Today, I talk with Dave Conte, screenwriter and director of the upcoming psychological thriller, [escape]. Dave explains to us how the idea for the film came about, how important production
values can be, and some interesting writing techniques
that fueled the project.
Ryan Sprague (RS)
Dave Conte (DC)
RS: How long have you been a film-maker?
DC: I've been making my own films since my freshman year of college, so 9 years now.
RS: How many films have you seen to full production and what were they called?
DC: I've directed a bunch of personal projects in the past, but [escape] is really the best representation of my talents and am treating it as a fresh start for me as a director.
RS: Where did the idea for [escape] come from?
DC: The idea came from a conversation that a friend and I were having about zombie films, and how in every zombie film known to man, if the hero is shacked up somewhere for safety, the place will inevitably get overrun with zombies.
So then I started thinking, what if there was a man who built the mother of all bomb shelters? A place that was not only completely safe, but equipped with well water, a toilet, a small amount of electricity, enough food to keep him fed, and enough things to keep him from going insane for a very long time. What's his story?
[escape] started as a comment on horror film tropes, and the intrinsically unsafe nature of practically any "safe" location you find in them. But the more I thought about it and the more I developed it, the more I started to find pieces of myself in this man's story, and it's become a much more personal piece.
So what is it? It's a short conceptual narrative built around this idea of a man who has prepared for the worst, and now has to deal with it. It's a character study that explores the psyche of a man who finds himself inside of his perfectly safe shelter after surviving a catastrophe, and the journey he goes through as he begins to remember what brought him there in the first place.
(David Farrington in a scene from [escape] )
RS: Do you write your own scripts? Do you have a specific writing process or does it change for each project?
DC: Yes, I write my own scripts. I don't really have a rigid process, though. I'll come up with random ideas that I typically spew out onto a gmail draft (how I do most of my word processing), and then eventually i'll just open Final Draft and start writing from start to finish. I usually write in order from beginning to end. Then, it's rewrites after rewrites until I start shooting. I don't really stop tweaking until its time to shoot. You never know when, where, or how inspiration will strike. Towards the tail end of writing [escape] I started experimenting with writing in the dark, and I had a pretty fun time with that. I will probably try that some more next time I do some writing. It kept me real focused.
RS: How did you assemble your crew?
DC: Unfairly easily. Thankfully I'm friends with a lot of talented dudes and dudettes, so all I had to do was shoot them a message, and most of them were able and willing. I hired a few people for other jobs, such as my production designer who built a fake flyaway wall for the bomb shelter location. I found her by putting up a job listing on Mandy.com. I intend on hiring people to work on sound design and color grading once post production gets underway.
RS: How do you raise funds for your films?
DC: We did an IndieGoGo campaign over the summer with a goal of raising $3000, which we did in 3 days! We ended the campaign with $3600, or slightly over $3100 after fees. Apart from that, the rest of the budget has come out of my pocket. The idea was for the fundraiser to supplement rather than completely fund the budget, and it was a massive help in the beginning stages of production.
(David Farrington in a scene from [escape] )
RS: What goes in to an independent film?
DC: On a purely tangible level, time, money, and people. Generally, the less you have of them, the worse off your film is going to be. This isn't a rule, of course, but I've tried shooting on a shoestring budget, shooting under impossible time constraints, and shooting with no help, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I'd also argue that each of those three things are equally important. You need time to flesh out your ideas, your script, and every facet of your production; you need money to get the stuff you need to make the film properly; and you need people to help you bring your vision to life.
RS: What are your plans for [escape]?
DC: The plan is to shop it around at film festivals and gain some exposure, the hope being that [escape] will lead to more directing opportunities.
RS: What advice would you give a new film-maker when trying to produce their own work?
DC: In school I was told that "you're only as good as your last film," and I think that's a good rule to live by. Don't half-ass anything, ever, under any circumstances. That was my mantra going into [escape] from day 1, and while it has been stressful and taxing in many ways, the film is going to be much better as a result, and in the end, that's the only thing that matters.
RS: Where and when can people see [escape] or any other of your films?
DC: [escape] will be submitted to various film festivals around the country. My hope is to have it finished in early May. Meanwhile, you can stay up to date with the progression of the film over on Facebook.
Official Trailer for [escape]
You can visit the [escape] Facebook page by CLICKING HERE