“Hours Before”, my short co-written and directed by Joel David Moore, will premiere at the Hollyshorts Film Festival on Tuesday, August 10. Check out the programming schedule here. I’m really excited to see it at the Laemmle Sunset 5 (8000 W. Sunset Blvd, 5 pm) because it’ll be my first “big screen” experience of anything I’ve written. Come on down if you can! UPDATE: Someone just emailed me that “Hours Before” also won its first award from the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood (that’s a mouthful!) Details here. UPDATE 8/14/10: The festival was a lot of fun, the film was well-received (I think) and it was a real thrill to be there. UPDATE 8/17/10: “Hours Before” also won the Audience Choice Award for its screening night, August 10. Way to go guys!!
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.
Today I have something really special to post. ‘Member back in December when I told you Joel David Moore (Avatar and much more) was directing my short “Hours Before Dawn”? First off, I was thrilled because Joel has been acting for years and he has feature film directing credits as well. He filmed the short with a RED ONE camera featuring the talents of cinematographer Dustin Pearlman. The characters are played by Stuart Lafferty and Jarod Einsohn, both highly accomplished actors with film and TV credits (click on their names below for details.) I have a couple production stills a summary of the story:
SYNOPSIS – “Hours Before Dawn” (Moore’s version)
Teenager Max (Jarod Einsohn) has kidnapped a schoolmate, Peter (Stuart Lafferty), and has handcuffed him to a metal pole in the center of his dank, gray garage. Max, dressed in battle fatigues with a freshly-shaved head, waves a semi-automatic handgun, saying he’s not afraid to use it on either of them. He also has a digital video camera set up on a tripod, pointed at Peter and filming away. Terrorized, Peter’s clueless to what he could have done to incite this fury–what is Max going to do to him?
While it seems Max’s anger is initially directed toward Peter and the handcuffed teenager truly has reason to fear for his life, Max and Peter are actually longtime friends. Max’s plan is to keep his buddy by his side on his last night on Earth, because the next morning Max will do something terrible at school—and a lot of people are going to die. Cuffed to the pipe, Peter will be forced to stay the entire night and witness Max’s grim preparations, unburdened with feeling compelled to notify anyone who might prevent the attack. Gesturing to the video cam, Max says he’ll document the whole evening on HD video to prove that Peter’s just a “prisoner of war” with no prior knowledge of Max’s grisly plan or ability to stop it. Pete demands answers. Max pulls out a duffle bag of weapons he’s going to bring with him to school the following morning—two shotguns and enough ammo to kill anyone he needs to. Peter is shocked as Max then unrolls a huge document across the cold concrete floor. “This,” Max proudly proclaims, “is my Masterpiece.” It’s a hand-drawn floor plan of their high school. Max rattles off a list of students, jabbing his finger at the floor plan at their feet, pointing to yearbook photographs pasted where his intended victims will be on the map the following morning. Max plans to mete out shotgun justice fifteen minutes into second period. But one kid will be absent from school tomorrow—Peter, who will still be cuffed to the metal pole in the garage, eating granola bars that Max has kindly placed within mouth’s reach while Peter waits for the cops to come. In fact, Max’s bloodlust is bridled only by concern for making sure his friend isn’t caught in bloody crossfire. Peter is in awe of Max’s weapons, his heartless strategy and the macabre floor plan unrolled before him on the dirty garage floor. He also sees that Max’s bitter rage has turned him into a monster.
Peter tells Max he can’t do it alone. Max replies, “I won’t be alone. Ben will be with me.” With that, Max pulls out a cremation urn and a bottle of fine vodka. He mixes the two and swigs it down with a sly grin, “Because he is with me, and in me.” Max remembers a year ago when his younger brother, Ben, took off with some bad-attitude older guys who were outta-their-skulls drunk and crazy driving for kicks. A freak car crash later that night claimed Ben’s life, but the other boys walked away from the wreck unscathed. It isn’t fair, and Max will sacrifice himself—and as many other innocent people as necessary—in order for justice to be served.
Peter says he has to come to the school with Max and help with the rampage, “side-by-side, like assassins.” Max refuses until Peter confesses he saw Ben moments before he took a ride in the older boys’ car, watched the whole scene unfold and did nothing to stop it. If Max has to sacrifice himself to right this terrible wrong, Peter has to as well. Max can’t help but agree.
After a threat to kill Peter if ever betrayed, Max removes his friend’s handcuffs and the two plan their joint-attack with bravado. It seems Peter has fantasized a long time about doing this on his own. He proves it by brandishing a handgun and smashing the video camera that would have proved his non-involvement in the attack. But it was all a trick. When given the chance, Peter tries to shoot Max in the foot, but the gun Max handed to him earlier has no bullets in it. Peter is certain his life is over. Gritting his teeth and grinding the handgun muzzle into Peter’s temple, Max ruthlessly sneers he’s good on his word to kill anyone who tries to prevent Ben’s revenge, especially Peter, and this murder will prove it. As Max’s finger tightens on the trigger, Peter tries to make things right with God, finally gets furious and demands Max get it over with… check out the film when it’s released to find out what happens!