Derrick Ferguson: Who Is Parker Stanfield?
Parker Stanfield: I’m an actor/writer/director of independent film. I’ve only got one feature under my belt, but I look forward to making more. Coffee is my poison of choice, YouTube is how I scramble my brain, and I have an obsessive love for Radiohead.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do to earn your daily bread?
PS: I live in Fernley, NV, which is a short way from Reno. I’ve been working part time at a sushi bar called Sushi Moto, and I enjoy the company of the people I work with.
DF: Your particular passion is movies. What’s the very first movie you can remember seeing in a movie theater?
PS: I went to see a lot of Disney films when I was little and the very first of them that I remember seeing was The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I ate it up and I remember the villain being rather terrifying despite me being too young to get the religious context of his character.
DF: When did you decide you wanted to be a film maker?
PS: When I was in kindergarten, I had a fascination with dinosaurs. Knowing this, I saw a double VHS copy of Jurassic Park. My mom bought it for me, and I was absolutely amazed with what I saw. I popped in the second cassette thinking it was another movie, when what I got was a Behind the Scenes documentary. That was my first exposure to the concept of filmmaking, and watching Spielberg working on the movie made me think “This guy is so cool! I want his job.” So that’s when I decided I wanted to make films.
DF: What do you think about the movies being produced today?
PS: Despite the whole remake problem with the genre of horror (which admittedly has potential to result in a good end result), I feel that there’s a lot of creativity happening on both indie and big budget films. There’s a lot of films out there that are admittedly familiar, but the people who are making them want to do things with said films that result in a cinematic experience that feels unique to me. No Country for Old Men is one of those experiences. Something that perplexed me (in a good way) when I saw it in the theater. But there are other films that are different, but in that they are finding creative ways to be offensive to its audience. Take your pick of Michael Bay’s filmography.
DF: Who’s the best director working right now? Who’s the worst?
PS: My personal favorite for at least four years now has been Paul Thomas Anderson. I could talk about this guy for hours. Hard Eight is one of the only movies I’ve seen that makes Reno seem awesome in a strange sort of way. In my opinion, he’s never made an objectively bad film yet. Sure, some people seem to be confused by what he makes, but every film he does is a perfect practice in poignancy and humor, and he clearly knows what he’s doing. His upcoming film, The Master, is my most anticipated of the year.
Now the worst is someone I’ve had the displeasure of discovering quite recently. There’s a lot of bad filmmakers out there. James Ngyun (Birdemic), Uwe Boll, Tommy Wiseau. As a filmmaker myself however, it’s hard for me to say that I would want to take away any filmmaker’s joy. I like making movies and they like making movies. It’s hard for me to say they shouldn’t be able to do that. The lone exception is Lucifer Valentine. Stupid name, an even worse excuse for a director. The term Torture Porn is more appropriate a term for his movies than anything Hollywood claims to be torture porn. I tried to watch his first film, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls and after 20 minutes of offensive imagery, dumb sound editing (every piece of dialogue is played slowly to make it sound Satanic) and overall failure, I wanted to take away any joy Mr. Valentine could ever experience. To give you an idea, he is considered the creator of the “Vomit Gore” genre. I wish I was making that up. Not only does he make terrible films, but his personal life’s story is so horrible, I don’t know how someone even gave this guy a camera to begin with.
DF: You’ve written and directed your own independent film. Tell us about it.
PS: It’s called AT THE ZOO, and it’s a crime film based on the music of Simon and Garfunkel. In particular, it’s my personal take on Richard Cory, the rich man everyone knows in both the poem and song. It centers around Richard in his early 20s as a member of a group of criminals known as the Baby Drivers. One morning, Richard finds his girlfriend dead and he is in shock, as he saw her as his one way to regaining the happiness he lost as a child. He goes on to perpetuate a series of events involving murder and characters named after various songs from the duo. Along the way, we follow a kid named Arthur, who Richard met the night of Emily’s death, and the story gets more complex from there. The film is meant to appeal to fans of folk music (which is mighty prevalent here in the Reno area), and people who love crime flicks with good dialogue, which I hope that I’ve accomplished.
DF: In our private discussions you’ve indicated that AT THE ZOO is an intensely personal project for you. Can you go into some detail about how?
PS: The best way I can put it is comparing the idea of the film to someone who’s a fan of a particular rock group and they come on camera (I’ve seen this in a lot of music documentaries so bear with me) and say “This band saved my life.” I feel a similar way to this film. It got me out of a serious depression and writing it was an important experience for me. I had written a script before, but it was far from an original idea, so I was merely doing it as an exercise. Maybe I will get to make that film someday, but I don’t see it happening unless I make a smash hit first. But AT THE ZOO seemed plausible to me and that gave me a sense of hope that I could do something with my life. So there’s been a lot of emotional baggage that has been associated with the film. It’s my baby.
DF: What were the major obstacles you encountered while making your film?
PS: It was a one man crew, and it was a struggle to get made. Particularly, I had to make a lot of phone calls over the six months of shooting, and I can’t even count the amount of times that an actor had something else to do and cancelled on me. Either that or they flat out said “I can’t do it this weekend. I have chores to do.” It definitely comes across in the film, but it was really difficult getting X number of actors together to do a scene.
