Desolation : An Interview

Sam Patton's directorial debut is a thriller film called Desolation. If you are in LA the film will be having its world premiere tonight June 21st at the Arclight Culver City starting at 9:30pm.  Click here for tickets.

Desolation takes us to the woods and into the minds of Abby, Jen and Sam who just want to say goodbye to the dead, but encounter a hiker stalking them. 

Who are you and what do you do? 

I directed and produced Desolation. It's my first feature in both capacities. 

What drew you to direct this film? 

I went in search of a contained genre piece, that's what brought me to the script, but what hooked me were the characters. Their stories stuck with me and i just felt "I need to get them out of these woods!"

Desolation 2017, BTS of shooting a scene on the river

Desolation 2017, BTS of shooting a scene on the river

What were some of the challenges of making this film?

Bees. When you shoot in the woods in the summer you're going to have bees. We also hiked up a mountain. Physically, there was challenges. 

Also, just trying to complete a shoot in 14 days was a crazy short amount of time. We had to keep our shot lists simple, our planning tight. But we pulled it off!

Desolation 2017

Desolation 2017

Do you have a favorite scene from the film? Or a part that you are particularly proud of? 

When Abby tells Jen "I'm not ready" about 15 minutes into the film, I still get goosebumps watching that scene. When we shot it, I knew it was going to be special. Jaimi Paige really brought it and found that character for us with that scene. 

Also, the clip we had released on Deadline is the last scene we shot, and for me, you can see us all working together as a team – the cast, the camera, all of it. 

What are your favorite kinds of genre's to direct? 

I love dialogue, so any scenes that allow characters to go back and forth, whether that is a funny scene or an argument, or anything in between. Lately, I've been working in the "genre" space (I.e. Thriller). Desolation is a thriller, and our next movie "Care" is going to be a thriller. I like the freedom that genre movies provide to take interesting risks within their parameters. I like the challenge of working inside that box. 

Alyshia Ochse (“Jen” left) Jaimi Paige (“Abby” Right) and Toby Nichols (“Sam”)

Alyshia Ochse (“Jen” left) Jaimi Paige (“Abby” Right) and Toby Nichols (“Sam”)

What kind of camera's did you use? and why?

Mostly the Red Dragon, which my DP Andi Obarski owns. We shot 80% of the movie on that, with Schneider primes and one very long 28-300mm zoom lens. Then we shot 20% on the same glass but on two Sony a7s cameras. Those little cameras allowed us to capture some of the low light action scenes at night and just see more. They also made for an outstanding B camera when we'd start losing light at sunset. 

Critical to the look of the film was that every shot of the film has 1/4 or 1/2 Black Pro Mist. That was vital to achieving a non-digital look on a digital camera. That was our secret weapon.

Desolation 2017 

Desolation 2017 

Explain your sound aesthetic for the film  

We wanted to capture the different spaces of the film - mountain top, lakeside, deep woods - and make them feel different, but also like you were there with the characters. There are long moments in the film where no one is speaking, and so the atmosphere takes over. It was important for those moments of “silence” to, of course, not be silent, and to have an emotional tonality that underscored the scene.

Also, we had just a future legend for a composer - Marcus Bagala did such amazing work to score the film, and find just the right notes and arrangements to carry the emotional weight of the story too. It was awesome working with him.

Where else is this film playing besides LA Film Fest? 

We are talking to distributors now and have some very intriguing offers on the table. We may play a few more festivals that have reached out, as long as it it fits with our distributor’s strategy. We’re excited to be getting that final partner for the film, and will have more news on that very soon!


Fun Questions

If you were stranded in the forest and someone was hunting you what five items would you want with you? 

  • I’d have to think a rifle, first and foremost, so I could hunt back!
  • Then the kind of great rain jacket that could be shelter if it rained.
  • And then some Clif bars maybe so i don’t get hangry while I’m fighting for my life. Two more items?
  • A bullet proof vest. And wait a minute shouldn’t I just have asked for a cell phone to call for help?
  • Great, I went gun before cell phone. That’s who I am, I guess. Well at least phone made it in under the wire. 

If you could take on a super power what would it be? 

Invisibility, definitely! (It would help me hide from this person hunting me in the forest.)

If you could travel back in time where would it be? 

Probably to the 1970s, so I could see that great era of movies first hand, and see Star Wars in theaters. (Or back to when this person who is hunting me was a kid so I could stop them from going down the path that led to them hunting me.)

Do you prefer digital or 35mm film to shoot on? 

I have never shot 35mm, but in film school we shot a bunch of 16mm. I really liked the challenge - it was the first time I really internalized that you need to do your homework and planning to make sure the image you capture on set is as close to perfect as you can get it. Because you can’t see the image until it’s developed, you have to really understand the variables and engage your imagination to achieve any image at all. So it forces you to plan and have vision.

That said… I love everything that this era of digital filmmaking makes possible. I am very tech-minded, and so I’m obsessed with little cameras that can go everywhere. Being able to make a DCP at home… it’s a very exciting time to be a filmmaker.

(But I’ll tell you what I really like to shoot on is any weapon that can take care of this hunter who for some reason is on my tail… scary stuff…)