Tedder

Nashville Film Festival Filmmaker Interview: Tyler Evans, Still Here

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Still Here by Tyler Evans

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

How would you describe your film?
I’d say our film is a simple story about an average guy who’s lost his way. I know a lot of movies start out like that, but there are so many directions you can go with that basic idea. We combined that with a post-apocalyptic theme as well as commentary on community and movement.

What challenges did you/your crew encounter while making the movie?
We had an extremely small crew. In fact we were only 4 deep for 90 percent of the shoot. We also had a very tight 4 1/2-day window to shoot everything in Crossville (90 percent of the film) and Nashville. To make things even trickier, our cabin/location in Crossville had no electricity. Overcoming all of that was easy compared to the second day of shooting when our camera decided to stop working. So we had one of our four team members run halfway back to Nashville to trade cameras out for a rental so we could finish our shoot. We ended up mixing Red Epic footage with Canon 7D footage which turned out to be successful, but it was definitely a mild “freak out” moment. We had this incredible actor out in the woods shooting a short film with no electricity and our camera fails. Oh, the joys of technology! We all took a breath and made it work though.

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What attracts you to the medium of film, as opposed to other forms of art?
This might sound cliche’ but I’ve always just seen movies in my head. My train of thought can run for hours and it leads me to ideas that I want so badly to see outside of my head. I got a degree in graphic design, and while print is a great medium, I got bored with the still images. I always wanted them to move and interact.

What inspires/influences you?
Other art inspires me more than anything. I try to fill my office with artist prints and watch as many movies as my wife will let me. I love sculpture and big urban art pieces. All of those things trigger little sparks in my head. With any luck those little sparks will turn into something unique and worthwhile.

Are there any particular genres you favor over others?
I think I used to say that the big Scorcese type action/dramas would be my favorite genre, but as I’m starting to pick projects, I’m beginning to see that I lean towards melodrama and stories that have some sort of redemption in them. I also love an underdog. I’m a bit of a romantic so I like when the hero gets pulled out of the muck by an unexpected aid.

In the process of film-making, how much of the creativity is found in production? How much improvisation do you find on set?
I think you always have to be open to change. The pre-production is fun because you can come up with all of the great ideas and shots and characters. But when you actually get on set, you have to be open to the accidental and unintentional. Those moments are typically the best in all of our productions.

How did you learn your craft?
From doing it over and over and over. Definitely still learning it though and we’ll continue to do it over and over and over . . .

On what projects are you currently working?
We’ve got some music videos coming up that we’re excited about . . . gotta pay the bills. We’ve also started talking with our co-writer about our next short film. The festival thing and work has slowed us down some, but we’re getting anxious to start working on our next short. After that, I think we plan on tackling a feature.

What would you say of the place motion pictures have in our culture?
That’s a big question and one I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it. I can speak to its place in my life. At its basic level I think it’s an escape for me. I also think it’s a great way to challenge yourself and others, especially if you take the time to really look at the film as art and as commentary. Movies have the ability to move people and evoke emotion in a way that few other mediums can and I think that’s really powerful.

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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 would just love to see more studios taking advantage of what Tennessee has to offer. It’s such a unique state, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of awareness about it outside of Nashville. I also don’t think there are a lot of tax incentives here compared to other states which hinders larger productions. It’s unfortunate.

How long have you been working in motion pictures?
Officially we’ve been in business for just over two years. So yeah, we’re still pretty green compared to a lot of people. However, we have been making movies since childhood and regardless of how bad or ridiculous they were, they were still movies.

What themes do you like to explore in film?
As I said before I love the underdogs and the unlikely heroes. In Still Here our main character is lost and needs the help of a stranger to get back on track. Anytime a community can rise up and support someone (good or bad) who has the chance for redemption is very appealing to me. We also focused on movement. The idea that becoming static and frozen in a routine is a slippery slope to a very un-fulfilling life. Isolation is another theme we often explore. Maybe we’re really afraid of being alone? Haha.

What advice do you have to aspiring filmmakers?
My advice would be: 1) Watch a lot of good movies, not just the theatrical releases and find what you are drawn to. 2) Go make a lot of movies. some will be really really bad, but occasionally one will be really good. 3) Spend time on your script. Plan on at least 4-5 rewrites. I promise it will get better. Your first idea is never the best. 4) Challenge yourself. If everything happens really easily, then chances are you’re taking the easy route. I feel like very few great things have “just happened.”

What do you see as the future of film?
4D! No, I think the future of filmmaking is indie filmmakers who can tell the best story. Technology is moving so fast and everything is becoming much more accessible than it used to. Everything is HD (for the most part) and that can kind of level the playing field. So yeah, I think we’ll see a lot more indie filmmakers getting wide releases than we used to. Hopefully the distributors feel the same way I do!

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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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