What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Why did you want to tell this story?
Inspiration? Where do I begin? I would have to say my inspiration for any story would be you, all of you. I’m inspired by people; I’m inspired by the idea of inspiring, as grandiose as that sounds. Mankind is fascinating and our humanity, or lack thereof is the aspect I find the most interesting. I wanted to tell a story that was relatable, yet vulnerable; something that felt real, yet artistically intentional. Southern Tale is a reoccurring story I’ve seen play out in reality, time and time, again; it’s a story that isn’t just a story, but an actual archetype that exists within our own collective unconscious. That’s why the film takes form at a crossroads, because these crossroad moments are the pivotal points in any life or story, and it just so happens that we as a society find ourselves in a similar place. The way this story challenges modern preconceptions, while simultaneously allowing for the interpretation of hard truths allows the viewership to look inside, not only the story, but themselves for answers. Maybe this story will shine a light on a complex you’ve been avoiding. Whether it’s a mother, or a father, or just your own self destruction holding you back, I want people to watch this film and feel comfort in knowing their struggle is not uncommon and they’re not alone in the effort to find peace. Sometimes the answer is right in front of us and we just need a change of perspective.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
I relate with the subjects and characters in this story deeply. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some people out there that say, my character Chris is just me being me, but I would argue that’s just not the case. The fact is, Chris is a version of me. Chris is somebody I could have become, had I not had the proper guidance in my own life. That’s why this story means so much to me, because I’ve seen the impact of good parenting on myself and without it, I’m not so sure I would be where I am today. The characters in this story aren’t based on individuals, in stead they are based on types of people; archetypes to be specific.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
Well, from script to end, I can honestly say, there weren’t many changes to the original idea or concept of the story. There were a couple small technical difficulties that gave us the opportunity to be a little more creative than we intended to be, but for the most part it’s the story we set out to tell.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
Courage comes in all shapes and sizes on a movie set. I don’t think it’s fair to compare one moment of courage to another, only because it takes all of those moments compiled together to pull off a film. You don’t just face one fear, get over it and that’s it, now, you’re courageous. No, instead, it’s a constant battle. Just like in life. Problems occur and courage is required, it’s in the job description. I think the decision to go for a feature length project, one that’s not necessarily grounded in reality, for my filmmaking debut required a strange confidence, but that really just goes to show how much courage can be found in ignorance.
Where there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
The biggest risk I saw going into the whole thing was how tight our shooting schedule was. We had ambitious expectations with minimal time and zero budget for error. I knew, if we stuck to a rule of 3 with some exception, we could do it. We may not get every performance exactly how we want it, but we’ll have a complete film and that was my job to make sure happened. You here stories of Clint Eastwood only doing 2 or 3 takes a set up and that’s with a multi-million dollar studio budget. So I figured if that technique was good enough for The Man With No Name, than it was good enough for me and I adopted that technique from him. We were 3 takes, that’s it, if we had something usable, we moved on. I had to constantly remind myself that no shot was worth risking the film over. A complete film is what’s needed for this to be a success, so we kept to our schedule and didn’t let any egos influence that. In return, I believe we got a really rough and raw feel to the movie that fits our themes perfectly.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
Paris, Texas, Blood Simple, Lost Highway, we referenced all these films and many, many more for Southern Tale. I grew up on Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks and to this day, I’m a huge fan of the genre. Southern Tale is a Modern-Day Western and you could say it’s me getting my feet wet. I wanted to have an old Texas thriller, drive-in feel to the movie that would give it some grit; something that would embrace our budget and stay true to the Western themes we wanted to show. So, if you don’t think we referenced Joel & Ethan Coen’s work, you’re wrong; if you don’t think there’s influence there from Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson, you’re crazy; and if you don’t think there’s influence from David Lynch, then you just might not understand it. All these filmmakers have something in common; they don’t just tell stories, they create worlds. That’s what I wanted to do with Southern Tale.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
I went ALL IN on Film about 6 years ago, when I decided to drop out of college and move to Los Angeles. I’m not suggesting it, I’m just relaying what I did. I had the idea for Southern Tale in my head, but I hadn’t written a page of it. I’d never worked on a film set, I barely knew anything about the industry, except what I had picked up from the HBO show Entourage, like the rest of my generation, but I knew one thing, I knew I had guts; and guts will take you a long way in this world, at least that’s what I had always been told. I didn’t know a soul in the state of California, so it was just me going alone, with a dream and a game plan. 6 years later, for better or worse, that plan has continued to push steadily down the tracks. For me to sit back and watch Southern Tale, now, knowing that I didn’t have a clue about a clue when I set out to make this thing is such a surreal experience, because it’s proof to me that if you work hard and consistent in your present, then you’re future will feel nothing but pride when looking back on the past.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
In the beginning, I say do it all. Write it, Direct it, Edit it, Act in it, all these things. The reason I suggest doing it all in the beginning is because each one of these things teaches you more about the other. You can’t be the best director you want to be, if you don’t know how to edit and you can’t be the best writer you want to be if you don’t understand character emotions and motivations like you discover from acting. So not only are you becoming a more all around film maker, but you’re mastering your craft at that point. Because filmmaking isn’t just ideas, it’s ideas followed by action and compromise. Many times as artists we’re not exactly sure what we want to do, we just know we want to work in movies; well, by trying out everything it will help you narrow down the exact aspect of filmmaking your most passionate about and that’s where you’ll be able to shine. Most importantly, if you do everything at least once, you’ll know what to expect out of someone in the future that you may hire to do that job. If you’ve edited a feature before then you know the issues an editor is going to face, when taking on the same task; and if you already know the problems your crew is going to face before they face them, then that allows for you to be that much more ready to help them solve the problems at hand. You’ll also be able to know if somebody is shorting you with their effort, because you’ll personally know the difficulty involved with each task in the pipeline. In my opinion, that’s real directing; knowing the ins and outs of every job on set. There should be no question come up that you don’t have an answer for and that requires a tireless preparation from nobody but you.
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