5 minutes with Mark Distefano, the writer, producer, and director of our 2016 Feature Films over 40 minutes winner.
What was your inspiration behind the story?
The sci-fi notion of a technology that allowed you to share the perspective of others came first. That seemed like such an intriguing and inherently cinematic idea that would work perfectly on screen, because that's exactly what a movie is: a perspective from someone else's eyes and ears, that you share vicariously. That then led me to think of the kind of individual who would invent such a thing, and I arrived at a peeping Tom-type character pretty soon thereafter. The decision to make Calvin a miserable miscreant staring at society through the glass was a very cathartic one, as it allowed me an outlet to explore all the envy and desperation I had felt and encountered during my years in college.
Who is your inspiration behind the film?
There were so many inspirations and influences on this film, but a handful of them are Amadeus, The Social Network, Taxi Driver, Foxcatcher and There Will Be Blood. We would constantly be quoting lines from Daniel Day Lewis in "Blood" while we were on set.
Did you come across major hurdles during productions?
The biggest hurdle was who we were going to cast as Calvin Russell, the psychotic, misanthropic, tortured, depressive anti heroic main character of this film. He is in nearly every scene and the film is basically a dissection of his psyche. Nicholas Nelson could not have been a better match for this part, and he was so gracious and charming on top of being able to slip quickly into the very murky territory of Calvin's character. If we hadn't found someone as good as Nick, given the limited range of casting possibilities we had on a college campus, I don't know if the film would have happened.
What was your most memorable on set moment?
This is an easy answer. We were filming in a college co-op and one night the fire alarm goes off in the midst of shooting a very intense scene. Three fire trucks pulled up in front of the house while we waited outside with the occupants and their dogs and cats who were frightened and running all over the place. After one fireman entered the house and assured us it was a false alarm, we went back inside and continued shooting.
What advise do you have for aspiring film makers?
Don't ever quit as long as you love making movies/writing characters. Don't think of it as art either, as James Agee once put it. Think of it as expressing yourself, sometimes the worst part of yourself. Like exorcising a demon.
Do you have any future projects in the works?
I have expanded and revised the shooting script to accommodate a larger scope and hopefully a larger budget--and one day I hope we will make the several-million-dollar version of Stalk Me! Also interested in making the proverbial honest high school movie. One that feels authentic to what your teenage years are like--not necessarily dark and gloomy like "Less Than Zero" or "Kids" and not all roses and peaches like John Hughes' work, but a mix of both.