ED- The Eerie Digest is proud to introduce director Robert W. Filion to our readers. Robert, you work in the film genre that a lot of our readers enjoy. Please tell us how you got your start in motion pictures.
RWF- I was conceived with a camera in my hand… No, seriously, I fell in love with manipulating reality back in the early 80s- creating fantastical images through words. I first remember wanting to become a filmmaker after watching Clash of the Titans on a hot summer evening at the local drive-in in 1981. The imagery was so vast, I was sucked into this amazing world. Flash forward to college in the early 90s, I received a degree in technology with an emphasis in television production… The army, unfortunately, didn’t have a program for me back then, so I mostly came out of my own pocket for the curriculum specific classes (which is why I couldn’t take actual filmmaking classes… way too expensive for a teenager with no credit at all). This is also why it’s taken me so long to get to this point… wrong training. Over the years, I manipulated what I knew, augmented it with my personal research, and finally in the late 90s emerged as a budding filmmaker. I sort of cast off my corporate ties for a bit and concentrated on what I had always dreamed of doing. Mine is certainly not a story of someone believing in me and handing me a bundle of cash… I’m still fighting and using everything I can to attempt to gain some sort of exposure in this field. Granted, I know I’m on the wrong coast.
RWF- I met Julian Adams and a number of other filmmakers in 1999 or 2000 on a feature called “Whisper.” I came on as a PA, but found my way to edit the first cut. Julian was writing the first draft of “The Last Confederate,” or what was then known as “Strike the Tent.” Over the following year, he found me to be a good enough resource as to ask if I would help in its production. Never turning back-breaking work down, and partially blinded by being involved in what could be a springboard feature, I said yes. “Strike the Tent” then became the poster child of how not to make a film over the next two years. I was production managing amidst a hired group of ne’er-do-wells who I sub sequentially had to fire (obviously, I’m short handing to protect the guilty and possibly leave some material for another film or novel). At any rate, we regrouped, taking stock of our triumphs and failures, and ultimately came out with a feature we could all be proud of as our first real endeavor. That whole film took up about 4 to 5 years of life, and reduced the melanin percentage of countless hair follicles.
My follow up feature endeavor was “The Rest of Your Life.” I was brought in as production manager, and enlisting the assistance of all my experiences from “Strike the Tent,” proceeded to put a feature project together in the exact opposite way. What came about was a fairly smooth production where most everyone had a good time on.
ED- How did these films encourage you with the direction of your career?
RWF- The valuable lessons, which were the school of “Strike the Tent,” really shaped me up. I attribute that film mostly with fortifying numerous strengths which were only beginning to take shape during my military career. Organization among those was, and still is, the most valuable tool I or any other filmmaker can maintain. “The Rest of Your Life” assisted me in further cultivating this knowledge and overall personality temperance.
ED- You also worked on the films ‘Cold Storage’ and ‘’Jury of Our Peers’. In what capacity did you lend your experience in the production of them, and how did you apply your previous experiences in your work?
RWF- Cold Storage happened about a year after “The Rest of Your Life,” and was a welcome surprise. It was a fairly barren stretch as I was working on mostly unpaid short films and developing myself further as a DP and Director when I received a call from a big feature which had landed in Rock Hill. They wanted me to come by for an interview, and I said yes. A day or so later, I was called by Paul Barrett at Synthetic Fur about a potential Unit Production Manager gig on “Cold Storage,” to which I also said yes to an interview. A few days passed, and interview time came up for “The Big Feature”; this concluded with a local UPM telling me they wanted me as a PA who could walk her dog. I wasn’t sure if I should be offended or understanding… she seemed very snide and angry with me for some reason. On my way home while telling myself that she really didn’t mean any negativity by the statement, as fate would have it, Paul Barrett called and said they wanted me as UPM for Cold Storage. I said yes, then called the “The Big Feature” people and said no. Astutely, I assisted Paul over the following weeks in the organization process of the film. We really tag-teamed the workload for Tony Elwood’s picture, and what came about was a feature film I was ecstatic to be a part of.
