In this interview writer and director Darin Beckstead
open filming secrets of "Evil Nature" and give professional advice
for our readers. In his filmography such famous films as Courage & Stupidity (2005), Somebody's Hero (2011) and Evil Nature (2015).
What does it mean to be a director?
I think the most important thing, is knowing what you want. Being able to answer most questions people might have in terms of mood, looks, character, technical, ect. Those working on a film look to the director as the leader –And there are different ways to lead. Some are dictators. Others lead by inspiration, example and collaboration. My favorite filmmakers are those who know what they want, but are also willing to listen to ideas. Listening can be much more important than talking. To truly know what’s possible, you need to have some sensitivity to the challenges crew and actors are faced with. So for me, being a director is having a vision that enables decisions while remaining collaborative.
You started filming your first budgeted project at 20. How did this have an impact on your life and how did it changed things?
It was early validation for sure. It didn’t affect the level of enjoyment, but it did encourage me that a living could be made doing what I love. We’re all learning throughout our lives and for me, those experiences were like someone paying for my education. I’m always grateful for an opportunity to learn, but having someone pay for that is a very cool a thing.
Could you spotlight your current project for our readers?
I’m now working with producer Gilbert Adler (Superman Returns, Valkyrie, Constantine) on a movie titled EVIL NATURE. A project which I conceived and later co-wrote with Charles Picco, a creator of the TV series “Todd and the Book of Pure Evil”. We already have a number of name actors interested to take roles and have received a tremendous response from film industry leaders (including major studios) to the “Proof of Concept”.
EVIL NATURE summary: For years PUMPKINS have lain dormant... Forced to endure endless suffering as they’ve been carved into jack-o’-lanterns, baked as pies, and sat helpless while infant seeds are baked alive. Now, thanks to a genetic altering fertilizer, the gourds mutate into fanged flesh eaters that are ripe for revenge. Once the Sheriff’s Department is annihilated, two bumbling detectives and a local hippie become the town’s only hope to stop the pumpkins and save mankind.
In your films like a "Somebody's Hero ", "Courage & Stupidity" and "Evil Nature: Proof of Concept" has a uniquely friendly mood. And it feels like a genuine signature of the author. How did this signature come about? And how does it represent the philosophy of your own life?
It’s a combination of two things –The way I was raised and the movies I was raised with. I like fun entertainment, I like seeing the good guy win and overcome the challenges they’re faced with. I really believe that stuff can be applied to life if you choose. Stories after all are based on human experiences. I like to be inspired, but for me entertainment is best when there’s joy. I’m not a cynical person. Films are an escape, but I prefer escape to to a place where the characters inspire me, make me laugh, and give me hope.
Where did the idea for the new screenplay come from? And how is has the story telling changed from Somebody's Hero and Courage & Stupidity?
The concept or idea came from a short I did as a teenager. Looking to shoot something with the family camcorder on a certain day and having no available actors. I ended up making a film with Halloween pumpkins that were decorating my neighbors porch. EVIL NATURE takes on or spoofs the horror genre, but still has characters faced with obstacles they must overcome to find hero status and help mankind. Charles Picco, the creator of “Todd & The Book of Pure Evil” jumped in to help me write this one. Anyone who knows Picco’s work, can probably imagine how ideal he was to script some fun for EVIL NATURE.
What role do visual and special effects play in your films? And how important are they in your work?
For this EVIL NATURE, they’re incredibly important. I haven’t worked with either much prior, so again this “Proof of Concept” provided a real learning experience. CGI can be very costly and for this project and it’s tone might not be the best fit, especially considering budget. So I relied heavily on practical, while allowing the digital team to support or enhance what we were doing. Filmmaking seems to be a process of evolution and with any success, budgets can increase. That said, I’m hoping to learn and work more with CGI in future projects, while keeping things tangible –I like to feel like you can reach out and touch what’s onscreen. Wild to think that James Cameron’s “Aliens” was without CG characters and still holds up today. Figuring out how to creatively shoot real elements, using different techniques for each individual shot, Cameron did it all so extremely well –Needless to say. I’m a big fan of CGI that has weight and research behind it, done right it can be tough to tell the difference between real and unreal. Digital artists are filmmakers working on a different plane of existence –And I dig and respect that.
Artists are always filling their cup with real life impressions to make something unique. Changing they’re environment or finding ideas like Spielberg did when he read Michael Crichton "Jurassic Park" novel or James Cameron relocating and filming groups living in the jungles before he shot Avatar. What’s the path of impressions you prefer in your work? Is it something special or is it always different with every new project?
Artists need inspiration and when an idea or concept moves you in a bold way, that’s generally when you have to take it on. Almost like you have no choice. You cling to the ideas that aren’t going to age and will stick with you during the real challenges of seeing them come to life. Other great ideas kind of fall into an entrepreneurial endeavor, where a producer sees potential in something and makes it for business or financial purposes. I like to find ideas with both –Something that I’m into and can make with enough passion that viewers will get it as well. The title “Courage & Stupidity” came from a quote I heard Spielberg say about his experiences in making JAWS. The idea of re-imagining the behind the scenes story was fun because the reality was that the experience wasn’t just the making of a blockbuster, it was the making of a legendary filmmaker.
Every new project is unique. And approaches for filming vary. Despite the fact that all films are different, i.e. special lighting, setting, framing change the story - As a director, you are an artist like a Michelangelo. Could you site three or four main tools that help you make a film? As an artist’s what’s your most favorite brush?
Ha! Well I’m no Michaelangelo and I’m still getting my filmmaking grove down in various ways, but I’d say that it’s all about characters for me. Regardless of how the story is told or what genre it might be, I have to care about the players. Because of budget restraints, filmmakers can be limited as to what tools or equipment can be used and I’m at the point where most of the things I pull from must come from the imagination – i.e blocking or dialogue instead of fancy equipment. As for camera techniques, I change those up depending on what I feel the scene or moment calls for. As example, I won’t use something like a handheld technique for an entire film, I’ll only employ that for specific moments. There’s a shot in the “Proof of Concept” where the camera rolls head over heals, that method for instance only works for the creature’s POV and wouldn’t be fitting elsewhere.
What’s the magic of the cinema for you?
Escape. Inspiration. Hope. The fact that movies can give us these things is powerful and that filmmakers can create such from what’s initially just an idea is magical.
Could you give any personal advice for our readers?
It’s tough to get things done when you rely on so many others to help you execute your vision. So I’d say surround yourself with people of action not talkers. Then use that support to get something made. It’s been helpful for me to set dates and create deadlines. The bigger the undertaking, the bigger the fight. Another director once told me, there is no white knight that will ride in and save you –Or make things easy. To quote the title of Richard Donner’s book (which I’m currently reading) “You’re the Director –You Figure it Out.”.
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