Set in the desert on the outskirts of town, Romeo and Samson Griggs are two reckless, misfit brothers who live on a battered houseboat.
Left without any other family to speak of, these two desperately lack both intuition and direction. They survive by constantly hustling, gambling and thieving other small-time crooks in their neighborhood. Nothing seems to ever go according to their harebrained schemes but that hardly seems to faze either of them as they operate in their own strange and delusional headspace. In an attempt to finally leave for California, they plan an even more complex and financially rewarding long con.
Poor Boy premiered at 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. Debut where director Robert Scott Wildes creates a remarkable cinematic style to portray the delusion and poor judgment of these brothers. We spoke with the independent film director on his inspirations and origins of shooting in the desert, casting well-known indie actors, style choices and more.
Find More Information Poor Boy at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival – HERE
What inspired you to tell this story about two misfit brothers in Arizona?
I recently became a father. I have a little baby girl. This perfect animal. Poor Boy is a story about two brothers, yes, but for me, it’s a story about the missing father. It’s a story about the fears of ruining my daughter’s life. A warning bell. A story sailors tell at seaside caverns.
Tell us about the casting process. How did you find the two indie veteran actors that play Romeo and Samson Griggs?
This film came together really organically. I didn’t have a casting director — I simply couldn’t afford one. It really began by sending the script to my friends. And in turn, they would send it to their friends. I had seen Dov Tiefenbach (Samson Griggs) in a play years ago. He was good friends with Lou Taylor Pucci (Romeo Griggs). It was a natural pairing. We worked on the script for about a year before we shot. The development process really helped in creating natural performances. I love those guys.
How did you get Michael Shannon Involved in the film?
My producer Kristin Mann had just produced MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and was friendly with Michael. She reached out to him and set up a meeting between us in Austin. I boarded a plane to Texas and met Mike at the SXSW Festival. We ate Mexican food and talked about life, salsa, and rodeos. He agreed to do the film and I am forever grateful.
You are originally from New Hampshire and studied at the American Film Institute. What made you decide to tell this story in the desert?
I have always been drawn to the desert; mysteries of the sprawl. I’ve made a few films in the desert and I hope to make many more. Something about the heat, the impossible expanse, and dusty neighborhoods made perfect sense for this story. We tried to recreate the world of the film as we were making it. It was harsh and difficult but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
This is your debut feature film. What were the main challenges of Poor Boy?
Initially, it was getting people to recognize that we were actually making a movie. Once we were in production, it was the constant daily sacrifices: Oh, we don’t have any locations today? Oh, there’s no background actors today? Oh, I have one hour to shoot four pages of action? Fantastic. And in post-production it was the emotional and physical challenge of living on a couch, away from all my friends and family, in Charlotte, North Carolina — a place I had never even visited — as I edited the movie with a complete stranger – a stranger who has now become one of my closest friends and greatest collaborators. You do what you have to do to get a film made.
How did you develop the cinematic look in the film, this surreal feeling of being in the desert?
I worked really hard with Andrew Wheeler, the cinematographer, to create a visual language for the film. We didn’t have many resources. We didn’t really even have lights. We knew we weren’t going to have much time or money in post-production — we basically knew we were going to have to create the look of the film in-camera. After months of prep, we stumbled upon this old grainy rodeo photograph – the lights were blooming and the blues were so blue – we decided this was going to be the look of the movie. Once shooting on celluloid was no longer an option, we decided to shoot multiple formats of video: Arri Alexa, Mini-DV, DSLR’s, VHS, Cellphones, Found Footage, and so on. It would have been impossible without the amazing support of Mike Carter at Panavision Hollywood and profound artistry of our colorist Élodie Ichter at eFilm.
— Interview conducted by Lia Fietz