By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online was recently contacted by film director Shad Clark, who kindly shared a copy of his latest short film All I Think Of Is You. A science fiction drama that packs an incredible punch, the film also stars Rolf Saxon, a versatile actor who many of AMO’s readers will know as the voice of George Stobbart from the Broken Sword series of point-and-click adventure games. AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with talented director, writer and storyteller, Mr Shad Clark!
Hi Mr Clark, thank you for your time and welcome to AMO!
Thank you for having me! I’m happy we have this opportunity to chat.
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a writer and filmmaker currently based in Oakland, California. I tend to work in elevated genre, which basically means I like to tell genre stories that rise above the tropes. My films have been featured on IFC and have played festivals around the world. In addition to my work in film, I’ve also published two short stories, both speculative fiction.
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Movies have always captivated me and stirred my imagination. As a kid, I was one of those highly creative misfit types, which meant I spent a lot of time alone in my head. Early on, I drew a lot. And then I started writing. And then I wanted to learn to play the piano. And then I took photography classes. I eventually realised the thing that made film so special was that it combined many of the things I’d always loved – story, language, imagery, sound, and music. At that point, how could I not want to make films?
Your latest short film is called ‘All I Think Of Is You’. What’s the film about?
The story centres around a woman who’s approached by a stranger possessing the memories and emotions of her dead husband. She didn’t know the details while he was alive, but her husband was working in a lab dedicated to developing an artificial brain. His work made it possible for the contents of a human mind to be digitally encoded, copied, downloaded, and deleted. And now he’s left his wife in a world where it’s no longer clear whether people are driving technology or technology is driving people.
Where did the idea for the film come from?
I’m kind of a geek, so I read a lot of science and tech news. But I’m often baffled by the disconnect between certain scientific pursuits and common sense. Mind uploading fits into this category because people talk about the technology as though it’s a means to attain immortality. But what they’re trying to do is digitise a human brain, and some of the proposed methods even involve destroying the original physical brain, and then putting it all back together again as a working simulation. A copy. That might be a way to immortalise someone in a figurative sense, but I expect a less romantic slant from scientists. For the purposes of the film, I wanted to illustrate the social and personal impact of achieving this sort of technology.
Would you describe it as science fiction?
Yes, and I’d also describe it as a thriller infused with drama.
Thank you for sending me a copy of All I Think Of Is You – I absolutely loved it. It reminded me a lot of Duncan Jones‘ style of filmmaking, particularly his film Moon starring Sam Rockwell.
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled that you so enjoyed the film. And I take the comparison to Duncan Jones’ work as a huge compliment. He’s proven to be a solid director, and Moon is way up there in terms of the best sci-fi films in recent history.
Are there any filmmakers in particular that inspire you and influence your work?
David Fincher, Chris Cunningham, Stanley Kubrick, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuarón, David Cronenberg, Todd Field, Mark Romanek, Ingmar Bergman, early John Frankenheimer.
I was delighted to note that Rolf Saxon was involved with the film! I interviewed Rolf last year on AMO and we’ve kept in touch ever since – he’s a wonderful actor and a really nice guy. How did he become involved and what was it like working with him?
Rolf is great! He became involved in the project in the most traditional sense: He auditioned, and he nailed it! On set, he was fantastic both professionally and personally. Even though we did all his scenes in one day, it was the toughest day of the shoot. We had to build the ‘sterile room’, and set construction ran late. So the pressure was on, and Rolf had the toughest lines in the script. I wrote those lines, so I think he started to resent me a little bit at one point. But of course he delivered, and his performance is superb. We’ve talked about working together again, and I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Incidentally, Rolf is the one who turned me onto AMO when he sent around the link to his interview. I’m so glad he did.
What can you tell us about the other actors who were involved with the film? The performances are fantastic throughout – it must be a challenge to establish strong characters in such a short amount of time?
Character development is definitely one of the biggest challenges in doing a short film. It’s one thing to cram an emotionally complex and satisfying story arc into eight minutes, but even then you need actors that are magnetic in one way or another. I wouldn’t have been able to establish any of these characters without having such an engaging cast.
I’ve known Simone Olsen-Varela, who plays Claire, for some years now. She actually had a small part in my previous short, Side Effects May Include, where she’s credited as ‘Burger Zombie’. I’d been wanting to work with her again and cast her in a more substantial role. She was out of the country at the time and wasn’t planning to be back until about a month before the shoot, so I ended up auditioning her over Skype.
