"The Lost Coast," Gabriel Fleming's second feature as a director, premiered at SXSW last year and has since won the best feature prize at NewFest. The film follows high school friends who reunite for Halloween in San Francisco and confront experiences of the past that no one has yet dared to explore. indieWIRE talked to Fleming about the film, which is now available on Amazon VOD.
Please discuss how the idea for 'The Lost Coast' came about.
A lot of my gay male friends have this common story, about a sexual relationship they had in high school with a guy who, to this day, identifies as straight. It's a ubiquitous, yet silent side of male sexuality. Being bisexual myself, I feel a kinship with these ostensibly straight guys, and I also find the internal struggle that they must have gone through to be fascinating. It seemed like a good subject to make into a quiet, dark, atmospheric film, which is what I was interested in at the time. I was listening to a lot of shoegaze music, and I wanted to capture the dreamy, unsettling tone of that genre.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences, as well as your overall goals for the project?
I try to approach filmmaking from a small scale, keeping everything about the production within modest means, using the absolute minimum of lights, equipment and crew. I find that the more artificiality you throw on a set, the more artificial a film feels. Even adding a single film light will remove an aura of naturalism, which I like. At the same time I was trying to go for an almost Tarkovsky-esque style with this, which isn't exactly naturalistic. The challenge with 'The Lost Coast' was getting the right blend between everyday naturalism and cinematic intensity.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
Casting was hectic. I wrote the script only a month before Halloween, when we'd have to have our first shooting day. I doubted I would be able to go forward with the project, but then I saw Ian Scott McGregor in a play, and thought he would be perfect for the lead in the film. Once he agreed to do it I knew I could build a cast around him, so every weekend I would drive from Los Angeles, where I was editing reality television for MTV, to San Francisco, to hold auditions for The Lost Coast. We got the final cast together only days before we our first shooting day, which took place amongst the throngs of people in the Castro on Halloween night.
What is your next project?
I'm in India right now filming my next project. It's tentatively titled "Donovan and the Mysterious Rocks," and is a big shift from the tone of "The Lost Coast." It's an archeological mystery series, filmed all over the world, with international conspiracies, action sequences, and a ghost. It's like a very very low-budget Indiana Jones, silly and fun, with a lot of great locations. While traveling we've been getting people we meet to play the various parts. I just put up a very simple website about it here, everyone reading this should go and sign up for the mailing list!
What are some of your recent favorite films?
Lately I haven't been as interested in film as I have been in television. Shows like "The Wire," "Rome," "Battlestar Galactica" (the first couple seasons at least), were really exciting to me, and got me into a series mindset. Which is why my current project is a series instead of a feature film. I really like the benefits of the series format: shorter bits that are less of a commitment to watch, yet story arcs that last longer and are more involved, characters that you get more familiar with, and a lot of freedom to maneuver and experiment that you don't get with the strict format of feature films. I hope we start to see more indie filmmakers tackle the series format, now that we can distribute via iTunes, Amazon, and the like.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
I would advise budding filmmakers to ask themselves: if you knew you would never make any real money, get famous, or every see any of your work in a nice movie theater, would you still do it? Because probably that's the way it's going to be, and if you're okay with that, you're good to go.