Bill Ivers, a disgraced ex-cop, is hired by a wealthy former friend to rid his estranged daughter Jessica of a stalker. Soon, Bill finds himself interceding in Jessica’s increasingly complicated life, caught between the crushing debt of a dangerous loan shark, and the specter of her father’s shadowy past. ‘Cut to Black’ is a story of desperate people living in the wake of bad choices, trying to make the most of what’s left of their time in this world. Shot in lavish black and white tones, ‘Cut to Black‘ is a gorgeous cinematic tribute to classic noir, set against stark, gritty urban modernity. Nobody gets away clean in this tough story of love, loyalty, and the inevitable conclusion we’re all headed for.
In anticipation of ‘Cut to Black‘ screening at the OFFICIAL CLOSING NIGHT film of the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival on June 9, 2013, we spoke with the film’s quadruple threat Dan Eberle about noir as a genre, his take on digital distribution and relationship with BFF.
More Information & Tickets for ‘Cut to Black’ at the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival – HERE
The film ‘Cut to Black’ will be the Closing Night film of the 2013 Brooklyn Film Festival. Since this is not your first time at the festival, can you tell us a little about your prior experience there? Why did you feel the festival is the right place for ‘Cut to Black’ to premier?
When I was first getting into film, Arin Crumley and Susan Buice’s ‘Four Eyed Monsters‘ won the 2005 Brooklyn Film Festival. Their film, and the making-of series they produced documenting the many ups and downs of making and marketing their film, were both a huge inspiration to me as I tried to get early projects off the ground.
When we premiered my film ‘The Local‘ at the Brooklyn Film Festival back in 2008, it represented a personal milestone for me, knowing my work had been selected by the same entity that recognized Arin and Susan’s brilliance and innovation.
When we were looking at festivals for our latest film, ‘Cut to Black‘, BFF was at the top of our list. ‘Cut to Black‘ is a quintessentially Brooklyn film. The universe of the film, much like the borough itself, is at once ancient and modern.
In ‘Cut to Black’ you take on the quadruple duties of Writer/Director/Star/Producer. Which of these did you find to be the most challenging aspect of getting this film made? What advice would you give others in successfully handling multiple aspects of a film production?
‘Cut to Black‘ is the fifth film I’ve taken this writer/director/actor/producer approach with. Every time I do it, I say I will never do it again. Ideally, a film will have separate, full-time people, handling all those responsibilities. In the world of independent filmmaking, productions often work more like a pre-historic tribal village than a modern corporate office. Sometimes even grandma has to grab a spear and stab the mammoth so we can all eat tonight.
Acting and directing at the same time basically requires you make all your character decisions in casting. It sort of breaks the Geneva Convention of acting to give notes to an actor you are sharing a scene with. Situations like that require very careful handling, and really require a well thought out leadership strategy to keep your fellow cast members from murdering you.
It can also be very difficult for the actor/director to recognize when he or she is blowing it. I would emphatically recommend keeping an acting coach on set to anyone considering acting in the film they are directing, particularly if he or she doesn’t have much of experience self-directing.
Danielle Primiceri produced ‘Cut to Black‘ with me, as well as my previous film ‘Prayer to a Vengeful God’. She also art directed both films, as well as designing all of Jessica’s costumes in the dance sequences in ‘Cut to Black’. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention she created our outstanding poster imagery for ‘The Local’, ‘Vengeful’ and ‘Cut to Black‘ too, as well as all the visual design on our marketing materials. It seems we are all hyphenates.
My advice to filmmakers, whether they are considering taking on multiple jobs themselves, or surrounding themselves with a team, is the same: commit completely. Regardless of personnel, configuration, budget, or time constraint, the challenges of completing a film production are herculean, and those challenges are invariably just beyond the scale of your available resources. In this respect, the Film Gods laugh at us. We think we are ingenious problem solvers who can create our way out of every jam, but there is always a showstopper lurking where you least expect it. A fanatical dedication on the part of all participants is required to see the film through.
The film is a modern take on the “film noir” genre. What is it about the genre that you find interesting? What are some film noir influences of yours?
