new movie Lamp Light
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's about a guy that has a ton of personal guilt he's been avoiding
but eventually can't dodge it anymore when he gets stuck in a tunnel
collapse. He's trapped in his car and has to face his mortality and the
mistakes he's made.
What were your
sources of inspiration when writing Lamp
Light, and without wanting to get too personal, is Don in any form
or way based on yourself?
It's a deeply personal story. I
think everyone has been in a dead-end job, in a dead-end part of their
life with no real “light at the end of the tunnel”, and we tend to
never want to confront those ideas. A lot of Lamp
Light comes from my own
personal struggles with religion, death, and my own mortality. To talk
about it more might give away some of the big themes in the film but there
is a lot of religious imagery in Lamp
Light and how a person deals with
losing one's faith. It's a deeply anti-theist film.
The majority of Lamp
Light takes place in a car buried under rocks - so how did you go
about filming this from a technical point of view?
fake rocks are expensive. So, I got real ones. Turns out, people that have
large sums of broken and useless concrete are usually not too keen to hold
on to it. My producer, Nathan Goss, is a magician at making needed things
appear, so I was lucky enough to have him produce about 2-3 tons of real
metal and concrete for the film. The detritus was all attached to heavy
duty tables that could be rolled in and out as needed for the cameras. The
car itself had to be heavily cut, glued, shattered, and crushed for the
purposes of the film. By the end of filming, there wasn't much left that
could be called a car.
limited to one (very narrow) location mostly, how hard was it to keep
things interesting visually throughout?
Very. It was a
constant worry in my mind. “Who's going to want to watch a fat guy sit
in a car and complain for 90 minutes?” That was always at the front of
my mind when I was writing and shooting it so I purposefully placed
moments of levity, action, and set pieces whenever I felt the pacing was
getting too heavy or predictable. As simple as the film is, there's a lot
of tricks going on to keep the viewer engaged.
What can you
tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
always loved minimalism and shadow in film. I think the modern trend in
filmmaking is to have everything bright and neon, which after two hours
becomes a fatiguing visual slog. I wanted Lamp
Light to be heavy with
shadow. This fit thematically also but I think it gives the film a lot
more depth than if I lit it like a 90's sitcom with everything visible. It
adds to the claustrophobia and dread. There's a lot of Murnau's Nosferatu
also play the lead in Lamp
Light - so what did you draw upon to bring your character to life,
and have you written Don with yourself in mind from the get-go? And since
you're the only on-screen character for most of the film's running time,
what kind of a strain was it for you as an actor to carry the film on your
Let me be clear, I DID NOT want to be in
the film. I shot Lamp
Light over five years and late at night after my day job. I really
couldn't ask another actor to do that. I couldn't ask someone to be that
available. I knew that when I started writing it, but I'm not an actor.
The film's saving grace is that I owned all the camera gear and I was the
director so I could shoot a thousand takes and ONE of them would make me
look like I knew what I was doing. I'm my own harshest critic so there
were MANY nights of filming that were completely scrapped because I felt
the quality wasn't there. It was extremely stressful and doubt plagues you
the whole time. Luckily, I had an extremely supportive wife and ten tons
of personal dedication to help drag me through it.
What can you tell us about the rest of
your cast, and why exactly these people?
The wife character
is played by my college chum Kelly Hager. She's a really supportive and
eager actress, not to mention drop dead gorgeous so it was a no brainer to
cast her as the wife of a pudgy schlub like Don Gos. Lol. Joel King
was one of the hardest people to find. The voice of Gym had to be soothing
but somewhat maniacal. He had to play God and the Devil in many ways, so
finding someone to ride that line was a massive relief.
A few words
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
film about isolation. You never, but once, see Don and another character
in the same frame. Shooting it was just as lonely and emotionally derelict
as actually being entombed in a car... mostly because when shooting, I was
literally entombed in that real concrete and steel. Shooting it felt
authentic because it was. That's real glass on the seats and real iron
sticking out from the windows. Shooting the film caused real physical harm
and I've got more than a few scars from that damn makeshift backseat
tunnel. I would highly recommend using fake rocks/glass when making tunnel
collapse movies. Lol.
$64-question, where can your movie be seen?
Light will be available on DVD and digital stores July 30th.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of Lamp
At the 2018 Atlanta Film Festival,
Light received overwhelmingly positive reviews from everyone I
spoke to and the panels I sat on afterwards. After half a decade of blood,
sweat, tears, sleepless night, and countless bottles of Tums, it's nice to
see the film appreciated.
Any future projects you'd like to
I've got a fantastic genre script ready to go and
about three treatments waiting to be fleshed out but unfortunately, I
haven't run into any Saudi Princes with blank checks yet. Fingers crossed.
What got you into the filmworld to begin with,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
saw Blade Runner when I was 11, and from that moment on, being a movie
director was all I ever wanted to be. I went to Georgia State University
and graduated summa in Film and Television Production, but that was largely
a waste of time. I learned more in a week of filming Lamp
Light than four
years of film school.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Lamp
Mostly just industrial videos, personal
video experiments, student films, and local commercials.
Making movies, you wear many hats, both
in front of and behind the camera - so what do you enjoy the most, what
could you do without?
Editing is where the magic happens.
That's the real power of filmmaking. The director is just the monkey that
makes the raw mess and brings it to the editor. It's the editor’s job to
turn it into art. I loved editing. It's amazing how a simple single frame
or two can completely change the feeling of a scene. But you can keep
coloring. Color artists are warlocks that use unholy magic. I don't know
how they do what they do. It's hard and you never feel done. I never want
to do film coloring again.
Filmmakers, actors, writers who
Film is art but it's also a business. I like
directors that straddle that line. David Lynch doesn't give a shit about
the business of filmmaking, and Michael Bay doesn't even know that films
can be art. But in the middle, you have directors like Christopher Nolan
and Denis Villeneuve that really give you the best of both worlds. Crowd
pleasers that make you feel and make you in awe of what you're seeing.
Spike Jonze is pretty great too.
Your favourite movies?
Runner is the best movie, but my favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind. You make a film like that, you don't ever need
to make another. You've made a statement that will echo through time.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I'd rather be
locked in a cage with a drunk and horny gorilla than ever see another Transformers
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
anyone sees my film and feels ANYTHING, I've done my job. I want to hear
about it. Reach out and let me know. That's all my job is as a filmmaker
is to make the viewer feel something. Fear, joy, hate, whatever. If I'm
able to get one person to feel something, then all this work was worth it.
for the interview!