By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
Sometimes, you just have to adapt to the world around you. Like, when you want to make a movie but there’s a virus ravaging the country. DASHCAM is a new psychological-thriller written and directed by Christian Nilsson, available now from Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures. The film stars Eric Tabach, Giorgia Whigam and Larry Fessenden, and was shot without most of the actors ever actually meeting in person, no easy feat! We had the chance to chat with both Christian Nilsson and Larry Fessenden about the the process of getting the film made, the civilization-shaking search for truth, and what happens in NYC when you try to use a fog machine at night.
Christian, being the writer and director of the film, what can you tell us? Without spoiling too much, of course.
CN: The film is about a night editor at a local news station who fantasizes about becoming a reporter on his own. He’s working on a story about the release of some dashcam footage that, supposedly, is going to clear the air and show that there is no wrong doing in a traffic stop that resulted in the death of both the officer on duty and a high ranking political official that was pulled over.
It seems like it’s going to be a run-of-the-mill night for this editor, but then he is accidentally sent footage from the Governor’s office that tells a far different story. He’s working from his apartment in New York City and the only tools he has access to are his computer and editing software. He’s relying on his skills as an editor to investigate and analyze the footage and see if something is amiss.
I know you have done a lot of video editing. Where does the story stem from and how did you come up with the idea?
CN: Well, I’ve worked in online media for the last decade. We were always working on breaking stories and quick turn around things. Sometimes your mind starts going off, and you start asking yourself, “What if?” So, when we found ourselves in the middle of the pandemic with very few options to get projects off the ground, this one seemed to come together, both in my head, and on paper fairly quickly. We decided to make a paranoia thriller with one person, in his apartment, trying to get to the bottom of a really juicy case.
It’s pretty much a one man, one location film for about eighty-five percent of the story, and then in act three he breaks out of his apartment, and it’s almost like a palate cleanser for the audience. The rules of the world are kind of broken, and we see him in wide open spaces, trying to not only figure out what’s going on, but he also knows he’s much more vulnerable to the people who now know that he knows.
Larry, how did you get involved and what attracted you to this role?
LF: Well, a mutual friend of Christian and me, Andrew van den Houten. I was in a film he directed years ago called Headspace, and he gave me a call and asked if I wanted to be involved. He pitched me Christian’s credentials, but more importantly, I liked the concept of the script. It was a day shoot in the middle of the pandemic. I was able to drive undercover of night out to Long Island and do this gig. I really enjoyed the experience. It was cool!
Did the cast actually film together? How did it work shooting during COVID?
CN: It’s one of the conceits of the story. It’s an editor working alone in his apartment, so whenever there’s a conversation that he has with somebody, it’s through text messages, through FaceTime, or phone calls. We really wanted to play with the idea of isolation. The experience of working with actors remotely is very different. If acting is reacting, you’re now dealing with a five second delay and bandwidth issues.
We sent everybody video kits, they were able to set up their own cameras, we prepped days early to make sure the lighting looked good. I’ve never met Giorgia. Never been in the same room with Giorgia, but we worked together for multiple days on this film. That goes for pretty much every actor in the film, except Eric Tabach, who plays Jake, and Larry.
If you guys had to sell me the film in one sentence, what would you say?
CN: I would say it is a paranoid psychological thriller where our own narratives cloud our judgement of an experience so we don’t know what is what, or who to trust. How did I do?
LF: And honestly Josh, I do feel that it’s important. The movie is relevant to our times. We’re dealing with America, but I think everywhere across the world there are conflicting narratives and increasingly potent ways of conveying information, false and otherwise. Someone sitting in front of a computer screen trying to find out what’s true is absolutely relevant in our times. Not just these three months; it’s really a crisis of civilization, to figure out to deal with our understanding of media and stuff. It’s a throwback to the seventies paranoia flicks.
Are there any funny stories form the set that either of you can share?
CN: Yeah, I’ve got one, and Larry hasn’t heard this yet. We were filming in Washington Square Park. Because a lot of protests were going on at that moment, we had to find a park to mirror Washington Square Park for some of the shots, and we needed a fog machine. So, we rented a fog machine and we were really just pumping fog into this park in the middle of the night, and we were swarmed by probably a dozen FDNY firetrucks who overtook the fence because the park was closed at this point. They came into this park for what they thought was to save the park from burning down, [only] to find our little rinky dinky crew. Then they found out it was a fog machine, and you don’t need a permit for a fog machine, so they left us alone. It was our last day of filming, too.
Firetrucks and everything?
CN: Oh, hell yeah. Like a dozen of the biggest ones I have ever seen!
LF: What? What did they say?
CN: They definitely thought it was funny, once they realized it was a fog machine and not a smoke machine. If we were using a smoke machine without a permit, I think that would have been a much bigger issue.
DASHCAM is available now from Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures.