15. One criticism I heard of the film is that it starts off on a weak note. Did you shoot in chronological order? If so was it simply because people were a bit nervous at the beginning?
I’m actually one of those people who believes that too! We had to cut out three great scenes that we’re supposed to be shot in Los Angeles because of time and money and I think the beginning suffered slightly for it. Then we only had about 5 days to shoot in Managua and the cast and crew dealt with shooting in ghettos, rolling city blackouts during filming, and trying to find our shooting stride. Once again this is a problem you seem to always have to deal with while making an low budget Indie. But at the same time people approach me and tell me how much they love the beginning of the film and the set up. I guess it all depends on each audience member.
16. What did you do to keep actor / crew moral high on the set?
I believe in making the cast and crew feel like the film belongs to everyone. Each day I like to spend time with each person on the set and thank them for working on the film with me. It’s amazing how far a simple ‘thank you for all your help” will make the cast and crew feel like the production can conquer any problem it comes across.
17. What was the overall tone on the set?
On the set I really love to have fun. As the Director I make a pledge to my cast and crew that I will be as prepared as possible and I’m never on set wasting everyone’s time by not knowing what my next shot is going to be. There’s nothing worse than a Director that comes to set unprepared and looks lost and then you’re hitting hour 16 trying to make your day. More than three days of that and the cast and crew will want to hang you. But I love to have fun on the set and I try to make the round to each department during the day and see if they have any questions for me. I also go out of my way to make sure the actors have time to do rehearse the scene we’re shooting and the crew knows to be respectful and quite during that time. I believe one simple fact: a director is only as talented as the people he surrounds himself, so I count a lot on the creativity of my crew. I aIso don’t believe in screaming or yelling and I think it accomplishes nothing. If you’re Directing a low budget film that means everyone involved in the film is taking a major cut to work on your film, treat everyone with respect.
18. You shot in quite a few locations. How did you manage this with your crew and cast?
The first day we left LAX in Los Angeles it was a cluster! Getting 23 people checked in at the airport with 125 bags was more of a challenge than you can imagine. Even the airline looked panicked! But after getting to Nicaragua and establishing a shooting pace for the first three days, everyone seemed to find their stride. Then we devised a better system or “travel routine” to check in everyone at the airports. If we got to the airport 4 hours early we would have about one hour to spare after the check in was complete. The real key is have an Assistant Director who really knows what’s they’re doing and we were lucky enough to find an AD in Los Angeles by the name of John Vanover.
19. You have some beautiful cinematography in the film. Can you tell us a bit more about the visual theme of your film?
I always like to treat the scenery as if it’s a character in the film. I pay a lot of attention to the framing of the shot and try to maximize each shot to be as beautiful and visually interesting as possible. One of the beauties of shooting a film on location is that you get production value in any direction you choose to point the camera. What’s kind of interesting is that one of the dangers you always face when making a traveling film is to actually show too much scenery and if you’re not careful the audience can actually get bored of watching your film!
20. What makes your film stand out from other “soul searching” adventure films out there?
I guess the biggest difference is that the “soul searching” taking place in “The Art of Travel” is in a few foreign countries rather than a few locations and you never know what adventure is going to be around the next corner on Conner Layne trip and where it will take the character emotionally and physically. Most low-budget “soul searching” films take place in the characters hometown or maybe one other location that’s considered far from home. In this film we shot in over 85 different locations. I guess anyone who really enjoys the type of traveling that Conner Layne does- knows that when you return from a trip somewhere different than you know that the trip somehow changes you as a person and how you view the world around you. That’s the kind of “soul searching” film we set out to make.
21. Are “you” in this story at all?
During our 25 film festivals in North America I was asked this question constantly during Q & A’s. I always responded by saying that my mother was born in Bolivia and my father was born in the United States and I have a sister.
The main character in the film, Conner Layne, comes from this exact family structure. The bottom line is that I’ve traveled the world and as a screenwriter you can’t help but put a little of your experiences in the script. Since I wrote the film with Brian LaBelle, Conner Layne is a combination of the two of us. What’s funny is that people who know the both of us claim that we’re very much alike in our attitude and mannerisms- so we’re definitely in the story! During filming certain scene the crew would ask me if I actually experienced what we were filming at the time. I would just smile and say “maybe”.
22. Do you want people to be able to recognize your “style” as a director? If you have a style, how would you define it?
It’s hard to create a style while making low budget films. It’s not impossible but a little tough, because usually time and money dictates what your style is going to be in the film. I think as of right now it would be easier to think of me as a director who loves to make films about traveling the world and when watching any of my three films the audience will go on a journey they never thought possible or even during the movie visit places they had no clue even existed in the world. I get very excited when someone approaches me after a screening and tells me that because of watching “The Art of Travel” it has inspired them to go and buy an airplane ticket to someplace they’ve only dreamed about visiting.
23. In what areas do you feel you’ve grown the most from an artistic standpoint in your understanding of cinema after this project?
After each film you make, you really do grow. First thing that becomes so obvious after making your first film is that it’s all about the script. If the script is solid, then you’ll most likely have a good film on your hands. If the script suffers from lack of character development or the dialogue is horrible, then in Post Production you’ll be in a lot of pain. Even worse, during screening you can tell by the audience reactions! Really work on your script to the point that you don’t have to second-guess yourself during filming- especially if you making a film under $700,000. While making a low budget film there are times as the director you’ll feel like the Elephant Man walking through a car wash. You’re fighting different elements constantly, you run out of time while filming a scene, you run out of money, you don’t have the production crew to get all your shots, whatever. If the script is solid then you can concentrate on telling the story. If you have to try and fix the script while filming, your film will suffer and important character development or important story points will slip between the cracks. Think script, script, and script, right to the point of the first day of shooting.
Also, my first film “Border to Border” had a running time of 1 hour 52 minutes. That’s way to long! And now I cringe every time I watch the film. Always aim for the running time of around 90 minutes; seriously, you’ll have a better chance for distribution and a better chance to make your audience want to watch the film again!
Question: Best Movie Director who’s done something within the last couple of years?
Hands down: Joel & Ethan Coen.
Question: Best documentary film director who’s done something in the last couple of years?
I love the documentary “Cocaine Cowboys” directed by Billy Corben.
Question: First film you felt inspired by?
Believe it or not – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. My mom took me to see the Disney film when I was five and after watching it, I told my mom I wanted to makes movies when I grow up.
Question: Your favourite movie trailer?
I don’t know if I have a favourite trailer but the last Batman trailer “Dark Knight” was amazing. I could care less about the Batman films, but that trailer made me really want to see the film. Also Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” was a very simple but amazing trailer that I still remember to this day.
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