Whether it was ultimately true or not, I told myself that I needed to shoot Stalker in 2019 or I’d lose my nerve and momentum. With mounting commitments and a full-time job in advertising, it felt that if I didn’t make this film happen, I would look back a decade from now and realize that I let the window of opportunity for me as a filmmaker pass me by. Sometimes those are just things we tell ourselves as a form of motivation, but I think it was true for me at the time. My first feature Inheritance had failed to set the world on fire, and while I’m still proud of it, that disappointment chipped away at my confidence. Paul Schrader said something about how living a creative life is about being comfortable with your own failure and embarrassment, and I’ve been trying to live along those lines more and more. We do the work because we love it. And while rejection, whether it be from a particular festival or critic, or your intended audience, can be absolutely brutal, what doesn’t kill can make you stronger. If you let it.
With Stalker, I wanted to get back to what I love about filmmaking, which is really the joy of creation and collaboration. I’m a highly analytical person, so it’s easy for me to think things to death, but I knew I had to let myself have fun with the process. Working from a germ of an idea that came from an uncomfortable Lyft ride I’d taken, my co-writer Dash Hawkins and I set out to sculpt a stalker thriller that balanced fresh and familiar ideas. Vincent Van Horn and Michael Joplin are both dear friends, and we wrote the script with them in mind. They have a great natural dynamic and love needling each other in playful ways, so we knew they’d be exciting to watch together on screen. The production team was also made up of a lot of talented friends, and I’m beyond grateful for what each one of them brought to the table. I could easily spend this whole blog post just expressing my gratitude, and I’ve never known a greater high than working alongside people that you truly love and respect.
2020 was obviously a rough year in so many ways, and a pretty miserable time to be launching an indie film. But we were so fortunate to be invited to Austin Film Festival for our US Premiere. Even though we were all bummed that festivals had to go virtual this year, the team at AFF made the most of a bad situation and we were lucky to be part of it. Unlike many fests, when you’re part of AFF, you really do feel that you’re part of a community. And with many of the cast and crew members from Texas, and several specifically from Austin, the recognition was even more meaningful. It felt like we’d arrived somewhere after a twenty-month journey.
We were beyond thrilled and humbled to win the Dark Matters Audience Award, which honestly made all of the disappointments of 2020 seemingly evaporate. While you always have to do these things for the love of the work, that validation of knowing an audience gets what you were trying to do it incredibly satisfying. And it keeps you going. We were fortunate enough to leverage some of the exposure we got into a distribution deal with Vertical Entertainment, which was a dream come true for everyone involved. I’m honored to be part of the AFF community because celebrating and nurturing artists as they find their voices and deepen their crafts truly is what matters most.