This week's Filmmaker Spotlight focuses on Director Cal Robertson, whose film is showcased at Sunset Gower Studios as part of NewFilmmakers Los Angeles. Learn about his film, Dog Ghost as he discusses making the film, lessons he's learned and where you can catch him next.
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you’ve been working on it.
The Island in the film is Charles Island in Milford CT, you can see it from my grandparents window. As a kid, we were all fascinated by this island and it was a container for all the wild childhood mythology that hung in the air and made up part of how I saw the world back then. We spent hours making lists of survival guides and drawing schematics for experimental water craft that would take us there and designed fortresses that we would build in our new world.
I have filmed this island, taken pictures and documented it for years. Dog Ghost has images in it that have been with me for a very long time. I have written a feature that I would like to shoot there as well. For me, the story of this island is not completely told.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
I want to thank the two actresses, Helen and Ellie and their dog Sophie, who just passed away a few weeks ago. They are both non actors, and grew up down the street from my parent’s house. Even though I have known them forever, I was still nervous that when I brought this huge camera and a large crew to observe them that they would freeze up. But they didn’t. When I told them to show up for call time at 4:00 AM, I thought they would be late. They weren’t. I feel very lucky.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
I was in a film when I was a teenager called Zero Day, which premiered at NewFilmmakers NY back in 2003 or so. It was my first experience with the world of film and I remember the evening well. I remember the handwritten “SOLD OUT” sign on the box office window. I remember leaving the theater because I was so nervous I couldn’t watch my own film. It was a nice night. It feels wonderful to come full circle and have my own film playing with this organization.
What inspires you?
Reading history, which shows me that the human experience has always been the same. There is something thrilling about reading a primary source from the middle ages or antiquity, and feeling the familiarity of the thought; yes, I’ve felt this before, too.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
The Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Werner Herzog.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
I have been in the industry on some level for a long time, and the only thing I think I have learned is that you can’t control anything, and that everything will change. It applies to shooting as well; there are a lot of things in making a film that you can’t control. It seems the only thing we can really trust is our intuition.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
Colonel Chris Hadfield, who is currently on the International Space Station. Or a deep sea shipwreck explorer.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
I’d rather not say here.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
More than advice, I have learned so much from Ben Coccio, my friend who directed Zero Day and recently wrote The Place Beyond the Pines. I’m lucky that I got to work with him. Seeing his passion up close and his ability to find creative solutions and to get the story told, he has always been a guiding light to me.
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
I have little advice to give that other people haven’t already given more eloquently than I could.
Where can we expect to see you next?
I am shooting my first feature in July back on the east coast where the light is familiar to me. The script was written by my friend Brendan Rooney and it’s starring one of my favorite actors to collaborate with, Christian Madsen as well as Christy Romano.
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
I have a website http://calrobertson.com/ but the best way to keep track of me is to follow my tumblr http://calvinrobertson.tumblr.com/. Or my twitter @cal_robertson where I am still trying to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to say.
For more information, visit: http://www.newfilmmakersla.com/
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