SIFF 2017 interview: 'Time Trap' filmmakers discuss their sci-fi adventure
Amid the hundreds of feature-length and short films playing during the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival, there is one sci-fi flick that unlike all the other movies on the SIFF slate. And it was a relationship between the filmmakers behind "Time Trap" (world premiering at SIFF on May 19) and one of the festival co-founders that helped bring the indie sci-fi movie to Seattle.
"Dan Ireland was a super film aficionado," "Time Trap" executive producer Zachary Matz said during a phone interview. He was joined by the film's co-directors Mark Dennis and Ben Foster on the conference call. Matz had previously worked with SIFF co-founder and filmmaker Ireland on 2008 SIFF award winner "Jolene" and "Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont." Ireland passed away last year and Matz remembered Ireland would court festival filmmakers. "He would make sure to give them a loving venue."
"Seattle is a cinema savvy town," Matz continued. "I thought to call (the festival organizers) and said 'Look, this might be counter programming for Seattle' because they tend go more toward auteur driven dramas, as opposed to this film that we produced, which is an entertaining adventure film."
"Time Trap" - which follows a group of students trapped in a cave where time passes differently from the outside world - is the latest from co-directors Dennis and Foster. Their previous and first feature film, "Strings" won a number of film festival honors, including awards from the Breckenridge Festival of Film, Route 66 Film Festival and SoHo International Film Festival. And Dennis said the idea for "Time Trap" came out of drawn-out process of putting another film together.
"All three of us were trying to get some actors attached to another movie," Dennis said. "I had the thought, 'Man I'd like to go into a closet and come out three weeks later to find out if we got an actor or not.'" He told Foster about the idea and wrote the first draft of "Time Trap" in three days.
"It stuck out to us more than the indie film we had set out to make," Foster said. "When Mark sent me that script, it was the instant 'hell yes.'"
Dennis said they drew inspiration from the films from the '80s and '90s that they were into, such as "Back to the Future," "Jurassic Park" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"The stuff that everybody loves when they are 8-to-13 years old shapes how they view movies for the rest of their lives," Dennis said.
Once the first draft was finished in mid-May, Foster and Dennis quickly found themselves in an accelerated schedule that would have them start shooting the film in August.
"This film also got a lot bigger than what it originally was," Foster said of the sci-fi flick that was initially going to be a $10,000 micro-budget found footage movie. "Mark has a lot of ideas and I'm really bad at saying no."
The filmmakers say their co-directing collaboration is key to being able to work quickly and efficiently - a dynamic that began as students in college.
"Mark was always the guy in class that had some high-concept, impossible-to-make idea," Foster said. "And I was always off shooting stuff so I had my head around how to execute these projects."
Dennis wrote a short film called "The Alternate" while in college, which became a template for their future collaborations.
"A teacher in our school said 'This is a really cool short. It's really exciting. I've never seen anything like it before but it's impossible to make,'" Dennis recalled. "Ben was 'like F-U, let's make it.' We made it a few months later. There's always an idea that's ambitious and then Ben will usually figure the execution of how to make it happen. The stuff that we've made has been so hard for us to make and maybe outside of what you would expect a typical first or second (film) to be on such a low budget."
Several films later, Foster and Dennis say working very closely together during pre-production allows them to work independently once the cameras start to roll.
"(Mark's) probably talking to the actors more and I'm setting up the logistics of the shoot and dealing with the visuals," Foster said, while Dennis said of their on-set dynamic, "It's almost like the same mind being able to split off to cover more ground at one time."
With more than 160 feature-length films screening during SIFF 2017, the filmmakers said its popcorn appeal sets "Time Trap" apart from many other festival offerings.
"You can never go wrong with having fun - and at the end of the day, this movie is fun," Dennis said. "Every ten minutes something happens that you wouldn't expect. There's a great '80s nostalgia that comes with the movie. You don't always get that with the typical film festival indie fare."
"Time Trap" world premieres at SIFF 9 p.m. May 19 at SIFF Uptown, with additional festival screenings on May 20 and May 30.