Your new movie Total
Performance - in a few words, what is it about?
This is always the tricky one! I think, if I can make it as pithy as
possible, I'd say that Total
Performance is about conflict,
and how people will do whatever they can to avoid discussing what's really
is any of the basic premise of Total
Performance based on actual fact, and since I presume job-wise
you're surrounded with quite a few actors, did any anecdotes of their
world (and of yours) find their way into your movie?
as I know, there aren't any companies that do the work that is depicted in
the movie, but it certainly seems like the kind of service that could
exist. While I don't recall adding any anecdotal flavor from the actors
into the movie, I did have an interesting exchange where a friend of mine
watched the movie, and she told me that she saw a lot of herself in the
character of Cori. She even told me that she has pulled a similar
"move" to what Cori does in a scene which takes place out on the
street at night with Tim. I thought that was an interesting admission on
in a way, Total
Performance is about relationships - so did you sneak any of your
own experiences into the movie?
I'm sure everyone has had
those moments where it's been hard to really express yourself to someone
else. I've certainly been there in job situations, or amongst family!
There's nothing in the movie that's directly lifted from my own
experience, but I tried to make any particular situation as specific as
possible, even if it was invented whole-cloth.
(Other) sources of
inspiration for Total
There are all kinds of small
influences, but I definitely remember watching a short film by Jason
Headley called To Say Goodbye, and feeling very moved by it. I
think Jason is an incredibly talented (and hilarious) filmmaker, but this
short had such a unique premise and a deliberate tone. People should watch
the movie, so I won't spoil much. I'll just say that it also deals with an
invented (I think) business, and the complications that might arise. It
got me thinking about other areas where a business could crop up to help
people in weird ways, but it took a long time between that initial
inspiration and the writing of the script for Total
anyone is interested in watching Jason's short, here's a link:
Do talk about your movie's brand of
humour for a bit!
That's a really hard one to answer! I'm
interested in those little moments that linger at the ends of
conversations, where things turn oddly transactional. I think we sometimes
wish we could simply say "alright, we're done talking now, I
think." People don't talk like that, but their behavior usually ends
up saying plenty at that moment. I have a few beats in the movie that
depict that, which probably make up the majority of the humor in the film,
at least in my eyes!
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
I really wanted to keep
the movie (for the most part) in the perspective of Cori, and to let the
grammar of the filmmaking reflect her sense of self. There are three basic
acts of the movie, and we worked to do different things photographically
and directorially to mirror how she's feeling about herself in each stage.
The movie starts off at its most stylish, because Cori feels invincible. I
used to describe her as "completely confident that she's the most
interesting person in whatever room she's in." With that in mind, the
first few scenes of the movie are glossier, slicker and the performances
are just a tad bit more arch. We shot these first few scenes with an
anamorphic adapter, which gives these scenes a distinctive lensing that
you usually associate with big-budget Hollywood fare. The camera is also
moving much more gracefully, with slow dolly moves for the most part.
As we get through the
middle of the movie, we ditched the anamorphic adapter, and just shot with
traditional lensing. The lighting became a bit more modern, and the
camera, while still moving smoothly on a dolly, has a slightly different
character to it. Even though we aren't shooting anamorphic anymore, we
still cropped in on the top and bottom of the frame to match the aspect
ratio of the anamorphic footage. In a way, we're "faking" that
Hollywood look in the middle, which is meant to mirror Cori's actual
day-to-day. She's still interesting, but not quite as impressive as she
described herself to Tim on their date.
When we get to the final
sequence, we scrapped the crop, changed the aspect ratio to 1.85, and the
camera is now completely handheld. This is probably the most aggressive
switch in the film, but it should feel that way (and I hope it does). The
performances also change a bit here, to a looser, more realistic cadence.
It becomes much more about how people actually talk: complete with
"umms" and awkward pauses, as opposed to slicker banter. We're
still in Cori's perspective, and at this stage of the movie, there's no
more artifice for her to hide behind.
I need to point out that,
if any of that came across, it's because of the unbelievably talented
people whose shoulders I humbly stand on. All of the actors, but
especially Tory Berner and Steven Conroy, are responsible for all of the
honesty and humanity in the film. The movie doesn't work if these two
characters don't feel real, and I was blown away with what they did. The
same goes for our unbelievable crew, especially our DP Chris Loughran, who
was in lock-step with me from the get-go. We very much speak the same
language cinematically, and we're always pushing each other to tell the
story well from a visual perspective.
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
is a major part of my job as a director, but so much of it is instinctual.
That was certainly the case with all of the roles in the film. For Tory
Berner, I was immediately struck by her sense of confidence. Even her
initial read of Cori was as a strong, unflappable person. Steve Conroy's
inherent honesty and warmth was really striking for me, and made his
portrayal of Tim all the more interesting, especially given what he ends
up doing by the end of the film.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
atmosphere on set was, at least from my perspective, incredibly warm and
encouraging. Creating an environment where everyone feels like they can do
their best work is extremely important to me. I can't control whether or
not anyone will like what we've made when it's finished, so I don't really
concern myself with that. The things that I can control are
things like the atmosphere on set. I want the cast and crew to enjoy
themselves, and to want to come back whenever we make something else. I've
been really lucky to receive some encouragement on behalf of cast and crew
that speak to a success on that front, which means a lot!
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
can check the movie out on Vimeo at
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
far, it seems like people are digging the movie, which is great to hear.
I'm particularly honored that critics such as yourself have found the
movie and are pushing it out there to more and more people. A 17 minute
short film with a few tonal shifts isn't necessarily going to be
everyone's cup of tea, but I'm really glad that some people are
recommending our brand of tea to their followers!
future projects you'd like to share?
I'm in the early
stages of pre-production on a web series that I'm really excited about, as
well as a few writing projects that will hopefully turn into things that I
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
I didn't really catch the bug until just
before college, and since I was a bit of a late bloomer, I wasn't able to
attend a typical film school. That said, I did receive a lot of really
great instruction and practical training at Boston College. The program
was small, but we had a really tight-knit group of student filmmakers that
were passionate and soaked up everything that the professors threw our
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Total
I've made a number of
shorts of varying quality throughout college and post-grad, but Total
Performance was my most deliberate attempt at a short film since
my senior thesis film Waste of Space.
That said, my "day
job" is as a videographer/cinematographer, so even if I wasn't
cranking out a lot of serious shorts over the last few years, I've been
spending a lot of time making all sorts of videos for my clients. It kept
me (relatively) sharp, while allowing me to make a living doing something
that's at least adjacent to my ultimate goals.
How would you describe yourself as
Filmmakers who inspire you?
are a ton, but filmmakers like Rian Johnson, Jeremy Saulnier, Kelly
Reichardt, the Coen Brothers and Jeff Nichols are on my mind a lot. Even
though they each are working on very different planes of the industry,
they all have an independent background that I find inspiring. The way
that technology, distribution and viewing habits are changing, it's become
increasingly possible that someone like me can just make a feature and
people will actually see it. That doesn't mean that it will be easy, or
that people will enjoy what I've made, but those filmmakers represent
proof that, as long as you've got the story to tell, there's no excuse not
to make it.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
It constantly changes, but a few that
always stay towards the top are Inside Llewyn Davis, The Devil's
Backbone, Harvey and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
... and of course, films you really
Some of the stuff I made in college is real
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Aside from the Vimeo
page, we've got a Facebook -
If anybody wants to keep
up with the work that I do in the corporate/commercial world, feel free to
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Thank you for watching the movie
and writing about it!
Thanks for the interview!