SUNDANCE Film Festival | 2019
THE PHANTOM 52
Short Film Grand Jury Prize Nominee
Shorts Program 4
25th January 2019, 18:00 Park Avenue Theatre Park City
The film is about loneliness. A trucker who calls out on his CB radio waiting for a reply that never comes. A ghost that haunts the deserted highways. A whale that sings at a frequency no other whale can even hear.
Hi Geoff, thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for Sundance Film Festival 2019?
I am going to say yes...meaning I have spent the last 4-5 weeks getting the film, the team and myself ready...and we will be there...but honestly I am sure there are a dozen things I am forgetting. But they'll fall into place I am sure. At some point, I have to stop working and just enjoy this a little bit, right?
Do you have any nerves ahead of a festival screening?
Plenty. Filmmaking is weird. It is a finished piece, it doesn't get better or worse on this night or that, so I ought to walk into the theatre confident that it will go over swimmingly...but every room is a new group of people, so I am always nervous about how my films will or won't connect with a specific audience.
So yes, I'm always a little emotional waiting for a film to play. Add to that feeling that this is the first film I have directed to play at Sundance and the nerves get turned up a little. and honestly, being that this is Sundance there is also a good bit of excitement (and dare I say elation) that The Phantom 52 gets to make its premiere at the festival. Eventually, you get so filled up with conflicting nervousness, excitement and exhaustion that it reaches a "relative" calm flat-line. at least for me.
As this is your World Premiere does this add any additional pressure on you?
Not really. I gotta give Sundance a good deal of credit here. The staff has been so supportive thus far, and helped make sure that we (filmmakers) are prepared, that I actually feel a little less pressure knowing that Sundance will have a full theatre, a well-organized press line, great audiences, a fun atmosphere there for this world premiere, so some of the pressures that can come with indie film are actually lessened by Sundance being such supportive advocates for the film (and our team). This just leaves the film itself to worry about.
On that note, I will admit that before we finished the sound design and mix, I still had those moments of worrying 'will the phantom live up to expectations?' but then I think it was day 2 or 3 of sound design/mixing with bethan and Bob Kellough (a few weeks ago) that I was mostly able to put that fear to rest. I already felt like Tom Skerritt's performance brought my script to life in a way so much greater than I could've hoped for, and the seven of us on the animation team gave me the visuals I envisioned but beth and bob took the sound to a whole new level.
SoIi sat there in LA watching my film for the first time with their (still unfinished) sound design and it kinda made me want to cry. I was in that truck, I was there with the whales. They made that animated world a real, enveloping world. I figure if it could pull me in, after 600 plus hours staring at it, it's got to pull viewers in. So I have to thank Beth and Bob, they really gave me a defining moment of confidence where excitement to show the film overwhelmed my natural tendency of self-doubt.
"...don't quit. don't get bitter. Keep evolving."
Phantom 54 is a Nominee for Best Short Film Grand Jury Prize, what does this mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?
Let's cross that bridge IF I am so lucky as to. frankly, getting into Sundance was personal and professional goal of mine for the last 15 years. To have The Phantom recognized by the festival, as well as being presented to their audience, means more to me than I can really put into words.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
More or less, yes. I love making things and films are the most fun (and infuriating) thing to make.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut?
I am always re-inventing my own wheels. that hasn't changed. I like independent filmmaking because you get to swim in uncharted waters. Hopefully, I am getting better at it as I go along, but the approach is still as fresh and exciting as it was for me in the beginning. maybe even more exciting now.
Is it easy to let go of your films or do you keep tinkering with them?
It is hard to let go and call a film finished BUT I do find that point. having the opportunity to present that finished film to (and connect with) an audience helps make that moving on possible and having a new project to move on and get excited about makes that moving on A LOT easier.
How important has the collaborative process been for you?
Filmmaking is a fancy word for collaboration. They are inseparable. together we make something better than any of us could have made alone.
What has been the best advice you have been given when you started out?
Don't quit. don't get bitter. keep evolving. And I kinda think that is good advice for the rest of life as well.
Stuff isn't easy. Success takes a while. I may be the poster child for don't give up, and it honestly feels great.
Now you can be reflective, what is the best advice you can give an up and coming filmmaker?
Again, see above. The people who told me life is long, keep trying we're right. So I guess I would repeat what they said, "don't quit. don't get bitter. Keep evolving." And then I'd add "enjoy yourself along the way. filmmaking won't make you rich, so at least take advantage of the adventure."
And finally, what do you hope people will take away your film?
I hope they leave the screening humming Joe West's song. And I hope they think about connecting to one another and I hope they feel for that lonely whale. It's a real whale. It's real lonely.
It would also be cool if they read the credits and realize all the fun punk rock voices that make up the "other truckers".