Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Digging Up the Dirt with KillDozer and Writer/Director of The Triangle, Adam Stilwell

Those who know me know that I am not shy about speaking out when it comes to my dislike of the "found footage" or "POV" sub genre of horror. Rarely does it follow its own rules, have a believable cast, or tell a story worth investing in (in my opinion). The "POV" titles I have connected with are few and far between, but they do exist! Lake Mungo, and Night Light to name a few. I can honestly say that when The Triangle screened at The Overlook Theatre, I was going in with a biased attitude and ready to pick it apart from the title, to the description, to the vague poster art with the cliche bull skull or bearded "hipster" staring into the sun (I have a beard so I can make fun of bearded people). Little did I know that each of these things were a necessary set up for me to truly enjoy what I was going to experience on screen. The Triangle was beautifully shot, well acted, and thought provoking. A title for those true genre fans who embrace diversity. By the end of the screening fans were divided in a way I hadn't witnessed in a while. This film inspired questions in a good way and connected with some while leaving others wondering what they just witnessed, which to me means that this was a true piece of art on film. I was lucky enough to speak with one of the writers/ directors/ stars of The Triangle and "Dig up the Dirt" on this film making experience and his title that has created so much buzz. 

KillDozer: Let's start at the beginning. What was the inspiration for The Triangle? Did you know from the beginning that it would be shot as POV/documentary?

Adam: To me, Orson Welles radio broadcast of War Of The Worlds is one of the most fascinating things that’s ever happened. We weren’t sure if that was possible to do with film and we really wanted to give it a good hard try. We absolutely knew that we were going to be making a documentary.

KillDozer: What was the toughest part about filming in the desert? Was being isolated an advantage or disadvantage? How isolated were you?

Adam: We were out there on our own. What you saw, was what we were doing. Living off the land. We had a couple short cuts, like a refrigerator at the land owners place which was a 30 minute drive away. Other than that…it was us and the elements. And the elements were harsh. We filmed in July of 2012 which was a historically hot month in Montana. It was 110 almost every day, which is not normal. And Montana heat is a very dry heat…you really FEEL the sun pushing you to shade. Our camp had no trees, so the tents served as refuge and when out in it, filming…you can literally see the heat. Was it all an advantage or disadvantage? I’m not sure that I can answer that. What I can say, is that every single thing added up to what THE TRIANGLE became. And I am head over heels for the film that we created, so…. advantage?

KillDozer: The cinematography in the film is beautiful and I can tell you that several people who had done road trips across the country said that it truly captured the spirit of adventure and the "culture shock" of being in your own country but still unfamiliar territory. Was this all candid footage or were you looking to express something in your intro? How much footage did you soon all together? What was the editing process like?

Adam: To be honest the intro was the first and easiest thing for us to edit. It was the only thing prior to filming that we knew how we wanted to craft and knew relatively what to expect. Although, we couldn’t have planned for the two dead horses, the overturned cars and running into a native american pow wow. It’s amazing the luck we have when we green light a project and just go. The horses and car crashes were incredible in the way that they subtly set a foreboding tone, and that pow wow was a mind blowing coincidence. We were driving the final leg of our trip through Browning, MT and were the second car stopped in what would become a long line of cars. We were stopped because the Native American community were having their annual “Running Of The Horses”, which was absolutely insane. If you’ve seen the film, you know the scene I’m talking about. Following that, they told us that we should stick around for an extra hour for the big Pow Wow. I grew up in Montana and one of the most important childhood experiences I had was being a guest at a Native American Pow Wow. Cherokee blood runs through my veins and I’ve always felt spiritually connected to the Native American way. Having the footage of the pow wow is very very special to me, and it flows beneath the entire film.

KillDozer: Was casting people to play themselves the best way to feel authentic on screen? How do you inspire an engaging and honest performance in a film like this? Were there tricks used to capture natural reactions and responses?

Adam: Yes. The trick? Preparation and absolute trust. The cast is an amazing group of people that were first classmates at the University of Montana, remained friends and colleagues and also attended The Burning Man Festival for years together. They are as much the inspiration for this film as anything. A massive and hopefully not-so-secret part of this film and really any films success is in it's casting. This is the reason, for me, that THE TRIANGLE was an absolute must-make film. We, the filmmaking crew, cut off from the other two filmmakers who were planted in the commune/cult for a month before hand. The “trick” is that we were naturally reacting, because for the first 5 days that we were there filming/interviewing we didn’t know anything. As far as the commune/cult actors, they were told that if they were “acting” then they were doing it wrong. They were told to be themselves. To make real choices.

KillDozer: Some angry genre fans have posted reviews like "warning-this is not a real documentary". Is it a badge of honor to think some film goers believed this to be an actual event caught on film? Were you able to attend screenings of your film with an audience? If so what was that experience like? Have you had conversations with people confused by your film?

Adam: The point of the film was to create something sensational that could be real. I, as a viewer, believe that we accomplished that. Of course I wish that everyone loved the film and that they were thrilled by it, but that’s not realistic. The fact that it’s so divisive is a massive compliment. The last thing you want as a filmmaker is for someone to shrug, walk away and forget about your film. We have been to screenings and it’s really quite fun. The people who are into it are SO into it. People who are not are pretty passionate about it. I appreciate both reactions. I’m a lover of films like DONNIE DARKO and MOTHER!, but it’s not because I completely understand those films. It’s quite the opposite, I like them because I feel challenged and excited by the content. They confuse me and inspire thought. THE TRIANGLE is full of everything that I love swirling all around it and quite frankly, I’d love it if the film torments you.

