“…Around” with David Spaltro

Written by Suzanne on April 6, 2009 – 8:00 am -

David Spaltro is the writer, and director of “…Around” an independent film about finding home, embracing the fall and perseverance.

“…Around, Embrace the Fall” trailer:

After watching David’s film I wanted to find out more about him and “…Around”. Here’s my interview with David Spaltro.

davidspaltro

HIH: In your bio on aroundthefilm.com  it says you grew up with a love for film and passion for storytelling. What were some films from back in the day that stood out the most to you?

David: The first time I ever realized films weren’t really happening was 1989′s Batman, waiting on a long line to see the film and the original projector broke and being ushered with all these desperate people to see this film; watching it was the first time I saw that people were making decisions and creating this thing. I also grew up watching scrambled copies of Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom ad-infinitum and had a father that showed me all manner of adult fare. When my parents separated and I saw him on weekends we’d go see a matinee, and when I worked at a mom n’ pop shop video rental place, I had a buffet of all kinds of films to see and started gravitating more towards human stories about people and simple events. Film school then finished that, opening me up to more obscure art films and foreign stuff. Gene Stavis, a great film historian, was my teacher and he showed us real film prints of silent movies and hard to find stuff, really great guy. He still invites some of us over to his place to watch prints of random serials, shorts, and old films you’ve never heard of.

HIH: Was it therapeutic for you turning personal experiences into a fictional story on film?

David: I think when you create any kind of art there’s always a catharsis that happens, regardless of how much of you is in the piece. I’ve always seen that the best work always has deep pieces of you in it in some form, you make it your own and work out your own stuff in it and it resonates higher. This particular project, while there was an overall release and I actually got a strange better understanding of a lot of things by stepping out of it and watching it in such a third person, there was also the brutal masochism of reopening old wounds and watching painful memories over and over and over in editing, mixing, screenings. You get desensitized in some ways and then, after awhile, it starts to hit you again and you see something you never did. It’s not for the squeamish, but I recommend everyone, if you can get to that place, put something personal into your work. It’s better for it and in the end so are you.

HIH: One thing I loved about “…Around” is how the characters with lives that aren’t socially acceptable are the ones that can offer the most insight into Doyle’s situation. Do you look for insightful information from anyone or do you find yourself putting a social filter on some people?

David: I’m pretty filter-less. There’s books smarts and street smarts, and while you can have both, my ear will always go towards life experience over what you read in a book any day. I grew up in Jersey City in the early-mid eighties crack boom and recessions, and what was once a blue-collar, mostly white Irish/Italian area became an influx of all kinds of cultures and minorities. I was given the opportunity to see all these different sides and walks of life and perspectives, foods, and languages which really prepares you for NYC. So, at an early age I guess I’d learned that there are so many sides to stories and you’d be hard-pressed to not find good information if you lay your ears to tracks with just about anyone. I’ve heard some of the worst advice ever come from well-bred, lauded scholars with degrees and years of schooling and some of the most worldly, simplistic and honest bits from people you might not give a second-glance at, who people hold their noses in front of.

HIH: On the film’s official site you have samples of storyboards by artist Jess Levy. After going to film school did you find yourself thinking about daily life as if in a storyboard format? Did it change the way you viewed the world?

David: I always wanted to be a story-teller in some way, and while I loved doodling as a kid and in high-school fancied the notion of being a graphic novelist, drawing was more of a hobby than something I could discipline myself to do and become great at. I think the visual ideas and shots are there in your head, but I’m probably more of an “off-the cuff” guy than “plan it all out meticulously”. It was necessary for some of the more shot-heavy days on “…Around”, to know what we were all doing and Jess was a great help. Someone like Jess is just so gifted and precise and also quick, is probably a far-better simply visual story-teller than myself where I’d rely on words and people. She definitely helped bring out some of the best in my visual ideas for the scenes she boarded.

aroundthefilm

HIH: I thought the film was cast well and I could feel the chemistry between the characters Doyle and Allyson. How important is casting in a film if the director and story are strong?

David: Very important. I think people believe you can get away with things if one or multiple things are so strong and it’s a cheat. You can save a film from being a disaster with great acting or writing or cinematography, but if you want to do something really well then not only do you try to have the best of things but you have to make them mesh into a whole. That’s the real trick and I guess goal of all of us out there, to bring all the toys together and make something that works in harmony. Rob Evans and Molly Ryman are two amazingly talented and friendly people, very dedicated to their work, and each brought something completely different to their roles that just connected. Rob was able to connect with the pain and hidden suffering as well as gravitas of my way of being broody, charming and completely retarded at the same time. Molly was able to bring her sweet and good-natured energy, comic timing and empathy while still layering Allyson and making her a 3-d person, rather than just “the girlfriend”. They loved the story and cared about their characters, they found things to relate to and it shows I think. That kind of stuff is essential when you build up a trust with them and yourself as the director, to go places that are hard or revealing and try and really say something that hasn’t been said before.

HIH: The idea of being homeless has always caused a lot of emotion for me. I don’t know why I’ve never been able to turn away without a thought when I see a homeless person. Because of this I’ve often wondered what my plan would be if I was put in that situation. How has your experience changed the way you see the homeless in America?

