Interviews

Christopher Glatis – Swivel Shot

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By: Ruth Hill

 

All too often, when it comes to films and television shows, we spend the majority of our time concentrating on the performances of the actors and the story that is being told. While the actors tend to get the vast majority of the press, I have discovered that there are a myriad of elements that figure into the making of a show or film. Two of the most massive influences on the success or failure of the work at hand are the director and the writer. Once in awhile, a gifted person comes along who has the capacity and expertise to do it all and one such person is Christopher Glatis, writer and director of the highly-anticipated short film Swivel Shot. As the writer and director of this film (which stars Rick Ravanello and Jacqueline Piñol) he is one busy individual! In fact, his film is currently at the prestigious Cinequest Film Festival. However, I had an opportunity to catch up with him recently to gain insight both into his current works as well as learn a bit more about this multi-talented entertainment industry veteran.

How did you decide on a job in the entertainment industry?

I was actually an undergraduate studying for a business degree. My father was a businessman so my course of study was going well for me. But my friends encouraged me to try a communications class at the college because they told me those classes were so much fun. I took their advice and enjoyed that class so much that I decided to minor in Theater Communications. In fact, I auditioned for their acting school, but once I got to work on a short film I knew this was something I wanted to pursue. There was that fear about whether I would make it, but I’m a creative person and this is something I genuinely wanted to do. I went on to get a Master’s in Film from the American University in Washington, D.C. And then onto L.A. to pursue my dreams..

What inspired you to write Swivel Shot?

I had written a feature called Big Bear and it was about two special operatives who were married. That is kind of an interesting thing to explore because there is already a great deal of pressure that goes with the job and there is always that chance that you will lose your life. Add in the fact that they are married and deeply in love and the stakes are much higher. I wanted to know how these two individuals, in this situation, engage with each other on an everyday basis. Are their choices different? Do they have more secrets? I find that relationship quite dynamic and interesting, and from this seed, the idea of Swivel Shot as a short was born.

Were you involved in casting, filming decisions, etc.?

Because I had worked with Rick on Dose of Reality, we already had a great relationship. And Rick already looks like some of the handsome L.A. police officers. In fact, I’ll be honest with you, I was a little concerned. Rick and Jacqueline were almost too good-looking. I wanted the police officers in the film to look realistic–not like the network shows where the police officers sometimes look like they are models and they have just stepped off the runway. I kept telling the makeup department to “dumb them down” a bit. [laughs]

With Rick, he was the only one I ever considered for the role. I reached out to him and he agreed. With Jacqueline, she was one of the only ones considered for the part and once she and Rick read together, we saw the chemistry between them and knew they were perfect. They completely bought into the idea of the story, and they did a fabulous job of bringing this emotionally involving story to life.

Speaking of Dose of Reality, what did you want people to take away with them after watching that film?

That’s a really good question. It’s only as I look back on it now that I see it in a different light. Everyone is going to take away something different. I knew when I made that film that I would lose some people during the viewing and there were people who were ticked off and wrote the film completely off. The film is a reminder that we never really know someone. We are all enigmas, but we tend to believe what people tell us about themselves.

What is the most important message of Swivel Shot?

“The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe

And so begins Swivel Shot and it sets the tone and theme for the entire film.

First of all, the story is told out of sequence on purpose. In fact, in the original story, it was out of sequence even more than the finished product. But it was just too confusing so we had to make some alterations. Each time we flashback, it makes the decisions that the characters made even more difficult. If only he hadn’t done that or she had done that, the outcome would have been different.

I am one who doesn’t believe in neat and tidy stories. The ending is very ambiguous.  {And as a side note, he thinks it ends differently than I do.} In the story, both of them are withholding things from each other. This goes to the message–if you love someone, do not hold back.

During the filming, I welcomed feedback from both Rick and Jacqueline and it was thanks to her that something changed about her character. And this made her character and the ultimate conclusion even more dramatic.  I don’t want to say too much lest I ruin the story.

Do you have any other upcoming works?

I have several scripts in the works, but there is one pilot I wrote that I am passionate about.  It is a drama and I am looking at trying to get it on Netflix or cable, certainly not network material. It is about an amazing psychiatrist who walks away from his profession and starts an underground psychedelic therapy practice that challenges conventional medicine, his morals and his most personal relationships. It’s kind of like “House MD” meets “Breaking Bad.” There are doctors today who are making discoveries in this field in treating cancer, PTSD and more using nontraditional drugs. They are having some great breakthroughs in the field, but we never hear about them since they are underground. Thankfully, television is much more open to pushing the envelope today.

In addition to this, I am shooting two documentaries. I love being behind the camera and I have bought my own equipment and taught myself quite a bit. I like to challenge myself to be a one-man-band who can do it all.  One of the documentaries is a short that follows the story of an extreme explorer who has an eleven-year-old son and it delves into their relationship. He can be gone for three months at a time, and he could die at any moment. The short is all about his extreme explorations and how it affects his son and their relationship.

What is your advice to other aspiring writers/directors wishing to enter the field?

It’s going to be a struggle, but you can succeed. Develop tough skin and trust yourself–listen to your gut.  Judging success in the business world is much easier. You have widgets to sell and at the end of the week, you can easily see how well you have done by measuring how many widgets you have sold. However, when you have a script or you go to an audition, you have an audience of say ten people and each one of them has an opinion. One person loved it. One person hated it. One person is indifferent. So, how do you evaluate the feedback? You have to listen, but you also have to ask yourself if it’s right or not. And you must have persistence. Talent is important, but good ideas are crucial. All too often, people give up too soon and that is so tragic. As far as judging the work, the most important people are the audience. Whatever else you do, you must be true to yourself and passionate. It you’re doing it to become rich and famous, please pick another career. And above all, be persistent.

 

 

For me, interviewing this down-to-earth, creative genius was inspiring and relatable. Being a writer myself, what he said resonated with me, but I believe that his advice could apply to practically any field. His humility, kindness and genuine appreciation flow from his inmost being and I wish him and his film all the success imaginable as he navigates the crazy, wonderful world of film festivals. So, do yourself a favor and be sure to watch out for the official release of this short, but poignant film. And when you do get a chance to view it, please remember the man whose brainchild it was and thank him for his incredible nod to one of the most necessary (but sometimes misunderstood and even hated) professions–that of the police officer. And while you’re at it, be sure to check out the following links for more information:

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/swivelshotfilm
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Swivel-SHOT-546763502154794/?fref=photo
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4103276/

 

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