EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR
Looking back on a film after nearly 7 years is a great way to see where you were as an artist, where you are at that moment and where you hope to be in the future. In Left Behind, director Eric Gamache created a touching story that won Best In Shorts at the 2006 Cinefest International Film Festival.
I recently had the opportunity to interview the director on what inspired the project, what it took to pull it off and much more.
When did you first become interested in filmmaking?
My interest in filmmaking started the summer before I started the 9th grade. I was visiting my cousin and some friends and one night we decided it would be fun to make a movie. We shot a 4 minute short, making it up as we went along. We didn’t have any way of editing it so we edited on the camera as we shot, If we needed a second take, we’d rewind the tape in the camera and hit record at the right moment to start the new take. I don’t think anyone ever saw the film. Actually I can’t even remember if we even finished the film that night but I was bitten by the bug.
Around that time I also became obsessed with “Scream” and “Scream 2”. I started watching horror films and made my own. Eventually, I moved away from horror, but it was a great way to get into filmmaking and film appreciation.
“Left Behind” came about so randomly it still surprises me it turned out so well. I had been working on another short film for a long time. It was going to be a 1940’s gangster film. But the script wasn’t coming together like I’d hoped. The day I put that gangster film to bed, I met with my friends Andrew and Adele. I was venting my frustration with the process when Andrew mentioned we should make a short film together again (we had co-directed a short film a few years prior). I agreed and we starting mapping out what was supposed to be a treatment. We also established some rules:
1. It had to be black and white.
2. No coverage. Every scene is to be one shot.
3. Little to no camera movements. (there is only one pan in the film).
4. Minimalistic style (performance, music, etc.)
Four hours later I went home with the shooting script in my hand. Essentially, we wanted to stand back and observe an older gentleman cope with the loss of his wife.
That was October. I then went off and worked on my first professional film set so we started prep in December 2004. We didn’t have any money so everything was done for cheap/free. The cast & crew all worked for free. We didn’t have craft or catering and all the equipment was borrowed.
We shot the film over a day and a half in mid-January. We took 2 days to capture the footage (We shot on MiniDV) and lock the edit before handing the film over to our composers Robert and Mary-Ann Saltstone who did the wonderful score. We premiered Left Behind 2 weeks later at the North Bay Film Festival where we took home the Audience Award for Best Short Film.
The production of “Left Behind” was amazing. We shot in North Bay, Ontario, where I was living at the time. The crew was made up of former college classmates so it was a reunions of sorts. It was a very light and fun shoot. We probably could have shot the film in a day but I wanted to take my time, so we could experiment on set. For the first time I did not storyboard any of the shots. Steve Newman (my DP and former college professor) and I discussed the scenes and found the best angle to tell the story in a visual manner. It was almost as if we were making a silent film.
I got very lucky with the cast. Everyone I wanted, I got. People seemed to respond to the script so we were able to get everyone. Things came together so quickly and easily I keep waiting for something to go wrong. It didn’t seem possible.
What’s it like watching the film again after all these years?
In a word, painful. But I feel that way watching everything I direct. Still, it’s the closest I’ve come to achieving the vision in my head so I’m still proud of the film.
Independent filmmaking has evolved a tremendous amount over the years. What would you say has been the most important leap forward? Likewise, what has, or should have, remained the same?
There are a lot of challenges facing new filmmakers. The first is just getting the film made in the first place. The 2nd is having the film seen by people.
But the internet is a huge help with both of these common problems. With social media sites helping out on both fronts with sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Not too mention YouTube and vimeo make it easy to get short films out to the public. Beyond that, it’s now easier to get the word out about a screening, casting call, funding, etc. Unfortunately, I’ve found grant options seem to be shrinking. It’s never been easy to get government funding, but now it seems harder than ever. I suppose it could be a sign of the financial times.
The future of indie filmmaking is changing.
Looking back, how have you evolved creatively as an artist?
It’s hard to say how I’ve evolved. I certainly have more life experience now than I did when I made “Left Behind”. I’ve also seen a lot more movies. But my tastes have stayed the same. I’ve been striving to get back to a “Left Behind” style short film again. Stylistically, this short film is the perfect representation of me as a filmmaker.
Be prepared. Know your shots, know what you want. Get a good crew. For a first time filmmaker, there’s nothing more important than a great 1st AD and DP, Production Designer and Editor especially if you’re working with an experienced crew and money.
I’m producing a short film called “The Autumn Girl” for Writer/Director Eric Boissonneault that is in post production now. I’m also developing a few other projects as both producer and director.
Special thanks to Eric Gamache for the interview.