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An Interview with James Dylan, Director of [Cargo]

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2018

Films directed by James Dylan on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie [Cargo] - in a few words, what is it about?


[Cargo] is a new thriller film about a millionaire businessman who awakens trapped inside a cargo container with only a cell phone to wile his way out. His kidnappers give him 24 hours to raise ten million dollars or they'll kill him and his kidnapped trophy wife.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing [Cargo]?


One man films I'd seen over the years, Castaway with Tom Hanks, All is Lost with Robert Redford, Brake with Stephen Dorff, Buried with Ryan Reynolds, Locke with Tom Hardy. All films that basically took place with a man trapped in one location.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror for a bit!


With [Cargo] I wanted the film to be largely left to the viewer's imagination. The voices and sound effects the main character hears over the phone is sort of akin to a 1930s or 1940s radio play, where the listener's imagination creates a movie in their own mind.


With [Cargo] being entirely shot in one cargo container - what was it like filming there, and what were the challenges to keep things visually interesting throughout?


We shot the film in a rented 30 foot cargo container we placed in the front yard of my cinematographer Chris Gosch's new home. We originally wanted a 40 container yet when delivered it wouldn't fit in the front yard so we had it replaced the next day with a 30 foot container. I was concerned it wouldn't be big enough yet all those concerns went away when it was delivered, it was the size of a tank almost.


In terms of keeping it visually interesting I just made out a shot list and went with what felt right for the emotion of each scene. For some scenes we spun around the actor to heighten the emotional punch of the scene. For others we used a still camera in a one point perspective shot. For others we did extreme closeups or crane shots. It just depended on the scene.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?


The important thing is keeping the story moving, keeping the audience engaged, entertained and intrigued.


Now acting-wise, [Cargo] is pretty much carried by its lead Ron Thompson, who is in practically all of the shots - so what can you tell us about Ron, how hard was it to find an actor who could deliver that kind of performance even, and what was it like directing just one actor?


I was a fan of Ron's 1981 animated rock film American Pop, directed by Ralph Bakshi. I finally met Ron on Facebook and we finally got a chance to work together on [Cargo]. Working with one actor in one 30 foot location you can shoot pretty fast even though we were getting several takes of each scene and setup.


What can you tell us about your voice cast, and why exactly those people?


Some of the actors such as Jose Rosete who plays the voice of Merc I had worked with before. Others were actors who were friends of me or Ron who I felt were right for the roles, like Matthew Rosvally who plays Evan or Danika Fields who plays Susan or my producer J.C. Macek III [J.C. Macek interview - click here], who plays multiple voices in the film and is also the author of the [Cargo] novelization that was published earlier this year by UK publisher Bloodhound Books. The novel had two covers, the original cover and a special movie tie-in cover with lead actor Ron Thompson on the cover.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


It was a fun yet challenging shoot. Ron Thompson, our lead actor, said it best, "The best thing is I'm in every scene! The worst thing is? I'm in every scene!"


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of [Cargo]?


The audience and critical reaction has been largely positive. I've been very happy with the response so far.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I'm working a new horror thriller script now, a found footage genre film.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I grew up loving movies of all genres, thriller, horror, comedy, drama, science fiction, action. Arthouse cinema and Hollywood films. Films were a passion of mine and I wanted to try my hand at making my own.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to [Cargo]?


I shot a few short films, wrote a number of screenplays, the usual.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I try to pay attention to all the details, I'm already thinking about the editing when we're shooting on set so I try and get as much coverage as possible. Every shot in a film is important.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Park Chan-wook, Stanley Kubrick, Sam Raimi, George Miller, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Dario Argento, Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, Joel and Ethan Coen, Hal Hartley, Paul Thomas Anderson, George Lucas, Wes Anderson.


Your favourite movies?


There Will Be Blood, Barton Fink, A Clockwork Orange, Oldboy, Blood Simple, Goodfellas, The Shining, Taxi Driver, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, No Country for Old Men, Deep Red, Evil Dead 2, Blue Velvet.


Films you really deplore?


Films where the director doesn't even seem to be trying. I'm a fan of a certain horror director that will remain nameless. His early films were excellent but in the later films it seems like he isn't making an effort to make a good film. Hopefully he gets his filmmaking mojo back someday.


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


Anything else you're dying to tell us which I've merely forgotten to ask?


Feeling lucky ?
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Your shop for all things Thai

Please check out [Cargo]! Check out the official novelization. And please check out the official [Cargo] soundtrack composed by Tangerine Dream's Thorsten Quaeschning. I placed an ad on Craigslist seeking a composer for [Cargo] who could compose a Tangerine Dream-like score. One of Thorsten's team saw that there was a movie seeking Tangerine Dream music and Thorsten ended up responding to the ad. We spoke over the phone and later via Skype and collaborated to make what I think and a number of music critics think is a brilliant score. Thorsten truly outdid himself. He recorded the album with his other band called Picture Palace Music. The album features musical performances by two out of three of the current band members of Tangerine Dream, Thorsten Quaeschning and violinist Hoshiko Yamane. Working with Thorsten was a fantastic experience.


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you, sir!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD