Luke Eberl‘s “Choose Connor” premiered at the CineVegas International Film Festival in June 2007, and has since played in dozens of fests, including the Rome Film Festival, the Woodstock Film Festival, and the Philadelphia Film Festival, where it won the American Independent’s Award. The film follows an idealistic 15-year old (Alex Linz), who becomes the youth spokesman for U.S. Senate Candidate Lawrence Connor (Steven Weber),, only to be exploited through Connor’s election campaign. 22-year old Eberl, making his feature directorial debut after a career acting (with credits including TV series’ “Big Love” and “Cold Case), talked to indieWIRE about the film.
What initially attracted you to filmmaking, and how has that interest evolved during your career.
I have been a professional actor since I was a child. I started acting only in the theater in Colorado where I’m from. When I was 10 years old, I got my first part in a movie, and when I got on to the set – which was my first time ever on a movie set – I was in awe. I loved it. So many people with so many different types of talent – acting, directing, writing, construction, business, etc. – all working together on this creative project. So since then I’ve never stopped making films. I love it. It’s such a wonderful process.
Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?
Well, as an indie filmmaker one has to wear a lot of hats – because you don’t have a lot of money to hire tons of people to work for you – so for that reason I have been able to experience many sides of the film industry, which has been cool. Eventually I would like to do an animated film. I have no talent for drawing or painting, but I would like to collaborate with someone who does on an animated project some day.
Please discuss how the idea for “Choose Connor” came about.
Being a young person in the world the way it is right now, full of suffering and corruption and war, I am sometimes unsure how to proceed with my life. Is it better to wear slippers than to try and carpet the whole world? Should I give up my selfish artistic aspirations in favor of working as some type of a revolutionary? Or should I accept that I can’t change the world without first working on myself, in my personal relationships? Are all these questions just excuses and diversions from the fact that modern American life is inherently hypocritical and I don’t want to sacrifice mode of consumption and comfort for the sake of anyone else’s quality of life?
I don’t have any answers, but I thought it would be interesting to make a film, not in a “realistic” way, but in more of an “allegorical” way, that addresses these questions.
Please elaborate a bit on your approach to making the film, including your influences, as well as your overall goals for the project?
My general approach to making the film was to, as much as possible, not make any decisions for the audience about how they should interpret a scene. There are a lot of movies where, if 100 people are watching it, it’s pretty important that all 100 of them think or feel the same general thing (i.e., “that was funny,” “that was scary,” “that was sad,” etc.).
For this movie, I wanted to remain as objective as possible, which is why there is not very much music in the film and a lot of scenes play out in long master shots with no coverage. There is suspense and tension in that ambiguity, hopefully. Also, I hope, with this technique the film becomes a more personal experience for each audience member, a collaboration of sorts between the audience and the film – because 100 people are going to have 100 very different interpretations of the film as I’ve discovered while touring around the world with this movie at film festival Q&A’s.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?
Well, like a lot of indie filmmakers will tell you – raising the money is always difficult. I guess we made this film not trying to appeal to any particular demographic or follow any trends in the cinema marketplace, so there were several distributors who liked the film a lot but couldn’t see how to sell it. Thankfully, we found Strand Releasing who has a lot of faith in the project, saw its merits, and is putting it out there.
How did the financing for the film come together?
Through many friends and friends of friends all giving small amounts.
Who are some of the creative influences that have had the biggest impact on you?
I was acting in a film whose cinematographer was the great Phillippe Rousselot, and he gave me a great piece of advice: “Don’t learn film from film, learn film from life.” So other filmmakers are a big inspiration to me, but I find most of my inspiration from my travels, family, friends, and world events.
What other genres or stories would like to explore as a filmmaker?
Many, I’ll just take it one film at time.
What is your next project?
I have written a script called “God’s Work” that I hope to make in Colorado sometime soon.
What is your definition of “independent film,” and has that changed at all since you first started working?
I guess the textbook definition for an indie film is a film that is financed outside of the studio system – but it’s important to remember that there are brilliant films made by the studios and crap made independently. Any film, from any financing source, can have the creative, independent spirit.
What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?
Make films. Have fun. Take risks. Do something that challenges you, scares you.
Please share an achievement from your career so far that you are most proud of.
I’m proud to have known the interesting people I’ve worked with and met during my career, and to have been able to do something creative and stimulating with my time for all these years.