The Mill's Daniel Thron, based in LA, recently completed 'Spoiler'. Here he exclusively reveals why he's bringing something new to the post-apocalyptic genre and how it became the Vimeo Staff pick viral success that it is, currently clocking in at 192k views.
What was the inspiration for Spoiler?
Karl Denham (the producer/DP) was living in a really creepy looking, walled-in apartment complex in kind of a sketchy area -- we'd joke about it being a sort of post-apocalyptic bunker-hotel -- and for some reason the fire alarms just kept going off randomly. So when we were talking about what project we might want to tackle next and we hit on trying to make a zombie movie, it all just clicked. We had something like Spoiler in mind from the get-go. I've always loved the idea of realistic treatments of fantasy-based things; this is what I love about sci-fi: Children of Men, for instance, is essentially a fable told in an extremely realistic way, both in terms of the setting and the characters' emotions -- and I think it disarms the audience a little bit, opens them up to watching stories they might not normally watch.
What were the highs and lows of the production?
The biggest low came in the editing room, when Karl and Chris Stack and I realized that the ending we had wasn't working, and we knew we had to change it; because if it's dishonest, the audience will drop you. So we gritted our teeth and pulled everyone back for some quick reshoots, and got it right. So the biggest high of the whole project was putting that new sequence in; suddenly the whole movie worked. That's how it always is, I think -- the lows are the moments when something is screwed, and the highs are the moments when you figure out how to un-screw it. And the more folks you have around that you are inspired by and can trust, the faster that will happen.
Who and what inspires you?
Steven Soderbergh, David Fincher, Alan Pakula, Sydney Pollack, Sidney Lumet. The two movies I wish I could've been responsible for, though, are Ridley Scott's Alien, and Michael Mann's Heat, both of which I will rip off like crazy for the rest of my life. Apologies in advance, fellas.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Ugh. Both. I will always intend to go to sleep, and then end up staying awake till 2:30 watching Hunt for Red October for the fortieth time.
Is it your goal to direct more horror?
I want to do any kind of genre film -- and actually I'm a bigger sci-fi nerd than anything, but I love a horror movies, and I would love to try to make a good one. The genre definitely needs some serious shaking up. I'm not against found footage, but for a while there that was the only thing on the menu, so I'm happy to see old school stuff starting to come back a little bit with movies like The Conjuring. The kind of thing I'd really like to see, however, is something as artful and upsetting as Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, which to me still feels radical.
What's been your personal highlight in your career?
I got a chance to meet Ridley Scott a while ago, and it was everything I could do not to ask him to sign my face with a sharpie. Outside of that, my proudest moment has to be my performance in Ben Hansford's "Tron: Reboot" web series. Go on and Google it. But I warn you, I'm in Spandex in that one.
What is the most challenging aspect of filmmaking for you?
Writing. When it's rolling, it's great, but when your stuck, it's death. The best help in overcoming this has been from going to this weekly writer's group hosted by David Bryant, who plays the husband in Spoiler. We all get together and read whatever we've been working on, and everybody hammers on it. Incredibly helpful; I really recommend joining one or forming one if you want to write. We also help each other on every shoot any of us put together -- any one of us might be directing one day and booming the next -- this is how Spoiler got made, all through this support network. Filmmaking is teamwork, always; doing anything else is just getting in your own way.
Where are you most productive?
Writing wise, on the Metro or bus; everything else is too distracting.
What's your favourite thing to do in LA?
On Vermont in Los Feliz is the perfect run: House of Pies/Los Feliz 3 Theaters/Skylight Books/The Dresden. Pie, movies, books, and whiskey. Beat that.
Are there future plans for Spoiler?
We're currently in the process of developing Spoiler as a cable series, which has been going very well -- it's been incredibly satisfying to build out the world, as well as to hear what other people want to do with it.