The Limelight Index: Kevin Slack – Writer/Director
Above is Kevin Slack, a filmmaker whose latest short film was selected by Ridley Scott and Michael Fassbender to screen at Venice Film Festival. I caught up with Kevin who tells me how he got started out in film, where the future lies and that you should always “keep shooting.”
Hi Kevin, when did you first get into filmmaking?
I first started making movies in high school with my best friend. These were mainly “Jackass” inspired sketches that nobody laughed at but us. Then in my high school video class I had to recreate a scene from Scarface and I completely fell in love with filmmaking. After that, my best friend and I wrote and shot a feature film one summer and the rest is history. That feature film will never be seen by another soul though, it’s horrible.
Did you always want to be a director?
As soon as I realized that “being a director” was actually something people did then yes. I didn’t know that was really a job until I was at the end of my high school career. Up until then, I just thought movies were kind of magically made without knowing how. I also love editing and operating camera, but I have always wanted to be the director on a project, the main creative source.
Who are your influences?
Unfortunately I have a horrible memory, so I don’t have the backlog of knowledge that a guy like Scorsese has. I tend to be influenced by more modern filmmakers like Paul Thomas Anderson, Steve McQueen, David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky, the Coen Brothers, Spike Jonze, Nicolas Winding Refn, David O Russell etc. However I find myself referencing the greats like Hitchcock, Robert Altman, Kubrick, Spielberg a lot to. I’m really influenced by the painter Edward Hopper. I’m always going back to his work at the beginning of my projects. I’d also like to mention that these guys are more inspiration than an influence. I do my best not to imitate, no matter how inevitable it is to do something others have already done. I try to be inspired by those filmmakers and use their work as motivation to create something beautiful.
Your short film, The Drought, has been widely successful, how did this project start?
That project was born really organically in my apartment. I saw a news reporter interviewing an umbrella salesman in Manhattan and that night I had a rough draft done. It all just happened so quick and so easy. That film was really a blessing because it brought me on such an amazing journey all the way to Venice, Italy where it screened for Michael Fassbender and Ridley Scott. It aired on PBS, played at numerous film festivals and has around 100,000 views online. That film is still my favorite project I’ve done and the most fun I’ve had making a film to date.
What’s your take on online distribution platforms?
Part of me is a total traditionalist where I believe every movie should be seen on a big screen in a dark room with strangers projected on film. I don’t think any setting can replicate how magical that situation is. I still try to go to the cinema every Sunday, even by myself to see a film. I was a projectionist for a while in college as well, so I really have a place in my heart for it. However, the majority of people are seeing content online or on demand in some way now. It’s great for smaller films that don’t have the funds to do a traditional marketing campaign. It’s really expensive and risky to do a theatrical run for films. Take a guy like Ed Burns who makes his movie for a few thousand dollars and then puts it right on iTunes. He always makes his money back and then some. It works really well for some filmmakers. I think it gives a voice to some films and filmmakers that otherwise wouldn’t have been seen. I like to think when I make a feature that it will be in the theatres, but when it comes down to it, I’m just thrilled to get eyes on something I make.
Can we expect any big projects in the works?
Right now I am writing a feature, directing a comedic short next month and always writing treatments for music videos and commercials. Nothing too big that I can talk about right now, but you’ll be hearing from me!
What’s your favourite thing about filmmaking?
My favorite part of filmmaking is the collaborative process between myself and the cast and crew. It’s a really special environment that is hard to describe to people that haven’t been through it. Even just being on set with people for four days can create this magical bond that is really sad to let go of when the shoot is over. In terms of specific parts of the process I love being on set directing and then editing. If it was up to me, I’d write the script and 2 days later I’d be on set shooting.
Any parting advice on the craft and, or, industry?
Keep shooting. The best way to learn is to make some seriously bad mistakes. It’s a good thing to make bad movies at first. Also just watch as many films as you can. Try to constantly surround yourself with people more talented and experienced than you on set. That way when they come up with an amazing idea, you’ll get the credit for it.
Watch The Drought below: