EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
DIRECTOR DAVID GUGLIELMO
One lesson director David Guglielmo learned while creating the short film Damn Your Eyes?
Every film budget presents different challenges. Each story is different and each production is unique. The story of how Damn Your Eyes came to be is a tale of creativity, dedication and making the most of the money you have. As always, every movie must first begin with inspiration and a story you believe in.
“I was inspired by many things. Spaghetti Westerns, Traditional Westerns, Greek Tragedies etc… It also has many elements that are personal to me but they’re disguised. People think because a movie is fantastic, it can’t be personal. That’s not the case. I wouldn’t be able to work on this movie for six years if I didn’t put myself in it. I first thought of the idea for “Damn Your Eyes” when I was a freshman at film school. I wrote a few scenes, but I felt I needed more experience to really pull it off. So I put it on the back-burner and made smaller shorts for practice. In my senior year I decided “Damn Your Eyes” would be perfect for my thesis.”
With a story in place and the passion needed to make it a reality, David set out to complete the script and get his project off the ground.
“When I finally sat down senior year and wrote up the script you see now, I knew I didn’t have much of a budget. That’s why there is only one shootout. I knew I could only afford one big scene like that, and I put it in the beginning because I heard that when judges and critics watch short films, they turn it off after the first couple minutes if they don’t like it. I wanted to start with a bang.”
It’s clear when you see the film that David genuinely loves Westerns. That’s what I find fascinating about Damn Your Eyes. Creating a film within a genre you love with a minimal budget requires tough decisions and a lot of creativity. With so many influences and elements you would want to include, how do you create a film that incorporates everything you want without escalating the budget?
“When I was nine years old my mom let me watch Pulp Fiction and I went to school the next day telling everyone about it. I skipped school to see Kill Bill. There was no way I would be able to sit in math class while that was playing in the theater. At the time I was watching Spaghetti Westerns, like the films of Sergio Corbucci (Django, The Great Silence). The Good The Bad and The Ugly is the ultimate Spaghetti Western, and I think Sergio Leone is a genius but I couldn’t take much from him in this case because I just didn’t have the means to go extreme like he did. If you notice, I shot almost everything in close-up. That’s because I’m shooting in NYC and New Jersey! I couldn’t have those scenic wides. I was very limited in that way but it made me more creative.”
“The film was made for $5k. I shot it for 4k and left a thousand for post-production costs. I got a couple of scholarships based on my GPA, and used my own savings as well. (So stay in school kids.)”
MAKE EVERY PENNY COUNT
High Production Values… Low Budget. How did David and his team pull it off?
“I think people go over budget when they don’t put enough time into pre-production and book-keeping. I have to give props to my producer Jennifer Joelle Kachler for keeping a mean book. When it comes down to it, you have to ask: What do we really need, and how can I stretch a buck without compromising the quality and credibility of the film? The costume designer AJ Locascio and I went to thrift shops, bought handfuls of two-dollar items. He ripped them up, stitched them back together, threw dirt on them. We improvised. What Sam wears in the movie is all made from scratch. The whole outfit was probably $40.”
“For the locations I had to think the same way. Louisa’s cabin is a gutted out bathroom on the side of a highway. The scene with the horse is a horseback-riding place for kids. When I first saw it my initial response was that there’s no way. I was about to turn around and go home but then I took a minute, sat down and recomposed my shots. I realized it could work. It’s all basic Roger Corman 101. I needed to make a studio space look like an old saloon, so I went to antique shops and asked if I could rent their furniture because it would be impossible for me to buy it. It wasn’t their policy. I just figured it can’t hurt to ask. I didn’t have enough money for them to put a hold on my card, so I really had to get them to trust me. Thankfully nothing broke. I didn’t tell them it was an action scene we were shooting…”
Another challenging element of producing a short film like Damn Your Eyes is scheduling. Each day you shoot costs money and you have to be careful to make the most of the days you have.
“Scheduling was very difficult because I had to accommodate all the cast/crew, who were either going to school or had jobs. I often had to split up the days and take whatever I could get. In the end it was 12 days total. It spanned from December to April, editing along the way.”
Beyond scheduling you also have to worry about elements that you cannot predict like weather. These are challenges that truly test how prepared you are.
“One of the most important parts of directing is keeping morale high. You really have to act like everything is running smoothly even when it’s not. If people get the sense that you don’t have things under control, it’s over. I can’t stress enough the importance of a good A.D. Shout out: Giovanni Alberti.”
“I work closely with my editors. I like to be there during the edit. I think it’s such an exciting time. You really get to think, be meticulous, and watch the film come together. I also consider it another stage of the writing. Sound design is key. As well as sound recording. In post, I work with a guy named David Leaver and I really look forward to that part of the process. It’s very creative and fun. It’s like the icing on the cake. As for music, my process is always different. Sometimes I know during the writing, sometimes I have no clue until I’m editing. But I never edit to it. I tweak the cuts sometimes to fit the song, but I always prefer editing first then dropping in the music.”
DAMN YOUR EYES
Creating a short film with a low budget is a lot of work. You have to find ways to make your vision a reality. Damn Your Eyes is a fantastic story with extremely high production values. The trick is simple: If you have 5 thousand dollars, do your absolute best to make it look like 20 thousand.
Click play below and enjoy DAMN YOUR EYES.
David is currently developing a feature length version of Damn Your Eyes.
“The story was always bigger than a short, which is why I titled it “Part I”. I was originally going to serialize it- making it a modern take on the serial Westerns of old, but now I decided it needs to be a feature. I wrote the script, and now my producer Jennifer and I are getting things ready on the business end. The story has really evolved, and if you like this your going to love the feature.”
“Besides the feature, I have another short that I’m just starting to send out to festivals called THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. It’s a dark comedy, very different from DAMN YOUR EYES. I did that one for only $2k. I’m also writing a lot. I have a feature script for a live-action children’s movie. It’s untitled at the moment. I really want to make that one day and have it say “From the director of DAMN YOUR EYES”. Producers might fight me on that one though.”
Special thanks to David Guglielmo for the interview.