Director Chris Gorak‘s thriller “Right at Your Door” takes place after multiple dirty bombs are detonated, spreading deadly toxic ash across Los Angeles. Brad [Rory Cochrane] inadvertently quarantines his wife, Lexi [Mary McCormack] outside their new home by safely sealing himself inside. With the city under siege and martial law in affect, Brad and Lexi struggle to survive with little supply, limited time and no information–all the while separated by thin doors and thinner sheets of plastic. “Right at Your Door” screened in competition at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Lionsgate opens the film on Friday, August 24 in limited release.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career?
I am of the “Star Wars” generation and always gravitated toward film. I went to college for Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans. From there I pursued set design and art direction. Through the aspects of production design I became interested in the power of story telling and started writing on the side. I always considered writing and directing as the ultimate creative challenge.
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
I have a huge appreciation of photography and can see myself getting involved in still photography or print in the future.
Please talk about how the idea for “Right at Your Door” came about and evolved…
I wrote the first draft of “Right at Your Door” in late 2003 as a reaction to the Iraq war. I felt the war was a misdirect from what was the real problem in our post-9/11 world. I wanted to tap into the post-9/11 atmosphere of fear and perhaps inspire a dialogue about what actually might be the core problem with today’s political landscape.
Elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences.
The biggest influence on “Right at Your Door” was “Jaws.” I always envisioned the dust cloud of the disaster as the shark fin circling the two characters marooned at sea. Once we set the dangerous landscape we could run freely with our characters within the parameters of the disaster. Once we know the shark is in the water you don’t want to go swimming… I realized early on we were making an independent disaster film, a story we were telling from the inside out. As opposed to having an omniscient perspective of a mega-Hollywood spectacle, we locked ourselves inside the characters’ house and cars–seeing what they see, hearing what they hear, feeling what they feel, reducing the scale of the disaster but increasing the paranoia and claustrophobia.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the film?
The hardest aspect of making the film was finding the house location to overlay onto the script. Usually when shooting 90 percent of the script in one set, one would build a stage set to facilitate the story. However, with our tight budget, we did not have that luxury. The house was the third leading actor in the film. Casting the house proved to be difficult. After an exhaustive 10-week search through and around Los Angeles, we finally locked the location two weeks out from our first shoot day.
How did the casting for “Right at Your Door” come together?
As the script circulated town more and more actors stepped forward. Everyone came in to audition which was a great experience for me–I was able to see my script come to life in so many different ways. Most actors were attracted to the challenging dramatic opportunities. Both Mary [McCormack] and Rory [Cochrane] auditioned. At that time, I was able to match them up as the perfect pair to tell this particular story.
I met my producers when production designing The Clearing, which was a film they co-financed with Fox Searchlight. It was at that point I told them I was interested in writing and directing. They challenged me to write something thrilling and compelling and they would take a look at it.
Who or what are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?
Having worked as an Art Director for some great production designers (Alex McDowell, Dennis Gassner and Catherine Hardwicke) I was able to watch some great directors at work. I was getting paid to go to film school. Working on set with Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, the Coen Brothers and Terry Gilliam proved to be invaluable experience.
What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker?
I definitely would like to take a stab at making a comedy–probably a dark comedy but a comedy none the less.
What is your next project?
I have several things in the pipeline at the moment, but they are all a bit to early to announce. I can say I am developing two things with the same producers, a conspiracy thriller and a war picture as well.
What is your definition of “independent film,” and has that changed since you first started working?
Independent film to me is a film produced financially independent from a studio system and independent of a secure distribution deal. “Right at Your Door” was independently produced and financed and upon completion, taken to the market place at Sundance and sold for distribution.
What are some of your all-time favorite films?
“Jaws” and “Star Wars.” Two films that changed my life at a young age.
What are some of your recent favorite films?
A couple of years ago I saw a film called “Paradise Now.” It was such a great film conceptually. It’s a story about a suicide bomber from the bomber’s perspective. Once he is strapped with a bomb there is instant and constant tension for the rest of the film. I wish I thought of that.
Currently, I think Paul Greengrass is one of the more exciting directors out there.
What general advice would you give to emerging filmmakers?
Shut up and dance. Get out there and do it. I have heard so many people talk about making a film. Maybe this, maybe that–someday this, someday that. If this then that. Shut up and dance. If there is true will, there is a way.
Share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of.
Not sure if I can pinpoint the proudest moment however, the toughest thing I ever pulled off to date was being Supervising Art Director on “Minority Report.” That was fucking hard.