Your upcoming movie Dark - in a few words, what is it about?
youíre asking for is a logline. Did you ever notice how hard loglines
are to write? I think the ninth circle of Hell may be a small humid room
where writers, who have committed some sin, are locked away and forced to
come up with loglines for scripts - forever. The best loglines are
deceptively simple. A lot of shared effort went into this, so here is the
logline for Dark:
disturbed young woman must confront her worst fears when she finds herself
trapped alone in a New York City loft during the 2003 blackout.
did the project come together in the first place, and whose idea was it?
Oh, and do you have any personal memories concerning the Northeast
Blackout of 2003?
I came up with the original concept while stuck in a house buried under
snow a couple of winters back. It seemed like the East Coast would be
buried in snow forever and I couldnít go anywhere and I was getting
cabin fever. I felt trapped and longing for hot weather.
Feeling kind of claustrophobic and anxious, I started to imagine a
simple concept for a film that would utilize the factual event of the 2003
blackout as a setting for a thriller about a young woman stuck, going
crazy, in an apartment and starting to believe someone was trying to stalk
and kill her in the darkness. That was the basic idea. So, I called my
longtime friend Elias [Elias interview - click here], who is also a filmmaker, and pitched him the idea
to see if he would want to develop the screenplay with me and I would
direct. That began many sessions on the phone with Elias, lasting late
into the night, with us discussing and developing the characters and
story. Especially the main character of Kate, whose state of mind is
really what the movie is about. The blackout is really the McGuffin.
What can you tell us about your writer
Elias [Elias interview - click here]
and your collaboration with him?
Elias and I met in film school back in the late nineties. We both went to
SVA in NY. I liked Elias because he made weird and extreme movies, but
always very personal films. Weíre both very different but also the same
in many ways. We would always work on each otherís student films and
help one another. There was comradery working together. Iím grateful
weíve grown as friends over the years and continue that collaborative
relationship. Elias and I will discuss an idea, then get into an argument
about some element of it, then through that come up with an even better
idea or solution which weíll both get excited about. Thatís how we
How did you get of all
people genre icon Joe Dante on board to executive-produce, and what is
that collaboration like?
Originally we started working with
another production company on this movie and were prepping to go into
production last summer, then the money fell through, not an unusual story
in the world of indie film, and we decided at that point to part ways with
that company. I started to shop the project around with the current
actresses attached and eventually I brought it to Joe Danteís company Renfield
Productions. They liked it, he liked it and now we are working
together to raise the funding through Kickstarter to get it going. Iíve
always been a huge fan of Joe Dante. I grew up loving Gremlins,
like any kid of the 80s, and also his other great movies like The 'Burbs,
The Howling, Piranha
and Innerspace. So, I was really happy and excited when he came on
board for Dark.
So what can you tell us about
the intended look and feel of your movie?
The concept for me always originated with the idea of - what if Cassavetes
told a Hitchcock story? I thought it would be interesting to have a movie
that starts off very much like a raw character piece, a NYC street
picture, and then have it gradually evolve into this suspenseful nightmare
after the blackout happens and night starts to fall. I am also intrigued
by the idea of telling an entire story from one single characterís
perspective. The audience only knows what she knows and what if that
perspective couldnít exactly be trusted as fact? So, early on the look
would feel very raw and real, almost observational, utilizing long lenses
and doing long takes. The longer lens will also turn the city into a blur
around her; she is a character who is very much in her own head. I also
like the idea of using the sound of the city as a character. Then as the
movie progresses into night, the blackout portion, we would incorporate
more wide angle lenses on a hand held camera. Iíve had a number of
conversations already with our DP Trent Ermes, we also did some tests with
cameras and lenses. Trent loves naturalistic lighting and a sort of less
is more approach to his cinematography which I think is exactly what this
From what I've
read, location seems to be one of the key elements of Dark
anything you can tell us about that aspect of your movie yet?
We have done some initial location scouts and there is a building in
Brooklyn we photographed that I like very much. Itís an old factory
building that has been converted into loft space. The interiors for this
film are definitely a main character, especially Kate and Leahís loft
space. Most of the action takes place in the loft and I was looking for
that older, industrial look that you can find in parts of Brooklyn.
can you tell us about your key cast and crew, and why exactly these
Kate, the main character
in this, is really important. She is in every scene and is the point of
view for the audience. So, we really needed to find an actress who not
only fit the physical description of the character but had a rich inner
life behind her eyes and could hold the attention of an audience for an
hour and a half. Also someone who would illicit sympathy from the audience
and possess a certain level of vulnerability mixed with paranoia. Whitney
Able is the right actress who has that ability and on-camera life to
embody all of those elements. I saw her in the Gareth Edwardís 2010 film
Monsters and completely fell in love with her on-camera presence. She and
Scoot McNairy basically carry that film themselves and there was a
naturalism mixed with a certain type of melancholy I saw in her that was
Kate. Whitney and I have discussed the character a lot and she understands
her. There is potential for a great tour-de-force performance by her.
Whitney also was the one who recommended Alex Breckenridge for Leah. Alex
is great on American Horror Story and because she and Whitney have a close
relationship in real life and Alex is also a photographer just like her
character in the movie, we all saw the opportunity to bring a rich history
to these characters by mining from their real experiences and then
building the characters from there.
