April 19, 2012
Discuss wearing so many hats on Little Star, and if there is a particular trade you found yourself enjoying more than you expected to?
One of my favorite things about the filmmaking art form is its collaborative nature. I love working with a team and the unexpected results that that can produce. So for me to take on all of the roles that I did for Little Star (Producing, Directing, Writing, Performing, Camera, Editing, Music), it certainly wasn’t because I thought I was the best man for each of the jobs.
The crude answer is that I was itching to get a short film made, and I knew that without a crew to assemble I could quickly get something in the can. However, more than that, the nature of what I was shooting called for me, practically speaking, to don the multi-hyphenate hat. I knew that capturing the domestic-set footage would be key to the tone and emotional core of the film. The most practical answer to doing that was to simply film me interacting with my own family during normal family time. As a result, for all of the family footage (except for the final scene, where I had Samuel Gatlyn man the camera), I was a one-man crew and just set up the camera and let it roll. And again, for the hotel scene, which I shot while on an over-night business trip to Myrtle Beach, I wasn’t able to bring a crew and so had to shoot all of the shots myself.
The office building scene is where I compensated for the rest of the film and hired a DP (Ben Jack) and assembled a small crew. As a result it has a nice balance to the rest of the piece in a similar way that the themes of purity and impurity are balancing each other throughout the story.
The fun of it all is that I enjoyed every aspect to each role I was undertaking. And I’d do it all again, provided the script was lean enough to support that. But the real take away from this project was a return to acting. Growing up on the stage in Hartford, and spending my teenage years a part of the professional stage union AEA, I had my sights set on being an actor full time. When that transitioned to writing and directing film I was never sure what sort of place acting would take in my professional life. When I chose to take the lead performance in Little Star—which, again, was more out of necessity than anything else—it reawakened that love for the art form, which continues to be something I want to make more time for.
Describe the story and what attracted you to its darker elements. Why is this worth putting on film?
Little Star is a meditation on one man’s duality as expressed through the love for his daughter and the darkness of his occupation. We meet a man who appears to be a loving father and a good husband. He is also a contract killer, and while it’s unclear how much internal wrestling is at war within himself (he’s not a cold-blooded killer), there is a clear emotional line drawn between the warmth of his interactions with his family and the coldness with which he carries out his hit jobs. His family is unaware of the darkness that occupies so much of The Man’s time, and it is this duality which is at the heart of Little Star.
I call it a meditation because that is the best way to think about it. Short films often are thought of as short stories, and they can be, but as a medium they shouldn’t have to bear the burden of having classic story elements: a character, a change, a resolution. Unlike feature films, which, like it or not, do have that burden, short form art has a much broader field of play. I wanted to create a dream-like experience that, instead of delivering a message in the package of a story, sort of lingered in the ambiguity of ideas and emotions that I had spent the better part of 2011 wrestling with. Little Star was shot in August of 2011, and while it began as a simple creative outlet to shoot a film for a festival run, it ended being a cathartic piece of therapy for me. No one is more aware of their duality than I am. And as someone who believes that duality exists within all men and women, Little Star then becomes something of a metaphor, applicable to each viewer’s life to the measure that they are aware of the balance of their own purities and impurities.
I do not believe that The Man’s impurity is justified, in a Righteous sense. But as the film ends with the same balance with which it began, many are uncomfortable with the implications of this and think some sort of justification is taking place. It’s not. But since the purpose of art is to provoke the viewer toward the question—as opposed to answering a question, or even posing a specific question in the first place—I see the moral ambiguity within Little Star as appropriate. At least as long as it exists as a short form piece.