Back in December 2009, I was invited to attend the first day’s shooting of “Hours Before”, a short screenplay I wrote with actor-director Joel David Moore. Moore is a popular actor best known for his roles as Owen Dittman in “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story”, J.P. in “Grandma’s Boy”, Colin Fisher in the TV series “Bones” and most recently as Dr. Norm Spellman in the world’s biggest movie ever, “Avatar”. He has also written and directed his own feature, “Spiral”. Joel got my original script through a mutual friend of ours, Stuart Lafferty, who made his own name playing the doomed son of vigilante Kevin Bacon in “Death Sentence” as well as numerous appearances on the TV series “One Tree Hill” with his older brother, James Lafferty. Joel was interested in directing the script and I was thrilled because of his street cred, and this was even before Avatar came out and slingshotted him into super-stardom.
When I got to the set I was amazed at how much work the production crew had done turning the garage into-—a garage, but one where almost every angle could be captured. Stuart Lafferty played the lead role of Peter, a teenager who finds out his best friend Max (played by commercial actor Jarod Einsohn) is going to bring guns to school with him the following morning to wreak revenge on those who’ve wronged him. Max holds Peter hostage, handcuffing him to a pipe in the garage so the boy can share Max’s last night of Earth and watch as Max prepares for his grisly errand.
Joel is a very hands-on director; although he set up a perch up above the action in the rafters of the garage, I don’t think I saw him sit there once during the hours I was there. Mostly, he shadowed DP Dustin Pearlman so he could be right on top of the action. Although he let actors Lafferty and Eisenhorn interpret their respective roles, he also coached them when needed without cutting and disrupting the flow of the scene. I found that to be a cool approach to getting lots of different editing options without having to endure countless takes, which can sap the actors’ energy (and everyone else’s, too.) I learned a lot from Joel that day which I’ve subsequently applied to my own directing projects. “Hours Before” is going to be screened at Lionsgate Studios on June 3, 2010.