I don’t think there are very many people who at some point in their lives didn’t want to make movies, or at least be in one. The silver screen is a magical realm where anything can happen, and the god-like power of being the one to make it happen is a very tempting dream. The ones who actually follow through are the special ones. Filmmaking is a vast undertaking compared to many other artistic mediums – a writer needs only a pen and paper; a painter needs only paint and canvas; a musician needs only a musical instrument. A filmmaker, however, needs a camera and sound equipment and locations and editing equipment and other people to be in his or her film. I was very excited to be able to sit down with one of the newest additions to our city’s independent film scene, David Brewer, who is presenting a free screening of his first film “Nothing in the Flowers” at Headliners Music Hall on Thursday, the 29th.
When asked what his film is about, David replies that “it takes place in a small town where two girls have gone missing… A local sheriff is drawn in to that case, and uncovers some things that have been going on for longer than he was aware of.” It is an intentionally vague response; David is consistently careful not to give too much away. (The original title was actually “Lost But Not Found,” but he felt that he needed something more ambiguous.) The plot contains many surprises and revelations (he hesitates to use the term “twist”) and he wants the viewer to get the full effect of the film, which, when pressed, he categorizes as a psychological thriller.
“Nothing in the Flowers” is David’s first completed effort in film, which sets him apart from most filmmakers who have a background in making at least short films or home movies. Prior to “Flowers” there was one aborted project: a documentary entitled “Coexist” which was to be about members of different religions and how we all live and interact together despite opposing worldviews. Unfortunately, obtaining willing participants proved a significant challenge, and so the idea was scrapped.
A few months later, a friend of David’s had completed a film for the Fright Night Film Festival. Faced with the idea of fiction, he thought, “I can do that.” The original idea was to make a thirty-minute long supernatural-type horror film with the aim of submitting it to festivals.
The initial idea came from a dream he had about three years ago: “I [was] standing at a bus stop and it was nighttime, or pre-dawn, and I remember this school bus coming around the corner. There was no sound, there were no lights on inside or outside the bus, and I just remember this bus pulling up in front of me and there was nobody on it; it was pitch black. The doors opened… and [the sound] echoed through the trees.” This dream stuck in his head as a particularly creepy image, and it became the inspiration for the initial script intended for Fright Night.
As writing progressed it evolved into a more realistic scenario, and eventually the supernatural aspect was dropped. Meanwhile, the film began to stretch beyond its intended time limit. “I wanted to get deeper and deeper into the characters,” he says. “I wanted to make it a more full-bodied film.” Before long he realized he had a 78-minute long feature on his hands.
David cites four main focuses in his approach to filmmaking. First and most important is the story. Not very many moviegoers focus on things like lighting and cinematography; to most people, the technical aspects are secondary to what is happening on the screen and they go largely unnoticed. While David naturally put a lot of energy into making the film look good, he believes that shortcomings in that department can be forgiven by the viewer if there is a compelling story.
His second focus is upon the characters. It was very important to him to create unique characters and avoid clichés. This was especially important when it came to the character of the kidnapper: “When most people think child abduction, they think pedophilia… [or] violence… [or] ransom. It’s none of that with this guy; I wanted him to be a more complex character.”
The tone of the film is David’s third focus. “I wanted to create a feeling of uneasiness… It shouldn’t be a film [during which] you can really relax.” He shot most of the film with a handheld camera, which lends a kind of voyeuristic quality, like we, the viewer, are looking into a dark and forbidden place we would normally avoid.
His final focus is merely to establish himself a filmmaker. He does not intend “Nothing in the Flowers” to be his only feature, so he hopes to “get enough eyeballs on the project to continue to do more and get people behind me.”
I hesitate to ask about influences, because I don’t believe that a creative person can necessarily answer such a question about themselves accurately. I was, however, interested in what filmmakers David respects. Firmly at the top of the list is the Coen Brothers (“The Big Lebowski,” “Fargo”). Paul Thomas Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”) and Darren Aronofsky (“Requiem for a Dream”) are also favorites. He admires M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”) on a technical basis, but laments the fact that other than that his films have gone severely downhill since the beginning.
As for future projects, David has a five or six ideas on his mind, but he didn’t go into it. Right now he is firmly committed to promoting “Nothing in the Flowers” for the next six to twelve months. He is quite pleased with his first film and is very excited for people to see it. “I want to see what kind of legs this film has,” he says.
“Nothing in the Flowers” makes its world premiere this Thursday at Headliners Music Hall. The night will open with a musical performance by Demi Demaree of The Villebillies and a showing of the short film “Shuttle Nautilus” by Warren Ray. A Q&A session with David and the cast will follow the film. Admission is free and includes popcorn.
Headliners is located at 1386 Lexington Road.
Photo courtesy of David Brewer's Facebook page.