During our first edition of Script House, Soho House and IWC Schaffhausen supported two members in taking their stories from script to screen.
This year, Soho House and IWC Schaffhausen partnered to launch the inaugural edition of Script House, a new incubator program created by Soho House with support by IWC as a platform for North American members and film professionals looking to strengthen their skills as screenwriters and filmmakers.
This past February, Soho House members were given the chance to submit their short film scripts, whose narrative had to touch in some way on the notion of time.
With over 200 submissions, a panel of judges including industry thought leaders and experts like Barry Jenkins, Bruce Wagner, Sean Baker, Christine Vachon and Chris Grainger-Herr narrowed it down to two winning members – West Hollywood members Scott Lochmus for his film Metronome (in Time) and Gracie Otto for her film Desert Dash.
Both films went into production in August and premiered last week at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), during a special evening co-hosted by Soho House and IWC Schaffhausen in presence of both winning filmmakers. Both films will then be shown across all North American Soho House screening rooms by the end of 2018, in partnership with IWC Schaffhausen.
Here, get to know a bit more about the winners, who each used the theme of "time" as part of the overarching narrative of their scripts:
How did you come up with the idea for your script?
Scott Lochmus (SL): Right after my father died, I wanted to do something to honor him in some way, so it initially stemmed from that. I direct concert television, so music has always been a big part of my life, and I always wanted to play the piano. When challenged to write something about time, this whole script very much fit into that idea.
Gracie Otto (GO): I finally hashed out an idea I’d had brewing for a few months while I was having a few drinks in the airport lounge in Australia. I wanted to do something that was based on my friend who’d passed away, and on the idea of time stopping when you die. For me, I always come up with the location of my film first, and then the music. I’d recently directed an underwear commercial in the Australian outback in a town where everyone lives underground. I’ve also been getting into Turkish electro music, so this film touched on both of those things. I also recently became obsessed with this quote by Elon Musk where he said “Odds are we’re living in a simulation,” and that’s where the plot line came in for me.
How did time play a role in the script?
GO: I was doing research on watches and became obsessed with the pilot watches and the idea of time stopping. I brought Amelia Earhart into it, since she had me wanting to explore, time, space and where she went. We got to incorporate an IWC timepiece into the costuming, and physically, I couldn’t imagine another character wearing such a historic-looking timepiece; it made a lot of sense that she would be the one to wear it.
SL: Being there is an important film to me, and I was trying to pay homage to that film. I specifically tried to emulate the scene where Chauncey Gardner leaves that time capsule of the home he grew up in. I wanted to set a scene where you didn’t know what time the characters were in, and then all of the sudden they found themselves in modern-day time and people didn’t know where they came from. Fortunately, we filmed it in New York, where people naturally will turn around to see why people were dressed in early 20th century clothing in the middle of summer.
Speak a little bit to the actual production of the films and what that process looked like.
GO: It was pretty ambitious to go 12 hours on one road into the outback with a crew of 12 people. My mom thought I was mad. We shot it all on one lens, in wide screen. When it comes to cinematography, I always like something that’s consistent structurally throughout the film. We shot for two days in the outback, and counted about 70 kangaroos on the way up, plus emus, billy goats and sheep. Which was slightly terrifying, since the woman who gave us the car said the brakes didn’t really work.
SL: We shot the film in three days; and shot all of the piano scenes in Steinway Hall’s recital room in just one day. The apartment was actually an old seminary school in Brooklyn, which had its own old beat up piano for us to use when we got there – which was majorly out of tune. We shot quickly in the streets; some friends of mine owned a brownstone in Brooklyn, so that worked out for us. Everything came together but it was a hustle. The actors were amazing – especially David Patrick Kelly, who had to wear a three-piece suit in the dead of summer.
What role did location play for you in both your films, since each of you returned home to where you’re from to shoot?
GO: I just thought the Australian outback was so cool and I wanted to try and do something in a place that was in a style that had such a specific look to it. When I was eight, I went to Lightning Ridge in the outback for band camp to learn to play the clarinet. I got sent home from camp for misbehaving – but then whole trip back I thought about coming back there. Lightning Ridge just seemed like the right place to go. I was never really into Australiana; I’ve always been willing to go overseas to shoot, and this time, I went back really appreciating their locations and sense of humor.
SL: My wife was eight months pregnant when we shot, so wasn’t too jazzed about me traveling to New York for the shoot. But New York plays such a character in the film – we shot right there on Sixth Avenue. I could have never shot this film in LA.
Scott, your cinematographer Joel is here with us today. What role did cinematography play in each of your films?
[KB(1] SL: I usually work really closely with a cinematographer in LA, but I really wanted to find a New York-based cinematographer for this project. I had storyboarded a lot for this and had done a lot of previsualization of how it was going to look, so that was a good roadmap. I got introduced to Joel having never known each other before and one point, embarrassingly, since we both have children, we ended up singing Frozen together and by the end, were finishing each other’s sentences.
GO: I was the only contestant to submit a treatment with my film. Everything that I like to do is so visual, so I felt like no one was going to understand what I was trying to do without showing it visually.
How do short films play into your life as filmmakers?
GO: I hadn’t made a short film in 10 years. I also hadn’t acted in a long time, so I was really tapping into something new on this project, since I played the lead character. There were so many different elements to it that drew me to the project. For me, it was a way to get out and do something different again. I also just had a lot of fun.
SL: Well, there was the time I made a short film parody of Being John Malkovich called Being Scott Lochmus [laughs]. But I direct concerts and produce features, so this was a great opportunity for me to get to try something new. I just dropped everything else I was doing and fully committed to it.
GO: I feel like we have worked on this project since the day we each won the contest.
SL: About halfway through, Gracie and I started an email correspondence and just tried to figure everything out. It was the first year of doing Script House, so there was a lot to figure out together.
GO: they couldn’t have picked two more opposite people to win this contest. But we’ve had a great time together over the past 24 hours.
In the next edition of Script House, what advice would you give to the winning contestants?
GO: To stay true to your vision and make a film that you want to make.
SL: I agree. Passion really shows up in the material. I mean, Gracie, your film was 100% you. You even starred in it.
Watch the trailers for Metronome and Desert Dash
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