Hoosier filmmaker Brian Pearce ("Illusions of Life")
When I initially contacted filmmaker Brian Pearce for an interview, I warned him I was on a tight deadline. “Tight deadlines are nothing new to me,” he replied. This may be the understatement of the year. At this point in his career, Pearce has written, directed, produced and edited two short films. His latest, “Illusions of Life,” won Best Short Film of 2009 at the Windsong International Film Festival in Ft. Wayne, and is now competing for the Hoosier Lens Award at the IIFF. Brian and I chatted about his film, the awards and his process.
The Yap: How did you come up with the story idea for “Illusions of Life”? Have you been a test subject yourself, or were you inspired by something else?
BP: In college I was almost a philosophy minor — like three credits shy — and I've always been fascinated by dreams and the root of existence as a whole. Descartes said, roughly, "I think therefore I am," but he also had a Dream Hypothesis, which stated we can't trust our senses because in dreams they can seem incredibly real, but they are just dreams. I hypothesized that thought. The awareness of a thought is an additional sense to taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing, because we somehow become aware of our thoughts. These same senses do occur in dreams, and thoughts occur in dreams, so Descartes contradicted himself. This film, "Illusions of Life," is an investigation and examination of that line of thinking.
The Yap: Were you confident going into the Windsong festival? How about for the Lens Award?
BP: Honestly, I'm usually nervous before any screening or festival. I am confident in the quality of my films, I take pride in the production value, but so much of festivals is subjective and you never know how a film will be received. I'm optimistic, but nervously so. As far as the Hoosier Lens Award, I know the quality of the competition, so it is just an honor to be considered for it. It puts me in good company.
The Yap: According to your Web site, you wrote, directed, produced and edited both this film and your last one. Could you talk a little about what you like and dislike about each of these responsibilities? Which is your favorite, which is your least favorite, and why?
BP: In all honesty I would totally prefer if someone else would write the script, but both of my films were in my head for so long that I was the only one capable of doing so. I find the writing side frustrating because I never feel like my dialogue sounds real. I'm never completely happy with it. I enjoy taking the script into the pre-production process and watching as things come together. That being said, there is nothing like the excitement that comes from starting production and following it through to finalization. It is during these times, when the directing and editing are heaviest, that the vision comes to fruition and the hard work in pre-production is translated to the screen. It is extremely rewarding to mold the project into the film you envisioned at the beginning.
The Yap: How do you go about getting funding for your films? Is it the same process each time, or has it been different?
BP: Funding is always a delicate matter for filmmakers. The truth is that I mostly financed both films myself, although I did rely on the donations of friends and family who believed in the project. Both of my films were pretty low budget, so I'm not sure how I'm going to attack the funding monster when I'm starting a feature.
The Yap: Could you talk a bit about the locations for this film and why you chose them?
BP: Locations are always driven by the script, so the first thing is, does the look fit my vision? If it fits visually, then you have to consider it logistically. Will the crew be able to work easily within the space? Finally, and especially on a low-budget film, comes the cost of the location and the need for production insurance and other costs. We shot at the Indiana Dunes, not only because they're beautiful, but also because that location truly felt like a deserted beach, which was necessary for the script. The forest scene needed to be accessible while also looking grown over. There is always a bit of luck in location scouting as well, and I feel like we got pretty lucky in our searches.
The Yap: Was the experience of making this film different from your last one? Any amusing happenings on-set you could share with us?
BP: Every film is completely different because each story is different, the locations are different, even the crew may be different. The shoot for "Illusions" went really smooth, so there isn't anything that really sticks out in my mind as amusing. That may be because I compare it to my first film when we saved the Boone Village strip mall in Zionsville. While we were shooting after-hours, a production assistant interrupted a take because one of the columns outside was smoking. According to the first department, the entire place could have gone up had we not caught it when we did.
The Yap: Have you seen any of the other films showing at the IIFF? Are there any you would recommend as a must-see?
BP: I'm the father of a 3-year-old and a 3-week-old, so it has been hard to get to theaters for screenings. That being said, I am confident that the Indiana Filmmakers Showcase won't disappoint. Although I've seen only two of the four films, I know the quality of the filmmakers behind them and know the films will be great.
The Yap: What’s coming up next for you? Any projects in the works?
BP: Currently I'm heavy in pre-production for the 48 Hour Film Project, which is a national competition that goes to cities around the world. The event is July 31st through August 2nd. I'm also working as the Post-Production Supervisor for two features, one that is still in pre-production and another that is in the final editing stages, all this while trying to write a feature with plans of shooting by the end of 2010.
The Yap: What advice would you offer to young filmmakers who are just getting started?
BP: Don't give up. This is a tough industry and it isn't always easy. If you're passionate about it you will find ways to make your mark. Network, network, network. Never stop watching as much independent cinema as possible, and don't be afraid to help on every film you get the opportunity to work on. The experience is invaluable. You'll always learn something.