Film Short: Ash Adams Rises to the Occasion with “Once Fallen”
“Once Fallen”, the hard hitting crime drama from writer/director Ash Adams staring Brian Presley, Ed Harris, Amy Madigan, Peter Weller, Taraji P. Henson, Chad Lindberg and Sharon Gless won the Best Feature Award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival on Sunday, June 6th at the Hilton. During a Q&A held following Saturday’s screening of the film, Ash shared insights about his movie, filmmaking and directing.
Shot in 19 days on a budget of $650,000 using the red camera, the film is actually based on a younger period in the writer’s life. “This was sort of my ode to my drug days and my kind of lawless days and the guys in this movie and the people in this movie were the guys that I hung out with as a teenager,” Adams, who also stars in the film, explained. He added that after living with the characters from this story in his head for so long and then seeing them take shape in the form of the actors playing them, it was hard to let go.
One reason Ash had for holding on was that the project took eleven years to come to fruition. The lead role of Chance, which was played by Brian Presley, was the character based on Adams and he was reluctant to give up the role. He realized painfully, “I was getting old. I was getting older. You have to get it done.” Enter Brian and his financial connections, who helped fund the project, with the caveat that he portray Chance.
Castmate Amy Madigan produced an earlier film of Ash’s in 2002. “I wanted to prove that I could make a feature for $5,000 dollars, that I could write it, produce it, direct it, star in it and not put a bullet in my head or somebody else’s head and I did that and we won a little film festival which was great,” he related. When asked how he got Madigan and her husband, Ed Harris to sign on for “Once Fallen” the director joked, “Actually, I slept with them.” In fact, it took Ash four years to persuade Harris to play the part of Chance’s incarcerated father.
The film has found distribution with First Look and Adams is waiting to see what their plans for the movie are going to be. “It’s really kind of a creepy thing. I have no control over it. Somebody asked me about distribution earlier and I don’t know anything about it. I just want people to see the movie. You just want people to see the movie and you want the best possible format, platform for your film. My feeling is it will probably go into a couple of arthouse theatres and go right to Showtime and DVD and go foreign. That’s where I think it’s probably going to have the best life anyway on DVD. It’s just not a big film,” he admitted.
As for how he made his 19 day shooting schedule, one tip Ash shared was, “I always light from one lighting pattern in a room and that way I don’t have to turn around and reset.” He added that this allows for everyone to move around more easily. “The actors can go where they want. I don’t have to hit marks. I never give anybody a mark. That also burns the clock horribly.” This was also the reason Adams chose to shoot with a digital camera and not on film. “With film that would have been really hard to do. Plus the processing of film is so much more arduous, but you can bet your ass I want to make a movie on film before film’s like gone because I love the look of film, the texture of film. You can’t fake it. I don’t care how good it is. There’s a feeling of film, you know. that I think we all have as audience members. There’s a certain richness and texture to it that just can’t be beat, but as far as being expeditious and moving it along and getting it done, the red’s great. But hopefully next time I’ll get to have the time and the money to shoot on film.”
Ash shared another pointer for staying on schedule. “One of the things that you learn doing this stuff is that in order to make the day and not go over time, really what I figured out, was no close ups. Close ups are what burn the clock more than anything. Close ups just burn the friggin clock, man,” he stressed. He worked out the master and three quarter shots in his head while doing his advance work. ”Sometimes I wish I could see people’s eyes more, you know. Sometimes I wish I did get some close ups in there, more close ups, but you just can’t make the day and do that, man. It just doesn’t work, so I tried to work around and make it as unnoticeable as possible that there wasn’t a whole helluva lot of close ups.”
Considering the number of years “Once Fallen” took to make Adams has had time to reflect about filmmaking. “The whole process is about, you know, compromise and give ups and sacrifices as you’re going along. You come into these situations with a huge set of ambitions and very lofty ideals about what you’re going to get up there and what you’re going to pull off and as you go along you figure out that you’re just not going to get everything, you’re not going to get everything you want and it becomes about checks and balances emotionally. The only thing I’m concerned with when I’m going through this is, is the story making sense and moving forward… That’s all I can do as a director. The rest of the stuff has to do with whether my cinematographer’s doing her job, whether or not my first AD is doing his job and whether or not my editors do their job when we’re done,” he explained.
Of course working with such a stellar cast has to make it easier. “Seven collective Oscar nominations in that movie and they’re all fantastic actors,” he enthused. “The good thing about that was that I was able to spend time with them before we started shooting and I think that’s the most important thing. More than rehearsals, more than table reads is that few hours that you spend with an actor a week, two weeks before you actually shoot agreeing upon what points are important and what points aren’t, so that they in those last few days on the set they can figure out exactly what it is they want to do based on our discussions. If you give actors that kind of freedom before and during I think you get the best performances.”
As for his future plans, Adams is writing a script for Peter Weller, which should begin production this October in New York. Amy Madigan will be joining the cast and Ash is also hoping to bring actor James Caan on board.