William Eubank, Talks on The Signal and the Challenges and Fun of Making Realistic Modern Sci-Fi Film

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William Eubank, director of the upcoming Sci-Fi film, "The Signal," a mystery thriller that takes a story that has fascinated for generations, ups the game and walks away with a winner, recently came to New York to promote the film.

 

Meeting in the Presidential Suite at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, Eubank, who is very unassuming, not recognizably famous, is interesting and friendly.

Knowing a little about his career path, he is not only a director, he did the Director of Photography gig on the psycho-mind game crime story "Crave," Cinematographer on another thirteen film, as well as writer on two titles.

He is pleasant, accommodating, and down to earth. Below is our conversation.

Janet Walker: I enjoyed the film. The Idea of Area 51 has fascinated people for generations. You've taken it to a different level. Describe the process?

William Eubank: Area 51, I feel like that area of the U.S. and secrets in the desert and crazy stuff like that to me that's always been well, the mystery of it, you know it's really exciting to think about.  I always thought it would be fun to try to make a movie about Area 51 without really knowing it is a movie about Area 51.

When you say Area 51, immediately you throw all these things we culturally know about it on top of it and then you judge the project or the movie or idea or narrative before you even get to it.

You know what I mean? I wanted to tell an Area 51 story that came with a left hook later.

JW: I read the notes and they talk about "Antiquated Mythologies." Tell me about this term "Antiquated Mythologies" and why are people throwing around this term?

WE: I think it is a twist in the movie that deals with that. I guess for the most part the film, like you've got the core of the film, which is sort of about a kid trying to push his emotional self away. He feels exposed and is worried about where his relationship is going to and he feels he want to make the logical choice, the computer-esque choice, a yes or no, a one or zero, binary.

And that seems, I feel like as a culture and a human being that seems to be his stronger choice, a black or a white choice, this movie is about investigating the grey choice, the in-between choice, the emotional choice is maybe more valuable than the logical choice.

So the ability to make a choice based on what you feel maybe that is more powerful than just the data. And so "Antiquated Mythologies" is really referring to people who are trying to remember what it means to be more emotional or less technologically based. It's all about logical verses emotional.

JW: That really leads to character development. When you wrote the script did you build characters around the idea of a particular talent? Secondly, as it is small credited cast did you have people in mind as you wrote?

WE: Definitely really didn't have anyone in mind. Although you always have people in mind, you kind of go with people how people will respond. I never thought we'd get Lawrence Fishburn in a million years, I'm not going to channel that, I wouldn't want to like let myself down. Logic verses emotion. (Laughter).

Making the logical choice, in terms of like, things happen while you're writing and then you go back and retool your character like five times, or I do, because I realize when you're writing you find out what they want. Then you have to go back and review what was going on at the start.

But, I've always been a big fan of 'one perspective' of doing a film like (Roman) Polanksi's "Chinatown" where the camera would never go into the room before Gittes (Jack Nicholson) goes into that room.

And I love that experience of watching a film from that POV, from that one perspective; your experience is being focused through another character. To me, I'm just really attracted to that and when that experience is wild and crazy and nutty you're left sitting and thinking what is my god what is going on?.

JW: Describe some of the challenges in both writing and directing "The Signal."

WE: The biggest challenges are always like when you're done writing, you sort of write and when you realize 'Oh wow, they're going to make this movie' that's when you go 'Oh now I have to figure out how to make this movie.'

So, I usually buy a big notebook, just a graph notebook and then I begin to draw every scene. I challenge myself to figure out how to shoot it. That graph paper gets filled with the breakdown, and all the nitty-gritty of actually trying to do everything, so that part is always challenging because sometimes you know that all the ideas on the writing side aren't necessarily going to fit inside the box.  So that part is always challenging.

I write with my little brother Carlyle and I write with a friend, David. And we work on the outline together. It's very difficult to keep a voice real with everybody chiming in so I do the write alone and edit together.

JW: Describe your most memorable moment?

WE: One of the craziest moments, my brother and I had built a trampoline system to do one of the explosions scenes you see in the film, and that day we were shooting on a Sunday and  we had an incredible rainstorm, for about two hours, unbelievable rain. We were able to get the shot, but my brother and I had engineered this trampoline system and we desperately wanted it to work out and if anyone looked at us it was like 'what the heck are you doing' and we really wanted it to work it was kind of like a cool moment.

"The Signal" opens in select cities June 13, 2014. Check your local listings.

 

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