David Call’s first film festival was here in ’07 when he participated as part of the closing night film Beautiful Ohio. He returns this year a familiar actor with distinguished work on his resume and pulling double duty promoting both Nor’easter and Dead Man’s Burden.
Nor’easter is a participant in the Independent Vision Competition, but Call isn’t worried about that. His ambition for both films is just that people will see them. “We make these little films, and it’s hard to get them out and put them in front of an audience that wants to see them. After a screening of Nor’easter in New York, a man approached us in tears telling us how much it affected him. Wow.”
Call didn’t grow up religious, so in preparation for his role, he spent a great deal of time with Father Jim Martin (as seen on Colbert Report) learning the inner workings of spirituality. “The script had a big impact on me; learning about it, spending time with Jim and being exposed to his way of looking at the world, which is a beautiful way to do it.”
The film’s final screening is tomorrow at 2:30.
Dead Man’s Burden is a western, writer-director Jared Moshe’s favorite genre, that takes place five years after the Civil War and is about a brother and sister that are reunited on the New Mexico frontier only to discover each others unforgivable secrets. Moshe says, “I knew my first movie had to be a western, because in this industry you never know if you’ll have another chance have to make what you want.”
Westerns are a unique genre in that they’re hypersensitive to casting and feel, which have to be consistent with the subject matter- a fact that Call feels lends credence to Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood and patriarchs of the cinema frontier. It’s important when making one to respect the genre’s history.
Moshe says, “I think the fundamental mistake with filmmakers making westerns these days is they feel like the genre has been done, so they have to put a twist on it to make it different. What those things do is alienate the audience. You have to respect the tropes that make the genre the genre.” For Dead Man’s Burden, this ranged from how the characters spoke and communicated, to using still cameras, using film instead of HD, the role of music and casting actors that look like they belong in the period. The modernization of the genre is evident in the story element; Moshe strived to make the characters complex enough that modern audiences can relate and understand them, and he utilized a strong female character that, which carries the film into the 21st century.
Despite fighting the physical challenges of wind storms, dust storms, snakes and a dying goat, Call, whose character is “a bad man with good intentions who does some very bad things for a very good reason,” loved the experience of gallivanting on a horse and shooting black powder weapons, which he still has. “The film was very much historically grounded. It’s a classic western, historically and technically correct.”
The film is seeing theater release in May in New York before hitting Netflix, and the team is hoping to take it to untraditional markets with parallel cultural interests, like Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville. Moshe understands the genre carries with it a core audience that’s important to connect with.
He says, “Film is collaboration: a collaboration between artistic interest and business interest; a collaboration between directors, crew and actors, and it’s a collaboration between a filmmaker and the audience. As a filmmaker you have to respect the audience, because you’re trying to tell them a story. The audience, hopefully, has to respect what the filmmaker is doing. It was really important to me that I respected that core western audience. In a lot of ways, this film is for them.”
Moshe’s Top 5 Westerns (in no specific order):
Balled of Cable Hogue
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Once Upon A Time In the West
Call’s Top 5:
The Outlaw Josey Wales
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
A Fistfull of Dollar
And the obscure Sergio Leone, Duck, You Sucker