KillDozer: Some have said they have more questions then answers at the end of the film. So I have to ask, do you have the answers to what I'm sure are the obvious questions involving the plot of this film? Were there explanations in the script, or do the details live only in your mind?

Adam: Hahaha. Hmm. I think in life that the wisest people are those asking more questions than they’re answering. If you want to know what THE TRIANGLE is truly about, figure out the questions it’s asking.

KillDozer: As far as sound is concerned, it seems to play a big part in creating the vibe and atmosphere. Who did the soundtrack and what direction were they given?

Adam: So glad you asked! The sound is the genius of Adam Cotton. He’s the actual sound guy you see in the film. We were roommates/bandmates at the time, so we worked closely together in our home studio coming up with the sound palette. We used all kinds of lo-fi tricks for the soundscapes and Cotton purchased a really beautiful acoustic guitar while we were in pre-production that held a unique sound which rounded out the score for the film. If you can, see this film in surround sound and watch/listen LOUD. As loud as fucking possible. Our goal was to physically hurt you. We’re sound freaks and believe that it is the most important part of a film. You can have shitty video and if your audio is on point, you’re okay. It doesn’t work the other way around. This was not an easy film sound-wise, but I think it’s Cotton’s masterpiece.

KillDozer: A lot of people share directing/writing credit on The Triangle. Were there any moments of "too many cooks in the kitchen"? What were some of the areas of the film that really needed to be agreed upon before shooting?

Adam: The way we made THE TRIANGLE is unlike any movie that I have ever heard of. There were never too many cooks because we were all on the spot, with almost no idea what to expect, cooking together. Like an episode of “Chopped”, but we were all on the same team. We all had our specialties going in and we all performed them perfectly. Peterson and Rizzo set up the dominos exquisitely, Pitman and Blair knocked them down very tactfully and captured the action, while I did my best to veer the ship in a direction that it all wanted to go naturally. I get this question a lot, now that I’m moving on to the next projects and it’s much like how on a normal shoot you have captains, “Producer”, “Director”, “Cinematographer”, “Production Designer”, “Gaffer”, etc. We each wore our hats, lent 100% of our strengths and took full responsibility for our work, while trusting each other to pick up any slack. It was a pretty magical collaboration. Not to mention the fact that EVERYONE out there was a kind, helpful genius of sorts.

KillDozer: I know this is off topic of The Triangle, but can you tell me how it feels to have co-written The Sighting (2016)"the scariest Big Foot movie ever" according to Rotten Tomatoes? What was it like to be working these 2 projects in the same year?

Adam: Well, the interesting thing is that we made THE SIGHTING years before. We made that film in 2006-08. We shot it on 35mm film and ran out of money, so it wasn’t until years later that a distributor came along who was willing to front the cash to make that expensive transfer to HD. It was wild timing. At that point, when both films garnered distribution in 2016, I’d been a filmmaker for 10 years with nothing to show for it. Then, all of a sudden, I’ve got two films coming out! I didn’t direct THE SIGHTING, but learned an insane amount during that process. That film is very different and I can say, that while I’m proud of it, it was definitely a very important learning experience. I really wish that film had a chance to be released in the late 2000’s when it was produced. It’s a very interesting story and it’s well done, considering it was a cusp film. Digital cameras had just come on the scene and they weren’t even close to what they are now, so we had to make the film in kind of an old school way, which made some stuff clunky…but taught us so much. Man, I remember getting back to L.A. from Montana and a fellow producer taking me to see this mysterious new camera that Oakley was making….Oakley? The sunglasses?! Yep. Now, half the indie films on the planet are shot with The RED.

KillDozer: Where can we go to follow your work and what can we expect in terms of BR and DVD releases?

Adam: Search me out at @adamstilwelll (that’s 3 L’s at the end) on Instagram & Twitter. Look for @thetrianglefilm on those as well as Facebook. And yes, THE TRIANGLE was just released on DVD via Amazon and it’s loaded with over 5 hours of extra features that will tell you A LOT more about all the questions you asked above. Also, later this month on 11/27 it will be released on Amazon Prime and iTunes Extras worldwide!

KillDozer: You played yourself in the film but would you have actually reacted the same way if this situation was real?

Adam: Honestly…yes. I was deep in there. When you have a project, or a camera in front of your eyes, it takes a bit of the reality away. The part in The Blair Witch Project when Josh tells Heather, “I know why you like this video camera so much… It's not quite reality. It's like a totally filtered reality. It's like you can pretend everything's not quite the way it is.” That’s an absolutely true statement. And if you look around the world on a daily basis right now…it’s a pretty scary statement. We’re all holding up cameras and pretending quite a bit.

KillDozer: If you could pick a film universe (example Star Wars, Pixar) for The Triangle to exist in which would you choose and why?

Adam: 2001: A Space Odyssey hands down. That’s honestly where it lives for me.

KillDozer: Were there any pranks played during filming?

Adam: The entire film is a prank.

KillDozer: If this film was ever remade as a block buster who would you cast to play you?

Adam: Gosling. I mean, come on! You know McConaughey would be taken by Rizzo.

Don't forget to follow The Triangle on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter
And you can connect with Adam on his Instagram and Twitter.


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