David: I’ve always seen them as people, with backgrounds and stories. Some threw their lives away, some fell on hard times and gave up, some are mentally disabled and were lost through the system; but they all exist and have stories. Where I grew up at the time I grew up I saw it a lot, and yeah–you’d have to be pretty heartless and jaded to just look away all the time and never let it even tug at your insides, even if you don’t give a dollar or dwell on it. In major cities, like NYC, you see it all the time and everywhere and you do build up a bit of a hardened facade because it’ll just overwhelm you, you can’t give away a dollar to everyone or save the world. And that’s not the point. I think if people stopped thinking in the grand scheme of things. I also feel that the film isn’t just about actual homelessness, but the idea of “home”–what that really is beyond just a four walls and a roof, as well as finding it, losing it and the transitional phase we all go through at some point in our lives.

HIH: “…Around” has an eclectic soundtrack with music by The Black Hollies, Takka Takka, and Summer Hagen just to name a few. What was it like choosing music for the film?

David: It was a bit serendipitous. Music is a big part of my life, I was in a few Nirvana cover bands–dare me to do “Come as You Are” and I’ve always got head phones on, especially when writing. When I edit I throw in songs, ones that might not even stay in, just to find a ryhthym. Our original sound guy who mixed on-set screwed us on a deal to have him do post, he was supposed to do score and add music as well. While working to get the money to do a second-mix and find the right person for the job, I started writing my favorite local indie-bands about getting music in the film, being a NY story and all, and they were kindly receptive. All amazing people to deal with and really great artists. It’s funny because they’re involved in such a big personal thing in my life and I’m a giant geek fan of their work, so it’s a nice treat. We also got some great score and additional music from our second sound mixer Carlos “Storm” Martinez and Vita Tanga at CreativeMixing.com that really added the final layer to bring out the best in the scenes. So, while I’ll never compose a Christmas card about it to him, the bad sound mix instead of just a mediocre one enabled us to come out with a much better film for it.

HIH: If you couldn’t write another film would you be content writing anything else such as novels, short stories, or for television?

David: I’ve always wanted to write the great novel and have done some short-story writing when I was younger. Then you read old works and journals and you’re like, “Christ, what pathetic, whining sixteen-year old misfit wrote thi–oh, right. Me.” I toyed with the idea of “…Around” as a novel but I love collaborating with all the people on set and in post-production. Nothing I love more than getting into a writing groove, but it’s lonely to be sitting in front of a pad and pen by yourself for too long. I like more hands. I think if I had a good idea I’d be a good show-runner on TV as I love dialogue and acting and long, plodding stories that might be better to stretch over 13 episodes than two hours. There’s been talk and interest on an “…Around” TV-show, sort of chronicling the four years, but I’m hesitant of opening that door and ending up with a messed up Felicity-Gossip Girl-CW hybrid… that eats small children and lives in the cellar.

HIH: With all the filming you did in New York, I imagine there are some great adventures from the set. Can you give us one?

David: We were moving three times a day all over the place, building sets over night, locations falling through, running and gunning illegally, facing down Iranian dictators at Columbia University, crashing production vans; but my personal favorite was a night we shot the final scene between Doyle and Allyson in Union Square. It was a crowded Friday night, supposed to rain but thankfully didn’t, and we do a long master take of them in a two and a half minute scene. In NYC other than people being jaded or busy or seeing productions all the time, no one ever stops or interrupts, but on this night I called “cut” and I heard my AD Grant DeSimone repeat it, and all this applause erupts. I see Rob and Molly get kind of red and gush, I turn to the script-supervisor confused and as I look back I’d say somewhere between fifty and sixty-five people had crowded around and were applauding, even yelling “great scene”. I’ve never seen or felt anything like that happen and I felt so glad for the actor s and the crew and all of us killing ourselves on this impossible mission. That was the real catharsis. I slept soundly on the floor (the prop master still had my bed in storage) and will remember that always.

HIH: Do you have any more stories to tell on the big screen?

David: I think so. I don’t know if it’ll ever be the same as “…Around” and the experience, but I have some more stuff I’d like to do if I’m lucky enough to get another “crack at bat”. I have a project I’m finishing up now called “Things I Don’t Understand” I’m planning to start shopping around for financing and shoot in Brooklyn in late-January ’10 and, if possible, reunite some of the cast of “…Around”. I’m also developing/writing a bunch of scripts to just sell and always looking for new stories. I’ve always wanted to do an adaptation of the book “Sex and Rockets” which is the true story Jack Parsons who isn’t remembered in history, even though he pretty much developed rockets and rocket fuel technology because he was also a practicing Satanist who believed he was the anti-christ, blew himself up trying to summon the devil, and had his money and wife stolen by L. Ron Hubbard. It’s a really dark and twisted true story that I think could be quite a great film in the vein of Ed Wood and would be a real departure for myself narratively and visually if I got the opportunity, and though I don’t know who owns the rights, if you’re out there give us an email, would you?

Visit http://aroundthefilm.com for reviews and more information about the filmmakers, cast and crew.

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