EDITORS NOTE: This is part of a series of interviews, conducted via email, profiling directors who have films screening at the 2008 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Screening in the Narrative Feature Competition, writer-director Gabriel Fleming‘s “The Lost Coast” will be having its world premiere at the South By Southwest Film Festival. The film stars Ian Scott McGregor and Lucas Alifano and follows a group of high school friends who wander around San Francisco on Halloween night. Circumstances lead two of the friends to confront an unspoken sexual history between them.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking?
I was one of those kids that was always fooling around with a camcorder. When I was thirteen I spent a summer working as a busboy, and I used all those wages to buy a VHS camera. I didn’t really think of it as something I wanted to do as a career, though; that just kind of happened. My first feature was “One Thousand Years,” a super-low budget documentary-style, improv-based film that played at SXSW in 2002, a little video movie that a lot of people really responded to, but wasn’t really a traditionally “distributable” film, especially back then. But that was fine with me: I didn’t really make it with that in mind. I’m still clinging to this idea that you should make what you want to make, regardless of whether or not it’s going to appeal to huge numbers of people. Seeing as it takes so much energy to make a film, that idea might be foolhardy, but I’m running with it anyway.
What was the inspiration for this film?
I’m particularly interested in the gray areas of sexuality; I’ve heard the basic story of the film many times, usually from gay men, about their early sexual relationships with straight guys. It’s a common enough experience, but there’s such a cultural charge surrounding the gay/straight divide that people are reluctant to acknowledge anything ambiguous about their own sexuality. I wanted to explore that ambiguity without leading to any clean answers. I find it interesting how different people bring their own views on sexuality to the film and interpret the characters in very different ways. How we all think about sexuality is still very much in flux.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film…
I really love quiet, measured films, like Tsai Ming-liang, Andrei Tarkovsky, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Terrence Mallick, etc, etc… With “The Lost Coast” I really wanted to play around with that sense of silence, spare dialog, deliberateness; I was curious how it would mix with the more chaotic documentary-style approach that I usually take. As the film moves along it gets more and more spare, and I really enjoyed the process of stripping down to just tone, mood, and a few charged moments. It was very elemental, in a way, that was fun to experiment with.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making the film?
Cold, rain, and mud were forces we had to contend with during production. We filmed mostly outdoors, at night, during the rainiest March in San Francisco history (it rained 29 out of 31 days). But I have to say the biggest challenge was the most mundane: logistics. The pure organizational effort required is so overwhelming that I came away from this project with a real desire to go smaller. Which sounds strange, seeing as we had only two or three crew people at any given time, but I’d really like to go back to just me, a camera and an actor.
What are your goals for the SXSW Film Festival?
I just want to to see how people respond to the film. I’ve been stuck in a room with this thing for so long, I’m really looking forward to seeing it with an audience and hearing what people have to say about it.