I had the honor of interviewing filmmaker, professor, and friend today, Damon Blalack, please look forward to his upcoming subjects-
Me: Tell us about your current projects
DB: Aside from being the co-director of the Red Dirt International Film Festival, I’m currently scripting an adaptation of the novel, The Boy From Worcester, about a Massachusetts street-gang in the 1960s.
But as I start a Ph.D. programme in Belfast Ireland in the fall, I’ll be embarking on creating four new feature films of varying genres, but using what I hope is a new method of organizing and producing films that will greatly-streamline and simplify the process. I’m approaching them in a very retroactive way, but with modern technology to present these films in a more-broadly-accessible fashion.
Me: For those that don’t know, what’s the red dirt international film festival?
DB: It’s an internationally-represented film festival where filmmakers from across the globe and many fellow Oklahoman filmies gather to present their films to the public and each other, network, and generally have FUN. The website is reddirtfilmfestival.org for anyone interested in checking out more about us.
We’re in our third-year, and this year’s 2 day convergence will be Oct. 9th and 10th at the Stillwater, OK Community Center. We’ve had filmmakers representing films from all seven continents, and showcase things that are generally a year in-advance of formal distribution to the public. One film we featured went on to be eligible for the Academy Awards.
When we’re not running the 2 day event each fall, my co-director Marisa Ferrell and I conduct educational workshops for local high-school students, and are working on many one-off events throughout the year to offer opportunities and cultural-exchange to the people of Oklahoma.
Me: You mentioned teaching, aren’t you an adjunct film professor?
DB: I taught for five years as an adjunct, but now turn to my Ph.D. studies to gain a full-time tenure at the University-level, in-addition to the research I can use to fuel the effectiveness and originality I’m seeking to explore in my future films. I’m not sure where I’ll end up by the end of the three-year programme. I’d like to stay in Oklahoma, so whether that’s UCO, OU or OSU, it’ll depend on which ever one has an active-opening.
Me: I think Fritz Kiersch, who directed children of the corn, is at OU, have you had a chance to meet him?
DB: He’s at OCU. I’ve known him for about ten years now. I worked with him on his film, The Hunt (2005) as a camera assistant.
Me: That must have been great, so you mentioned “The boy from Worcester”, tell us more about this
DB: I did a book review for the author, Bob Pitchman about two years ago, and he was interested in seeing it adapted as a live-action film. Since he appreciated the review I’d written, saying he thought I really “got” what the book expresses about his own life-experiences during that time-period, he asked if I could recommend a screenwriter.
Having loved the book, I said I’d love to take a stab at it. I should be finished with my draft within the next week or so hopefully, and will then begin to shop it around to producers, with the hope that I can direct it.
This film is outside my four feature-films plan I’m embarking on during my school programme, because it’s a very different picture than what those will be.
Me: What’s the book about?
DB: It’s about a Massachusetts street-gang in the 1960’s; it’s very-much a coming-of-age tale.
Me: Like the outsiders?
DB: Yes!!, very much so, but maybe a little darker.
Me: Which is classic, so we’ll be hearing more about that this summer?
DB: Perhaps. Who knows if it’ll get funded, but if and when it does, I’ll be there to give it all my best as director.
Me: Well let us know if you go the crowdfunding route; so what’s this 4 movie thing about?
DB: Definitely!! That would be a good-route. As for the four films: I’m using the 1930’s/1940’s production methods to get back to the ease and simplicity of feature film production, which includes such things as using the same cast, locations, and sets for many films. My approach will be to use great economy in producing these four very different stories: One will be an homage to the 1930’s Universal Classic Monsters films; one will have a more arthouse-feel, akin to something like The Fall (2006) or The Fountain (2006); another may be a sci-fi actioner; and another will be a sort of early 1970s European style horror film.
Me: Any more details about the sci-fi action one?, that’s a wide range
DB: It’s so early-on; that one is the most vague one to me right now, but it’s more of a cerebral, cold and distant take on what an action concept in space has traditionally been like. I will probably do that one last. So, in 2 1/2 years I’ll know much more!, maybe a bit less than that 🙂
Me: And those 4 will be filmed in Ireland?
DB: Oh, I see now, defend your work?
Me: Otherwise I’m working one-on-one with my mentor via the phone and e-mail exchanges.
