Director David Caulfield | Epically Olympian
Before director David Caulfield debuted his first micro-budget film, he was a stagehand and absentee actor fill-in learning about the hard work of supporting a production through sweat. He notes that this proximity to the stage gave him the opportunity to act, write, produce and direct:
“I would just fill in for different people and they where like, okay you’re going to play a part. Then I started transitioning into acting. I love acting. In high school I would do two or three plays at the same time. I have a pretty good talent for memorizing dialogue.”
Dave toured with the acclaimed Center Stage Theater after high school playing various roles in a production of Pinocchio.
“It was a good experience. Someone saw my performance in a production of “The Music Man” in high school and paid my registration fees. I got to travel all over the country, New York, Chicago, St. Louis – and to this day I don’t know who paid for me to tour with Center Stage. It was really cool.”
David’s early theatre exposure and passion for storytelling gave rise to his darkly wonderful psychological thriller, Smothered. Shot in the Puget Sound on a budget 1% that of a Hollywood blockbuster, Smothered blends the intellect of science fiction films with the uneasy edge of a classic horror flick.
“I want to tell a story people are in to. And I want that to be visually exciting. Foremost as a story teller, I want to tell a really great story. And with Smothered, when you watch it, you’ll see that I’m a really big fan of The Twilight Zone. I wanted to take that feel and pair it with a new type of paranormal story, and do something with that.”
Do something with it he did. David is serious about his craft, but from an actor’s perspective he’s not your typical director. And Don’t let Smothered’s budget fool you, the film is filled with amazing local talent and supported by friends, family and gracious neighbors. The movie is a microcosm of the talent the Pacific Northwest cultivates and invites.
“I went back to college, partly to network with other directors and actors, I started connecting with a lot of different people and decided I wanted to shoot a movie. No one was getting paid. We did Smothered for the passion of creating something. I tried to collaborate with people, if an idea is best for the story – it goes in the movie. It’s not my movie – its our movie. I can’t do it without them. We did have a budget – money went to film, make-up, hard copies of HD – things like that. We had to schedule shoots around people’s work and school – it was tough coordinating everything and the project took a little while.”
In Smothered, a woman with a psychiatric disability must go off her medications during her last trimester of pregnancy. As her husband prepares for her inevitable break down, he starts to experience strange hallucinations. He wakes in the middle of the night paralyzed and unable to scream. At the foot of his bed, an old woman takes hold of his leg and climbs eerily to Eric’s chest and smothers him. A series of frightening encounters with other strange entities leaves him wondering if he is the one who’s really going mad.
“I was listening to a show called Coast to Coast and they where talking about the phenomena of old hag syndrome. People would have the delusion or whatever of an old hag at the foot of their bed. So I’m hearing about these experiences and I wanted to tie it into this story.”
When David cast the movie he says it was important that the budget didn’t determine the quality of his actor’s performances. He shares one of his favorite moments in the movie where character Sara Anderson, played by Reilly Kai, breaks down after the torment of her decompensation:
“I understand the emotions it takes to be an actor because you have to be tethered to who you are – but you go into “other people’s” emotions. If you’re doing it right you’re really embedded into that character. So when you’re playing something really complex it can be very hard. And directing that on camera is much different than directing that on stage. So Reilly and I shot this very emotional shot and I really wanted it to be powerful. She did awesome. I really wanted her to show some tears, I knew she could do it but I felt she needed some inspiration. So I said to her, “Let’s start off with a blood curdling scream.” It got that primal thing kicked up in her and the tears just started rolling. And she just gave the most…..to me it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie.”
Check out the movie and share your favorite scenes with us. Thanks to Dave and the cast and crew of Smothered. Congrats on a great movie. You make your city proud!