Plot of A Dark Place from IMDb:
Alex, is a twenty-something struggling to put his life back together after past, reckless mistakes render his job search hopeless. While pressure at home mounts from his pregnant girlfriend, he runs into an old friend who changes his fortunes. Just when things are looking up, Alex discovers a secret that sends him into a self-destructive, downward spiral and brings his two best friends along with him.
A Dark Place is one intense movie and I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Christopher Pinero, the director and screenwriter of this gripping film. Mr. Pinero has also worked on such films as Once Upon a Night and Leaving. You can check out the award-winning short now: Leaving. So, get to know this wonderful director/screenwriter and read how A Dark Place came together.
1. What is the genesis of A Dark Place?
It started out as a reoccurring nightmare that I would have pretty often. Then I played the what if game, and it became a short film titled “Once Upon a Night”. Of all the short films I had done up to that point, it seemed to resonate with people the most. It took me a couple years and at least fifteen drafts to find the right way of expanding it into a larger canvas.
2. Were there other titles you came up with before A Dark Place? If so what were they?
The feature’s working title was "Dark Patch". A neurologist discovered "where evil lurks" in the brain in violent criminals and all of them had a dark patch in the central lobe. In the end I decided against it because Alex wasn't evil to me, he was just in pain.
3. What influences (if any) helped you with writing or directing A Dark Place?
My main influences were Hitchcock’s films. I went on a Hitchcock binge before we shot the movie. Mainly Rope, Psycho, and Rear Window. Also, Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite films and I watched it multiple times beforehand.
4. List three adjectives to describe the lead character Alex? Is he based on anyone you know in real life?
Desperate, Repressed, Self-Destructive
No, he’s not based on anyone in my life in particular. I would say all of the characters in this movie are a sensationalized part of me.
5. A Dark Place is a truly intense movie, was it written this way in the first draft or did the writing progress to what it is now?
Yes, the story always revolved around a death at a party. Through revisions I looked at ways to have the rest of the story, match the intensity of that. Once I got the structure down of where the story would go, I looked at individual moments and tried to see where I could take things up a notch.
6. Did you have any theme in mind for before writing the screenplay or it come to you afterward?
I don’t think about theme too much before writing. It always starts out as people in a situation and then leads to who are these people and how does the situation define them. I don’t like to over intellectualize in telling stories, I just try to be as personal as I can and I know the theme come out of that. I always pay attention to my intuition and what I would be feeling if I was in a theater watching this movie.
7. What is the name of the music that was played toward the end of the movie? And why did you choose that specific music?
The song at the end of the movie is “Lethal Dose of Daylight” by Andrew Deadman. I’m a friend of one of the members of the band and they were kind enough to let us use the song. The song has a sense of sadness that I felt wrapped up what you just experienced with these characters. The song also has a strong theme of reap what you sow, and I felt that wound up being a big part of this story. Every character in the film got what they deserved for better or worse.
8. Did you know how A Dark Place would end or did it come to you while writing the story?
The beginning of the story and the ending was something I struggled with for a long time and I couldn’t figure it out. I sent the script to a friend of mine, Ben Scharf, who wound up being a story consultant on the film and he suggested how Alex’s story should end. And it all made sense, everything clicked. As soon as that came about, then I knew exactly how it should start and how this story would end for everyone.
9. Jason Darcy (a.k.a Jay Eftimoski) and Christopher Donnellon gave such a superb performance as Alex’s close friends, what was your experience with them and how were you able to bring out the best in their performance?
Chris bartended at a restaurant I used to frequent and I thought his personality was perfect for this. I knew he could bring things to the movie that weren’t in the script. Jay on the other-hand, I cast in the original short film and was impressed with what he brought to the role so I didn’t consider anyone else. With both Chris and Jay, we met a few times prior to filming and discussed their characters. I was able to provide clarity to moments in the story and more importantly help develop their understanding of who these characters were. From there, when the camera starts rolling the best thing I could do was give them the space and freedom to perform. I set the right atmosphere to let them discover.
10. What message would you want A Dark Place say to the audience?
I wanted to convey that you never know what battle someone is fighting. Some people, like the main character Alex, keep their issues bottled up and bear the burden of them alone. Life is difficult, but it can be a little less so if we share in its hurts and pains. It sounds a little cheesy, but check in on your loved ones every once in awhile.
11. What is your writing schedule in general?
I find it easier to think at night because I feel that there's less static than during the day. I generally like to write sequences and will wait until the arc of that sequence is done before I call it a day. I'll try to get a draft done as fast as I can so I have a better look at the story and see where it lags and where it feels rushed.
12. If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter, how would one get you or any experience screenwriter to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
There's a lot of avenues online and through social media where you can find contact information, whether it be filmmaker's representation or them directly. If I were to receive a novel, the first thing I would look for is the characters and how well I relate to them. I was sent a short story a few years ago that was incomplete but the character was filled with one of my biggest fears, regret. It was so palpable I had no choice but to adapt it and find a way to give the story a proper structure.
13. Which filmmakers/screenwriters do you admire growing up?
Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Eric Roth, David Fincher, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Stephen King
14. What piece of advice do you have for screenwriters/directors starting out?
Always look to create your own opportunities. If you're a writer, write as many novels/screenplays as you can. If you're a Director, make as many films as you can and never focus on the results. Find the love in writing or directing and the results will come. Always tell stories out of need rather than want.
15. Last question, what’s your favorite material object that you already own?
My movie collection.
Greatly appreciate Mr. Christopher Pinero for taking his time to answer those questions. A Dark Place is a unique gem that should be watch. Did I mention that it was the Official Selection of the Hoboken International Film Festival 2018 and Official Selection of the Manhattan Film Festival 2018? Furthermore, it won for Best Supporting Actor and Best Editing, winner of Best Thriller Film Award, and Accolade Global Film Competition Award Winner. I hope you keep an eye for this film as it comes out around August 2019 on VOD platforms through Gravitas Ventures.