A few years later, I was asked to head the sound department up for Jury of Our Peers. As we worked through the project, I became friends with the guys in the camera department, and also assisted them with some of the lighting… this was not a big feature, and was shot in less than 2 weeks… I haven’t even seen the final product, but hope it was good for them.
RWF- The concept behind iIG was simple enough; it would be the banner under which I operated. To that end, I was and still am taking corporate clients and assisting them with web design projects and any commercial or corporate video needs. I am also using it as my flagship motion picture production company. I pride myself in delivering quality at a low cost, and I strive to bring this to every project and customer. Obviously, I know I have to focus, and corporate and motion pictures are so vastly different. In the mean time, I continue to compartmentalize very well and know my strengths and weaknesses.
ED- What productions is your company working on at present and when will our readers expect to see them?
RWF- I am working diligently with Carolina Filmworks and GraySun Films to produce a feature length motion picture titled “Abominations.” It’s an uphill climb as we are independent, and I’m a first time feature director. We have no great source of wealth ourselves, so we need investors to believe in us enough to take a risk. I haven’t failed with any of my short films, and will bring everything to the feature. A few weeks back, we shot a teaser for this project which I just finished putting together. It’s an old school 80s style stalker/slasher picture with tons of horror and action elements and a great… well, I can’t really say much more as it’s just too cool, will make people too excited, and would damage the story for those unsuspecting of our devious and clever ploy (laughs maniacally).
RWF- I truly want to be a major creative force in this industry, but this doesn’t happen overnight, nor does someone just walk up to you and give you this. Status like that can only be earned with hard work, patience and practice. Nobody really invests in short films unless there’s an anthology attached, so these projects are more just calling cards and padding for the demo reels of all involved.
“See the Dead,” however, is the short that changed my trajectory entirely. This was a piece created as a long shot win for the American Zombie film competition held in honor of George A. Romero, and judged by him. After I had finished writing it, my Mom passed away, and I had to tend to the resulting family and grieving matters; I was almost unable to do anything for the competition as a result. At any rate, after the funeral service and a few weeks off, I came back, scheduled and shot it… the resulting short was made in honor of my mom, and it does contain a strong emotional tie in to that end – it’s about the bonds between mother and child, and is peppered with a bit of Romero inspired social commentary. I shot it in and around my own home with a cast of 40ish ghouls and a strong performance by Vanelle over a 4 day weekend. Post took about a week with just me slaving day and night and holding down a 40 hour week job.
Not only did “See the Dead” win the competition, it also garnered much praise from one of my favorite directors. This encounter with Mr. Romero set my planet on fire and caused the powder keg to ignite, propelling me to finally make a feature. Not only did he like my short, he was beside himself singing its praises… if a world class independent film director believes in what I can do, I should too (not that I didn’t, any little bit helps).
Since then, it’s been me working with my committed team to fine tune our craft. I have been growing as a filmmaker, and have since finished two more short films. “Chekhov’s Children” was written by Michael Louis Calvillo first as a short story, then as a script as I needed something to enter another local competition. Though the piece didn’t win there (wrong audience for horror), it’s making rounds in festivals. We created that short in 72 hours, and it doesn’t look like it at all.
The most recent short was “Lot 66.” This was an experiment to see what I could get away with as a director… could I create something tense and scary which would run in a short time slot and could the majority of the action happen in a brightly lit house? Decide for yourselves when you see it. It is also working its way through film festivals.
ED- What other projects are you looking to work with?
RWF- I’m open to just about anything, and am looking forward to directing “Abominations” when we secure the financing. After that, I have a project or two I’d like to tackle which Michael Louis Calvillo has written based on his novels, and a story of mine I turned over to him called “Athena.” I’m also thinking of tackling something from my good buddy HP Lovecraft. I have a few ideas simmering.
ED- Robert, it has been a real thrill to have you with us and I know that our readers will have enjoyed reading about you. Please keep us informed of all your latest projects and thank you again for spending this time with us.