While you may not know Charles de Lauzirika’s name offhand, you’ve likely collected a fair amount of his work already. The director of some of the biggest behind the scenes features on DVDs and Blu Rays including the ALIEN QUADRILOGY box set, BLADE RUNNER and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN among many others, has just seen his first feature film, CRAVE, released on VOD, on iTunes and theatrically this month. CRAVE is intriguing, complicated and immensely entertaining. It’s a film that is on one hand absolutely astounding for the combination of the emotional story arc and the rich world created within that and on the other hand a fascinating examination of a disintegrating mind.
CRAVE is the story of Aiden (Joshua Lawson), a crime scene photographer in Detroit who is unable reconcile the injustices he sees around him with the disturbing visions in his head. The film is a visceral examination of the best and worst intentions in all of us which all come to a head when Aiden meets the girl of his dreams Virginia (Emma Lung). To get behind the mind-set of the world view of CRAVE, we spoke with the director himself on the recent release of his film.
Famous Monsters: What was the reasoning behind choosing Detroit as the film’s backdrop?
Charles de Lauzirika: Well, frankly, it was cheap to shoot there and the tax rebates that we got really helped us get more bang for our buck. That, for me, was the first reason to go. I was not 100% sold on it at first because it’s not as photogenic as New York which I’ve scouted twice but then I started looking at photos and going on to Google and using Street View. Eventually it just seemed right because it was a city that was decaying and had seen better times and that seemed like a perfect place for Aiden as a character because he’s very much the same way. It made a good match thematically and Detroit became like another character in the movie.
FM: Can you talk about the process behind creating such a layered story with multiple plot elements all going on at once? How did you create focus within the film?
CdL: I’ve gotten reactions from people where they basically want to see a movie they signed up for and they come out on the other end happy that they got exactly what they expected. With CRAVE I wanted to go the other way because I personally like it when a film keeps the ride going and you don’t know what to expect. Therefore I approached it in that way because Aiden is a complicated character with a fractured and cracked prism of a brain. Therefore, I feel like in genre movies, if you push light through that cracked prism it’s going to come out several different ways so you get a funny scene or a funny moment up against a really dark moment. And I was also thinking about life and in life we can go from comedy to tragedy in seconds and I feel like that was appropriate for Aiden as a character. It was also interesting from a film standpoint because most filmmakers pick a tone and they stick with it, that’s what we’re taught as filmmakers, to be consistent with your tone. I agree because you get a movie like DRIVE which I love to death and is incredibly consistent but CRAVE is completely different from that because that just felt right for this character.Shooting the movie, with that in mind, was really interesting, every day was a different movie, every day was a different genre. Some days would be a comedy day, some days would be a horror day.
FM: What was the process of having Joshua Lawson (who plays Aiden) come on to the film?
CdL: Well, Josh comes from a comedic background. He starred in an Australian improv show called THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE and the American remake of SPACED. I didn’t quite get Josh until I spoke to him and he filmed himself in Australia doing the scenes to send to me. I always felt like comedians are probably better at getting into drama than dramatic actors are at getting into comedies because most comedians tap into darkness to find comedy anyway. So I thought Josh had the chops but it wasn’t until he laid down the scenes for me to look at and then we spoke about it that I realized that not only did he understand the character and the film from an acting point of view but he also understood it as a filmmaker which he is and he just finished his first feature film. Josh was immersed in the film almost at a genetic level he understood I so deeply. I had reservations about him, not because of his talent, but because of the character which I thought was much darker, more disturbing, more twisted. Kind of a train wreck of a man. Josh made him much more relatable which added a new level of danger to the character. You’re there with him because you like him.
FM: What was it like being on the festival circuit for over a year? We seem to be getting more and more genre films out of festival, do you think it’s changing the filmmaking landscape?
CdL: I’d been looking forward to the festival circuit for a while and I felt like CRAVE was a film that would play well to that audience because it draws from so many different elements of genre films. Even from the rough cut stage I was looking at which festivals it would be a good fit for but it kept getting rejected, rejected, and rejected. It wasn’t until Fantasia brought it on that it really took on a life of its own. It was amazing to watch the film with the audience at Fantasia. Within the first five minutes they were on-board and reacting to it. It was a dream come true and that night started a year and half of traveling around the world with this film. I have to admit, on one hand it was extremely exhausting going from city to city to city but it was also so much fun and I got to meet so many other great filmmakers which made it worth it right there. If I don’t make a dime off of CRAVE the experience of connecting with so many different audiences through this film made it worth it. It’s like the best drug ever. CRAVE has taken a long time from writing it to where we are today. I think next time I make a film I’ll be able to move through it a bit quicker with distribution side of it because of what I learned this time around.
I definitely think there’s on an ongoing shift which is multi-angled. I think we’re seeing more filmmakers have to get out there and brand themselves and generate interest for their work without a multi-billion dollar company behind them to saturate the world with their film like the Soska Sisters (DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, AMERICAN MARY) or the RESOLUTION guys. All these filmmakers are going out there and really aggressively pushing their films. First of all they have to be great filmmakers, that goes without saying, but now there’s a new breed of filmmakers who have to be great and get out there to sell because they don’t have a studio helping them and that’s something that caught me off guard. I just want to make a movie I didn’t think I’d need to go out and sell it so that was a new experience for me. The dynamic that’s changing is that there is more buzz and genuine excitement coming out of these festivals I just don’t know how that’s translating into hard currency. To speak very coldly, I don’t know how much cash is being generated off that buzz which I think is necessary for a small fledgling film, you need something to get it going. I’d be interested to see how much revenue is generated off the energy and dollars thrown behind a big studio and a filmmaker getting their films off the ground through festivals. That divide which is kind of like the current economy. It’s like the top 1% and then the poor. The poor have to get out there and sell and the 1% don’t. We need a middle class in filmmaking again.
FM: That’s interesting because CRAVE, for me, very much carries that spirit and style of 1970s filmmaking which saw a lot of chances being taken.
CdL: I agree and I look back at the 70s not only as a time when amazing films came out but also how they were made. The way films get greenlit today, there’d be no way most of the films that got made in the 70s would be made today. I would love to bring that kind of filmmaking back and get away from films that are made because they’re part of a franchise or the best candidate to make money. I just want to make interesting films that no one else is making.