Those who write, direct, and produce movies are sometimes referred to as a "triple threat," and one such threat is A.D. Calvo, whose The Missing Girl screens at the Festival this year in the Vanguard programme.
Calvo has written, directed, and produced several features, including The Other Side of the Tracks, The Melancholy Fantastic, House of Dust, and The Midnight Game, based on that infamous Creepypasta entry.
(Seriously, have you read about The Midnight Game? I don't know if it's real or not, but I'm sure as hell not turning off all the lights in my house and wandering around with candles to look at myself in the mirror in the middle of the night. No thanks.)
The Missing Girl might seem like a horror film from the title, but it's a step in a different direction for Calvo.
A schlubby, disillusioned comic-book store owner revisits an adolescent trauma when his beautiful young employee suddenly goes missing, in this combination of quirky comedy and bittersweet, late-in-life coming-of-age story from writer-director A.D. Calvo.The film features character actor Robert Longstreet (who we profiled on the blog) and Alexia Rasmussen, who was so terrific in Proxy (which screened at Vanguard in 2013).
We wanted to find out more about A.D. Calvo and his new film so we tossed a few questions his way.
You're more known for your horror films, but The Missing Girl seems to be a shift from horror to a more introspective drama. What prompted this change?
I'm a big fan of arthouse films, including older classic stuff. I found the ones I connect with the most are character-driven and those also end up being the most timeless. I felt my horror efforts were mainly plot-driven and the work wasn't fully fulfilling me creatively so I needed a reboot. This will hopefully allow me to return to horror with a more character-driven approach to storytelling.
The cast of this film is great, including Alexia Rasmussen, Robert Longstreet, and Shirley Knight. Were there any specific roles made you fans of the work of these actors? What was it about them that made them best for your film?
Working with our producer, Mike Ryan, and our casting director, Nina Day, we were able to put together a talented cast. The cast fell in around Robert Longstreet, really. I loved so many of the characters he inhabited in the films I'd seen him in, e.g., The Catechism Cataclysm, Septien, Take Shelter. He connected with the material and we both hit it off. Alexia was a great partner for "Mort" and I loved her in Mike's other films, i.e., The Comedy, Last Weekend, Losers Take All.
Shirley Knight has been a longtime supporter and collaborator. I'm quite honored to have made three films with her. I mean, she's worked with Sidney Lumet and all.
The whole cast was great and supportive. I loved Eric Ladin in The Killing and Sonja Sohn's work in The Wire is great - that's become one of my favorite binge-watching shows, actually. Lastly, Kevin Corrigan and Thomas Jay Ryan, all such amazing talents. I'm humbled to have worked with them all.
You produce, write, and direct. How do you manage to do all three without going crazy? What are the positives to juggling all of these roles?
Ha, yeah, I do feel a bit crazy at times. I feel my writing has improved because of Mike. He edits me as a creative producer, someone who really understands character beats and emotional modulations. That's what I was missing, I was focusing too much on trying create a clever story around plot. On the directing front, having someone like him on set helps can help triangulate performances, if that makes any sense. If I'm on the fence on something, I can use him as a reliable compass.
With regards to juggling the workload, I've never been a micro-manager (no one likes being micro-managed) so I give lots of freedom to those who work for me (with me). It's more about the team, so my job becomes more about listening to various opinions in an effort to find the best possible solution. Because the best thing to know is that no one knows everything.
Was the plot of this film inspired by anything specific? Did you know anyone who went missing or did you ever work in a comic shop?
The story grew organically from the opening scene with no specific plot in mind; although certain films were in the back of my mind, serving as inspirations - films like Vertigo, Blue Velvet, and maybe even a little of Twin Peaks. And, yes, I've always loved the feel of comic book shops, so, naturally, films like American Splendor and Ghost World were catalysts as well.
You've worked with composer Joe Carrano on almost all of your films. What is it about his music that keeps you two collaborating?
Actually, Joe and I go way back. We've been close friends since high school. His music and sound talents are very broad and diverse. In addition to scoring and sound design, he's also a very capable sound mixer, dialog editor, and Foley artist, which really helps on a modest budget. And when it comes to music, Joe can work in any style, really. There's very few people like him.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, A.D. Calvo. Now it's time to catch a screening of The Missing Girl.
THE MISSING GIRL Screening Times:
Sun. Sept 13, 10:00PM SCOTIABANK 13
Tue. Sept 15, 4:15PM, SCOTIABANK 14
Sun. Sept 20, 2:30PM SCOTIABANK 4