DB: Your filmmaking mentor?
Me: Yes! Dr. Gary Rhodes, who is the world’s foremost expert on Bela Lugosi, the actor who played the original Dracula on film, as well as many other conic roles in the 1930’s and 40’s. He knows a lot about these production methods I’m hoping to reconcile with modern technology.
Me: Who made “Lugosi: Hollywood’s Dracula”?
Me: So you mentioned doing a book review, do you have a blog or something that you post book reviews at?
DB: The one I mentioned was posted at Amazon and Barnes and Noble- http://bit.ly/1gxxDWt The only other book review online that I’ve written is “Implications of the star wars: darth plagueis”- http://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http://www.examiner.com/review/implications-of-the-star-wars-darth-plagueis-novel-on-the-clone-wars&h=JAQFrZaH9&s=1
Me: So star wars has had a big influence on you as a filmmaker, what other movies have influenced you?
DB: Like most filmmakers of my generation Star Wars has had the BIGGEST influence. But I’ve also always LOVED the Universal Classic monsters of the 30’s/40’s, the original Clash of the Titans (1981), The Blues Brothers (1980), Young Einstein (1988) and UHF (1989). Alongside Star Wars I-VI as my collective FAVOURITE, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) is my hallmark go-to film for inspiration and visceral excitement.
My favourite genre falls somewhere between the Italian giallos and gothics of 1970’s Italy and Spain, but I also adore arthouse cinema, and the works of Werner Herzog and Guy Maddin. Alejandro Jodorowsky is my favourite living filmmaker, with Stanley Kubrick as my representative choice for all of film history, unless we’re included the mind-boggling feats of early cinema magician George Melies’ jaw-dropping output of shorts and innovations.
Me: Your first film got 2/10 on IMDB, how do you defend that?, and has that affected your filmmaking?
DB: I’ve made dozens of films, some for PBS, some for art galleries, and some for drive-in movie theatres. One such film won the Gold Award at one of the oldest and most-prestigious film festivals in the US. So sometimes you get accolades, and sometimes get panned.
Some films don’t rate well when lined-up outside their intended venue. The film you refer to is an all-out art-film, designed for a gallery setting. Having a rating on the Internet Movie Database which people primarily use in-regards to more traditional mainstream narrative styles doesn’t serve it any purpose. There are reviews for it from several statewide and even international publications that took a look at it from the perspective by which it was designed and it was very well-received.
So as a filmmaker it doesn’t bother me when something I’ve made is seen and assessed outside the circle it was intended for. Would I always like to make something that translates all-across the board? I don’t know, because to me it seems like many things that get that sort of response don’t have a whole lot to say, because they’re too split, too-diversified from the intended crowd. But no…I don’t take these things into account; I just make films for the sheer passion and joy I get out of it!
Me: At one time, you were wanting to make a full length bald knobbers film, is that still planned?
DB: Definitely! That one is contingent on a number of things first. My co-writer on that one isn’t entirely happy with his draft yet. And there’s the fact that the street gang film could help lead to better-funding if Bald Knobbers follows that one. I *may* try to approach that one during my school programme instead of one of the others. But we’ll just have to see how these things play out organically over the next 2 1/2 years.
Me: Well we definitely look forward to seeing what you do!:) final question, as people can see from reading my blog, and you know from reading my script, I’m a Christian, what are your religious views?, and how do they affect your filmmaking?
DB: I’m an agnostic theist who studies all world religions and scriptures inside and out. I seriously considered getting my Ph.D. in biblical studies because of how deeply I disseminate holy texts and their origins. The way that it affects my filmmaking is in my ultimate plan to present my own film adaptations of the Bible and many other sources, based on my lifelong research, which I continue at all-times.
I know that filmmaking is a powerful tool, and the fact that The Chronicles of Narnia’s proto-Christ in the form of Aslan the lion makes me weep like a child and conveys to me the greatest spiritual connection I’ve ever had says volumes of the use of metaphor and archetypes we as humans respond to. There’s real-power there in that depiction the same as if it were focused on the real Christ, or in what some respond to in the Superman mythology. Spirituality, religion, and archetypal discourses are my lifeblood, which is why I know I’ve always been drawn to the power of the film medium!