Filmmaker Interview: Brian Thompson
One of the more chilling shorts this year is Incident on Highway 73. We talked to filmmaker Brian Thompson about the making of this strange tale, which centers on a young couple who gets stranded in the desert.
Festivus: What kind of desert drive did you take that inspired this film?
Brian: The film was inspired by a trip to the Grand Canyon my wife and I took. We had been looking for this awesome lookout point we heard about. According to some map we had was down a long dirt road and in the middle of nowhere. So we headed down the road…. figuring it would be a cool drive and some cool scenery along the way and there was probably a million other people there too…About 2 or 3 miles in there was an old van broken down pushed into the side of the road and an middle aged frazzled looking woman ran out and tried flagging us down, then I saw a man standing in the brush just outside of what maybe he thought was my field of vision. Of course… I didn’t stop… Not because I don’t like to help people but because I had an uneasy feeling, something about the situation felt like a setup… I felt vulnerable out there in the middle of nowhere with no weapons and no one else around and for all I knew this guy was gonna pop out and hack us up and wear our skin on his face… (we had no cell reception either)
So I sped past the woman and kept going…. I felt bad but Id rather them sit on the roadside then have my wife and I end up dead…. We made it to the lookout point and it was EMPTY nobody around, we decided not to really take much time because we were spooked about the creepy people… We knew we would have to pass them again on the way back, so I sped back past that spot again 35-40 min later without stopping or looking around…
When we reached the bottom of the hill, I went to the closest ranger station and let him know there was a van broken down and the people might need help. So if they truly weren’t maniacs, at least help was on the way… Michael Kirk the writer of Incident on Highway 73 and myself were tossing ideas around and I had mentioned that story to him, and we took that idea and ran with it, of course we added a sci-fi element and its different story all together, but we wanted to capture that feeling of vulnerability and isolation. A common thing I think we all can relate to, unless your the homicidal maniac in the desert waiting for somebody to drive by so you can kill them and wear their skin on your face…
Festivus: You do a great job of maintaining suspense throughout the story. How do you keep your actors in that fearful mindset while you’re shooting? What do you tell them?
Brian: I think the location really helped, we shot out at this old desert highway and when you pull up to it there are just hundreds and hundreds of bullet casings everywhere, like its the site for a horror film where innocent people are shot to death…. in fact even when we location scouted there was always some shifty people blasting guns off out there drinking beers and what not… So as soon as you roll up to this place you have these desert people with guns and just you in the middle of nowhere, which really helps keep the fearful mindset. But the truth is I had two incredible Actors Elizabeth Schmidt and Ian Alda… We rehearsed a few times before going into the desert and Michael Kirk did such a great job with the script I think they were very prepared when we arrived. Although we shot very quickly because of weather and time constraints, we did go through each scene before shooting and discuss what was happening, what had happened and what was about to happen. And then of course we were always looking over our shoulder to see if somebody with a gun was rolling up on us…. As we were pretty vulnerable shooting this film.
Festivus: Some great effects work happens near the end. Without spoiling it, can you talk about how you did it? It was very cleverly done!
Brian: As far as the effects work that’s a combination of a lot of elements that I really didn’t know if it would work but we just went for it! I don’t want to give to much away, but I will say we had some amazing stunt coordinators on the film who helped with some of the complex stuff Kurt Lott, BJ Davis, Casey Adams and Rich Minga were all very integral to the stunt work and to Elizabeths credit, it was her first time ever doing any type of stunt work like that, we really put her through the ringer.
INCIDENT ON HIGHWAY 73 SCREENS IN THE TWISTED TALES SHORTS BLOCK