I had the chance to talk to director TJ Scott about his upcoming film Death Valley and what Superhero film he would like to direct.
Can you tell me about the film and how you got involved?
Writer Brad MacPherson and I had wanted to collaborate on a script together for about a year when he brought me a storyline he was conjuring up that I really liked because thematically it delved into ‘how you never really know anyone until you are in a crisis with them’ - and how every person has 'the Mask they want you to see - and the Mask they hide'. We took his storyline and sculpted it into a movie that could shoot in Death Valley - because it is my favorite place on earth - but it is very difficult to shoot there as it is a National Park, with many restrictions. Shortly after finishing the script our Producer friend Taylor Williams mentioned he was looking for a cool little Indy Script to help finance - he liked our script - and we were off and running. I had a tiny window in my TV directing schedule between 'Orphan Black' and 'Black Sails’, so we put the project together in 2 weeks and went to camera. We needed to keep the entire crew under 13 people to be able to shoot in Death Valley, so the crew was assembled out of a handful of Award Winner technicians I had worked with in the past - that I knew were ‘hyphenates’ and could handle two or three positions each on the project… and we shot with three cameras, so even the actors had to hump gear in and out of each location.
Read the entire interview after the Jump...
What Was the Casting Process?
Brad and I wrote the role of Billy Rich specifically for Lochlyn Munro and the Role of Jamie for Victoria Pratt - I had done a movie, Blacktop, with them together before -s o knew they had a magic chemistry on screen, and luckily they were available so that was a slam dunk. I had just worked closely with Nick E. Tarabay and Katrina Law on Spartacus - and they just seemed perfect for the other two leads. Kelly Hu, Jeremy Ratchford, Juliette Beavan and Cela Scott are four of my favorite people to collaborate with - so I just offered everyone the roles with no auditions. Everyone we wanted agreed to do the roles, and that was that.
What type of Genre is the film
Technically it’s a 'Road Thriller' - I like to refer to it as a 'Film Noir by Day'.
You have directed so many huge TV shows how does directing this independent film different?
Television has always been the Domain of Executive Producers. Directors can have a lot of input, but in the end they are not the final design making creative force. In an Indy movie the Director really has to step up to the plate and take control and I very much wanted to do that.
Did you have more control?
I was the Director - Producer - Co-Writer - Camera Operator & Stills Photographer so Yes, I had much more control on this project then on a TV series - though I do really love directing TV.
Do you see yourself directing more feature films?
I don’t think I have every had as much fun as on this film, or worked so hard while shooting… and then every night was a blast hanging with the cast and crew, as we shot it all on location and stayed in the same hotel in the middle of Death Valley. It would be hard to re-create the magic of this shoot - but I would certainly like to try.
Super hero movies are all the rage and you have directed episodes of Gotham, Would you be interested in directing a superhero film? And which character would you like to feature?
I’ve been lucky enough to direct a number of really fun Graphic Novel Super Hero series, so of course to do a big budget feature would be great. I really do love the Batman Dark Knight films .. so it would be fun to spin off a big budget Batgirl movie.
What song is in heavy rotation in your car?
There are two Songs I can’t get out of my head - or my car: ‘No One But Myself’ by Michel Bradford featuring Liz Primo. I loved that song much we used it for the final credit sequence of Death Valley - it is haunting and mesmerizing. ‘Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts’ by 8mm (Sean Beavan and Juliette Beavan) has an amazing drive and hook. It’s also in the movie. speaking of multi-tasking Sean also recorded the sound, on location, then composed and mixed the soundtrack - while Juliette played a role in the movie, was the script supervisor, and then the co-composer for the film and she sings on the sound track.
Last movie you saw and what did you think of it?
I saw at the premiere of an Indy called Shah Bob last week by first time feature Director Boback Shokrian, staring Parviz Sayyad and Reza Safi. My long time editor Bert Kish had cut the move and kept talking about how cool it was.. It’s about a Persian man with strong family ties trying to make it in Film and the Family business at the same time. It has such universal themes running trough it that I can’t stop thinking about it. I really hope it gets exposure and people see it as the Writer/Director had a very unique and interesting voice. It came from the heart.
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