Behind-The-Scenes: The Release of “Don’t Look Back”

Over the past few months, I’ve experienced the incredible rollout of my latest film, “Don’t Look Back.”

The movie was initially released on Video On Demand and then had its domestic television debut in October on Lifetime Movie Network. On the night of its debut, it drew over 1.1 million viewers. It was an amazing experience. I even dabbled in a live tweeting session with two of the film’s cast members, Lucy Griffiths and Tyler Jacob Moore, during the broadcast.

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I didn’t get nearly as many questions from fans as the two stars sitting next to me…but I did get some!

What was really cool about the experience was tweeting behind-the-scenes pics and info while those very scenes played out on the television in front of me. I’ve gotten some great feedback on the site, specifically, how I talk behind-the-scenes details and provide a glimpse into my directing process. Here’s a portion of a recent comment: “As an audience member, you do wonder what the director, writer and actors went through during the creative process and this is a wonderful resource for that. It is always interesting to know when shots and frames don’t just ‘happen’ but were planned to add more to the story than the action and dialogue.” I’m really glad to hear it.

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The craft of directing can often seem intangible, or at times mysterious, and I take every element of the process extremely seriously. A recent article I wrote on directing a scene in “Don’t Look Back” was published in MovieMaker Magazine. Here’s a link where you can check it out:

http://www.moviemaker.com/archives/series/how_they_did_it/inserting-cuts-oner-dont-look-back/

In these days of microbudget films, with limited time and resources, you have to be as prepared as possible before you begin production in order to call audibles and change things up later on down the line. In fact, I’ve written a book all about the process of directing my first feature film, “Detour,” which is slated to be published early next year. So…keep an eye out for it!

In the case of “Don’t Look Back,” I was fortunate to have wonderful producers, and terrific cast and crew members, who supported my vision and helped me finish the film in the best possible manner!

 

DON’T LOOK BACK: The Pieces of the Puzzle

I’m a big fan of mystery. Where there’s a mystery, there’s a puzzle to be solved. And with any mystery comes clues. “Don’t Look Back” is no exception. You might catch clues on the first viewing of the film, but you’ll likely catch more on the second. In the spirit of celebrating the mystery of the movie, while simultaneously deconstructing it, here are some clues to enhance your viewing experience of the movie.

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Remember, if you look hard enough, you will find the answers:

1. Triangles.

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Triangular shapes — in the production design, shot compositions and blocking of the actors — appear in critical moments of the film. The house Nora inherits, an A-frame structure, is itself a triangle. The shape of the house reflects the shape of the characters’ journey throughout the entire movie:

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If the two characters are the sides of the house: where do they start, where do they meet and where do they split?

2. Green and Purple are complimentary colors.

complementary-color-wheelWho’s wearing green and who’s wearing purple? When are they wearing these specific colors? Do the colors ever switch characters?

3. Pay close attention to what is shown in mirrors.

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4. The Sputnik.

The Sputnik is a medium format twin lens reflex stereo camera introduced around 1955. It was developed and manufactured in Russia. Using 120mm film, the camera provides six 6×6 pairs (or twelve single images). As Peyton says: “It has two lenses. When I release the shutter, it takes two photographs of the same subject, simultaneously; but because the lenses are apart just so, each picture is slightly different.” Which replicates the way we see, with our eyes apart ‘just so.’

CM Capture 10When Peyton looks through the viewfinder, the image is reversed:

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We see through the viewfinder several times in the film. Think about the one time we see through the viewfinder and the image is not reversed.

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Who is holding the camera?

5. The Split-Diopter Lens.

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We incorporate a Split-Diopter Lens to divide the frame between Nora and Peyton. This enables us to have both foreground and background in focus as we execute a split point-of-view.

Nora and Peyton are divided, yet connected on the same plane of focus.

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Notice how Peyton is first introduced and what the frame looks like when cutting back and forth between Nora and Peyton:

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The 180 degree line is intentionally broken, placing both Nora and Peyton on the same side of the frame. This results in our eye remaining in one spot (as opposed to shifting left-to-right-to-left in a traditional shot-reverse-shot) — the characters change, but their position remains one in the same, the blur of the Split-Diopter the only thing dividing them.

6. What is Nora wearing on her date with Jack? How is she wearing her hair?

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7. Nora’s childhood bedroom.

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Her bedroom — the room that Peyton rents — was the site of her abuse. The scene of the crime. And it literally hangs over the rest of the house. What kind of memories hang over the rest inside a troubled mind?

8. Lithium.

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Prolonged mood disorders are very serious, and the last line of defense is often “Lithium.” Prescribing Lithium is an indication that a patient’s mood disorder is not only quite serious, but has been worsening over the years. It is not uncommon for a psychotic break to occur if one were to stop taking their prescribed dosages. What are some of the symptoms that might accompany such a lapse?

