It’s the only ending that makes sense, in part because it’s honest.
What was your initial inspiration for "Shuttle"?
I was on an airport shuttle van and my mind just wandered. There’s a bigger context to the film, something that was thinking about around that time, but it falls into spoiler territory so we can’t to go there.
You recently screened the film at the SXSW, how was the audience reaction?
We had a midnight premiered at the Alamo Draft house on opening weekend of SXSW 2008. The house was full. A lot of people hung around after for Q&A at 2 a.m. It was quite a buzz.
What films influenced "Shuttle" the most? It really seems to ride the line between horror film and thriller, which genre do you think informed the film the most?
I wasn’t shooting for either a “thriller” or a “horror” per se. Just wanted to let the story go where it went organically. And it definitely blurs lines. The thriller/mystery elements of this story always appealed to me. But at a basic construct level, films like “Dead Calm” and “Collateral” were instructive -- also two films that defy simple genre classification. And this is a dark story, so it’s going to get a little messy. But since I didn’t want to detract from the characters and the story, we keep the gore factor in check.
As your second film, what were the biggest lessons you learned on your first feature that helped you with "Shuttle"?
It’s the second film I’ve written (“Flawless” starring Michael Caine and Demi Moore was the first), but “Shuttle” is the first film I’ve directed. The lesson I applied most involved the importance of maintaining the vision, script to screen. Holding firm to the original creative intent that is at the heart of the film.
What kind of equipment was the film shot on? It looked like HD video but I was really impressed on how film-like it was.
We shot on both HD and 35mm. The majority of the night scenes were filmed on a Thompson Viper HD camera, then we carefully graded down the color to create the look we were after. I was interested in capturing detail in extremely low light situations, but had a particular look in mind that would serve the story.
To some extent, but any other ending would change the film completely. It’s the only ending that makes sense, in part because it’s honest. The film is built from its conclusion. It makes sense out of all the inexplicable events of the night. And it doesn’t pander to what’s expected for either an “up” or a “down” ending, it just ends the way this night probably ends in reality.
The majority of the film takes place on the actual shuttle... what were the biggest logistical difficulties that came with the unorthodox setting?
Filming on a moving vehicle, at night, in cold/wet weather, with digital equipment won’t make for a smooth shoot. Sound was a major problem. A big issue was simply that we couldn’t fit many people on the shuttle while we were moving, so we had to caravan most of the crew behind us. Fortunately, our DP, Michael Fimognari, also operated the camera, which made a difference because we were so constrained. A greater level of planning was required overall. Unscheduled bathroom breaks would stop the whole show.
For a first time director you have a great handle on suspense and action, did you have any experience before directing features that helped you with those parts?
I think it’s just a sensibility, in terms of the films I have always enjoyed and admired. There is something wonderful about stretching out the key moments of a scene, then pulling the cord and launching it into all out action. The payoff that comes from delayed gratification. The anticipation makes it all the better.
I've read that the actors did a lot of their own stunts... were there any mishaps on set?
A lot of bruises, but fortunately, no serious injuries. Because of the way we shot, the cast ended up doing a lot of their own stunts, and they really went for it as you can see. Our stunt coordinator worked with them to make it as safe as possible, but that’s them, and it’s brutally physical. There were a few incidents with the shuttle itself. Our principle shuttle got smashed up pretty badly one night.