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So Long, Lonesome
2009, 87m, drama, experimental, romance
Ryan, a twenty-something Angelino, is in mourning after losing the love of his life-- a vivacious young woman named Angie-- to a drunk driving accident six months prior. To help cope with the pain, he slides into alcohol, cigarettes, and an ever-increasing intake of sleeping pills. One night, he experiences a vivid fever dream, presented as a series of vignettes that show various moments from their relationship-- but is all this just a sleeping-state hallucination, or is it something different altogether?
Produced by: Puneet Layal, Aviv Russ
Cast: Patrick Carlyle, Nadine Heimann, Daniel Tuch, Mike Bash, Sarah Baldwin
10 questions with So Long, Lonesome director, Cameron Beyl at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, August 16th, 2016
1Hi Cameron! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? There were two initial seeds for SO LONG, LONESOME, and as the idea developed they merged into one. I had just graduated college and was looking for an idea to make a feature film right out of the gate, and was really interested in dreams and how they could be conveyed onscreen. At the same time, a close friend of mine from high school passed away from cancer, and it was the first time I had to emotionally deal with the loss of someone my own age. Suddenly, death became a very immediate, tangible thing, and I spent a lot of the grieving process grappling with how a person's energy and essence can just suddenly disappear from the world. I found that people tend to internalize that essence into their own subconscious, carving out a home for the person they lost within their own heart. All of that dovetailed pretty neatly with my thoughts on dreams and the afterlife, and once those seeds combined, the writing came together pretty quickly.
2This was your first feature film. How did you know you were ready to tackle a feature and what would you have done different knowing what you know now? My writing tends to favor the feature format by default-- I find it pretty difficult to condense an idea into short form. I had made no-budget features before, before and during high school, but I wouldn't exactly call them "professional", or even "watchable". Even then, I had always felt ready to tackle a feature right out of school because it wasn't new to me. Looking back on it, I'm not sure what I'd have done differently... It's always nice to have more money when you shoot, but that would've been at the expense of the film's experimental qualities. I made the most of whatever resources were available to me at the time, and I'm happy with the finished product.
3I'm such a huge fan of your second feature, Here Build Your Homes. That film was shot without a script and no second takes which I still think is incredible. Was this film scripted and if so, what was your writing process like for this film? SO LONG, LONESOME was definitely scripted, although in a fairly minimal fashion. I knew I would be encouraging my actors to improv, and that the scenes could be arranged any number of ways in the edit, so I more or less wrote a 50 page treatment with snippets of dialogue I definitely wanted to have. I knew that the film would really take shape in post, so I wrote a series of scenes and vignettes for me to go out and capture so I'd have a lot of material to work with in the edit. I was still writing fairly late into the shoot even, adding new scenes and subplots up until the end.
4Patrick Carlyle starred in this film and Here Build Your Homes. How did you two meet and why do you like working together? Patrick and I went to high school together, and even though we ran in the same social circles, we never really got to know each other that well then. We reconnected around the time I moved to LA and started writing the film. Since I was already aware that he was a really talented actor, it was a no-brainer to ask him to be a part of it. I like to think that Pat and I work together so well because we're both eager to challenge ourselves and try new things when it comes to filmmaking. He's a great writer in his own right, so he can really internalize the characters he plays and deliver a nuanced and confident performance. He's open-minded when it comes to taking direction, but he also isn't afraid to question things for the greater good of the project. I really appreciate his instincts and taste-- not just as an actor, but also as a creative collaborator that I can count on to elevate a project with his enthusiasm and inspiration.
5Nadine Heimann is the other lead in this film and does a fantastic job. She also went on to work on CSI and Young and The Restless. What's it feel like to see one of the actors you worked with get noticed and work on bigger things? There's nothing I love more than seeing people I've worked with go on to bigger projects. We found Nadine through the audition process, and I was blown away by how committed and connected she was to her character. I've always felt that it's only a matter of time until she breaks into bigger and better projects, so to see her perform on a larger canvas is always great to see.
6The timeline in this film jumps from the past to the future and back again. What made you decide to tell this story in this way, instead of more, beginning to end, traditional way? The entire movie is structured to mimic the way we recall memory, which more often than not tends to come out of sequence in scattershot bursts. Because the story is told from the point of view of a dying man's brain as it fires off its last synapses-- his life flashing before his eyes, in a sense-- the narrative stucture by default could not be linear. There's no objective truth to the story because our memories are subjective-- we leave out details we'd rather forget, or we embellish certain aspects, or we just simply misremember-- and I thought that was a really interesting way to tell a story. From an artistic standpoint, I also wanted to venture far outside the bounds of storytelling convention in pursuit of something more like an abstract painting-- something that's designed to elicit an emotion by allowing the viewer to create their own meaning. I knew I would never really be in a position to make something this aggressively experimental again, so I just decided to go for broke.
7It looks like you also used a lot of color correction for this film. What was your process like to create the overall look and what do you think color correction can add to a film? Color correction is an invaluable storytelling tool, one that I think tends to be underused in indie film and overused in mainstream studio movies. It's a great visual shorthand in conveying mood or communicating an emotion, but it can also be a crutch if the story or filmmaking quality isn't strong enough on its own. Because of the abstract nature of SO LONG, LONESOME I knew that color was going to play a huge part-- especially in identifying for the audience where we stood within Ryan's mind at any given point. Scenes set in Ryan's memories tended to be desaturated and had a cold blue-ish cast, while his dream hallucinations with Angie were overloaded with warmth and saturation. I also used color as a way to signal Ryan's life functions, like the scene where Ryan finds out Angie is dead-- the color slowly drains from the image until it's black and white, kind've like blood draining from your face during a moment of shock. For budgetary reasons, I colored the film myself using Final Cut's effects plugins-- since I didn't have scopes or anything in the way of monitors for color levels, I had to feel it out organically and just go with what looked right.
8This film deals with the grief in an interesting way. Why does the grieving process interest you and why did you want to make a film about it? Looking back on it, I've found that my work from that period was more about interior states rather than a conventional "plot". The narrative trajectory was about overcoming a primary emotional state that was somehow crippling the character. In HERE BUILD YOUR HOMES, that emotion was doubt; in SO LONG, LONESOME, it was grief. Grief is an incredibly strong state of emotion that someone could get trapped in indefinitely and never overcome, and I thought that made for a compelling story that also provided an avenue to answer that eternal question about where we go when we die-- albeit in a non-religious way that spoke more to an individual's character and energy rather than a specific spiritual creed.
9You are also the creator of the incredible video essays that so far, has analyzed the careers of Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Coen Brothers, and more. Do you think creating these video essays and analyzing the careers of these master filmmakers has helped you as a filmmaker in any way? If so, how has it helped? I definitely think it's helped my own growth as a filmmaker, because it forces me to expose myself to new styles and forms of expression that I might not otherwise see. I think it also helps to study major decisions they made in respect to their careers, to see where they made missteps or mistakes. The most valuable insight I've gotten from the project is that there's no such thing as a "typical" directing career-- every filmmaker's trajectory is different, and it doesn't really do you any good to compare yourself to another director. In that sense, it's incredibly liberating and it encourages me to just be myself when I'm making a film.
10What's next? I'm working on a few ideas that I hope to make on the microbudget scale next year, similar to SO LONG, LONESOME and HERE BUILD YOUR HOMES. I've also got a handful of other feature scripts that I want to make, although they'd be at a higher budget level. While I'm getting those wheels to start moving, I'm also pursuing freelance work as a music video and commercial director and building out my short form reel.
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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