9. Pay close attention to the moments in Nora’s life when Peyton shows up.

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Why does she appear at these moments?

10. Whose eye do we begin the film with and whose eye do we end the film with?

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At the beginning of the film, the camera enters the popsicle stick house. At the end of the film, the camera exits the real house — the one the popsicle stick version was modeled after.

It’s up to you to put the clues together and discover the answers. It’s perfectly okay to “figure out” some twists and turns while watching the film, or to not fully grasp them until long after you’ve finished watching the film. The point of the movie is to put you, the audience, into the shoes of our main character, Nora, and experience the events in the film as she experiences them, as she sees them unfolding around her.

Now I encourage you to watch the movie…and then look back!:

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/tv-season/dont-look-back/id905543703
Amazon Instant Video: http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Look-Back-Lucy-Griffiths/dp/B00NBD067A
VUDU: http://www.vudu.com/movies/#!content/554110/Dont-Look-Back
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/movies/details/Don_t_Look_Back?id=SXpz_D_TcaI
Vimeo On Demand: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/20579

Poster Exclusive: “DON’T LOOK BACK!”

As the end of summer approaches, so does the release of my next film: DON’T LOOK BACK.

Here’s an exclusive first look at the poster below:

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The film is a psychological thriller about Nora Clark (Lucy Griffiths), a prominent children’s book writer, whose life is at a crossroads. After moving back into the house she inherited from her grandmother, Nora comes to grips with the traumatic memories from her childhood, and takes in an inquisitive, seductive new roommate, Peyton (Cassidy Freeman), who is not entirely whom she appears to be…

I was extremely fortunate to work with an amazing cast and crew who are all at the top of their game. Lucy Griffiths (TRUE BLOOD) and Cassidy Freeman (LONGMIRE) star in the film along with Tyler Jacob Moore, Roddy Piper and Kate Burton. Tyler was recently cast in ABC’s ONCE UPON A TIME as Prince Hans, a character you may know from Disney’s blockbuster hit FROZEN:

http://www.cinemablend.com/television/Once-Time-Finds-Its-Prince-Hans-Pabbie-Rock-Troll-66492.html

Kate Burton was just nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as Vice President Sally Langston on the show SCANDAL (Good luck, Kate!). And Roddy Piper – a childhood hero of mine, when I knew him as the infamous “Rowdy” – is perhaps best known in the world of cinema for his iconic role in John Carpenter’s cult classic THEY LIVE.

DON’T LOOK BACK is set to hit iTunes, VUDU and other VOD platforms in the beginning of September.

I will have more info soon, but in the meantime…keep a “lookout” for it!

And…That’s A Wrap!

If you’re reading this, you can tell that I haven’t updated my blog for a while. That’s because shortly after my last post, I started production on my third feature film.

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The new film is a psychological thriller. It’s minimalist, but not even close to as minimalist as Detour. The shooting title was The Cabin, but it’s since been updated to: Don’t Look Back.

Here’s the logline from IMDb:

Nora Clark is a children’s book writer whose life is at a crossroads. After moving back into the house she inherited from her grandmother, Nora comes to grips with the traumatic memories from her childhood, and takes in an inquisitive, seductive new roommate, Peyton, who is not entirely whom she appears to be.

We began pre-production in October 2013 and started shooting two months later in early December. It was a 14 day shoot, which isn’t that long, but not uncommon in the world of indie filmmaking. The movie is a contemporary thriller that has a bit of a throw-back quality to it; a quality that, as a filmmaker, I felt channeled the early work of De Palma and Polanski. It is a type of project that I’ve always wanted to explore as a director.

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I had a wonderful crew. I re-teamed with my Detour cinematographer, Rob Kraetsch, and first assistant director, Paul Yates, to shoot the film. It was my first project with producer, Andrea Ajemian, who helped bring the movie, which was built from a story by Michael Testa, to life. I also had the privilege of working with a terrific cast, including Lucy Griffiths (True Blood), Cassidy Freeman (Longmire), Tyler Jacob Moore (Shameless), Kate Burton (Scandal) and Roddy Piper (They Live). I must admit, I was duly impressed that we had two John Carpenter alums on set: Kate, who starred in Big Trouble in Little China, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, who starred in the cult classic They Live. If I’m not mistaken, They Live still boasts the longest fight sequence in cinema history.

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You must remember Roddy’s signature line from They Live….if not, I’ll remind you: “I’ve come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

My first AD carried around a bucket full of bubblegum on set, just in case.

In all seriousness, Roddy was just amazing to work with; a true professional in every sense of the word. He plays against type in this film, and I strongly believe he’s gonna get some notice for his performance. It’s sure to hit a lot of nerves.

We just finished post-production, and the movie looks and sounds terrific. MarVista Entertainment is set to release it.

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Please stay tuned…I will be sure to post more info when the time comes. In the meantime, DON’T LOOK BACK!

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