Your new movie Devil's
Path - in a few words, what is it about?
is, in the simplest of
terms, about two guys who meet on a gay cruising trail in the early 90s.
Through a series of circumstances they get chased off into the woods and
while trying to find their way out, everything starts to spiral out of
question, why make a gay cruising area the main location of your movie?
The movie is about making
assumptions and the consequences of those assumptions. I feel like when
it comes to gay culture and to a certain extent even gay cruising, there
is a certain amount of assumption and preconceived ideas from society. I
guess I wanted to represent that in some way. The truth is that during
the early stages of the process, it was just a state park. It wasnít
until we really started developing the characters that it turned into a
cruising park. It came alive at that point, and suddenly the environment
began to play a much more important character in the story.
sources of inspiration when writing Devil's
Path, and is any of the movie based on personal experience?
The movie isnít based on any
personal experience. I just wanted to do something different. There
arenít a lot of gay thrillers out there so I knew I wanted to explore
that genre. Also, when I was in film school at USC, I worked on a short
film that focused on mostly two characters and was also a gay thriller
and it kind of got the wheels turning. My biggest inspiration is
Hitchcock. I talk about him a lot actually because I believe heís one
of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Heís called the master of
suspense for a reason. He was really good at making you feel something
from what you didnít see as much as what you did see. I admire that
and try to emulate it. But when it comes to sources of inspiration, I
guess you could say that I was a little inspired by the movie Gerry.
can you tell us about your co-writer (and star) Stephen Twardokus, and
what was your collaboration like during the writing process?
Stephen Twardokus is one of the
most talented actors and writers that Iíve had the pleasure of working
with. He just understood the character of Noah from the get-go.
Collaborating with him was very easy because we had similar
sensibilities when it comes to tone. And at the same time, weíre also
very different writers so we would often bring different things to the
table and figure out how to meld them together. In a lot of ways itís
like cooking without a recipe. You experiment with this and that until
you get the taste just right. Stephen was excellent at bringing in some
levity to the characters and humor. I had a tendency of bringing in the
really dark moments. So when we really started crafting the story, there
was this nice up and down journey of these very complicated characters
in this very precarious situation.
just have to talk about your rather impressive location for a bit, and
what were the advantages but also challenges filming there?
We shot in two different locations.
One was a more manicured location, with clearly marked trails, etc. This
is the location at the beginning of the movie. The other location was
this seventy-something acre property that was just incredible. We shot
most of the middle of the movie in this location. It gave us some really
magnificent visuals. It was also very expansive so we actually only
filmed in a very small section of the property to keep us as close to
base camp as possible. The challenges were very physical. Lugging
equipment around, trying to level dolly track on uneven ground, poison
oak everywhere, and more. Plus the sun was constantly moving, as it
does. So youíre chasing light. It was the craziest experience Iíve
ever had. The other major challenge was that halfway through filming, we
had to evacuate because forest fires had sprung up a few miles from
where we were shooting. The fires, which started in Santa Rosa county,
ended up causing mass devastation throughout the area. It was very
scary. Obviously we were able to finish the movie but it wasnít easy.
That was our biggest challenge. Finishing what we started.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
I can say that I went in with the
intention of building a quiet tension. The movie starts off very
deliberate and paced for a reason. I wanted the audience to focus on two
things: the characters and the environment that they were in. So I used
primarily reds and oranges to represent certain aspects of both of the
lead characters. Stephen Twardokusís character, Noah, ends up in blue
at the end for a reason. I wanted to convey to the audience that
something has now changed in this character. Also, cinematically, I had
long discussions with my cinematographer, Stephen Tringali, about how
the camera would reflect the journey of these characters. So we got very
specific with our shots and used the dolly, for example, as a way of
pushing in slowly on the characters in order to build tension. We also
use the camera in a very stable way throughout the first half of the
movie. But by the end, the energy is much more frenetic, and so the
camera is too. I didnít want to overwhelm the audience with too many
visual tricks. I knew that it was important to keep it simple and
specific and allow the audience to connect with the characters and their
Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these
Stephen was always Noah. From the
very beginning. There was no question. Iíd been wanting to work with
Stephen in this capacity for a long time so this felt like the perfect
opportunity. And he knew this character inside and out from the start.
He has a way of delivering so much through his eyes and the smallest of
facial movements. He just ďbecomes the characterĒ and does a really
great job of making it feel grounded in reality. JD Scalzo as Patrick
was an entirely different story. We auditioned a lot of people for this
role. It was exhausting. But when JD walked in the door, he just grabbed
the character and made it his. He absolutely knocked it out of the park.