DF: What is the most satisfying thing about being a director?
PS: Whenever I work on a movie, I love the simple task of setting up the composition of a shot. I love moving the camera especially. Sometimes it can be rather tricky to get the shot I intended, but most of the time, we improvise and end up getting a shot that actually looks better than the intended did in my head. Now, to anyone reading, the end product doesn’t exactly look like The Godfather, as it was shot on DV tape, but I’m particularly happy with how AT THE ZOO looks considering our no budget approach.
DF: What did you enjoy most: the actual shooting of the film or the editing process?
PS: I don’t like picking favorites, but since both the shooting and post production process were pretty much done simultaneously, I had a little bit more fun shooting than editing. Editing is fun for me, but doing it by myself didn’t feel as good as interacting with the actors. A few of them had a lot of suggestions for their character that I loved, and I was glad to see them through the LCD screen of the camera, telling them where to stand and all that. To give you an idea, I had a blast shooting the scenes at the school. There’s a scene in the middle of the film in particular that was a blast. Chasing a character with the camera on a steadicam made for a fun shooting day. We had so much fun, we even made a sketch called “The Plight of a Genius” which can be found on both YouTube and the film’s DVD. That kind of fun can’t quite be done while working at your computer.
DF: Do you consider yourself an “actor’s director” and what does that phrase mean to you?
PS: I think it’s a little too early for me to categorize myself as an actor’s director. I definitely want to be that, but I don’t know if my experience with AT THE ZOO was enough to justify me calling myself that. There were two actors in particular (I’d care not to mention their names, but you could probably guess when you see the film) that I had trouble getting good enough performances out of, and that’s why I put them in the roles I put them in. The actors that I wanted to be good though, I felt were damn good. Eli Shumway, who plays Richard Cory, is a funny guy and a talented performer. He did the character justice, which makes it a shame that I can’t put him in another movie as he moved to CA before the movie even wrapped.
Tom Plunkett and Tom Jacobs (Harry and Richard’s father, Devon) were both perfect for their roles too. I kind of like to depend on my writing of the character to get an actor to do a good job than me telling them how to feel in a scene. I feel that the character needs to be readable to the actor before I even bother filming them. I did get a chance to tell an actor to “tone it down” or “give it more of this” if I felt like a scene wasn’t working. I always like doing that, so I’m partly there at least. To me, the term “actor’s director” is really good to describe people like the Coen Brothers or David Fincher. People who take an actor who’s for the most part adequate, and get amazing performances out of them. When an actor works with an actor’s director, they’ll end up being a better actor for it. Someone who’s not an actor’s director, is probably more interested in spectacle than story anyway to care about whether or not the actor did a good job.
DF: What have you got planned for your next movie?
PS: Since finishing the first drafts of AT THE ZOO, I’ve worked on a few other screenplays. A ghost story about a priest, a film about angels with superpowers, and one where a junkie makes a deal with the devil. All three of those have religious elements to them, so I’ve been dying to make all of them. But the one I want to do next is something completely different from my first, in that my little brothers can watch it. So what I came up with was FREDRICK, a puppet road trip movie. It’s about a group of puppets who are unaware that human beings like you and I exist. They live under the iron clad rule of a puppet named Count Goodoo, who claims to be their creator. One of them, Fredrick, finds out that their true creator is a human inventor named Wally Wilson. He and his two friends decide to steal Goodoo’s truck and go on the road trip to find Wilson. It’s much goofier of a script, but I feel like it will be quite a challenge and a lot of fun. I hope to get some new people in to lend the voices, but I know I want to work with Plunkett again.
DF: If somebody wants to see AT THE ZOO, how can they do so?
PS: While the film is sold on DVD, I’ve taken the liberty of posting the entire thing on one big chunk on YouTube and Blip. You guys can watch it for free here:
For those who like it enough to buy the DVD ( it comes with an audio commentary), you can find it on Amazon or here:
I hope you all enjoy it!
DF: What’s a typical Day In The Life of Parker Stanfield like?
PS: Unless I happen to be working, many would find my life pretty mundane, but when I’m not working on movies, I love doing the following things every day. I get my cup of coffee, and immediately boot my computer up. I proceed to go on one big YouTube binge and watch as many videos as possible as the day goes on. I can be rather lazy, but I simply love being entertained by the drama of the internet. For those who might be wondering, Retsupurae (The Mystery Science Theater of bad videos), The Spoony Experiment, and Hellsing920 (who does a series called Reaction and Review where he watches and reviews a movie) are among my favorite video posters. When I feel particularly curious, I watch tutorials about filmmaking, much of which I consider my film school.
Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we need to know?
Parker Stanfield: Feel free to look me up on Facebook if you guys want to talk to me about anything. Feedback on the film, questions, suggestions, anything that comes to your mind. I’d like to improve with every film I make, and any criticism would be appreciated. Those who happen to like AT THE ZOO can go to the fan page and like it here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/At-the-Zoo/248533251847574