‘Cut to Black‘ was visually designed with noir in mind, but I would argue that all of my work is cut from the film noir cloth in one way or another. Thematically, ‘Prayer to a Vengeful God’ is probably the most noir of my work, in that it is about a character who indulges his darkest desire–in his case, revenge–and hell opens beneath his feet. ‘The Local‘ is a kind of neo-noir, visually, with the stark imagery and hard shadows, but a gritty, saturated palette replacing traditional black and white.
While I definitely leverage a number of classic noir archetypes–the showgirl, the war buddy who made good, the wealthy corrupter, the patsy–I didn’t approach ‘Cut to Black‘ with another film in mind. I wanted to use film noir as a stable point of departure for what I hoped to be a kind of ’emotional epic’. I wanted to transcend the well worn tropes of plot and structure and character, and directly–quite literally–pose the question: ‘what is your life worth?’
The score is another aspect of the film that struck me as it mixes traditional jazz with electronic music. Electronic music has always been an interest of mine. What is it about the style that made you want to include it in the film? What was the musical strategy behind the score?
Just like Brooklyn, ‘Cut to Black’ is a collage of anachronisms. The old and new world are side by side. The diegetic music in ‘Cut to Black’ is primarily modern. Bill Ivers, the main character, listens to a lot of Jazz. Bill’s preferred music, and the black and white photography, give us a feeling of an old movie. Meanwhile, at the heart of the film, is Bob Hart‘s propulsive electronica score . It’s the perfect augmentation of our overall filmic strategy to orient and then disorient the audience.
Through a black and white lens, we see the characters of ‘Cut to Black‘ traverse neighborhoods with old storefronts, and brownstones, and pre-war apartment buildings, with modern highrises and new cars parked in front of them. Between the visuals, the story, and the music, the collective juxtaposition of aesthetics gives the film a timelessness, and a universe unto itself.
As a filmmaker working in the independent realm, how do you navigate the distribution aspect of ‘Cut to Black’? Do you pay mind to the films ultimate distribution when developing/shooting the film?
Distribution is always in my thoughts, but it’s important to remember that distribution is business, not art. The point of business is to make money. I was raised to believe that art exists for its own sake. If that’s true, and independent film aspires to be art, it is essentially the antithesis of an exploitable commodity.
Regardless of one’s views on art, I think the point of independent film is to make a film that would not otherwise exist. While I am thinking about distribution–even before I make a film–the distribution business does not inform my creative choices. I look at the films I make in the context of the rest of my work–what have I done, what do I want to do–not in the context of the marketplace.
The creative world I inhabit right now is dripping with lurid themes of sex and violence. I know this is part of why films like ‘The Local‘ have done so well for us, business-wise. While I’m grateful for that, making tough films is not a business decision. It’s just the kind of story I derive meaning from.
Where do you stand on the Theatrical vs. VOD debate?
I think VOD is great. More independent films are being seen now than ever. Personally, I like going to the movies, but plenty of people can do without it. It seems like my junk mail is boiling over with all sorts of theatrical distributors vying for service deal money, so it doesn’t seem like theatrical is going anywhere. I certainly hope it’s not!
The bottom line is, I appreciate anyone watching my films, be it on VOD, at the movies, or wherever. I’d love it if some of the people that pirated ‘The Local’ had actually paid to see it, but I have to say, there is something special about getting email from people on the other side of the world, telling you how much your film means to them.
I probably won’t be thinking about all the money I didn’t make on my deathbed, but I might be thinking about the kid in Argentina that used Google Translator to tell me he loved ‘The Local‘.
About Dan Eberle
Dan Eberle was born in 1974 in San Diego, California. He is a film actor, director, writer, and producer. Dan studied film production under Academy Award nominated filmmaker Steven Bognar (The Last Truck, A Lion in the House). Dan’s films have been distributed all over the world, and won numerous awards for outstanding directorial achievement. His features include JailCity (2006), The Local (2008), Prayer to a Vengeful God (2010), and Cut to Black (2013). Dan resides in Brooklyn, New York with partner and co-producer Danielle Primiceri, where he founded the production company Insurgent Pictures with Tim Guetterman.