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An Interview with Neal Tyler, Director of Driftwood

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2024

Films directed by Neal Tyler on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Driftwood - in a few words, what's it about?


Driftwood follows Anne as she enters an experimental marriage therapy treatment to create a shared subconscious with her estranged husband. When a mysterious presence sabotages the system, she must navigate a labyrinth of nightmares to save her husband and escape.


Beneath its thriller plot and sci-fi premise, Driftwood is a story about love, grief, memory, and the healing power of dreams.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Driftwood?


A few months into the pandemic, I started chasing a vague but nagging idea: What if the subconscious could serve as a no-manís-land of connectivity? The more I wrote, the more I realized Driftwood was a way to address the alienation and need for connection that so many people were experiencing at that time. I wrote Driftwood in something of a fever dream, out of a determination not to lose momentum or miss the window in which we could make it.


With Driftwood following dream logic, how easy or hard was it to not literally lose your plot telling your story this way?


When people hear the film is set almost entirely in the subconscious, they tend to expect absurdist sight gags, surrealist landscapes, and a story without any binding consequence. We worked hard to make every moment and detail in Driftwood serve the lead characterís journey of discovery. The dreamscape she is trapped in functions like an interconnected tunnel system through her memories and fears. So that ended up being our North Star to guide us through the dream logic. Just like writing a film grounded in reality, itís easy to get lost in the plot unless you stay true to your character and their journey.


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


Since I DPed and edited the film as well, I had to have a very clear vision of how all the little puzzle pieces would connect. Wearing so many hats on set actually helped to keep things loose. I encouraged actors to play with the dialogue, to find their own wording when appropriate. My two main collaborators, Monte Light and Greg Schmittel, were also indispensable in brainstorming with me when I couldnít quite crack a shot or figure out a transition. As a director, youíre only as good as the cast and crew around you.


Do talk about Driftwood's cast, and why exactly these people?


As soon as I started writing Anne, I knew Jen Kuhn was the only choice to bring her to life. She invested herself fully in this role and delivered a spellbinding performance. Then I turned to talented friends that I had collaborated with before: Justin Michael Terry, Kevin Knight, Damien D. Smith, and Deborah Lee Smith. Everyone brought their own unique energies and sensibilities to the film, making our cinematic dreamscape feel like a fully inhabited world. From there, I worked with Jen and our Casting Director, Blair Franklin, to cast the remaining roles. Gina Cunningham, Thomas W. Ashworth, and Percy Coiro were all amazing additions to our team and Iím already planning when I can work with them again.


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


Principal photography was 19 days during the pandemic. We tested, masked, distanced, and denied ourselves the fun of hanging out off-set (mostly). We had a very small crew of amazing creatives, and everyone had multiple responsibilities. Take away one of their contributions for a single day and the whole film would fall apart. After extensive scouting and rehearsals, I created a detailed shot list so that we could move quickly on the shoot days. We actually could have finished in less than 19 days, if not for all of the locations: The Salton Sea, Mormon Rocks, the LA River in Frogtown, the beach at Nicholas Canyon, a back alley in Chinatown, and more. Despite shuttling around town in masks, we all bonded pretty quickly and had a fun time. I think making this film during such uncertain times really gave us all a sense of purpose when we needed it the most.


The $64-question of course, where can Driftwood be seen?


Driftwood is available to rent or purchase via Amazon, AppleTV, Vudu, DirectTV, and more. Luckily, itís available for much less than $64.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Driftwood?


Last year, we were fortunate enough to have Driftwood premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre as an official selection of The Golden State Film Festival. As amazing as it was seeing our film play at such an iconic venue, it was even more rewarding to see the audienceís reaction. The crowd was energized, and many shared how the film brought them to tears. Weíve received the same feedback now that the filmís been released digitally. People really seem engaged by the constant plot twists and tonal shifts, while also moved by the emotional core of the film.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iím in the fundraising and development stage for a documentary short called The Forgotten Angels, which follows several unhoused children in Los Angeles on their journey to gaining education and permanent shelter. Iím also prepping my next narrative feature, a psychological thriller/horror about doppelgangers.


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


When I was two years old, my parents took me to a theatrical re-release of Pinocchio, and it absolutely floored me. Growing up, I was obsessed with storytelling, and films in particular, but didnít realize that could even be a viable career until high school. I went on to study film at La Salle University in Philly, and started directing and producing movies in my spare time. Once I moved to LA, I kept on that path while also shooting and producing for various reality and reenactment series. To me, the best training is always informal. You learn by doing.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Driftwood?


Before Driftwood, I directed several shorts and DPíed two features. For my main source of income, I also shoot and produce a lot of documentary and non-scripted programming, which really hones your instincts and teaches you how to work creatively with modest resources.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


For me, collaboration is the best part of filmmaking. I love drawing inspiration from everyone around me, and am always amazed at what the actors in particular might suggest to improve a scene or character. Even though Iím a very visually-minded director, story and character always take precedence. I like to prepare and plan meticulously so that I can change everything up as needed with the confidence to know itíll still work.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Iím inspired by anyone who can create a film with limited resources that elicits a genuine response from its audience, be it laughter, fear, surprise, or tears.


Your favourite movies?


Too many to mention here, but Magnolia is always at the top of my list. I love how he crafted a deeply personal story with bold, operatic choices. I didnít realize until I was halfway through editing DRIFTWOOD that I had attempted something similar. Just as Paul Thomas Anderson wrote Magnolia as a means of processing his fatherís death from cancer, I made my film as a way to process losing my Mom to Alzheimerís. Art can be the best therapy.


Feeling lucky?
Want to
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results?
(commissions earned)

The links below
will take you
just there!!!

Find Neal Tyler
at the amazons ...


Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

Looking for imports?
Find Neal Tyler here ...

Your shop for all things Thai

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


Any film that doesnít respect its audience.


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

Instagram: @driftwood_film

Instagram: @nealtylerworkshop


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


All good! Thanks for taking the time to talk about our film!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry


directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke


now streaming at


Amazon UK





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