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An Interview with Kevin Del Principe, Director of Up on the Glass

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2020

Films directed by Kevin Del Principe on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Up on the Glass - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Up on the Glass is about a wanderer, Jack DiMercurio, who secretly desires the life and wife of his more affluent friend. One heinous act makes this possible, but Jack finds living his friendís life is a dangerous lie.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Up on the Glass?

 

For a film, the 1963 movie The Servant directed by Joseph Losey and screenplay written by Harold Pinter was an influence. The character-work of Patricia Highsmith was also an inspiration. Also, personally, I grew up in a working-class environment in Western New York. This, above all things, was the greatest influence in creating the character of Jack and making this film.

 

What can you tell us about your writing partner (and producer) Nikki Brown [Nikki Brown interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like? And what can you tell us about your previous collaborations, and how did you first meet even?

 

Nikki is great and I love her.

We first met as students in film school back in 2011. We were both in the MFA Writing for Screen & Television program at the University of Southern California. Back then we were friends. After school, we became a couple and started working together, and then collaborated to make a couple of short films. Now we are married and Nikki is Nikki Del Principe! Itís been a great journey together creatively and personally. I trust her above all and appreciate her partnership tremendously.

 

To what extent could you actually identify with Up on the Glass's Jack - or with Andy for that matter?

 

Iíve always felt like a Jackóa little on the outside of whatever environment Iíve been in. Regardless of being considered less than or even put on a pedestal at times socially, Iíve always felt that these external definitions are lacking and donít speak to my essence. I think this is likely true for lots of people. The human condition is a complex one and the powerful institutions that try to box in that experience for their own benefit reduce humanity to commodity. In the recent album The Ever Fonky Lowdown by Wynton Marsalis, the narrator named Mr. Game explains that lies about freedom are sold in order for the system to sustain power. I like that interpretation of institutional power. Jackís aware of the power-game that institutions play and that most people accept, but he canít quite figure out how to use these corrupt institutions to actualize his potential. Perhaps this is because the reality of the corrupt power-game disgusts him. It could be because heíd have to compromise his humanity in order to climb in these corrupt systems. Maybe in this way heís right to find playing the power-game, and the compromises that entails to be supposedly successful, odious.

 

Though I find Andy fairly different from my own experience, I appreciate that he has mixed feelings about his behavior. Heís not a terrible person; heís just grasping for meaning in the wrong places. I imagine it has to be pretty confusing to be put on a pedestal and to have just enough self-awareness to realize that this is fairly arbitrary. The danger of tokenism is the token-few thinking that theyíve really done something special and completely deserve their success. Also, Andyís success as it is external, through money, etc., is ultimately empty.

 

A few words about your movie's approach to the thriller genre?

 

I think our approach goes a bit back in timeÖ to Hitchcock, etc., and to movies that are not made as often these days - in particular, by the big US studios. In the film, we lean on character and take our time without concern for a big spectacle or glorification of violence that supposedly sells. We bet on the idea that people who watch movies, not necessarily big-money or industry people, are still curious about the human experience. There is a moral aspect of this thriller that, hopefully, allows an audience to reflect on their own experience, and offers questions and not easy answers.

 

Do talk about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I created a spine (which is an active phrase that can be articulated and drawn upon; for more info see Elia Kazanís essay Style and Spine) and tried to consider that in all my decision-making, so that there would be unity in the film. I did my best to remain steady throughout the process and serve the story.

 

What can you tell us about Up on the Glass's cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Chase Fein as Jack DiMercurio: Chase was able to express Jackís complex internal life subtly and then reveal more and more as the film allowed. He also brought an incredible amount of enthusiasm to the set.

 

Chelsea Kurtz as Liz Shelton: Chelsea was able to embody Lizís gravity yet her vulnerability. We were all anticipating her arrival in the middle of our shooting schedule and appreciated her boost of energy when she joined us.

 

Hunter Cross as Andy Shelton: Hunter understood and manifested Andy complexity. On a surface level, Andy is confident and competitive; but underneath he is unsure of himself and his choices. Hunter also really valued teamwork, which is something that is very important to me.

 

Steve Holm as Donald ĎMozeí Mosely: In the film, Steveís character, Moze, was the buffer between Jack and Andy. Off camera, Steve was also a welcome member of the team who helped keep us all together. I really appreciate how Steve was able to find the sadness behind Mozeís big personality.

