UCSB graduate Brad Silberling is living proof that a degree from UCSB can indeed lead to actual paying jobs in the film industry. During his career as a writer and director, Silberling has worked on films such as “City of Angels,” “Moonlight Mile” and “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.” On Dec. 7, Silberling screened his latest film “10 Items or Less” in the Metropolitan Theatre at Paseo Nuevo in Santa Barbara. Silberling spoke to Artsweek before the screening about his experiences in moviemaking, the development of his career and his upcoming film “Lost Boys of Sudan” – slated for release in 2007.
What was it like shooting a feature length film [10 Items or Less] in 15 days?
It’s really funny ’cause 15 days…Morgan Freeman always now slaps my hand because he’s so proud of how fast we did it, when in fact, my line producer pointed out it’s 14 and a half days. It was the easiest shooting experience that I’ve ever had, and it was by far the most pleasurable I’ve ever had. In film school, I go back to when I used to shoot short films with a Super 8 camera, it had that sort of feel to it. Everybody knew going into it we were going to move quickly. I had a small crew, and just the whole sort of ethos of the project was “let’s stay very loose.” I operated the camera most of the time, which again brings me back to when I would just make little films, so it was great.
Why have you decided to distribute 10 Items or Less via ClickStar (an online company)?
Experiment is sort of the obvious word. I’m in the belief that there’s a whole range of movies which from time to time I enjoy both certainly seeing and wanting to make, and those are the movies that twenty, thirty years ago were the staple of cinema, which were character driven comedies, the character driven drama, the more intimate movies. Everybody always harkens back to the ’70s now and says, “Oh, it was such a heyday” – the character driven movies that studios weren’t necessarily expecting to make a hundred million dollars – and that’s all changed now. So I got excited about the possibility that there may be a whole new means of distribution. You’ll have the theaters, but for parts of the country that don’t have, let’s say an art house, or theaters that will run things other than the big blockbuster movies. I get really excited for new filmmakers that there’ll be avenue for it.
As far as filmmakers go, who do you admire, and why?
Oh boy. Honestly, in terms of living directors, Peter Weir, a Chinese director, Yimou Zhang, who in terms of the variety of the movies that he makes, I’m just always knocked out. He’s made classics like “Raise the Red Lantern,” “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero”. What I love is that he’ll make those, but then he’ll go and make very intimate films. He made a movie called “Not One Less” – it came out in 1999. It’s the simplest, most wonderful character film, and you’d never know it was the same director. It’s very simple. It’s not a beautiful, oversaturated, over choreographed movie; it’s great. And I think that’s how you stay vital, getting to explore different avenues. I love his work.
What inspires you? Your films are very different from each other.
It always comes down to getting to kind of push myself to a place I haven’t been. It’s always story, I get really excited by story, and/or the characters and all that comes with them. In “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, that idea of getting to go off and create a world and a tone that’s sort of adventurous. In the case of this film [“10 Items or Less”] the idea to capture simple intimacy and to create a whole story around the unexpected meeting of two strangers, and what in the course of one day they can end up giving each other. …Music can inspire me in terms of my writing, in terms of a time period.
How did your career begin?
I picked up a Super 8 camera when I was 11, and started making short films. It was my way into telling stories and I just felt comfortable with it. I loved putting compositions together to tell stories. We had moved to Los Angeles into an area where there were not a lot of kids around and so there was one poor kid who lived near me who was my only actor, so he was in every film I made for a couple of years.