by Rebecca Potts
Just before Fresno’s shelter-in-place order began, Upsilon V Productions was in the midst of casting their first feature film, Lake. The search was on for the four main roles, and after casting actors for two of them (Spoiler alert: one of them is me!), they were forced to put in-person casting on hold. The current pandemic has thrown a wrench in…basically everything, and with most of the country ordered to stay at home, it’s difficult (See also: impossible) to make a film. I virtually sat down with writer and director Dylan Spenhoff to talk about the film, what makes it unique, and how to send in a virtual audition:
Rebecca: Without giving too much away, what is this film about?
Dylan: Lake is a Sci-Fi/Horror-Mystery Feature Film about a graduate student who, after the death of his mentor, delves into a hidden realm known as the “Supramundane” to uncover the secrets of the universe.
Rebecca: What makes this story different from others we’ve seen on the big screen?
Dylan: The concept itself is one that’s not often explored in the medium or, perhaps, in general. This is not a time travel story. This is not a monster story. This is not a space exploration story. It has elements of all of these, but weaves them together to create something rare, which is a story devoted to a pure concept. It goes beyond the “what if?” of general speculative fiction, marrying the very real and very unreal to create the surreal, the hyper-real; a reality that is inextricably bound to yet fundamentally different to what we perceive as real.
Rebecca: Having read the script, I know that your characters are very unique and don’t have the same “typical” traits that you see in the film industry. What inspired you to bring these characters to life?
Dylan: That is an interesting question because the characters came after the concept, and they evolved throughout the writing process. At first, the characters were vehicles for the story, but soon, they ended up writing themselves. There was also a conscious decision by both me and my mother, who is also working on the film with me, to create non-cliché characters and to bring a wider girth of specifically female characters that get to act like male characters – they get to act like people. Some of the characters were written before being assigned a gender. We decided just before casting which characters would be male and female. We stayed mindful that human beings in general, regardless of gender, gender expression or identity, are fundamentally just human beings, which allowed us to write more three-dimensional, non-traditional characters.
Rebecca: Was it a conscious choice to avoid a romantic component to the storyline or was that something that came naturally as the characters “wrote themselves”?
Dylan: It was a conscious choice. I’m not a big fan of unnecessary romances. For me, a romance or anything else must serve the story or the development of the characters, and in a lot of larger productions you see a tacked on romance that doesn’t need to be there and often it detracts from the solidity of the film. One of the first things we both decided on was no romance!
Rebecca: What message are you hoping to send with your film?
Dylan: The ‘thesis’ of the film, as it were, is twofold. First, we want to warn against hubris and entitlement, both of which are products of privilege in this context. Second, we want to encourage people to search for new ideas in unexpected places, and to practice patience in doing so. You’ll find nothing of value flitting from one thing to the next; your horizons will only broaden through dedication and effort.
Rebecca: So why should the audience see this movie?
Dylan: I’m always envious of people who can answer this question with a straight face. “Oh, see my movie because it’s the best!” In seriousness, I’d first like to put my finger to the pulse of why we see any movie. To be stunned. To be awed. To see the impossible. To be moved. To have our view of the world shaken. To ask and answer questions of which we may never even have conceived. Ultimately, to help us better understand ourselves. Lake delivers these experiences, and in a way that people have scarcely seen. See this movie because it will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Rebecca: So correct me if I’m wrong, this is your first independent project, right?
Dylan: It’s my first personal project. I’ve done a handful of other things ranging from student film festivals to commercials, filming taekwondo tournaments, weddings, even a teacher’s conference once – which I probably shouldn’t say was the most boring three hours of my life! It’s definitely daunting to bring my first personal project to life, but I do have a lot of confidence in my own abilities and the abilities of the people I’m working with, so I’m not afraid.
Rebecca: What do you want other aspiring filmmakers in the area know about making your first feature film?
Dylan: You see people and hear people all the time saying “Hollywood doesn’t have any original ideas,” but the ideas are there, they’re just not being made, they’re not being funded, and I want people to know that these incredible ideas you see out there with incredibly well-executed concepts can be made. We have not reached the final frontier of storytelling in film – there are still stories to tell and ways in which to tell them.
Rebecca: Where can people send audition information?
Dylan: Since we are still in the middle of a pandemic, we’re obviously not meeting in-person at this time, but we are still casting for Niels Faraday and Valerie Pomeroy. We request all contact go through our email, contact@upsilonv[dot]com. If you’re interested in auditioning or have other professional inquiries regarding Lake, please contact us there.