Nashville Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Sam Wiley, Mancipo

Mancipo (2)

Mancipo by Sam Wiley

Showing at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, as part of the 2013 Nashville Film Festival Tennessee First Shorts program

How would you describe your film?
It’s dramatic and emotional. It’s has a very serious tone throughout. There are some pretty heavy things the main character is dealing with. It’s set during the Great Depression. The family is literally starving to death and all the father can do is watch. It’s a brief film, and the entirety of it is narrated by the father’s internal debate.

Scott Crain and Amanda Gary in Mancipo

Scott Crain and Amanda Gary in Mancipo

What challenges did you/your crew encounter while making the movie?
We had a very short deadline to finish this film. With everyone’s busy schedule and renting the house as our first location, there was only one day that would work. Unfortunately it was two weeks away. Though I had been preparing myself, I still at that point did not have an organized crew and rented the equipment. We shot this whole film in one day, which was extremely risky and probably a little bit stupid. It was a real testament to the talent level of the crew.

What attracts you to the medium of film, as opposed to other forms of art?
The power. There is nothing more powerful than a wonderfully made film. It is the ultimate art form and a technological super medium. There is nothing else that encompasses every form of art and so beautifully constructs a compilation of creativity like film does (when it’s done right). There’s also an unlimited amount of technology that accompanies film, which I love. I’m a geek for gadgets.

What inspires/influences you?
My faith in Christ. I’ve been brought out of very dark times because of Him and it’s impossible for me not to be influenced by this. It’s not the most popular thing to admit, but it’s who I am. But, I do not try to spoon feed people my beliefs or force it upon anyone. I think there is beauty and truth in my faith and life experiences. But it’s subtle, kind of have to look for it. I think it’s much more creative and clever that way.

Are there any particular genres you favor over others?
Nicholas Sparks’ movies are pretty rough. If I sit through one of those type of movies I’m probably with a girl I really really like. I don’t do that with just any girl. I like just about anything the Coen brothers do. Their writing and mastery of natural drama created with pure acting and dialogue has always been inspiring. I appreciate Del Toro’s imagination, the meticulousness of Scorsese, and Tarantino’s originality. It’s intimidating watching Tarantino films.

In the process of filmmaking, how much of the creativity is found in production? How much improvisation do you find on set?
Luck favors the prepared. I’m a big believer in this. When you have put the work into pre-production I find it much easier to improvise. I’m a very prepared person. I don’t feel good just going in to a shoot and hoping that creativity strikes me. Some people can do this, most think they can do this.

How did you learn your craft?
By doing it by whatever means possible. It sounds simple but it’s true. Every time I work on something I learn something new. The moment you think you know it all is the moment you stop getting better. I’ll be a perpetual student of this craft ’til I die.

Sam Wiley (right) talks with Hayden Mason

Sam Wiley (right) talks with Hayden Mason

On what projects are you currently working?
I have a short film I wrote that I plan to shoot in late June or early July. It’s a psychological thriller about a man obsessed with birds called The Birdman (clever I know). It’ll be really great, but currently we’re trying to find some investors to conquer the age-old obstacle of money.

In terms of motion picture production, what would you like to see from the state of Tennessee? What advantages does the state currently have, and how do you think it could improve?
I think Tennessee could potentially be a really big film hub. There’s a lot of opportunity here. And I think people outside of Tennessee are starting to realize that we’re not a bunch of shoeless hicks. It’s a lot cheaper to live here and once Nashville sees (if it hasn’t already) how much money that could be made from films I think we’ll see more film incentives come up.

How long have you been working in motion pictures?
My whole life if you count the crappy films I did as a kid. It seems I’ve been working in motion pictures much longer than I really have, perhaps because it is all I think about and do. I’ve been working a little freelance video for a couple years but as a filmmaker I’m pretty new to it. I’m extremely blessed to have been accepted into the Nashville Film Festival and can’t wait to see where I go next.

What themes do you like to explore in film?
I’m a sucker for the underdog story. I also like the psychological driven story. There is something terrifyingly fascinating about the human mind. I often try to pair comedy with a dire situation. In the short film that I am working on The Birdman there’s a lot of dark comedy. This confuses the audience in a good way and makes them unexpected. The Coen brothers are masters of this.

What advice do you have to aspiring filmmakers?
I don’t know if I’m in a position to be giving advice because I’m the one that probably needs it the most. But I think that you truly have to love it. It’s a terrifying field to get in to. I’ve sort of come to terms with it through, I figure this life is too short to be doing something you don’t love.

What do you see as the future of film?
Smellavision. No, that would be a horrible idea. It’s hard to tell. Film goes hand in hand with technology and technology is getting cheaper and more accessible by the day. Film is now possible for just about anyone. A lot of the Hollywood traditionalists don’t like this. Anyone can now claim to be a filmmaker but I don’t think that’s such a horrible thing. Yes, it’s intimidating with an ocean of competition out there but I believe the cream will rise to the top. Film-making is very difficult. Yes, anyone can pick up a camera but not everyone can make a good film.


About the Author

I’m a contributing writer for the Murfreesboro Pulse. I’m also a filmmaker and a founding member of the MTSU Film Guild. My interests include screenwriting, producing, coffee, beer and philosophy. I’m a huge fan of films, particularly horror, action, science fiction and crime.

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