Catching Up With Damian K. Lahey

❉ Award-winning filmmaker talks to Nick Clement about indie feature, Simple Like Silver, and his new project with Cristina Marsillach.

‘Simple Like Silver’: Amazon Prime Video.

Since my last interview with filmmaker Damian K. Lahey, his indie feature, Simple Like Silver, has received unanimously positive reviews and strong word-of-mouth press. I caught up with Damian as the dawn of the new year, as he develops a new project with Cristina Marsillach, and continues promoting Simple Like Silver.

Obviously – congrats on the glowing reviews for Simple Like Silver and the warm reception it received.

Thank you. And thank you for your support. For everybody’s support.

It really connected with people.

For what it was, it connected with the people it was made for and…for what it was – it was a big win. In the grand scheme of the business – a very small win. But a certain win. You take it, you cherish it, and then you move on.

And most importantly, it didn’t get lost in the shuffle either.

Ha ha. She hung in there. This is a crazy time with COVID and everything…we’re grateful we got what we got. A lot of films costing far more than our film did were unceremoniously dumped with no press, no reviews, no anything…

Cristina Marsillach (Photo: Damian K. Lahey).

As the year comes to a close, do you still stand by your decision to forgo the festival circuit with this one?

Definitely. Power to em’ for making the best of it this year, but what I feared happened…that COVID would still be a disruptor. That was certainly a thing and the events and crowds were uneven, reflecting that state of things…it made sense for us. If I was gonna hit the road and deal with this bullshit, it was going to be developing another project. And look what’s happening right now. Another strain of COVID is on the way…

What’s next for the film?

We’ll be expanding to other online platforms, doing some additional press, and then a Blu-ray release next year. With small films like this, even if they are well received…it’s good to roll things out slowly, I’ve learned.

That’s awesome. What’s the biggest lesson you learned from all this?

You have to work with people who speak the language. If they don’t speak the language or are not interested in speaking the language of cinema – they need to fucking go. I don’t expect everyone to know movies like I do. But if they don’t even have the interest? They can’t play. They need to go back to whatever corner they’re working in and stay there. For example, a couple projects ago I had a cinematographer that would laugh her ass about how she never watched movies. It reflected in her work. We all suffered because of it. Done. Like James Belushi in The Principal: “NO MORE!”

Ha-ha! The Principle! Yes, great analogy. The industry is seeing a lot of upheaval – many saying that indies are now dead theatrically.

Indies were dead theatrically before COVID. But what the trades trumpet as independent films are smaller budgeted star vehicles. I have no idea why they even refer to them as “indies.” Even the word itself has been leveled by a golden bulldozer. You get some voices of note that come through there but…the good news is there’s really, really cool underground stuff and you know – they can find an audience. Maybe not a profit, but they can find an audience.

Cristina Marsillach (Photo: Damian K. Lahey).

Fair enough. When you made Simple Like Silver it was still a novelty to shoot a feature on an iPhone. Now the iPhone is just another professional tool.

Yeah. As a matter of fact I was just doing some tests with the iPhone13. I plan on shooting with it for this new deal we’re doing though I had a DP working for me when I was in Spain recently and she was shooting on a Black Magic camera.

I was just about to ask you about that. A new project with Cristina Marsillach, I read. Something you wrote with Shawn Harwell (Eastbound and Down, Red Oaks and The Campaign).

Yes. Exactly!

Shawn Harwell also went to NCSA Film School. How did he get involved?

Shawn was a fan of The Heroes of Arvine Place and was friends with Craig Moorhead who used to work on some of my stuff. Harwell was years ahead of me in film school and I only met him like twice. I became friends with him through Craig and he dug a couple of spec scripts that I wrote. A couple years back he asked me to pitch him some stuff and it went from there.

So that’s the new thing you’re currently working on?

Uh…no. Ha-ha. It never goes in a straight line like that. Originally, we were doing this sort of blend of Luis Bunuel’s The Exterminating Angel and Jean Rollins’ The Iron Cross with a post-modern socio-political bent, but then with Simple Like Silver getting the response it got, we decided it was best to do something more genre and with Cristina.

Which is The Night Owl Only Blinks Twice?

Yes.

Tell me about that.

It’s a post-apocalyptic thriller in the vein of Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf, The Cat People, Night of the Hunter and The Road. And we carried over the Luis Bunuel vibe from the other project we had been developing. Some Lynch and Cronenberg in there, too.

‘Simple Like Silver’: Cristina Marsillach.

And Jane Spencer, who did Little Noises and The 9th Cloud, is helping produce this. How did that come about?

Jane Spencer is someone who crafted a very unique indie that I adored, The 9th Cloud, and we also had the same political interests and taste in music – Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Stones…like minds, like hearts…And as you know, she helped put me in touch with Cristina in the first place.

Yes! So you’ve begun shooting in Spain?

