Your new movie Optica
- in a few words, what is it about?
It's pretty simple. A guy decides to spend a night in a forest area
believed haunted by the locals and record his experience with a pair of
video glasses and a small nikon camera. It's a hoot. Something to do. He
doesn't take it seriously. Which unfortunately he should.
What were your
initial sources of inspiration when writing Optica
- and is any of the film based on actual urban legends or somesuch?
really started when my eight year old son made me aware of a point of view
video game called Slenderman. There were a few others I looked at
as well but basically, it's someone wandering alone through some dark and
mysterious space. I thought - that's a cool idea for a movie. Then I
thought, well, in the real world if I was walking about and some creature
popped out, the first thing I'm going to drop is the camera. So I needed a
way to keep the filming going even if the character was being chased
through the woods by something probably looking to rip his head off.
That's when I thought of using video glasses. Regards any urban or rural
legends, there is one in the film but we made it up.
a filmmaker yourself, to what extent can you identify with your main
character, and how much of David R. Williams can we find in him?
that all filmmakers are essentially voyeurs, I guess there's quite a bit
of me in the main character. But really the main character is all Chris
Philips. Other than a very loose outline, we had no script so all that he
does and all that he says, that's all straight out of Chris reacting to
can you tell us about your lead Chris Phillips, and why exactly him?
worked with Chris on Cleric, my cyberpunk
sci-fi film. He played the Punk
Howler and I loved his performance. I think he's one of the best things in
that film. Most of the dialogue he came up with on the spot while we were
filming his scenes. So I knew he could handle this role where really the
entire film was on him and his ability to be creative on the fly and keep
the interest of the viewer. Chris is also a pretty interesting character.
Very much into radical politics. He's been hauled off by the police more
than a few times for standing up for what he believes to be right.
Listening to Chris is a crash course in progressive political discourse.
talk about your writing partner Chris Gurnett, and what was your
collaboration like? And how did you first hook up to begin with?
G did volunteer work at the Buffalo Central Terminal which is where I
first met him. He was a production assistant on Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation
and during the down times on that shoot we'd talk about film and
filmmaking. I first approached him about getting into the terminal to
shoot Optica but because of a change in the board of directors over there,
that was no longer possible. He then mentioned that a friend of his had a
large tract of wooden land south of the city and possibly we could use
that. So we went back and forth on that and got to tossing out ideas and
one thing lead to another.
did you choose to make Optica
a found footage movie, and your thoughts about the genre as such? And
based on your experiences on this one, could you ever be tempted to make
another found footage film?
It really just came naturally
out of the concept of using the video glasses. It also allowed me to
compensate for a certain lack of continuity and any sound issues as with
found footage you can jump cut all you want, mess with the sound as much
as you want, and fuck around with the visuals as much as you want and
chalk it all up to damaged video files. I was also inspired somewhat
by the films of Stan Brakhage if you can believe that.
Part of Optica
was filmed with "video glasses" - at all a good filmmaking tool,
especially outside of found footage films?
I had the idea
of someone waking up in space trapped and alone with no idea of how they
go there, with video glasses surgically embedded into their face. I think
we only touched the surface of their potential. The only limitation
is that fully charged and shooting at HD you only have about an hour to
shoot before you need to recharge and dump the footage.
Do talk about
your locations for a bit, and how easy or difficult were they to find and
We were really out in the middle of nowhere with
roughly 50 acres of wooded land to play in. The land had a number of old
oil pumps on it as apparently the area had at one time been pretty rich in
oil but went bust early in the century. So that added an unusual visual
element. There was also a collapsed old house and a trailer straight out
of Texas Chainsaw that other than some scary drawings my eight year old
son provided, didn't need a bit of dressing. There was a mouse skeleton in
one of the rooms that unfortunately I didn't - or Chris didn't - get a
shot of. But it was plenty spooky. The land was fairly rugged, seemed we
were always trudging uphill. And there was no electricity. So once the sun
went down, it got pitch black.
What can you tell us about the shoot as such?
you add up all the days, we shot Optica
in about 3 days. We had one day
with Chris on the subway, one day with Chris P and Chris G at the art
gallery for their scene together, and then a marathon 24 hour shoot at the
land. There was no script, just an outline that basically said, Chris
tests his video glasses by taking a trip on the subway, Chris visits the
art gallery and talks to a friend who works there, Chris's car breaks down
and he spends a night in the woods... all particulars and all dialogue was
improv. I even make a cameo as the guy in the hall contemplating the blank
video screen. It was a fun shoot. The woods location was exhausting.
Originally we had planned on taking the footage we shot over these 3 days,
editing that together and then going back to shoot additional material.
Unfortunately Chris P became unavailable and so, we did what we did with
what we had. There is talk about remaking the film using the knowledge we
gained from the first go-round. We'll see.
few words about critical and audience reception of Optica
Like much of what I do, people either hate it or
love it. You either get what we were doing or you don't. It's a no
budget film made in 3 days. It is what it is.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
is finally going to see release. I just sent the review file to Amazon for
their eyeball and if all goes well it should be ready for VOD download or
DVD purchase by the end of August or early September. I may be doing some
post production work on Sean-Michael Argo's Sineater. That stars Melatha
Blackthorne interview - click here], who I've worked with on two films - this would make three. And
Tim O'Hearn who played the Chainsaw Howler in Cleric
and was one of the
"dwellers" in Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation. I also wrote and am producing
Manifestation, which will be directed by Shawn Anthony and stars Jessica
Felice. I believe production is slated for the fall. An idea for Red
Scream Vampyres II is also just starting to form.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
You can download
Optica at Amazon VOD:
for the interview!