So this is what quick turnaround feels like.
I watched Trust by writer-director Edward Robles sometime yesterday, took a few moments to pick my jaw off the floor and dashed off a request for an interview. He accepted, I sent him some questions, he wrote back, et voila!
I’ve also featured the short film on the latest Weekend Watching, but it is embedded here for your convenience. Be sure to watch the film before you scroll down towards the Q&A because we have discussed plot points from the film.
Let’s start with a little background: what’s your story? Did you study film, are you self-taught? And how long have you been making films for?
I went to Columbia College in Chicago. Chicagoan, born and raised. So I was definitely taught. But film education always begins with just watching a ton of films. Like, a metric ton. My dad and I counted once when I was about 12… we had upwards of a thousand VHS tapes.
I’ve been making stuff since I was 13-ish, who knows. In high school I made some shorts, some radio pieces – This American Life rip-off kinda stuff – for Curie Youth Radio. In college, I studied cinematography. We shot a ton, sometimes every week. And with good old film. That’s where I met my great friend and DP Phil Jackson. He’s shot everything I’ve made, so I guess we’re kind of married.
How, just how, does one write a film to convey the experience of a comedown after a rave? Honestly, you just gotta do drugs a lot (sorry mom). The adults are always like “write what you know,” which is wonderful advice until you wanna write about a murderer or something. But yeah, lots of drugs, lots of comedowns, and a huge swath of comedown experiences. Once, some friends and I found a playground after the afterparty ended, and we wound up on the swing set til like 9:30 in the morning. As soon as frowny-faced moms with strollers turned up, we knew it was time to go.
Luckily for me, the party / comedown aspects of the film are more environmental. Like an ambiance. Certainly not the text of the film. So in the end, it came down to the performers to craft the visceral details of a comedown.
How did you cast your main actors?
Well Chris, the clown, is a really good friend of mine. We worked together at Smuggler, a commercial production company. Total non-actor but goddamn, the kid can act. Before I brought my producer, Rachel, aboard, Trust was gonna be a much smaller thing – friends helping friends. Chris’ involvement started there and, I think, really became something awesome. He’s got this give-a-fuck attitude in the film which is the antithesis of who he is in real life. I don’t think I know a kinder, more perpetually apologetic person.
Leah was, if I’m not mistaken, a friend of a friend of Rachel’s. We had a sit-down with her at the Thirsty Crow in Silverlake, and I knew immediately that she was Amelia. From an aesthetic standpoint, she’s got this really sweet smile. Like, her jaw goes a little askew? But it’s magical, especially when that smile’s pointed at you. For me, she had this look of like, “I’m having fun no matter what, fuck you,” and that’s what I needed. From a talent standpoint, she’s an incredible actor. Can give you ten different reads in ten minutes. It’s scary.
How long did it take, end-to-end from the time you had the idea for this film until you had a locked final cut?
Had the idea maybe Fall of 2014, met Rachel my producer soon thereafter, we started pre-pro late winter, production was late spring, final cut end of June? So, whatever that math is.
Were the costumes a script choice, or a costuming decision? Also how hard was it for Chris to walk around with those balloons tugging on his pants?
My old roommate and dear dear friend Caroline McCosker is a brilliant costumer. She’s also the hardest working person I know. The costumes were written into the script, and I knew that the guy would be a clown and the girl would be some riff on Amelia Earhart, but Caroline brought those ideas to life.
Regarding balloons, I think Chris never really got used to them. They had a pretty strong lift, like maybe 5-10 pounds. We were worried his suspenders would snap off and fly away, so we fastened them down.
Did you know in advance all the elements you were going to cut away to for that discursive feeling or did Julian pitch you ideas in the edit?
That style of metaphorical shot juxtaposition is something I’ve been into for a while. I did a music video for the composer, Kyle Woods (KYWO… check him out), last year. Really exercised that concept a lot in the video. The song is “Window,” so the technique attempted to address the ways in which we look out onto our own lives, and the world.
That said, Julian is a top notch editor and had to really be sold on the concept. In the end he massaged those beats in a way that was way better than what I was going after. And the whole “flick” moment, where early morning becomes mid-morning, all him.
Do you have a story for the corpse on the beach, do you know what he was up to before he ended up as a crossover between your main characters’ fantasy lives, and the real world?
A buddy of mine actually offered up a great backstory for the corpse, that he was just another costumed raver at the party taking a little siesta by the beach. Had a good laugh at that one. As for who the corpse is or whether he exists in the characters’ stories, their reality, or (ultimately) ours, is something I’m gonna have to stay quiet about.
Tell me a little about the sound design – it contributes such a great deal to the overall effect of the film. What proportion of the total mix was library effects and how much of it was created especially for this project?
Rachel’s buddy Tom Paolantonio did our sound mixing, and a college buddy of mine, Ian Wellman, was our on-set sound recordist. I’m a big fan of establishing rhythm in a film, and Tom was mind-blowing in his application of sound. A lot of the sound effects were library sounds, but tweaked in a way that created a sonic cohesion for the whole project. Lot of low bass tones, lot of airy wind. There’s a surreal quality to this film, I think (or really, I hope). Right off the bat we knew that sound was a great way to separate this film’s world from the real world.
What about distribution, did you go the film festival route at all, or did you publish it to the Internet right away?
We’ve got a few submissions out right now, fingers crossed.
How has life changed–has it changed?–since you released Trust into the world?
Definitely feeling the Vimeo love! It’s honestly stupid how badly I wanted recognition from the staff. But I feel so warm and fuzzy inside now that I’ve gotten it. Vimeo’s such a wonderful community, and I’m lucky to be a part of it.
As far as life, well, I feel like I’ve finally washed my hands off Trust, strategically I mean. I can now turn my full attention to future projects, of which there are too many (and somehow not enough).
What is the next project you’re going to be working on?
Personal projects: my wonderful team (DP – Phil Jackson, producer – Rachel Ann Cole) and I are starting the grind on a new music video that I can’t say too much about. Rachel’s getting ready to whore out a feature I just wrote, and I’m busy writing another one.
Professional projects: continuing to explore the narrative storyscape of virtual reality at Vrse (which takes up about 95% of my time and brain). The fun never ends there.
[All photos courtesy Edward Robles.]