 

Jessica Lynn Parsons as Becca Sinclair: Jessica Lynn Parsons was originally from Michigan and that was a bonus. As Becca, she was able to help us understand Beccaís motivation for trying to hold whatever power she had over Liz. And I really loved her singing voice.

 

Burke Sage as Bob McKenzie: Burke gave us a sense of decency and sincerity to the character that was so important. It was also great that he lived in Michigan too.

 

Nikki Brown (now Del Principe) as Kate Green: Nikki understood the character and gave us the kindness and generosity we needed separate from the troubles of the other characters. With so many variables in making a film, I knew I could rely on Nikki to bring Kate to life.

 

Where was Up on the Glass actually filmed, why there, and what was it like shooting there?

 

We filmed in a beach community on Lake Michigan in the town of Shelby, Michigan in the United States. Really, it was amazing shooting in that area; very beautiful, and overall, the community was incredibly supportive. Part of the focus of our film company Save Them Wild Dogs, and in this film in particular, is to show the beauty of areas in America that are often overlooked in mainstream entertainment.

 

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

 

We really hoped to build out a family environment on set. For instance, we ate home-cooked meals together that were prepared by volunteers from the local community. One of the great difficulties in filmmaking these days, whether indie or industry, is not only creating a constructive environment for creating art but also sustaining it. I am proud that we had a nice environment on-set and laid the foundation for future collaboration among many who contributed their talents.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Up on the Glass?

 

I think itís fair to say some people really get what we are trying to do. A lot of these people seem to be working people, or in the least understand a working-class environment. Working people are lots of people and are the audience I care the most about, because working people raised me. In terms of critical reception, so far, I think some critics are noticing and appreciating our influences as well as the thematic elements.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Nikki and are developing a novel I wrote called I Animal (published by Tumbleweed Books) into a feature film through our production company, Save Them Wild Dogs. Weíve also recently expanded our company too by creating a small press literary arm called Save Them Wild Dogs Press. Our first publication through Save Them Wild Dogs Press will be a book of poetry by an American poet, Brian Brogan, who now resides in Ireland. His book is called Tracking the Masked Dawn and we are excited for its release this fall. Furthermore, on another literary note, I am nearly finished with a book of short stories.

 

What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

When I was young, I loved music and lyrics. Later, I became interested in poetry and then playwriting. Writing for the stage led to a blossoming curiosity in filmmaking. Though I always loved movies since I was a child, it wasnít until my mid-twenties until I really considered the possibility that I could actually make films of my own. That led me to formal training in the MFA program in Writing for Screen & Television at the University of Southern California.

 

What can you us about your filmwork prior to Up on the Glass?

 

I started out writing a webseries in my second year of graduate film school with my friend and classmate David Ngo. It was a three-part comedy called Hard Case: Murder in Swan Pond. His wife Jin Yoo-Kim directed the series and the three of us produced it. Afterwards, David and I made a dramatic short film together that we co-directed. Then, David and I further expanded the webseries world by creating a second installment of Hard Case content along with Jin and our friend and mentor from the University of Southern California, Mark Shepherd.

 

At that point, Nikki and I started producing short films together that we co-wrote, she acted in, and I directed. These shorts were Those Little Monsters and Fashion of the Wolf, and both premiered in back to back years at the Other Venice Film Festival in Venice, California. We found some community at the festival and enough encouragement and learning through the short filmmaking process to begin our feature film journey with Up on the Glass.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Iíd describe myself as a director much the way I would as a personÖ most often exhibiting a still exterior but with lots of swirling currents under the surface. I strive to create an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable in order to explore, collaborate, and seek the truth in the work.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Jeff Nichols, Alfred Hitchcock, Michelangelo Antonioni, Sydney Lumet, etc.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Here are a bunch of movies that meant something to me from my childhood until today: Heat, Winterís Bone, The Servant, Willow, The Departed, The Passenger, The Empire Strikes Back, Unforgiven, etc.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I really donít like films with too much gore or slashing or torture. I suppose Iím a little squeamish. But really, I have a problem with violence that is made cinematically attractive because violence is never beautiful, in my view.

 

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Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Film website: http://www.upontheglass.com/

Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @upontheglass

 

My website: https://kevindelprincipe.com/

Facebook: @kevindelprincipe

Twitter: @kevdelprincipe

Instagram: @kevdel22

 

Company Website: http://savethemwilddogs.com/

Facebook: @SaveThemWildDogs

Twitter: @STWDFilms_Press

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

I just want to say thank you for the interview and I wish you all the best!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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On the same day
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directed by
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written by
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