L. Jeffrey Moore, who plays the Subject, started out as one of the producers. During auditions, we weren’t finding a good fit for the role. Kristin Schwarz, the executive producer, and I both knew Jeff was an actor as well. She encouraged me to have him read for the role, but I was also hesitant to ask because he had nice long dreadlocks at the time. You’ve seen the film, so you realise the Subject is bald…
Rowan Brooks, who plays Nate, is a very in-demand Bay Area actor. He couldn’t make any of the original casting dates, and so we ended up auditioning him on Thanksgiving. We knew he was our guy as soon as he gave his first read. One of my favourite scenes during production was with him on the stretcher. I kept saying, “More blood!”, and he kept coughing it up take after take. He really wanted to die on camera.
Where was the film shot?
The San Francisco Bay Area, where I live. The laboratory scenes were shot on a soundstage in Emeryville that we rented for a day. All the other scenes and shots were borrowed or stolen in various locations across San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland.
All I Think Of Is You was funded via Kickstarter – what made you decide to finance the film via crowdfunding?
I’d written the script some years before, and I ended up shelving it because it was going to be quite a bit more costly than my previous shorts. I didn’t have the money, and Kickstarter allowed me the opportunity to raise a budget.
$3,000 seems like an incredibly low budget – yet you managed to make the film look like it was shot with much more money behind it. Why did you only ask for $3,000?
Funny enough, we only asked for $2,500. The thing with Kickstarter is that you don’t get any money if you don’t meet your set goal. Kristin, the executive producer, did an analysis of short films that were successfully funded and arrived at $2,500 being the sure-fire magic number. But then we ended up raising more, which was fantastic! Doing this film for $3,000 was very challenging. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to only have the $2,500. Thank you for saying the film looks more expensive. That’s certainly something we worked hard to achieve.
Where you pleased with the end result?
Very much so!
The film is currently only available to be viewed by Kickstarter backers – what plans do you have to get the film seen by a wider audience?
The film premiered recently at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre as an official selection of the HollyShorts Film Festival. We’re anticipating some more festival screenings through the spring, and then the film will be online. Most likely this will be through Vimeo and YouTube, but we’ve also been approached about distribution by a certain subscription-based video service. Through one venue or another, the film will be widely available by late spring.
Am I correct in saying that you write all of your own screenplays?
You are, though that’s not to say I wouldn’t direct another writer’s work.
How would you say making short films differs from making feature-length films? Do you think short films are more restraining or more liberating to make?
I think short films are both – more restraining and more liberating. You can’t do as much in eight minutes as you can in two hours, but it’s a lot more feasible to fund and complete a quality short film independently.
Would you like to make a feature-length film in the future?
Absolutely! I’ve had a number of people ask if I’m planning to do a feature version of this film, and I do have some strong ideas around that. I also wrote the short as a way to revisit a world I first wrote about in an earlier feature script called Otherness. Right now, I’m also shopping around a feature horror script titled The Living Death Of Leonard Fisk, which is somewhat in the vein of Donnie Darko, only with the title character becoming a cannibal. There’s a well-known actor I have in mind, and I’ve started conversations with his people.
What do you do when you’re not making films?
I’m always writing, at least in my head. And I freelance in a variety of roles – writer, ideator, creative consultant, content developer and creator, video editor, etc. I work for other filmmakers, ad agencies, game companies, transmedia types, and whoever else is hiring. I’m also active on a number of social issues, mainly those involving animals, the environment, and gender and civil equality. And of course I love spending time with my wife and our two hairy kids (one dog and one cat).
What’s next for you Mr Clark?
If you visit shadclark.com, and I hope you will, you’ll see that I’m working on a number of projects. In addition to shopping The Living Death Of Leonard Fisk around, I’m writing a novel about a surveillance agent tracking down a sadistic figure from his past. And I’m developing some new intellectual properties that I would love to explore in a variety of mediums, including a dystopian sci-fi story centred around a teenage girl born the same year as the viral outbreak that decimated civilisation.
Thank you for your time! I really enjoyed All I Think Of Is You and I can’t wait to see your next film – please keep me updated!
Thank you for your time as well! I’m happy you enjoyed the film, and I’ll definitely keep in touch. Cheers!