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 had the pleasure of chatting with the films writer and producer, Carl W. Lucas, to discuss his writing process and how the film changed during production.

Thank you for taking the time speak with us. I’d like to start with your first feature screenplay Illegal (2010). Thematically in comparison to The Wave, it seems like there is a pull towards the betterment of life and achieving dreams within our grasp. Is this something that is consciously with you in the writing process? 

While I never want anything I write to be outright “preachy”, I would say that I’ve always seen film as a visual medium most suited to teach empathy.  I really feel like telling stories that give you, “the viewer” the opportunity to put on someone else’s shoes and live in their experience for awhile.  It should be memorable and if possible, it should try and change the way that person views their existence.  So, with “Illegal” I really wanted to present a scenario that would help people realize the limited options available to migrant workers when it comes to the choices they make and to hopefully have folks ask themselves “what would I do had fate drawn me those cards?”  With “The Wave”, I wanted to make a film about how people don’t consider the i implications of their actions.  They just move through their existence, trying to get to the next day with as little resistance as possible.  I really wanted to tell a story about a man who suddenly becomes aware of his karmic footprint.  Early on, I had a critic of the film describe The Wave as “the movie your high school bully thinks is deep.”  And I remember reading that, thinking “God, I really hope so.”  My high school bully was a monster and if he connected with anything I wrote in this film and found a moment of self-reflection in it, I would consider myself a successful filmmaker and would retire from making films forever.

Visually, it’s no secret that The Wave is very vibrant and exhilarating. However on the page that is another story. How do those set pieces come to you and how did you flesh them out with Gille? 

So, it should come as no surprise that it was Gille’s early work in music videos that not only inspired me to want to work with him, but it inspired the psychedelic nature of the film itself.  I was just stretching my legs as a producer when I met Gille back in 2012 and I was working with a lot of indie dramas, but those weren’t the films that really drove me creatively.  I wanted to do visually-driven stories, and the idea of doing something with a lot of visual effects but doing it on a budget became very attractive to me, but it required a very specific type of film.  One that came together once Gille and I started collaborating together on the script.  I would come up with scenarios, and then I would get on the phone and we would discuss at length all the different ways he could envision that scenario and how he would shoot it (always mentally keeping a budget running in my head) and that would affect the course of the script.  Gille would describe some pretty fantastic scenarios and I would do my best to describe them on the page, but mostly those lived in Gille’s head. We also talked at length about scene transitions and maintaining the fluid nature of the film, so a lot of those really clever scene transitions and smash cuts got put on the page, which kind of made it a fun read.  It’s the main reason I think we were able to attract the talent we had, because we put all of Gille’s crazy ideas on the page (as best I could) and the rest was detailed in his feature length animatic he made from the storyboards.  I promise you.  You’ve never seen a film with this low of a budget have this much prep.  Well, maybe you have, but not often!

The Wave to me was an odyssey of pure lucid carnage. Was the surreal tone always an element from the first draft and if not, how did The Wave change over time? 

This goes back to my original inspiration from Gille’s work.  “Lucid carnage” is a great descriptor of his vision.  The tone of the film was always to have this flat generic world to contrast against the vibrant and sometimes nightmarish world of the hallucinations.  A lot of the film speaks in metaphors and for us, moving the story forward was the most important thing.  Anything in the script that didn’t serve the story was ejected, and that gives the film tone this “feet floating above the ground” feel that you only see in movies.  It’s like when a guy in a movie walks into a bar and orders a beer.  Some folks are like “I hate that.  No one walks into a bar and just orders a beer.”  But I’m like, I honestly don’t give a shit what kind of beer he’s drinking unless it serves the story specifically.  I’m just weighing down the audience with unnecessary information in a film where literally every choice on the screen is trying to tell you ’something’ about the plot/ character/ theme of the film. It’s like when Frank orders a whiskey rocks at the bar.  What kind of whiskey he’s drinking isn’t important (other than the fact that it’s cheap whiskey).  What is important is that from the get-go, Theresa offers him her whiskey, when he notices he’s the only one who doesn’t have any.  From her first action on screen, she’s teaching Frank empathy.  “I have too much.  You have none.  Take some of mine and catch up.”

Was this written with Justin (Long) in mind and how did his involvement affect the writing process when he came on board? 

So, a big inspiration for this film was After Hours, so, when I wrote it, I pretty much pictured circa 1989 Griffin Dunne playing the role in my head.  When Justin came on board, he was able to find that energy perfectly, and still made it something all his own.  While his involvements didn’t involve any major rewrites, he has a very loose improvisational nature on set and some of the laugh out loud funniest moments in the film are Justin finding the beat no one saw coming.  Justin was actually on our hopes and dreams list early on in the process, but we figured at the time that our aspirations might be too lofty for this small of a film.  Luckily, the script eventually made it to him and he opted to slum it with us and I couldn’t have dreamed of a better creative genius leading this cast.

Finally, I understand that you are currently working on a project titled The Old Way. Can you us more about that and what we can expect? Thank you so much for your time.  

The Old Way is a dark western tale, to be shot in the style of a classic western, about an ageing gunfighter who must take his daughter with him to find the man who killed her mother.  It’s a familiar set up, but what makes it interesting for me is that it’s a story about mental illness in the old west, when they didn’t have doctors and medications or even names for the things that could be wrong with somebody.  It’s about a man struggling with mental illness, and then recognizing his daughter is struggling with a lot of the same symptoms and how he teaches her to adapt in a world that doesn’t really care if you’re mentally ill or not.  It’s a story about family, and the nature of tradition and how we teach our children the same mistakes we learned, simply because we don’t have anything else to teach them.

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