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2013, 100m, drama, film-noir, thriller
Raised in a strict religious family by his pastor father, James Grant moved to Hollywood for the ultimate dream of rock stardom. After falling deep into an abyss of drugs and recklessness, James learns the devastating news that his sister has committed suicide. Upset and still under the influence, he tries to piece together her possible mindset which leads him down a dark path of life altering decisions. As James navigates his newly created world of high stakes danger and secret hidden agendas from everyone he meets, flashes of the past begin consuming his fragile mind. What could have been?
Produced by: Natalie Avital, Chad Eicher, Jeremy Ward
10 questions with Past God director, Nick McCallum at the half-way mark.
Monday, August 1st, 2016
1Hi Nick! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial inspiration that made you want to make Past God? Hey, thanks for letting us be a part of your lineup! Past God really came about because the group of us were wanting to make a feature and prove ourselves. I had written a few other feature scripts written that needed serious money to make and kept hearing the catch 22 of needing to have directed a feature to be trusted directing a feature, that kind of thing.
2What was your writing process like for this film. How long did it take you to write and what was the toughest part about writing it? Having the guideline of writing what we could shoot on our micro budget was the hardest part. This particular script's inspiration was rooted in my love of all things noir and the initial idea of a brother visiting the 'dark new world' of his estranged sister to try and figure out what happened to her. I love films that have a mystery for the audience, where the main character they are following is in the dark and learning information, they learn it then as well. Writing it took about 3 to 4 months.
3You are the star of this film as well. How hard was it to focus on acting as well as directing and how did you manage to take the time needed to do both? Having started out just being an actor and learning to write and direct as way to create vehicles for roles I wanted to play, I'd made many short films previously honing whatever that skill is. Studying all kinds of acting styles and techniques for the more than a decade I'd been in Los Angeles, I do know that I'm fortunate to be an imagination type of actor rather than being method and needing to dwell on things before a scene. Once things are ready to go I only need a moment. Of course it's very helpful that it's my script and much of the character is part of me from the beginning.
4I thought your chemistry with actress Natalie Avital was excellent. How did you two meet and what was it like working together? Natalie and I actually met years before on another film as actors together. She has a similar 'let's do this' attitude about making movies, so it was great to have her as an ally in getting this made. She went on to direct a fantastic documentary called The Three Hikers which I know took even more persistence and drive than this did to finish.
5If you had to choose between acting, writing, and directing, which would you choose and why? Absolutely directing, but I find all three very exciting. It really depends on the particulars.
6You made a pretty convincing drug addict. How did you prepare for the role? Lots of caffeine and food deprivation! Haha. Being that it's an on the run type of narrative, it was actually the ideal type of character to play in that I was usually sleep deprived and taking my energy to the limit anyway. I know that I at least wanted to feel that physical state of exhaustion like he would.
7This is a pretty dark film. What interests you in stories about the darker side of humanity? I've always been drawn to films with that dark underbelly where something's lurking underneath. More psychological than the horror genre. Hitchcock to Aronofsky, Fincher or Lynch. There's many styles and moods to use to do it, but when you're noticing yourself feeling tense while watching you know it's right. Hopefully I'll make a film as good as those guys one day.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? There are many 'favorite' films for different reasons, but from my timeline, Braveheart was that special film. I was in the high school batting cages senior year having just seen it. It's so powerful, with Horner's score and everything Gibson was able to do. I'd always loved movies without really realizing their true influence and that one just gave that moment of clarity to what an amazing thing movies are and capable of doing. I pretty much decided I was going to devote my life to the movie world within weeks of watching that.
9What was the biggest challenge making this film? Beyond everything I've said, it's really just the cliche of answers you'll hear filmmakers talk about. They're cliche because they're true. Making a feature is a massive test of will from my experience, but if you just need to do it, need to tell that story and see it finished, it's so rewarding. I was also lucky to have such an amazing cast of actors along with my crew and DP and editor. Everyone involved is super talented and has been working continual since Past God.
10What's next? I'm finishing up an edit of my second feature BEFORE MEMORY. It's much more of a psychological thriller that's part Memento part Groundhog Day. We shot 70 of the 97 page script a few months back and are using the footage to get the last funding needed. I'm super proud of what we have and with a little luck I think it could be a film people remember the name of. The great Lin Shaye is attached because she loved the script and there's another open part if anyone reading this would like to be on our producer list to reach out to. Movie making...thanks so much guys.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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