MOVIE RANKER TALKS 'LOCATING SILVER LAKE' WITH DIRECTOR, ERIC BILITCH
Movie Ranker sits and interviews Eric Bilitch, Director and Writer of 'Locating Silver Lake'.
Read the interview below!
Eric Bilitch is director/writer/producer with years of experience in film, theatre, television, and digital entertainment. Eric co-wrote and directed his first feature film, The Submarine Kid, starring Finn Wittrock, Emilie de Ravin, Jack Coleman, Nancy Travis, and Michael Beach, which premiered at The Napa Valley Film Festival and was released worldwide by Mar Vista Entertainment. The Submarine Kid is currently enjoying a run on Netflix worldwide. Eric wrote and directed his second feature film, Locating Silver Lake, starring Josh Peck, Aubrey Peebles, Finn Wittrock, Amaury Nolasco, Zelda Williams, and Robbie Kay.
Eric started his film career as the Staff Writer and Creative Executive at Jesse Dylan’s production company, Wondros, where he worked alongside directors such as Antoine Fuqua, Mark Pellington, and David O’Russell and under the guidance of legendary music video producer, Anne-Marie Mackay. While at Wondros, Eric wrote and produced for A-list talent including Mark Wahlberg, Jason Schwartzman, Ken Jeong, John Legend, Elizabeth Banks, and many more- while producing and developing digital content all over the world, and working with the above-mentioned directors on their feature film projects.
MovieRanker: What is your film about and what is the central message you hope to convey?
Eric Bilitch: Lovelorn graduate Daniel Willingham heads into the post-college abyss without a dime or connection to search for his place in the story he has longed to be a part of.
Arriving in Los Angeles, Daniel settles into a diverse area just 'adjacent' to the popular neighborhood of Silver Lake. There- he quickly becomes entrenched in two worlds pulling him in opposite directions. On one side, a single mother of two and a former gang member serve as his closest neighbors. But in the hip epicenter of Silver Lake, Daniel is lulled by charismatic new friends with dangerous secrets left to uncover.
Locating Silver Lake is the story of the family we are born into, the family we yearn to be a part of, and the family we deserve. With his preconceived notion of how the world should be, we follow Daniel as he discovers what the world truly is.
MR: How long did it take you to complete from preproduction to what we will see at Cinequest?
EB The first draft was written about four years ago. Official pre-production started in late 2016 and we wrapped production just before 2017. Editing, scoring, and finishing took about a year to complete.
MR: Creating a film requires many moving parts and incredible talent. Tell us about your team and cast!
EB: We have an incredible team on this film. The cast includes Josh Peck (The Whackness, Mean Creek, Drake & Josh), Finn Wittrock (American Horror Story, The Big Short, Unbroken), Aubrey Peeples (Nashville, Jem & The Holograms), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Transformers), Valerie Cruz (True Blood, The Following), Zelda Williams (The Legend of Korra, Dead of Summer), Robbie A. Kay (Heroes: Reborn, Once Upon A Time), and Dan Lauria (Pitch, The Wonder Years). Ferne Cassel served as Casting Director.
Behind the camera, I was working with my Producer Deborah Del Prete (Green Street Hooligans, Ender's Game, Mean Creek) and my long time collaborators Zakk Eginton (Director of Photography), Scott Thomas (Music Supervisor) and Harlan Silverman (Composer). My brother, Doug Bilitch, served as a Producer, as well. Key department heads were Mary Danner (Costumes), Jeremy White (Production Design), The Galdamez CAM brothers (G&E), Devan Weitzman & Jeremy Kaikala (HMU), and I served as my own Editor on this project.
MR: Tell us a funny story about the production of the film (securing finance, on set shenanigans, trials and tribulations, etc.)
EB: When filming our key location (where the name of the film comes from) high atop the San Gabriel mountains, we got sucked in by a huge fog storm. The main reason we chose the location was because of the killer view of Los Angeles- but we could only see about five feet in front of us. We tried to fight valiantly through the weather, but we had to scrap the day and beg cast and crew to help us with an additional half-day. Of course- they were awesome and all pitched in to make it happen. When we got up there and the sky was clear- everyone totally understood why we picked the spot- but a few said to me "I thought we were facing a completely different direction"- the fog was so disorienting. There's only one quick scene from that fog day that made the final cut- but it definitely added some nice ambiance for that moment!