I mean…we were location scouting, shooting second unit, footage for a teaser, doing costume tests, rehearsals, some promo stuff…also recording the audio commentaries for Simple Like Silver. Not to mention – I also wanted some R&R after some years of COVID. It was great working with Cristina again – she’s very funny, and very generous with her talent and her time. A truly warm soul.

But you’re not shooting in Spain?

No, we considered it but…no. I just don’t know my way around, and anything I would need from anyone was just going to cost a lot of money. The trip was awesome. Don’t get me wrong. But I just couldn’t put myself at the mercy of that for the whole shoot. This is still a micro-budget film.

So what’s next?

Right now we’re continuing with prep-work, casting, getting the script in good shape, location scouting. We’re putting together a little package for investors. Right now, I’m cutting together a teaser for it.

That’s great. Some of these images for it look fantastic.

Thanks. I also have a couple smaller things I might be doing while we tinker away on this but I haven’t made a decision yet.

Cristina Marsillach (Photo: Damian K. Lahey).

As far as the larger industry goes, what do you think of the IATSE issue?

I’m not in that world. The only thing I can comment on is that if the workers win out, the next thing they need to work on is policing the quality control of the people working within their industry. There’s too many unprofessional and incompetent people in the business making more money than every brain surgeon on the planet doing first year film school quality work. For a business that’s so hard to break into, they sure do let in a lot of morons. I think the one-two punch of getting better working conditions and then weeding out all of the half assed, over-paid buffoons is what they need. They need both of those things to happen to have effective change. Look at this poor DP that got killed on the Baldwin shoot. I’m honestly surprised accidents like that don’t happen more often. They’re lucky these types of incidents have been few and far between but it’s still tragic and unacceptable.

Interesting. What are your thoughts on Cancel Culture?

What part of it? The cancelling of workers’ rights, wage growth and affordable healthcare? Or the Chapelle type stuff?

Either/or.

First, let me ask you a question.

Shoot.

Do you think a nation of people that roll over when workers’ rights, wage growth and affordable healthcare are cancelled are suddenly going to grow a pair and stand up to The Man over the censoring of some horny French cartoon skunk?

Probably not.

Exactly. Once it’s established that, collectively, the population isn’t going to do jack when healthcare for their own children is cancelled…well, obviously you’re gonna have all sorts of things coming down the pike to be cancelled.

I see what you’re saying.

Award winning indie filmmaker and screenwriter Damian K. Lahey.

I enjoy Chapelle in small doses. Never been a big fan or watched his show back in the day but…I guess my thing is – he was obviously trying to offend these people, right? Trans people. Their community. And they got offended. All he can do after that is shrug his shoulders or apologize. But if he goes on and on about how he’s been ‘cancelled’…that kind of defeats its own purpose, no? As soon as he starts whining about the reaction when he wanted that reaction in the first place…there’s something off there, yeah? The one thing I was surprised by was that people were shocked he was punching down. Man, people in the entertainment industry do nothing BUT punch down. With the exception of a few noble souls…

People are certainly getting riled up about ‘wokeness’. Targeting films in the past and –

I think that cancel culture stuff is inconsistent and selective. Like some things get a pass and other things don’t depending on whether or not they’re hip.

I’ve noticed that too. Also people are afraid to take risks.

Well, I think theatrical and streaming are two very different things. There’s more un-pc, offensive, boundary pushing content available on streaming than ever before. That’s where people can get wild. Theatrical? Not so much. They’re really walking on egg shells there. They want or need to appeal to everybody under the sun so…but I’m not in that world. I’m aware of it but I don’t dwell on it.

You mean you’re not developing a Hollywood blockbuster?

Ha-ha. No. Not currently. Unless a couple very important emails went to my junk folder.

Cristina Marsillach (Photo: Damian K. Lahey).

Ha-ha! Back to Spain. What was the soundtrack for this particular shoot?

Charlie Watts passed away and that hit me. Really did. Sent me back on a Stones kick. Those guys have been with me and really helped during some rough times. Developing this new project we’ve been leaning on those guys pretty hard. Before They Make Me Run became our theme song while shooting in Spain and I adopted its chorus to encapsulate the mood for the shoot as on my deals we’re always going a bit outlaw style.

That’s the spirit! Not sure if I know that one. What album is it on?

Some Girls.

What are your fave Stones albums?

Let It Bleed, Goat’s Head Soup, Tattoo You. Lately I’ve been listening to Bridges to Babylon quite a bit, though. Some great tracks on that record.

Excellent. Well, thanks again for the interview and good luck!

Anytime, brother.


❉ ‘Simple Like Silver’ (2021). Director: Damian Lahey. Screenplay: Damian Lahey, Carmen Olmo. Starring Cristina Marsillach, Susanna Nelson, Hudson Sims. Run time: 1h 10min. Watch with Prime Video. 

❉ Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott.

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