam and we made Film Valor and on and on.
would you describe yourself as a director?
Jamison: I storyboard every single frame by hand. I do the work ahead of
time but I do allow for the thing to change. I mostly do that so I
know my objectives for a moment or a scene. I may wind up with a
totally different frame or shooting style (you have to throw things out
and completely alter a shoot sometimes) but an objective set by you ahead
of time gives you a road map to your themes and objectives as a filmmaker
and ensures that those things are ultimately met. I care more about
performance and collaborating with the actors above all things as a
director. Fancy camera tricks don’t matter if the performance is
not there or if the scene isn’t working. I care about actors and I
want to bring them into the process. I know first-hand how hard it
is to get in front of a camera and bare everything. It is very scary
and I know it is a creative process that you cannot demand from someone.
You can’t just push a button. Everyone should be working toward the same
who inspire you?
Adam: I look at movies themselves more than filmmakers. Anyone before
the year 2000.
Jamison: Christopher Nolan is absolutely amazing.
Your favourite movies?
Jamison: Zorba the Greek I always say is my favorite film. I love
everything about it and it is surprisingly funny. The Prestige, The Great
Adam: The Dunwich Horror (1970), Aliens, The Darkest
and of course, films you really deplore?
Adam: Oh, this is good, yeah! Happy Death Day.
Jamison: Expectations are an important thing. I hate trailers that hype
a movie to be something it is not - they try to sell it as an action film
and it isn’t. I find myself most disappointed by false advertising
on films I am overhyped about.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
STAY TUNED to our channel Film Valor and subscribe for updates on all
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Adam: Thank you!
Jamison: Yes Thanks a lot for giving us this great interview.
for the interview!