Your new movie Convergence
- in a few words, what is it about?
is the a psychological thriller following an arson detective as he tries
to unravel the mysteries surrounding a series of explosions while being
chased by a religious zealot and hunted by some sort of shadowy entities
in an abandoned hospital.
when writing Convergence?
the long version and the short...
truth of it - the story unfolded to me one day when I forgot my
sunglasses. That's it.
The long version is that
I've always seen horror and sci fi as the most entertaining devices to
challenge an audience. I love it when on the surface a film seems
like one thing, but as the story rolls on various layers are reveal
adding tremendous depth. It's even more fun when those layers are
part of a genre film. Most horror/thriller films don't really
scare me as they always feel a bit too separated from me. So when
I began outlining Convergence
I wanted to isolate the villain who would
in "real" life scare me - and that is a religious zealot.
I grew up in the South, so religion is part of our lives, but I
also grew up during the height of the late 80's/90's violent
anti-abortion movement. Many of the primary violent attacks at
abortion clinics either took place in my home city or in Pensacola, FL -
a mere 40 miles away. That made for a very honest backdrop for the
characters. Daniel (played by Ethan Embry) is actually based on
the terrorist who bombed an abortion clinic in Birmingham, AL and later
set off a pipe bombs during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, GA.
It's the idea that
religion at it's core teaches peace and understanding and yet there are
people who have figured out how to manipulate these teachings into the
most dangerous weapon of mass destruction.
you also tackle subjects like religion and the afterlife - your personal
thoughts on these subjects?
I am not one to be directly
associated with any 'formal' religious group, but my personal spiritual
beliefs are aligned with Christianity. That said, I love movies, be
it R-Rated or not, so for me, I wanted to make a series of realistic
portrayals of people with similar beliefs, but each is challenged in their
faith in a very personal way. I feel like there is an afterlife, but
I also feel like it might not be as cut and dry as mankind has made it.
Dante's Purgatorio was a huge influence on some of the narrative
mechanics in the film.
How would you describe your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
There are several key
factors that went into the our approach as a creative team.
This marks my second
feature with DP Kevin Duggin. He is an incredible director of
photography and it shows in his work. We knew from the onset that
there were going to be several "looks" in the film. So
we designed our shot structure around those looks. We created a
series of guidelines for the locations and I mapped out the blocking to
accentuate those angles as best we could. The goal was to make
every set in the film feel believable, yet still tease the brain with
the "wait what?" factor. There were lots of massive
lighting set ups in order to benefit the shift in looks.
Another key for my work
is in the art direction. Due to the complexity of the story we
wanted to make sure that the building felt timeless. Production designer
Mark Terry and his set decorator Kim Murphy spent hours selecting the
right pieces for every set. There wasn't just a rush out and grab
to fill space - every item has a purpose. The signs marking the
floors for example correlate with numerology in Dante's Purgatorio.
Mark and I went through each space and made sure that each set
aligned with the emotional state of the characters. The structure
itself is basically two buildings connected by a long hallway. The
West tower is 5 floors and the East is only 3 - and their shapes are
octogonal and rectangular - but we didn't want it to feel like two
buildings. Just one massive one.
Jerrid Jones, post audio
supervisor, and I have worked together on 6 films. We have a solid
language between us, but for Convergence
we knew that from the onset the
sound design would help direct the viewers - so we basically designed
sound sketches of the entire film before we started production. Of
course, we adjusted those in post via the wisdom of John Frost, the
re-recording mixer from Sonic Pool.
VFX on a budget can be
tricky - moreover, they're really tricky when the actor has nothing to
interact with. We basically shot every single VFX shot with the
shadow people twice. Once with several actors dressed in black who
could interact with the actor then we'd pull the shadow doubles out and
shoot it again for VFX. My business partner has a strong VFX
background working with WETA Digital in New Zealand. His knowledge
of on-set needs met perfectly for the VFX artists in post (also from New
Zealand). We had one more local VFX team member who did the non
creature based VFX [gunshots, paint outs, bullet holes]. Charles
is a trooper as late in the edit we decided to drop a scene which forced
us to have to paint out a gunshot wound on a character, but Charles
Convergence is the first
film with editor Shane Hazen. He is an accomplished writer so his
understanding of a through-line was fantastic. His past work on
several of Terrence Malick's films meant that he deeply understood
subtlety - which was tremendously valuable in telling a story like Convergence. He's also extremely fast - so that meant we could
explore variations on the through-line without disrupting our schedule.
We made some difficult choices and Shane invented some brilliant
solutions. Just after the 2nd explosion there is a quick montage
of the chaos that was engulfing the world. Those shots were made
up from the heads and tails of the roll. Shane had that piece
earmarked from day one of post. It still gives me goosebumps.
Music is deeply important
in my work. Since the film is set in 1999 we wanted to make sure
that the audience felt that right away. Ken, the music supervisor,
had some great ideas in regard to finding the right tracks for those
cues. Having Santa Monica in there by Everclear was all Ken and I
love it. The score was a completely different beast. Page
Hamilton and Patrick Kirst have worked with me on 4 of my 5 films.
