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Interview With "The Night Shift" Director Thomas Smith

A good indie zombie flick feels like a rarity in todays market. Without an obnoxious budget, it seems filmmakers cant find the proper foothold to tell a quality "undead" story. Thomas Smith, who wrote and directed "The Night Shift", however, brings a unique capability to the table; the ability to tell an engaging tale while keeping details memorable, coheve, and most important, enjoyable. Smith, who only recently wrapped production on this gem of a debut, reserved a few minutes to speak with excluvely, and hes divulging some details that shouldnt be missed!

Horrorbid: I know that festivals and critics have already begun to take notice of your work. Given the praise youve been receiving and the relative youth of your production company Fighting Owl Films, how optimistic are you feeling about the future?

Thomas Smith: Im cautiously optimistic. We finished post-production on this film in early April and have been working on getting distribution ever nce, so Im a little worn out. Im very excited about our potential and part of me wants to run out and begin work on the next project, but the realistic de of me is very aware of all the hard work and time involved, especially also working a full-time day job. I think we have some fun, quality films in us. At this point its a matter of seeing what happens with The Night Shift and going from there. Funding is always a question mark, so that would be our first hurdle.

HB: Its pretty clear you specialize in genre works. Any new projects youve been working on, or are you going to take a brief breather having now completed your first feature film?

TS: Im taking a pseudo break from things. There was a time when every free moment was spent filming, editing, audio, etc., and there was little time for anything else. Right now Im just enjoying having some downtime. I call it a pseudo break because one afternoon I may do some reading or pick up a video game, but the next Im back at the computer, writing a script.

HB: How difficult was it acquiring the funds to finally get this feature made If I recall you were collecting donations a few years ago for the film?

TS: The donations thing never really worked out and, from what I can tell, very few KickStarter-type fundraiser projects seem to reach their goals. I spent a few years saving what extra money I could and eventually had enough for a micro-budget feature, so the film is entirely self-funded.

HB: Youve been recognized as a very proming screenwriter. I pick up on a clear knack for dialogue; who are some of the screenwriters who inspire your work, and do you intentionally place heavy emphas on vocal exchanges, or does that come natural to you?

TS: I love the way Aaron Sorkin writes, also Joss Whedon. Theres just something very rhythmic about the way they write. Your cast has to be on their toes for the lines to flow and land right, which can be tricky. I try to make my dialogue as natural as posble and give it a certain flow, and try to keep it at a fast-paced back and forth between the characters.

HB: Thus far The Night Shift seems to be getting some really good reviews. Are you surprised at all by the warm reception?

TS: Im pleasantly surprised. While writing, shooting and editing the film I was very nervous. I still am. I just want everyone to enjoy and have fun with it. There were days when Id feel confident that we had a good film and some where I was really unsure and questioning everything. So far, people seem to enjoy

and appreciate it.

HB: A lot of established genre directors talk about that moment when they can feel a certain project is "special". Is that a moment you experienced while shooting this picture?

TS: Its been exactly a year nce we filmed, it was such a whirlwind, and its all sort of fuzzy now. I recall a couple of moments where I had a real sense of everything coming together. I dont remember the exact moments or scenes we were filming, but the feeling reared its head now and again.

HB: This seems like the kind of work that stands to open many doors for you as both a writer as well as a director. Do you expect to, or have you for that matter, seen any opportunities arise as a result of the film?

TS: I havent seen or heard anything as of yet. Im working on putting a reel together and am seeking some sort of representation, so maybe the ball will start rolling. Im open to anything.

HB: Any chance we could see Trigger return for posbly another short in the future?

TS: I think Triggers pretty much toast, literally.

HB: I dont want to get too deep into the specifics of the story for those who havent screened the picture yet, but you do end things on a fairly happy note. Do you feel like the genre has taken the vile concluon and overused that for attempted shock value?

TS: I do think that shock value has taken the place of natural story progreson and plotting. Sometimes it feels like a character is disposed of or maimed in a film just because you dont expect it and, often times, because the writers couldnt figure out what else to do with them. It may register as a surprise at the time, but later, when you digest it, it rings hollow. I dont think every film should be forced to end on a sugary happy note, its whatever the story dictates. If something bad has to happen to reach a character or story arc, it needs to happen. I admire those films that are brave enough to follow through and not compromise.

HB: As The Night Shift closes, you leave the door wide open for a sequel. Do you think there is more to this story that needs to be told?

TS: Youre right, the door is wide open. I would like to explore more of that world and take the characters into a setting they havent been before. I have a few ideas Im kicking around at the moment and am very excited about. Its just a matter of keeping things fresh and making it work.

HB: Lets say you did indeed choose to shoot a sequel, do you see long term franchise material in a tale like this? I ask because the film reminded me of Night of the Living Dead - for obvious reasons - which, obviously birthed numerous sequels.

TS: I have one story in mind that would be sort of a bookend to this film and would put some of the characters and the cemetery setting to bed. Im also dying to introduce a new character to this universe who would be pretty entertaining with lots of back story to explore. So, maybe one more story for the cemetery crew and then branch out with this new guy. HB: Before i let you go, I do want to know what the official release plan is. When, can fans get their hands on this film, and do you have an ideal timeline in which the film will be available to a much larger market than it is currently?

TS: Well, right now were submitting to festivals and trying to get seen. People can keep up with the latest screening announcements and news on our webte and on our Facebook page. As far as distribution, its early days yet, but we should have a big announcement on that front in the not-too-distant future...
Matt_Molgaard Thursday 6/23/2011 at 12:23 AM | 77657