John Fallon, Director of “The Shelter”

NEW John Fallon Watermark Final

Q. Please tell us a bit about the subject of The Shelter. What are some of the themes approached in the film and why?
The Shelter is about a widower named Thomas Jacob (Michael Pare) who returns to his hometown after 5 years of absence. He eventually gets trapped in a house that won’t let him leave. Self-loathing, faith (and lack of), guilt, regret, betrayal and forgiveness are all themes the film deals with. All universal themes in my opinion and they were close to my heart when I wrote the film.

Q. Guilt, forgiveness and redemption. It is clear they are themes that fascinate you from viewing other films you wrote (Deaden, American Muscle) as well as The Shelter. Can you elaborate on why?
They interest me because I lived them. I had difficult early years, carried a lot of demons with me for a long time, made lots of bad decisions and it’s only with time that I figured out how to conquer said demons, to take responsibility for my mistakes, to forgive myself and move forward while trying to be a good person. But not everybody manages to face themselves in an honest way or find “peaceful” redemption, and yes, that psychological/emotional purgatory fascinates me. I guess because it could have been me.

Q. The images and iconography are very catholic, at least to a viewer who was raised catholic, what is the importance of religion for you and is it needed to understand the film or get something out of it?
I don’t talk about my spirituality much, as it is very private to me, buy me a couple of beers and we’ll yap. [Smiles] On that, every genre film out there deals with Satan, demons etc. I figured it would be interesting to explore the flip side of that coin to some degree via this supernatural character study. Thus far people who have basic knowledge of Christianity as opposed to somebody that knows NOTHING about it seem to be getting more out of the film, which I anticipated…

Q. The spirituality is also a strong influence on the way the film looks. What are other influences, visual or otherwise, that went into making the film?
My much talented DP Bobby Holbrook and I worked really hard in finding varied looks for the film that echoed the themes and subject matter at hand. I personally think we succeeded and the result is a mix of gritty and grounded for the real world character stuff and surrealistic for the supernatural happenings…

Q. What other film or book have influenced you, or would help the audience better understand you film?
Polanksi’s REPULSION inspired me, the Old Testament tale BOOK OF JOB too. A producer I know called the film BAD LIEUTENANT meets THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST; I thought that was a very accurate description and yes both films were inspirations…

Q. Did you know you were going to direct this script as you first directorial effort right out the gate? And if so, how was it different writing something knowing you were going to direct it and not hand it over to someone else?
Yes. Directing has been a goal of mine for over 10 years. I came close to directing two scripts that I wrote (Trance and Trigger) but they eventually went to other directors. When I wrote The Shelter, it was so personal, that I knew only I could direct it. I was aware that the film would be a low budget affair so I wrote it with that in mind in terms of the amount of locations, characters and visual effects present in the story.

Q. Why did you pick this as your directorial debut?
The simplest way I can put it is that it was the film that wanted to get made. It picked me. I didn’t really feel like had a choice. I know it sounds weird and maybe even pretentious, but I’m being honest here – that’s truly how it felt.

Q. Do you think that being an actor before directing has helped you relate to your cast while directing them?
Definitely. I understand the acting process, which in my opinion doesn’t usually get the time and respect it deserves on set. For example; everybody is willing to wait for lighting or makeup to be ready before a take but folks often have less patience when it comes to waiting for an actor to be ready. So yes it was an asset on set. On that, I learned even more about actors and how to direct them throughout this shoot; hence I will be even more prepared for the next one.

Q. How did you select your cast, Michael Pare?
I had Mike in mind when I wrote the script, the character looked like him in my mind, but I didn’t think he’d do it. My producer Donny Broussard eventually convinced me to send him the script. So I did, he loved it, we made a deal and that was that on that. The rest of the cast was discovered and locked through the audition process.

Q. Did you ever consider taking the lead yourself? Why/Why not?
I almost did. The day Mike was to fly down a day before shooting in Louisiana, his flight was cancelled due to a mammoth snow-storm. Donny Broussard and I spent hours trying to book him another flight so he could be here on time. Being that I didn’t have the money to postpone the shoot; if we weren’t able to get Mike another flight, I would have played the role – it was the back-up. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Phew… I wanted all of my focus to be on directing, so no I didn’t want the lead. I do have a cameo in the film though…

Q. Were changes made based on cast and crew or other situations once the film was ready to roll? Did you make changes to the script as you shot or did you keep to the shooting script?
For the most part we filmed the script that I wrote. Of course locations and in one instance weather changed things (for the better in my opinion) and we also found further elements in Post to play up.

Q. Do you think you will work as an independent filmmaker in the foreseeable future?
Yes. I’m shopping two other projects right now with me attached as director. One is akin to PREDATOR; the other one is CONAN THE BARBARIAN meets 10 LITTLE INDIANS. The latter is getting lots of traction right now. Let’s see… it’s all talk until I see action.

Q. Finally, as a film fan, what films are you looking forward to the most in the upcoming months?
Well I already saw SPECTRE twice; CREED is up next and after that STAR WARS of course!

Thank you for answering these questions; can’t wait to see how The Shelter plays with the general movie watching public.
Thanks for having me! By the way; The Shelter will screen at Southern Screen in Lafayette Louisiana on November 23rd and at A Night of Horror in Sidney, Australia on November 29.

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