Here & Beyond – 5 Questions for Film Director Colin West

Image from Here and Beyond (short film)

1. What are the pros and cons of working in a short format?

Pro: They’re shorter. Con: They’re shorter. It’s such a toss-up. I enjoy the short form, but find it much more challenging than the longer form, specifically during the conception and writing process. With a short, you’ve really got to get rid of the notion of arcs and think more about moments, expression, and experience. It’s not necessarily about how your character changes, but rather how they react— it’s hard to get a viewer to care about a character in just a few minutes. Then again, a short means fewer working hours, they cost less, and they can be a great place for experimentation. So, in the end, I’d say go with whatever format fits the idea at hand. I’ve seen brilliant films that are 90 minutes, and others that are 90 seconds.

2. How does writing alone versus with a partner differ?

Screenwriting is classically a lonely act. It’s the only part of the filmmaking process that is often done alone. Production and post-production are both hugely collaborative with multiple hands working at once on the narrative at hand. But it always begins with a lone writer banging their head against a wall (and (I suppose) putting words to the page (on occasion). Why the chronic head pain? Well, I genuinely find the writing process is unfailingly a messy pulp of anxiety, self-doubt, and anguish. Every writer I’ve ever talked to agrees. But, when you have a co-writer (like the fantastic Corey Aumiller with whom I often co-write), you can at least suffer through it with someone else. A partner in this process gives you the ability to take turns doing the inevitable head-into-wall banging -- like a WWF wrestling tag-team situation. You know, Hulk Hogan stuff.

3. What unexpected challenges had to be overcome during this production?

The wind was brutal the week we were shooting and we had to bring a few scenes inside that we had been planning to shoot outside. It lead to some last minute re-writes that I was nervous about going into post-production. I totally credit my editor, Alejandro Marquez Vela, for coming up with the genius idea to cross-cut the scenes inside, and, since they ended up being shot in the same room, it worked perfectly. He managed to find a perfect balance of comprehensibility, emotion, and wonder. So of course, in the end, those scenes worked so seamlessly we came to find that we should have shot it all indoors anyways! So it goes…

4. Your work seems to consistently involve technology and the perception of time in some way. What attracts you most to these subjects?

As far as my interest in technology goes, I grew up in a technology-centered household. My mom worked for tech software companies and my dad was a math teacher turned computer scientist, so science and technology were everywhere for me growing up. But I think I realized early on that, in the end, technology is just fighting a constant battle with time. It degrades, breaks down, and becomes incompatible… just like us humans. And who’s the culprit? Time. So entropy, I suppose, is ultimately what I’m interested in. Plus, it’s only natural (and kind of meta-textual, I suppose) that I use the language of film, a time-based medium, to talk about time. And, as an aside, I wear a wristwatch, which is, like, rare now. My grandfather always had a watch on. When he died this year I was there in the room with him and somehow I wound up with his watch. It was three hours ahead. So, either he was living in the future, or we are all living in the past.

5. When it comes to aspiring filmmakers, what's your top "don't do this" piece of advice?

With filmmaking, I hesitate to say there is something you shouldn’t do. There are the ways other people make films, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow that example. Unless it is in any way harmful to you are someone else, everything should be on the table. The creation of art is about doing, not thinking (or at least, not overthinking). Getting into this industry is not about following the rules, but rather, breaking them. Everyone wants to see something different — I know I do — which means trudging your own path. Plus, the people who ignore the rules are the ones who disrupt the system and ultimately re-write the rules. So, if there is one thing I advise, it is to don’t not get out there and do something (Was that the right amount of double-negatives?).