Sole Proprietor follows the tale of CIA operative whom is waiting for relocation and happens to falls in love with a sex worker. Dan Eberle has written and directed the action/thriller which has been theatrically released on Friday, August 12, 2016, in LA and is available on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play. Dan Eberle took some time out of his schedule to answer questions we posed about his new film and about his filmmaking process.
You have several credits for the movie (writer, director, lead actor, producer. Can you speak on the challenges that arise when you’re doing so many different jobs?
There are upsides and downsides to taking on so many jobs. Producing, acting, and directing all at the same time is not a thing I would recommend to anyone who has a choice in the matter. The biggest drawback to this approach is it can seriously narrow the mental bandwidth required to make informed, quick decisions. Getting bogged down in logistical, technical, or personnel challenges, will obfuscate your creative vision. On the other hand, that’s life. Creativity gets stifled, water is wet. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the things that I don’t have. Instead, I choose to embrace what do have, and work maximally within the parameters afforded to me.
On the bright side of me doing all those jobs, when things are clicking, the process can be incredibly efficient. We can sail through many pages per day, setting up shots and executing coverage with very little debate or discussion. I’ve also worked with James Parsons, our director of photography, on the last four films, so we have a very tight working relationship and aesthetic shorthand. Even though we had mostly new faces behind the camera on SoleProprietor, we were able to maintain a fast clip and make all our days with minimal pickups.
How did you come to play the lead?
I am Crowley. They would have had to pry that role from my cold dead hands.
What was your favorite moment from the production?
My favorite part of the production was a particular event toward the end. We did a major company move to Pennsylvania to shoot the climactic shootout. We rented a secluded cabin in the woods near the set, and we all lived there together for a week. I was nervous about the entire cast and crew being cooped up in the middle of nowhere, but it turned out to be an amazing bonding experience. Every night, after 15-hour days of some very stressful production, it was always a party. We drank, ate amazing food, played cards, and just hung out together having fun. It was exactly what making a movie should be.
Would you agree that your film has a message regarding female empowerment, and if so was that intentional? What sort of message did you want the movie to send and do you think it’s being received?
The female characters in SoleProprietor have agency and make decisions on their own behalf, but to me, that is just solid writing, not some sort of activism. I am not an advocacy filmmaker. I don’t make films to convey political or social messages, I make films to convey what I believe to be compelling stories. Hopefully, those stories illuminate something about the human experience.
I do, however, believe that in the context of an artwork, juxtaposing disparate values, desires, or aesthetics, can create an unexpected harmonic overtone within the person viewing, listening to, or otherwise experiencing the work. This experience can lead to enlightenment that transcends the direct intention of the work. In other words, I believe looking at a particularly effective painting of a still life of flowers may or may not lead to a particular appreciation of painting or flowers, but may well lead to an epiphany about the value of human life.
Obviously, this transcendence is not a thing that can be controlled by the artist. All I can do is my very best and hope that it touches someone, in some way.
The Photography reminded me of Traffic in the way it used colors to saturate the screen. Was Traffic a direct influence on the film and if not, what films influenced you during the production?
Steven Soderbergh is a huge influence on my work. I consider Soderbergh the perennial filmmaker of my generation. The look of SoleProprietorprobably borrows most from the vérité style cinematography and some of the editing techniques used in Traffic.
We didn’t do a tremendous amount of color-coding like in Traffic, but we did attempt to use light in a way that would put dark characters who live in shadow, into bright daylight. The contrast of hot sunlight blasting into dark rooms where bad things happen creates a dramatic, stark, almost otherworldly effect in how we see these people.
The film we probably owe the most to is Soderbergh’s The Limey, which deployed a non-linear technique to displace time and convey a sense of fractured memory and disorientation. In SoleProprietor, this elliptical approach allows the audience to project their own sense of the character on screen, and makes for a much more active audience experience, particularly during the first act when we are setting up the people and the world in which they live.
Do you hope to always have many active roles in your films or would you rather focus on one aspect (directing, writing, acting, etc)? Why or why not?
I do manage to work on some projects where my focus is more singular, but I always find myself helping in other ways. I have a film shooting late this year that I’ll just be acting in, but experience as a writer and producer are definitely assets to that project. Even if I am not credited with those contributions, I’m happy to lend whatever skills I have, if it makes the movie better—I have a vested interest in being involved with good stuff, after all.
I do see myself focusing on directing for hire in the years to come, but I definitely want to continue with what I consider to be personal films like SoleProprietor, writing and producing my own work, for as long as time allows.
What are your top five favorite films?
In no particular order, because I love them all in different ways, for different reasons:
Breaking the Waves
Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Given an unlimited budget, what movie would you make?
I have a script I wrote several years back called ’The Sun Sets Over Arivaca’. It was inspired by an experience my brother had while serving in the US Border Patrol. I’d really like to do that one.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
I should be acting in a new film shooting later this year called The Night Mile, directed by Jonathan Jacobson, a producer I love working with, who helped us on Cut to Black and SoleProprietor. The plot is still secret, but I can confirm it involves lowlifes, and it is rather saucy.
As far as my own work goes, I have a new project I’m developing—kind of a detective series, but without any detectives.