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Newport Beach Film Fest Filmmaker Q&A “Call of the Void”

04.08.16

We couldn’t be more thrilled about the upcoming Newport Beach Film Festival on April 21-28. And, we were fortunate enough to interview filmmaker Dustin Kahia, a writer/director from San Diego who is no stranger to the Newport Beach Film Festival. Twice he’s been invited to screen his short films “Valediction”(2012) and “Masterpieces” (2010) there. Now, he’s back to screen his feature length suspenseful psychological film noir “Call of The Void” which makes its world premiere on Sunday, April 24 at 2:30 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinemas in Newport Beach. Tickets available here.
 

Q & A WITH DUSTIN KAHLIA

1. There are 350 films at the Newport Beach Film Festival, what makes your film stand out?

Right off the bat, a few things come to mind about our movie. For one, it's a black-and-white period piece set in 1949. You're not going to find too many films in that genre circulating throughout the festival circuit today. Call of the Void blends the film noir genre with Hitchcock. That, in itself, is pretty unique for 2016.

Furthermore, when you take into consideration that this feature film was made for a budget of $74,000 over a period of four days, the results are quite astonishing. From first viewing, you wouldn't know that we made the film under such constraints, but the truth is we did. The performance by Mojean Aria as Steve is Oscar worthy in my opinion, but don't take my word for it…see the film for yourself and you be the judge.

 

2. How much do you have to compromise as a filmmaker because of financial restrictions or business?

A ton! Especially when you're trying to re-create an era that doesn't exist anymore. We had to re-create 1949 Los Angeles. That's a very difficult task to do with a budget of only $74,000. However, under the circumstances, I think we did a pretty damn good job. We were faced with the difficult task of re-creating everything authentically from costumes to set design to sound mixing. Some folks in the business would argue that financials should not restrict a filmmaker's creativity, but the fact is, under certain circumstances, it does. When you're faced with a 4-day shooting schedule on a pizza budget, your biggest enemy is the clock. This means that there are only a handful of variations that a filmmaker can shoot. It's not a matter of creativity, but basic mathematics; there are only so many hours in a day that a filmmaker can reasonably shoot. Having more money allows for more creative freedom and experimentation. 

3. What is the one mistake most filmmakers make, regardless of experience?

I think one mistake that most filmmakers make, regardless of experience, is lack of preparation. How much time do you spend prior to production preparing your shot designs and storyboards? Speaking for myself, I spent more than three months simply designing my layouts. I literally drew out every set design, camera placement, and blocking scheme, on a computer. When I arrived on set, my crew members were amazed by the sheer level of detail included in my layouts. I had a binder that was easily 3-inches thick. I knew that with a 4-day shooting schedule that there was no room for foolishness on my part. Some people believe the notion that if you prepare your shots in such a way, it will hinder your spontaneity on set, but that could not be further from the truth. If anything, being overly prepared allowed me the freedom to take risks on set because I had something stable to fall back on. All in all, preparation is king.

4. How do you know when your story's finished?

The truth is, and I'm not trying to be philosophical or anything, but your story is never finished. There's always more to the story and more that can be told, but as a filmmaker you have to draw an imaginary line of where the story begins and ends. We do this for our audience because of their attention span. Technically speaking, the story is finished when post-production ends. Intuitively, you know this as a filmmaker when you feel comfortable enough to present your work before an audience. At some level, a filmmaker is never ready to do this for fear of rejection, but nevertheless, at some point it has to be done. Otherwise, no one would ever see the film. So when is your story finished? The answer is never. 

5. What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

That's a tough question because I've been influenced by so many films, but I'll go ahead and name two films that immediately come to mind.The first film would be Good Will Hunting. The script is masterfully crafted and brilliantly directed. The story itself is so "human" at it's core that I believe a person would have to be inhuman to not be touched in someway by story's characters and overarching theme. Another masterpiece, in my opinion, is the 1984 Best Picture winner, Amadeus. The screenplay by Peter Shaffer is truly some of the best writing I've ever witnessed. The movie is nearly 3-hours long and yet your attention is sustained by his beautifully crafted scenes. The man knows how to write. 

At their core, both films mentioned above explore the human condition in away that I feel truly exudes excellence in filmmaking. These are the sorts of stories that I wish to tell...stories that touch the human heart in away that elevates and inspires.

6. What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

Building off of my last answer, a great film is one that "explores." Our whole life experience is nothing more than one giant exploration. We're constantly trying to discover and uncover. We want answers, and sometimes, we don't even know the question we are trying to answer. Ultimately, the films that explore and shed light on the human experience are the films that stand the test of time. 

7. How do you plan on getting the most out of this film festival?

For one, I'm going to attend the entire week-long festival, attending every event that I can possibly manage. My goal is to network with other filmmakers and audience members alike, but most of all, I'm going to enjoy myself and have a little fun. Because after all, what's the point in living if you can't have a little fun along the way. 

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