Casting him as Patrick was one of the best decisions I made throughout
this process because he has a respect for the craft that was necessary
for this character. Patrick has a journey just as much as Noah does. We
become very conflicted about who these characters are so it was crucial
to have an actor that could play that complexity with ease and
confidence. JD Scalzo has that confidence and downright talent in
A few words about the shoot as such, and the
The shoot was very short and very
fast. We didnít even have time for a blooper reel. It was a small crew
and obviously a small cast so it really became like a family very
quickly. The atmosphere, from my director perspective, was very relaxed
yet professional. There are always hiccups when you get any group of
people together but I have to say that I was surprised at how well everyone
got along and enjoyed working together. So much so that when we had to
be evacuated and come back three weeks later to finish filming, every
crew member came back. It was absolutely like a family. I love every
single one of those people.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Devil's
The reception has been mostly
positive. There was one review where they thought I used sound and music
too much. Haha! But the truth is that all those things were intentional
and placed there for a reason. Most of the reception has been very
supportive and thoughtful. For example, I recently screened in my
hometown and had someone come up and tell me how much they connected
with a certain aspect of the story because it meant something personal
to her. That was everything to me.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Iím working on a number of
projects right now. All thrillers. The one that Iím ready to share is
called Pullover. Itís about two boyfriends who are traveling cross
country after recently stealing some money from a family member, and
while in the middle of the desert at a diner, one of them goes missing.
initially entered the film business as an actor - so what got you into
acting, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I knew I wanted to be an actor as
far back as I can remember. Iíve never wanted to do anything else.
Thatís just all Iíve ever known. In terms of training, absolutely.
Iíve trained at a number of different places. I take the craft very
seriously. Itís the whole reason Iím now a storyteller that uses
structure in his writing. I believe the craft/training is the key to a
real and raw performance. I trained at USC School of Theatre, Point Park
Conservatory in Pittsburgh, Gregory Berger-Sobeck at The Berg Studio in
Los Angeles, and with various other coaches throughout Los Angeles.
made you pick up directing with Devil's
Path, and were you never tempted to cast yourself as one of the
characters in your movie?
It was just time. It was time for
me to direct. It was something that had been encouraged upon me for a
long time and I resisted it because I only thought of myself as an
actor. But by the time I got into film school, I realized that I had my
own stories that I wanted to tell now. And yes, with Devil's
was originally going to play the role of Patrick. This would have been a
HUGE mistake. Casting myself as Patrick was just my ego flexing itself I
think. When it really came time to seriously think about making this
movie, it became clear to me that if I was going to direct this movie,
then it made sense to focus on that and have another actor, the right
actor, step in and play that character. Iím so glad I made that
decision because I truly believe that one of the reasons the movie works
so well is because of the dynamic between Stephen and JD. Their
chemistry is evident. For me, as an actor, Iíve recently made the
decision that I will not cast myself in anything I direct for the
foreseeable future. Except for maybe a little cameo perhaps. As a
director, I want to be able to focus on that craft.
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Devil's
Path, in whatever position?
Aside from acting, I mostly
produced. It was my first experience with being on the other side of the
camera and I liked it. I worked with a production company called Guest
House Films co-producing and producing their first few films. During
that time I started writing. I had always been a writer, since a very
young age. But this was the first time I started writing with the intent
of telling a story that I wanted other people to read or see. I wrote a
few scripts, shorts and features, before finally landing on Devil's
Path. That was a journey all on its own. But I believe that it was
important that Devil's
Path be my first film as a director. It
represents the kind of filmmaker that I want to be and the kind of movie
that I want to make.
How would you
describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your
characters to life?
I feel uncomfortable trying to
describe myself as an actor. Maybe other people Iíve worked with are
better at answering that question. I can say this though. As a young
actor, I very much used to rely on my instincts. I would tap into my
emotions and just fly. Iíve always been a very sensitive dude so I can
cry at the drop of a hat, for example. Later, I started realizing the
importance of specificity in performance. So I started studying with
Gregory Berger-Sobeck at The Berg Studio, and itís through his training
to be honest that I really started understanding the concept of making
choices as an actor. I learned how to source from my environment and
explore more with my characters. Suddenly it became so much more fun and
unpredictable - and specific at the same time. Because it forces you to
make a decision about what your character really wants and how they will
go about getting it in those particular circumstances.
Actors, filmmakers, whoever else who
As I said earlier, Iím a huge
Hitchcock fan. But I feel like thereís a long list of actors and
filmmakers who inspire me and who have inspired me over the years for
various reasons. Here are just some filmmakers and actors off the top of
my head: Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher, Jodie Foster,
Bradley Cooper, Paul Newman, Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and many more.
But my father is my biggest influence and inspiration.
Your favourite movies?
This is such a tricky question
cause I feel like it ebbs and flows. Right now Iíve been watching The
Hitcher on loop. I love that movie. But Iím also a huge fan of Contact
with Jodie Foster, directed by Robert Zemeckis. Iím a big sci-fi fan
so I tend to gravitate toward watching sci-fi movies a lot. Arrival is
one of my favorite sci-fi movies. And then thereís the classics. Rope
is my favorite Hitchcock movie. I could go into a whole diatribe about
why Rope is such a great movie. Strangers on a Train is a close second
for me. I also love Night of the Hunter with Robert Mitchum, directed by
Charles Laughton. A new favorite movie of mine is this indie film, a
thriller called What Keeps You Alive. My taste is varied though. Cause
Iím also a huge fan of the Friday movies.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Nothing specific. Iím not
entirely sure that thereís a movie that I actually deplore. Even
ďbadĒ movies are a success just by the fact that they were able to
get made. I have a huge respect for anyone who can get a movie made,
even if itís perhaps not my cup of tea. I guess I could tell you that
in terms of taste, I tend to avoid sappy romance movies.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
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