Movie Marker Magazine sat down with film and TV director, Evan Cecil to talk his latest horror-thriller flick LASSO, starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Lindsey Morgan and Andrew Jacobs.
Congratulations Evan on LASSO, can you tell us a bit about your background – any interesting facts?
I live in Oakland (which is currently an extremely artistic, vital, and diverse place that I am loving living in). Fun facts … I come from an extremely tall family, I am 6’6”, my sister is 6’, my father 6’5”, my mother, 6’2” (and that is just the immediate family). I am happy about that because it doesn’t feel like I am the freakishly tall Frankenstein-ogre type guy that I probably seem like more than I’d like to admit. Another fun fact, I was a dead Wookie in ‘Star Wars: Episode III’.
Have you had any formal training/college/schooling/classes/etc. for being a director?
I have a degree in Cinema from San Francisco State University. It is a great school with a great film program, but like so many careers, you realize to didn’t learn as much as you thought you did once you start working in the profession. The real training I got was on set directing. Once I starting directing, it was full on for 8 years. I was lucky enough to get an extremely consistent job, prep a week, shoot week, week after week, month after month, etc. All in all, my first directing “gig” was about 100 hours of national TV, and all with the same crew. I was thrilled to be able to bring them along for the ride on my debut feature-film, ‘LASSO’. Because of that, ‘LASSO’ feels very much like a collaboration and group effort with the team mates I love so much.
Who inspired you to be a director? Was it always your dream to be a director?
I feel like I should have some big high-art answer for this, but really it is playing around with my sister and friends when I was young. I have always loved story-telling (I can be really long-winded). I have had a few mentors, one being a local Bay Area director/producer that I modeled my work flow after. Not so much as a directing inspiration but there have also been a few folks that have inspired me as a way to “be” in this business, that have shown me you can be successful, without being an eejit. One is actually the late Robin Williams (I worked on a bunch of his films). Another a successful production designer Norman Reynolds. Both of these guys were extremely successful in their careers, but also incredibly kind and modest. “a superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions” – Confucius.
LASSO is arguably one of the most anticipated horror movies coming up – how did you become involved with the film? Can you explain in detail?
I was directing TV shows up in the Bay Area. Todd Myers, was acting in one of them. We hit it off, became friends, and eventually talked about the idea of making a film together. We were in the uncommon situation of knowing we wanted to make a film, but not having that “perfect” script at the ready in our back pocket. We put many ideas on the table, read lots of scripts, etc. The concept of a horror film set at a Rodeo had been one bouncing around in my head for years. Todd loved the idea and felt a horror film was a good business way to go for our first film together. We decided to go ahead and hire a writer. I was extremely lucky to find Roberto Marinas, the two of us have amazing creative chemistry. As the script was getting written, Elaine Gibson came on board (she is an amazing film producer and friend). She really kicked the whole project into gear!
What was the inspiration for the film LASSO?
I was visiting a friend up in northern California in Redwood Country and it happened to be Rodeo weekend. We decided to go over there but took our time and got there after dark when the rodeo was almost over. There weren’t many people left and those that were seemed like they had been there drinking all day, the mood was completely not what I expected and probably not typical for a small-town rodeo. It just felt spooky, there was also this creepy creepy mini-pony that gave me the creeps. The rodeo with the backdrop of the deep woods rather than the open plains felt interesting and unexpected, and cinematic. But it was that creepy mini-pony that was staring into my eyes when the idea popped into my head that a horror film set at a Rodeo would be a cool idea. That is basically where the blanket idea came from, but from there the story of ‘LASSO’ was inspired by all kinds of things, from me and my life, to people I know, to my family … as well as deeper themes that I’ll let people interpret themselves from viewing it.
Have you always been a fan of horror?
I do love horror films, but I would never presume to call myself a “horror fan”; a true horror fan puts in time and commitment to loving horror films that is to be respected and admired. They are not just someone (like myself) that enjoys watching horror films. It would be a huge honor to me to have horror fans, real horror fans, embrace ‘LASSO’. There is a sort of charming side to ‘LASSO’, that I hope the fans find different and refreshing for a horror film. I like that there is a bit of a “Disney” vibe within this bloodbath!
Can you tell us a few of the highs, and lows of making LASSO?
The first thing that comes to mind is when we were shooting a scene with Karen Grassle. We had been up all night, the sun was about to come up, we were scrambling to get this scene done before the light. (It was an extremely important scene), then she accidently gots really punched in the face. I was thinking “oh my God! I just got “ma” from Little House on the Prairie punched in the face!” Karen was amazing though, she finished the take, she took a few minutes, and then finished the scene. I was really impressed. She showed up to set the following day with a big black eye. That shot is actually in the film, I’d hate to waste it!!
We had 25 shooting days, 21 days of nights, 20 days of stunts, 12 animal days. We also had over 4 and half weeks of heavy stunt work. Which is huge for a film of this size.
Cute story, when we were at the rodeo arena, we brought in the bleachers because so much happens underneath them that we needed ones that had big enough space underneath. Anyway, because underneath the bleachers was a set, the art department dressed it out with all kinds of great garbage, etc. since we were shooting all night, we’d leave to sleep during the day. Everyday the real groundskeepers of the rodeo arena were being extremely kind by clearing out all the garbage not realizing it was a hot set. Steve Valdez the Production designer put out signs and caution tape, etc. and it never worked. I’m sure it drove Steve crazy, but it is also so charming of them. Our hosts at the arena were amazing, they let us make a huge mess every night and leave blood splattered all over the place without complaining.
What’s next for you?
Aside from hoping to put LASSO in theaters in the near future, I am in pre-production on a project, with my very good actor friend, Travis Andre Ross, called ‘BUNKER’. It is a suspense thriller centered around a group of soldiers collecting themselves at their rally point, after their mission goes terrible wrong. Slowly they realize someone in their group may have sabotaged the mission. Think “Reservoir Dogs” meets “Lone Survivor”.
Watch the official trailer for LASSO – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxfBeLPDenY
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