Loosely based on his family’s aviation history, director David Higgins beautifully shot dramatic thriller ‘AVIATION COCKTAIL‘, set in the late 50’s, centers around three WWII veterans dealing with rural life, crime and love. For the three vets, war was nothing compared to the personal battles they would face back home.
We managed to talk to David in anticipation of ‘AVIATION COCKTAIL‘ screening at the GOTHAM SCREEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL on Friday, October 5 @ 1:00pm AND Monday, October 8 @ 10:15pm. Both Screenings will take place at NYC’s famed QUAD CINEMA.
How did your film ‘THE AVIATION COCKTAIL’ find itself at the GOTHAM SCREEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL? What were your experiences with the festival (if any)? Will you be attending personally?
We were doing the festival thing, getting a feel where we might fit in. GSIFF seemed like it would be right up our alley and luckily they thought so as well. I haven’t had much experience with the festival but I am extremely excited to be attending along with our producer Robert Deline.
Can you tell us a little about the development process of the film? How did the idea come about? How long was production? Do you have a background in aviation?
I think your grandfather’s life is more interesting than your father’s only because of the generation removed and the romanticism associated with that. The main character, Jack Fisher, is loosely based on my Grandfather’s aviation career. He won the Civil Air Patrol’s Meritorious Service Award for search & rescue missions during the blizzard of ’49 (in Cherry County, Nebraska) and was a decorated pilot in WWII. The Aviation Cocktail is a fictionalized account of how I imagine he adjusted to rural life after the frenzy of the war. I have a flair for the dramatic so it’s not how it actually happened, but perhaps how it should have happened. Production was a grueling 17 days with a couple pick up days added for aerials and a blizzard scene. I don’t fly (except in the giant metal tube) but my father was a commercial pilot for many years.
What was the most difficult part of getting ‘THE AVIATION COCKTAIL’ produced?
In low budget, truly independent filmmaking, everything is challenging but I say go big or go home so I upped the ante a bit. Instead of writing something with budget constraints in mind, I thought I would challenge the crew by doing a period piece with children and animals in the script, an old plane that needed to fly and on top of all that, shoot it in Nebraska in the middle of November. So that was challenging.
What is your experience like with the New York City film scene? How would you describe the general sentiment towards independent filmmaking where you are?
I’ve never actually been to New York but I have seen Taxi Driver, Midnight Cowboy and Manhattan so I’m prepared. I have been to Los Angeles several times though and that is what convinced me live and work in Denver. The indie scene in Colorado is pretty alive, lots of talent both cast and crew wise but there’s not a ton of support from the powers that be. Statewide tax incentives just passed so hopefully that will change. We shot in Nebraska because the town of Valentine essentially created their own incentives by offering discounts on goods and services and most importantly, it’s where the story lived in my mind, on the page and finally on the screen.
Who are some of your creative influences? How have these influences found their way into your own creative work?
My father is my greatest influence on filmmaking. His patience, perseverance and kindness inspire me to be a responsible man, father and filmmaker. Kubrick, Peckinpah and Huston usually make an appearance subconsciously (or not). The above mentioned own their original style and I hope there’s some of that left in the world. To be quite honest I’m pretty sick of sequels and superhero movies.
The film seems rich in aesthetic possibilities with its panoramic locations and general nostalgic quality. Can you give us some information as to the aesthetic decisions made in order to maximize the stories potential?
Many of the wide shots (hopefully) convey a sense of distance, separation and loneliness while everyone in the town remains close-knit on the surface. I have nostalgic memories driving through the Nebraska sandhills. It’s a vastly beautiful part of the country that has never really been featured on film. I usually let The Aviation Cocktail speak for itself however and it’s my hope that audiences will have a chance to explore the possibilities of what it means to hang on a shot for longer than two seconds.
GOTHAM SCREEN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
October 4 – 14
@ Quad Cinema & Tribeca Grand