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An Interview with David R. Williams, Director of Optica

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2014

Films directed by David R. Williams on (re)Search my Trash

 

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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?

 

It 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.

 

Being 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?

 

In 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 the moment.

 

What can you tell us about your lead Chris Phillips, and why exactly him?

 

I 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.

 

Do talk about your writing partner Chris Gurnett, and what was your collaboration like? And how did you first hook up to begin with?

 

Chris 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.

 

Why 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 film in?

 

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?

 

If 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.

 

A few words about critical and audience reception of Optica so far?

 

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?

 

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Find David R. Williams
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Cleric 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 [Melantha 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.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

You can download Optica at Amazon VOD: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00GNEC4S8

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

Thank you!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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Michael Haberfelner

 

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