My interview with filmmaker, David J. Phifer (“The Forever People”).
Cameron: How old were you when you decided to be a filmmaker? What were some of your early influences?
David J. Phifer: Well, I’m not one of these guys who had a camera filming movies when I was twelve. I didn’t start filming until 2009. It was always something I wanted to do, but I am also an artist, and I thought I’d spend about 10 years or so as a comic book artist and then move my way into film. As a kid, all I did was draw comic books and create characters and concepts. Well, as I started pursuing a comic career after college, I was detoured from that into building a networking business, which I figured I would make enough money from to start putting into my movies and production company. Well, that business had its ups and downs and eventually stayed down, so I spent a few years in limbo afterward working on various artistic projects and wondered “What am I waiting for?” So that’s when I got into film.
As far as influences go, I love Quentin Tarantino’s attitude and mindset. He is very inspirational to listen to, he believes in going for what you want and that if you’re great at it, you’ll stand out. His view of the world is bigger than most people. As far as style goes, I love James Cameron’s work. His storytelling is powerful. Watch T2 or True Lies and it’s clear. His writing in general is pretty impressive Titanic is completely out of his normal sci-fi genre, yet it’s an amazing movie. I also had a love affair with Dean Koontz books during college, so I’m sure he influenced me as well.
Cameron: Tell us a little about your first attempts at filmmaking. What were some of the pleasures and difficulties you found a long the way?
David J. Phifer: What I call my ‘college project’ was my fist project breaking into film, which was called ‘Saving Rachel’, an action comedy I did with some friends and met a handful of new people to help out with. Then I was comissioned to do some music videos, which were easier for me because they were less involved. The pleasures involved with all these is the comradery and creative fulfillment. The difficulties is trying to do too much yourself, which is a common mistake among indie filmmakers. Since we usually don’t have the money for a large crew, we try to do everything ourselves. And we’re control freaks when it comes to our own vision. But just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you necessarily should to be the one to do it. I am pushing myself to do less on this film than I have in the past and get a bigger crew.
Cameron: How would you characterize your style as a writer and a filmmaker?
David J. Phifer: Hmm..good question. How does one characterize a style? I’m a storyteller, whether that story is told in a comic book, a novel, or a film. My stories are usually very deep, but told in a way that’s fun, or dark, and can be enjoyed for pure entertainment. I think of big questions like “What makes humans tick? What exactly is a soul? Is a soul and spirit the same? How does that connect with God? Is there anything bigger then God? Does God have a God?” These are just random questions that pop into my head. And a story develops from them. As profound as those questions may be, it’s from the simplest things that they can develop. I was talking with a friend about Avacado pits. And I thought “What if humans had a pit? What would that look like?” And an entire story could come from that. The greatest ideas come from mixing the profound and the profane. I’m pretty good at comedy as well, I could easily write a comedy show 10 times quicker than any other genre. If you go to youtube channel under modcitymedia, you’ll find some funny videos. http://www.youtube.com/modcitymedia
Cameron: When you get frustrated with something in regards to the film business, how do you keep your fire lit?
David J. Phifer: Another good question. I’m not a veteren in the film world, I’m still working on this one. I have a lot to learn about the business side of filmmaking. All my projects in the past have been with clients, music videos, commercials, etc. I DO NOT want to have to do commercial work as a filmmaker, that’s not why I’m in it. I’m in it to tell stories. So this is my first venture into trying to get my own project created that will lead to things.
Cameron: What can you tell us about your latest project, “The Forever People?”
David J. Phifer: It’s about a woman, Lorelei, who is being hunted by a supernatural serial killer, an entity in the form of a man called Sebastian. He can teleport, rapidly heal, and has enhanced tracking abilities. She’s pretty outmatched until a dynamic event occurs which allows her to come into her own power. It’s based around an entire mythos I created around souls. There’s an entire backstory to the characters which you don’t really know in the short film, but would be revealed within the feature. And I’ve always had a thing for women of strength. The entire story is shaped around identity and knowing your power. It’s just told in a violent and supernatural world.
Cameron: Have you done any casting for it yet? And who do you have behind the camera?
David J. Phifer: There are only the 2 main characters plus another who is basically there as canon fodder for Sebastian, lol. There will be extras, but there are only the 2 main characters, Sebastian and Lorelei. Behind the camera is Darius Mathis, he’s an impressive director of photography. We’ve worked on numerous project in the past. I rely on him a lot and take his suggestions and ideas quite often. He’s got great ideas. It’s not that he works for me, we’re basically partners in it. He’s got a great eye and can handle his business. I can relax on the technical end and focus on other things because I know he’ll take care of it.
Cameron: What have been some of the hardships (so far) in getting this project from script to screen?
David J. Phifer: The planning. There are some crazy regeneration scenes and an entire new form of teleportation being invented in this film. Also the money, or lack thereof.
Cameron: Can you tell us what it’s like to raise money for an independent horror/supernatural film in today’s day and age?
David J. Phifer: Raising funds for your film, of any kind, has always been a challenge, I think, for everyone. In the past, I’ve paid for things myself. This is my first project where I’ve actually needed to raise funds. And I’m failing wonderfully. I don’t know any creative person who excels at getting funds. You can’t be good at everything. I don’t believe that something as mundane as funding should hinder possibility. I need to learn to get good at raising funds, I’m just not there yet. After this film, I may take time off to learn how to raise funds, it will be worth it for me to in order to fund the kinds of projects I want to do.
Cameron: Is there a way for people to see some of your previous work?
David J. Phifer: Youtube http://www.youtube.com/modcitymedia and Vimeo http://vimeo.com/user2614781
Cameron: Yourself being from Michigan, what is the film community like out there?
David J. Phifer: Well, until recently, we had the best incentive in the country. People were excited about the rising industry here. Hollywood was making movies here. Studios were beginning to be built here. There was a buzz. There was energy. There was hope. But now, the new governer nearly has gotten rid of that film tax incentive and it really damaged people’s belief. Many have moved away to other states to get film work. Many of the new studios are stopped dead in their tracks. And the new exciting growth that could have revilitalized Michigan has died. But there is still talent here. There are still people with drive and vision. There are still people making movies. I think we are now seeing the rise of a new era of independent filmmaker. We don’t need Hollywood to come here to make great movies. We just need people to back the visionaries already here so we can fund our films. And that can come form anywhere. I also think we need to create films here that can go somewhere commercially. Original, powerful, new ideas.
Cameron: Are you primarily focused on “The Forever People,” or do you already know what you’d like to do next?
David J. Phifer: Yes and Yes:) I am primarily focused, targeted on, and obsessed with The Forever People, yes. I can’t divide my attention without something faltering. I’m not a good multi-tasker when it comes to film projects. Producers generally focus on several projects at one time. Directors usually only one. And I still have my full time job as a designer in advertising, so that doesn’t allow me to do too many things at once. All this awesomeness is being created on the side for me, lol. But my heart is in it full time. And I also know what I want to do for my next short-film-to-be-turned-into-a-feature as well. It was a comic book I sketched out years ago. The idea is cool and original, brilliant actually And has massive potential, like this one. But let’s see how this film goes first.