As for the crew, Iím
working with many of the people I have worked with in the past on some of
my short films and the documentary American Carny. We have a trusted group
of people that, for the most part, already know each other and have
developed a short hand on set. Some of them worked with Elias on his film
Gut. Iím also looking forward to working with some new people on the
crew who I think will bring a lot of creative energy to the project!
As we speak, Dark is still in its
fundraising stages. So what can you tell us about your fundraising
We did a lot of preparation before we launched our Kickstarter campaign.
We spent the time on the videos and the rewards featured in the campaign.
We planned and discussed the social media aspect and press strategy. Our associate
producer and campaign manager Lauren Rayner specifically came on
board to work with us on all of this and sheís been a great asset.
Elias, Lauren, our other producers Kathryn Belli and David Boulton have
all worked hard to put a solid campaign together. We had a great first
week so far, raising over 22k in week one alone, and we just hope to keep
the campaign fresh as we continue and the excitement from the donors and
potential donors strong.
Once your funds are raised, how do you plan to
proceed, and any idea when the movie might be released yet (and I do
realize it's waaay too early to ask)?
Once the funds are raised we plan to make the movie
and then the real fun begins! It is very early to accurately forecast when
the actual release would be, but hopefully if we raise the money and we go
into production it would be sometime in late 2014 or early 2015.
projects beyond Dark you'd like to share?
There are two projects in the script stage I would like to do after Dark
is completed. One is a horror movie called Crawl Space (no relation to the
Klaus Kinski movie). We shot some test footage for that and cut it into a
teaser. That teaser can be seen on Vimeo. The other is a script Iíve
been developing with another writer called The Witching Hour. Itís a
strange picture. The best way I can describe it would be Ingmar Bergman
meets Lewis Carroll. Thatís all I can say for right now.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
Like I mentioned before, I studied film at
The School of Visual Arts in NY
with a focus on directing and editing. I always wanted to make movies
since I was a kid. I started making little amateur movies around the
neighborhood with my friends when I was like 10 or 12 with the familyís
home movie camera. Itís part of my DNA. I have always been a huge Star
Wars fan and Indiana Jones fan. Again, like any kid who was part of the
70s or 80s generation, those films by Lucas and Spielberg were very
influential. They were movies in the truest sense, with a capital M! They
still are! I can smell the popcorn talking about it! Joe Danteís movies
are the same!
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Dark?
I made several short films, a couple of which I won awards for, and the
feature documentary American Carny: True Tales from the Circus
For that I hung out with circus freaks and working acts for the better
part of two years. I spent a lot of time out at Coney Island.
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
That is a difficult and dangerous question to ask a young filmmaker. Iím
a work in progress. I can say that. I draw inspiration from all sorts of
places and Iím still developing my style. Thatís not to say that I
donít have a strong vision for my films or Dark
especially, I do, but I
am open to adjusting my process to achieve that vision as I learn and
develop as a filmmaker. I study the films and read a lot about all types
of directors. Everyone from Hitchcock to Bergman, from Kazan to Fellini,
from Spielberg to Woody Allen. What Iíve learned from studying all these
great directors and their films is that there is no one right way. Every
director is different and each one has a different process for getting
there. I try to pick up tricks of the trade to utilize in certain
scenarios and filter it through my own sensibility. Whatever the influence
is though, itís still filtered through me and hopefully what comes out
on the other side and makes it to the screen will represent that. Itís
also the shared process of all your collaborators, and as I get older I
find myself more open to relying on their input. Iím not afraid to say I
donít know exactly what I want here, I know what I donít want, so why
not let the actors play a bit and show me. Same thing with key members of
my crew who Iíve established trust with. I think people respect and
appreciate that kind of collaboration.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Well I already mentioned
some of them in the previous question. For this project specifically
Hitchcock and Cassavetes are inspirations. Also Polanski and Antonioni.
Other directors I love are the Coen Brothers, Orson Welles, Akira
Kurosawa, Quentin Tarantino, Lina WertmŁller, Martin Scorsese, David Lean
and perhaps the best director who ever lived Stanley Kubrick.
Jaws, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark,
Touch of Evil, The Seven Samurai, Seven Beauties, Raging
Bull, The Big Lebowski,
Ed Wood, An American Werewolf in London, The Wizard of
Oz, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, West Side
Story, All That Jazz, Meet Me in St. Louis,
Itís a Wonderful Life, Empire of the Sun, Pinocchio, The Grapes of
Wrath, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, A Night at the
HallÖ those are the ones for today.
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I hated the new Superman-movie
Man of Steel. Also anything from
Roland Emmerich, Stephen Sommers, or Michael Bay. On the flip side of
that coin I also find Jean-Luc Godard boring.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook,
Kickstarter, whatever else?
Anything else you're dying
to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Yes, one: I really want
to thank you for asking me to do this! Two: I would one day love to
produce and direct a new bunch of holiday specials for Halloween and
Christmas. I love those old holiday specials and they really donít make
them anymore. Iím talking about those great Rankin/Bass stop motion ones
like Rudolph and Mad Monster Party. I also love The Great
Garfieldís Halloween and Ziggyís Gift. Someone needs to make new ones
in that classic nostalgic style. Tim Burton and Henry Selick kind of did
with The Nightmare Before Christmas, but I would like to make a few in my
lifetime that would become part of the annual holiday viewing. I just love
for the interview!