Michael Saul is a writer, producer, photographer, editor and most of all a filmmaker. He will be in attendance for the showing of The Surface at the SIFF Cinema Egyptian tonight. Enjoy the film and ask lots of questions. He is interesting to speak with and just an interesting guy overall. See more about the SLGFF here.
Description from Three Dollar Bill Cinema:
Evan’s life has been full of unexpected twists and turns, from growing up as a foster child to balancing film school and cohabitating with his wealthy boyfriend. When an older man and his grown son Peter offer Evan a collection of their 8mm home movies from the ’70s, Evan becomes absorbed in a family life radically different from his own. In particular, he is drawn to the candid, pure relationship between young Peter and another boy depicted in the films. His increasingly romantic connection with Peter soon spells trouble for Evan’s relationship, but it might help him find his voice as a filmmaker.
What is it like for you to be the writer and director of the same film?
Well, it is sort of a lot of power (laughter), which I like since I also photographed and edited it. I take kind of take the moniker filmmaker very literally. I like it. I usually do it that way. There are very few pieces that I have directed that were written by other people. It is just sort of the way I roll.
Is that because of a personal preference or is it that you just stay busy doing all of that each time?
I do prefer it. I have directed several short films written by my producing partner, Heath Daniels. He and I have a lot of the same sensibilities as far story and storytelling. Most of the scripts that have been handed to me were not really things that I felt were in my own voice.
Do you think your interest in photography increases or even complicates your editing time?
I think it is actually easier for me. I trust that myself more than I would trust other people to do all of those things. It may be because I have been doing it for so long. I don’t have to really worry if I captured exactly what I wanted, whether it be photographically or editorially. I am pretty sure when I get to editing that I have all the pieces I wanted already. I just prefer doing it this way whenever possible.
How do you personally stay creative?
Well, that is a good question. I don’t really know. People are constantly asking about my next project. The thing is that I haven’t even decided on one yet. The pressure to have another project to speak about is very overwhelming. That in itself definitely does not get my creative juices flowing. I think it all happens organically. I have a lot of stories that I want to tell but how to actually structure and tell them has always been the hard part. There are these moments of inspiration Sometimes it is someone I meet or even some experience. Other times, I just lock myself in a hotel room for three or four days and write.
How does it feel to present a film to festivals that is so personal to you?
It is nerve racking because I don’t have anyone else to blame. Our world premier was at the Frameline San Francisco which is a pretty big deal. It is also the first time we had ever seen it in front of an audience of any kind other than friends. I was a nervous wreck. I just sat there squeezing my partner’s hand while the film was running. I was just hoping that people didn’t get up and walk out. Once you realize that people are responding positively and that they like it makes it much easier.
There are several different conflicts and disparities in the film. Did you pull these from personal experiences?
Most of it is from personal experience or experiences from people I know. I am currently in an inter-generational relationship and have been most of my life. So, that is always an interest to me and I have experience in those subjects. There were a lot of issues I wanted to dispel around these relationships. I wanted to go against those social views and judgments.
What would you like people to take away from this film?
I hope that they enjoy it and that they find something personal they can connect to. A lot of people have. That part is very rewarding. If they take something away from the story, I hope that they take away a better understating of their relationships. In particular, I hope that they have a better understanding of their father/son relationships. It is not obviously a father/son story but deep down it is. It does speak to the things that our fathers’ give us. How we live our lives and how we treat other people. It is certainly the case for me personally because my father and grandfather were so involved in getting me interested in film in the first place. I hope they take away a sense of their own history. They should put themselves and their own story into it.
With marriage equality the law of the land now, what do you think is most important for our community to focus on?
It is funny that you should ask that question. Our world premier was the night after the SCOTUS ruling. It was pretty amazing for us. It was Gay Pride in San Francisco at the same time. It was one big party. We were a little afraid that people wouldn’t show up with all of that on their plates but they did. It was wonderful. The film is not just about fathers and sons but also about the families that we create. Most of us, come from a family whether we are connected with them any longer or not. Sometimes we are connected to them but they may be a thousand miles away. When we go out in the world, many of us move into other places and create our own families. I think the SCOTUS ruling will allow us more freedom to create these families and travel these distances while being on the same playing field as every else. I think that often the families we create are more important than the ones we were born into. We are creating our own family values and family structure. I think this is a great focus for the community.
Could you tell me something funny or quirky that happened while making the film?
The entire cast is amazing and easy to work with. We started shooting the fundraising preview trailer which was actually months before we started on the film. We shot the preview trailer for Indegogo to try to raise money. We start the trailer with Harry Hains, who plays Evan, driving down the PCH. We actually use the same shots in the final film. We used Heath Daniels car as Harry’s car in the film. We are sitting in the car driving down the highway and filming. Well, we quickly realized that Harry is a terrible driver. He is a frighteningly terrible driver. We decided right then and there that we would have to use that footage because Heath would never let him drive his car again. So, if you look at the film, you will notice that Harry’s hair length changes dramatically throughout the film. I don’t think he cut it during the entire time we filmed. You will notice that when he is driving his hair is suddenly much shorter. He is Australian as well, so we had to really work on his accent.