Monday, September 09, 2013

ET Filmmaker Wraps "A Shrimp's Tale"

Thanks to some mutual friends - actor Michael Abbott Jr and producer/actor David Horton - I have been in contact with East TN filmmaker Andrew Robert Swisher, who spent the last few weeks making a short film in Knox and Anderson counties which he aims to take to festivals and hopefully will take him to bigger projects.

He's an Anderson Co. native, and he's in post production now, but he took some time to talk about "A Shrimp's Tale". Follow the movie on Facebook here.

How do you describe the project you're working on? What was the inspiration for it?

It’s a short film called “A Shrimp’s Tale.” It’s about this dying school janitor named Sebastian who forms this relationship with a young girl named Lilah because she stirs all of these forgotten feelings Sebastian had in a past relationship. In all honesty I don’t remember when the idea came to me. I think of tons of possible scenarios that might play out well in a movie, and I just kind of sit on them and develop them in my mind before I ever put them on paper. I started writing it last November (2012) and it poured out rather quickly. I did some major restructuring on the script in February until it felt like the movie I wanted it to be. The film definitely juggles a lot of themes. I wanted to make a movie that deals with relationship issues and death and spiritual and religious awareness, but in a very minimal way to avoid cliches like most movies run into. It ended up being very visual, floating in and out of dream sequences and flashbacks and also using very child-like objects and imagery throughout the movie to try and evoke the emotions I felt as I was writing it, rather than tell the audience how they should feel through dialogue or some formulated plot. There’s a lot going on, but I think we pulled it off. I wanted it to be something that people could relate to on several different levels and connect with it through personal experiences like Sebastian does. Hopefully each person will take something different away from it.

Tell me some about the production - who was involved?

When I finished the script, I reached out to a producer at a local production company called Jupiter Entertainment. Her name was Elizabeth and we just started getting stuff together. The biggest challenged I faced in pre-production was finding someone to play the lead. I had asked someone local early on to play Sebastian and he was attached for several months until he had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict with his band. There were a couple of others I offered, but they turned me down. I kind of started to freak out, honestly. I know most of the actors in the Knoxville area and it’s not that they weren’t good enough, they just weren’t right for the role. I have a very clear vision of my main characters so I wasn’t going to compromise. I was talking to one of my friends one day telling him I couldn’t find anyone, and he was trying to think of some lesser known indie movies with actors that would be good for the role. Jeff Nichols’ “Shotgun Stories” came up and he said, “There’s this one guy who plays the leader of the ‘other’ brothers. He’s good in it.” We didn’t know his name so we got on iMDB and looked at the cast list and found Michael Abbott, Jr. I saw he was from Morristown, which is close to Knoxville, so I thought he might be willing to help out someone local. I couldn’t find any contact information for him, but I found a website for a documentary he’s been making for a few years about the effects of nuclear power plants, and the website had a “contact us” link. I thought, “This is really shitty I’m about to try and contact him through his project’s website, but maybe he’ll see it by some chance.” I think it was later that night I got an email from him saying he was interested, but had a tight schedule. He had like one weekend free until late August. Miraculously enough, everything worked out. It was weird how it all fell into place, and he was perfect for the part. We shot it all in three days. Definitely not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. We worked pretty much non-stop. I might’ve slept 10 hours from Wednesday to Monday. When people see the finished project, they’re not going to believe we got all of that in three days. I even think some of the crew was surprised we got it all done and it looks as good as it does. They were the best, too. Best crew I could ask for. A guy I had worked with earlier that year named Andrew McGary shot it and three other guys from Jupiter just tackled the rest of the stuff. Everyone was so talented. There’s no way it would be the movie it is without them.

Once completed, what are your plans for sharing and/or distributing?

I plan on submitting it to some major festivals. Sundance, SXSW, LA, Nashville, Atlanta, Slamdance, etc. Hopefully we’ll luck out and get into one of them. I’m sure it will find its way to Vimeo or something around this time next year. Even if we don’t get into any big festivals, I’m just excited to see it get done and share it with everyone I can. I’m proud of the short its become, and you know there’s always stuff you would go back and do differently, but I’m convinced we did the best we possibly could with the time and resources we had.

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