MR: What are some of the films that inspired your film and how?
EB: I think some of the classic coming of age movies were a nice springboard for the film. Things like early Cameron Crowe (Say Anything, Singles) and The Graduate come to mind. There are a few homages to the latter in the movie. I watched a lot of Los Angeles films to see how the city has been shown before. I think this lends itself to a more local Los Angeles- you won't see many touristy and iconic locations- unless of course, you live in the Silver Lake area- and then you'll recognize plenty.
There's a whole other side to the movie that had some great inspiration mostly from documentaries- but if I say what they are, it'll give away a big twist in the film. So, hopefully, that's an enticing tidbit to get you to see the movie. :)
MR: Who do you hope sees your film (a specific person) and why?
EB: The obvious target audience is the recent college graduate- and I do think they'll have a lot in common with the film. But I was really pleasantly surprised to see in our test screenings that our parents' generation (50's-60's) is really enjoying the film on a deeply personal level. I think a lot of that is a reflection of a certain kind of protectiveness when their children actually step out into the real world. I'm also hoping that the local Los Angeles audience takes a notice of the film- particularly the Latino community. We did a lot of work to ensure that this world feels real and lived-in, and we subtly tackle some of the underlying gentrification conversation that is happening around this centralized "happening" part of Los Angeles. It's really this amazing melting pot, and I think and hope we did that segment justice in highlighting the generations that have called this place home.
MR: What drove you to tell this story?
EB: The origins of the story are semi-autobiographical- but as soon as the writing process started, I threw away any notion of making this a film about me. At the core, I have always been fascinated by the City of Los Angeles and the transplant nature of the way things work here. There are so many secrets- so many nooks and crannies- physically and emotionally- to this place and the people who live in it. And I think there is also a real history here that is often neglected. I wanted to tell the story of a stranger coming here looking for belonging at that crucial time in his life where he's really starting over- really discovering how to function without a net. Those secrets drive the character- and hopefully the viewer. Sometimes we're so busy trying to find the answers about other people that we neglect ourselves. I think that's the core of Daniel's journey. And really the rest of the main characters. They have to face themselves and find a (hopefully non-cheeseball) version of self-love.
MR: What type of people will enjoy this film?
EB: Definitely the recent college graduate (or really anyone over 20, I think). Parents of adult children seem to be very moved by the film. I think cinephiles will also find a lot to enjoy here, too. Oh- and if you love kickass music- I'm pretty proud of our soundtrack and score.
MR: What was the biggest challenge making this film?
EB: It's a labor of love independent film, so… everything? I think for a long time, casting felt like it was going to be the uphill battle- because it is so key for this film. And the relationships and chemistry are so vital.
Shooting in practical locations comes to mind. I wanted to ensure that this was a film that locals could see and not have to call bullshit on. The geography is right. The locations are authentic and accurate. But those locations are tight and difficult to work in from a practical standpoint.
Finding the main house in the film (a very specific duplex) was a challenge. Lots of them exist but finding one that was big enough to shoot in but small enough to feel like a cramped space. Luckily- we found a house that had just sold and was between tenants, so it worked out perfectly.
MR: Which festivals is it playing at?
EB: Our World Premiere is at Cinequest in early March. We have a bunch of additional domestic and international festivals, but we’re unable to reveal them yet. We’ll be announcing those screenings through our social media as the Festivals reveal their lineups.
More about Eric:
After graduating from The Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) and Syracuse University, Eric spent many years as an actor in regional theatre and national tours, such as the Broadway tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He founded the Los Angeles non-profit theatre company, The Mechanicals Theatre Group, and produced over thirty full-scale productions with the Ovation-winning ensemble, while also running the educational outreach for the Group in conjunction with Los Angeles Unified School District. Eric has directed many theatre productions, including Moonchildren, Merrily We Roll Along, The Tooth of Crime, and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot.
Upon leaving Wondros, Eric created, wrote, and directed the web series, Professional Friend, which appeared on many year-end best lists- including Tube Filter and Video Ink. It also won Series of The Year at the Independent Series Awards. Many of Eric’s other short film and music video projects have appeared on NPR, MTV, Huffington Post, PBS, Buzzfeed, and more.
Eric is represented by Deborah Del Prete at Coronet Entertainment and Marc Von Arx of Nelson Davis, LLP.