Earlier this year The Wave joined my personal ranks of tripped out odysseys of carnage. Supported by truly exhilarating VFX work, Gille Klabin knocks his debut feature film out of the park with a wonderfully original vision on the re-examination of self-worth and destiny. I got to chat with Klabin about his film, working with Justin Long, and the visual effects used in the film.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. After directing various shorts and TV gigs, how did the transition to a feature film feel for you as a creator?

Firstly thank you for watching the film and taking an interest in us. This project came about because the writer/producer Carl Lucas had seen some of my music videos and was thinking of making a short film with me. He was dating (and now married) my friend Lana Wolverton (editor of the movie too). He saw some punchy Little Rock video I did and thought my visual style would lend itself well to a short he was planning. Then my first Steve Aoki video came out and he decided I had enough going to helm a feature on my own. 

 Initially Carl was going to produce and I would direct this little horror movie he had access to but after some discussion we decided to make our own film. Carl wrote the script with me in mind based on effects and locations we thought we could get for free. A couple of casting directors got their hands on it and suddenly big names were being thrown about and the film exploded. 

The Wave is your debut feature film. Was this script always the intended project to work on as your directorial debut or were there other scripts considered? 

I had been offered some feature work before but never felt connected to it. I’ve done a lot of jobs just for the paycheck but I’d always wanted a film to be something I deeply believed in because I knew how much of myself I would give to the project to make it happen. When Carl showed me the first 30~ pages of the script, I knew immediately this was something I could give myself to and try to make my first feature. 

This film struck me as a wildly fun exercise in how VFX can used as narrative tool, as opposed to just spectacle. How did this script challenge your approach to VFX than any other projects you’ve done?

Most the visually striking sections of the movie were based on what I told Carl I could pull off on a shoe string budget. We had always planned to make this film ourselves so all the effects were a combination of physical and visual effects. These were all scaled up when the production expanded. With the VFX, Patrick Lawler (VFX supervisor) and I wanted to make effects the lent themselves to the real visuals of psychedelics while also pushing Frank’s, and the audience’s, emotions in a certain direction. When he’s meant to be elated and euphoric, the world swims with him and bathed him in nebulous soft colours, when it gets nightmarish, the effects had to reflect that brittle and unnerving environment. We went in to the shoot with a descent idea of what we would do exactly but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a lot of the final look was discovered in post through trail and error.   

What really stuck with me is the sense of existence within our own stories and how we can reshape them, given the proper insight. How did you and Justin (Long) go about creating within Frank?

That was the exact sentiment that bonded both Justin and I to the project. We are all Frank and that was the motto going in, the film wouldn’t work unless we felt like we were in franks shoes and, moreover, it wouldn’t work unless we related to frank as a person. He doesn’t do many good things in the movie so having him be likable and accessible was key. Justin and I sat down with the script for a couple of days and just went over it line by line until we were on the same page about who frank was as a person, why he does what he does, what his intentions were, and what he feels and learns as the story goes on. Justin was such a joy to work with, he brought such humanity and vulnerability to a fundamentally dislikable character. He brought our film to life. 

Justin’s performance is truly wonderful. Can you tell me how yourself and Justin came together to collaborate on this and was Justin always your first choice? 

Casting a movie at this level turned out to be the hardest part of the whole film, scheduling is a nightmare. We were floated Justin’s name early on but figured it would be a waste of time because he was out of our reach. But after 2 years of false starts his agents offered him again. I had just watched his amazing performance in Zack and Miri and saw what magic he could make with an easily forgotten character so I figured we’d reach for the stars and see if he fancied it. He connected with the script and felt confident in the amount of prep work we had done so he jumped on board. Frankly I struggled to believe it was happening until I met him a week before shoot. He showed up and was such a team player and such a constant source of joy and energy. Desperate to work with him again. 

Finally, what can we expect to see from you in the future? Thank you massively for your time. 

My loftiest dream would be to make my own script next and I am in the earliest of stages for that. Aside from that I am back to music videos and commercials for a little bit while trying to get another film going. 

Thanks again for taking the time and watching our film.