We are all just comfortable with one another. I trust those
guys blindly as I know what to expect. The film came in under
budget so the investor that backed us gave permission to spend
additional monies on the score. Patrick and Page arranged their
cues to be recorded at the Bastyr Chapel in Seattle with members of the
Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Seeing your film live scored - dream
come true. I have the score on my iPhone and listen too it from
time to time. It's just so beautifully tragic.
about your key cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
the most part was the best casting experience of my career. I have
this list of actors who I'd like to work with one day and Clayne
Crawford, Ethan Embry, and Mykelti Williamson are all on that list. So when it came time,
producer Scott Robinson, and I were able to reach out to the talent I
had envisioned - and then they blew it away with their performances.
I was familiar with
Clayne's work on Rectify and had really been drawn to his abilities
coupled with the fact that I knew he was a southerner - important for
that Atlanta accent. I grew up watching Ethan Embry, but it was
his performance in Cheap Thrills that put him over in my mind. He's
got this ability to have the most caring eyes in the world, and yet they
can express vengeance in a way that deeply hits your heart. I've
been a fan of Mykelti Williamson since Forrest Gump, but his role as
Fearless on the tv show Boomtown really solidified his place on my
"list". He is so incredibly genuine and honest about his
characters. The role of Saul Miller was tricky as he is easily the
most covert of all the characters in Convergence. His clarity is
never truly revealed until late into the film.
I've worked with the
extremely talented Chelsea Bruland before. For starters, she is
soooo much fun to have around, but she is also an extremely strong
actress. Couple that with her background in stunts and you get the total
package. Her take on the Nurse character was so creepy/weird, yet
heartbreaking, that she had all of us at the monitors transfixed any
time she was on screen.
I tend to personify
people from my life in my filmic characters and Esther was an
amalgamation of both my Mother and my late Aunt. I was very
protective of that role and thankfully, so was Laura Cayoutte. She
just got it - there's a scene where her performance forces me to tears
no matter how many times I've seen it.
your film mostly shot at a single location (it looks like it anyways) -
what can you tell us about this location of yours, how did you find it,
and what was it like filming there?
knew when writing it that the location needed to be as charasmatic as
the characters in the film. The hospital where the majority of the
film took place had been closed for around 6 months, but the company in
charge of it kept a full time maintanence team on staff. Once we
toured it, we all left with a very Shining-like feeling. This
massive but empty structure that was a labrynth of hallways and
corridors had it's own character to it. In 98% of the hospital it
was as if everyone just got up and walked out one day - the feeling of
abandonement was perfect considering the subject matter.
mapped out Ben's journey using the blueprints provided to us by the
location. It is technically impossible to move around that
building the way that he did. The DP, Kevin Duggin, and I spent
hours making sure that the screen direction of each intro/outro further
enhanced the disorrienting nature of the hospital - it fits with Ben's
journey and frankly, navigating a hospital in the real world isn't so
What can you tell us
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
If you can't tell
already, I'm a big proponent of the crew. Most of these guys and
gals I've worked with before, but even the new ones we hired are
considered part of the family from day one. Scott and I believe
that a happy crew is an effective crew. I work really hard to make
sure that any changes issued are in consideration of the entire staff.
The crew follows the emotional tide of the set - when we can be
loud and laugh, we do... lots, but when we need to show that quiet
resolve for cast - its immediate. There's rarely any yelling, but
in the few cases that volumes may flare, it's often attributed to
passionate people expressing their belief for making the film better -
but again... that occurance is extremely rare. We try and set up
from the onset that this is a collective work under the creative
supervision of a director and fiscal leadership under a producer.
The cast is a totally
different scenario. In the end, we are riding on their backs.
We are successful if they feel trust, appreciation, and are given
the tools to accommodate their task. I always try and give them as
much or as little space as they need in order to set the mood for the
scene. Meanwhile, we do our best to make sure they are happy - the
less interference, the cleaner the signal.
The last bit to note... we
had quite a few 'odd' occurrences. Everything from seeing people
who weren't there, to being whispered to, and ultimately moments that
felt as if a major pitfall had overtaken us, only to see that pitfall
was meant as a moment of redirection/redemption. Every day the
slogan of "everything happens for a reason" became more and
more evident. For me it was a spiritual thing - God turned
problems into amazing opportunities.
you can tell us about critical reception of your movie yet, and when will
it be released onto the general public, however tentatively?
far we have been blessed with nothing but positive reviews. We
played an indie festival in New Orleans and won both Jury and Audience Awards for Best Picture. The small sample screenings we did were
amazing. People kept asking when they could see it again. We're
in the process of negotiating the release dates. There's been one
common result of all the viewings - people want to see it on the big
screen and, of course, I agree as the filmmaker, but as a viewer we
structured, framed, and mixed the film for a theatrical release. I
think audiences are hungry for unique cinematic experiences and I believe
that independent film is the best vehicle to deliver that.
future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
We are just finishing up
post on a comedy called Nigel and Oscar Vs. The Sasquatch. It's a
great movie with an incredible cast including Neil Flynn, Tim Meadows,
Paul Brittain and the hilarious Adam Herschman. It should be
making the rounds in a few months...I hope.
also in prep on a bigger budget science fiction fantasy film called Aether. It's a steampunk
fantasy about a group of outcasts who must band together to defend their
homeland from a power hungry political saboteur, outlander assassins,
and a ruthless chancellor obsessed with keeping his floating city
kingdom sky born.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
@frame29films and mine is @teslapunk
for the interview!