Creating a Western: Making the Trailer for Sandalwood
Creating a trailer for a theatrical production can be a challenge, especially when you introduce sub-freezing temperatures. Today, we’re chatting with Tympanic company member Christopher Waldron, who assistant-directed Sandalwood and directed the trailer for the show, and Aaron Pagel, a local Chicago filmmaker and co-creator of the trailer.
Tympanic Theatre: How did you get involved with Sandalwood?
Christopher Waldron: When I saw the trailer for Deliver Us and Julia I thought, hey, I should take a crack at that. So I met with Aaron Pagel to see if he would be interested in working with me and he said he was all for it. Then I went up to [Artistic Director] Dan Caffrey seeing if I could helm the trailer, then after three minutes of awkward silence he said, "Ehh, why not?"
Aaron Pagel:I'm pushing to get theater more involved with film (for a number of reasons that I won't bore you with here). I own equipment and I've been whoring myself out to everyone I know. Chris took me up on the offer. He was gentle.
TT: Are you a western fan?
AP:I like modern interpretations of westerns (Firefly, The Dude, certain zombie flicks). However, classic westerns are a bit boring to me. The base theme of living on the edge of civilization living by a moral code unique to the individual but also universal... That's intriguing to me. I think I like modern interpretations because they have a context to a larger world that I understand or can relate to which makes the choices of each character much more interesting.
CW:I am a huge fan of Westerns! This is by far my favorite genre. I love the ideas and themes of so many westerns. Lawlessness, desolation, isolation, being in touch with nature. The need and want of getting away from human interaction with the urge for just the opposite, the warmth and connectedness of others. By far my favorite western is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I love the stories of The Searcher, The Last Sunset, and High Noon. The use of violence in The Wild Bunch, High Planes Drifter, The Outlaw Jose Wales, The Quick and the Dead, and A Fistful of Dollars. And the landscapes in Once Upon a Time in the West, Wyatt Earp, Duck You Sucker, and many many more. Although truthfully, my secret all time favorite western is Three Amigos.
What within the play inspired the concept for the trailer?
CW:When I first read the script the main idea that kept getting stuck in my head was of atonement. The Father character reminded me a lot of a Bill Munny like persona, a weathered old man who does his damnedest to escape his past, but doesn't quite get there. And with that, I wanted the lines and the dialogue to echo through his head, tormenting him like the little boy torments the hero at the end of the movie Shane. But not only would they haunt him, they would reflect the journey that he has taken to get to this point, and remind him of the challenge that he set out to face.
TT: Did you face any challenges shooting?
AP:Shooting a trailer for theater is rough. Film is a different medium that requires a different set of rules and aesthetics... And a bit of flexibility. For instance, our shoot date happened to coincide with the second polar vortex. Chris and I expected some snow and a little bit of a chill when we scheduled for this day, but we had no idea that we would encounter Hoth. However, we took a liberal interpretation of the timelessness that existed in the script so that time was essentially "frozen". I think this came across to a point and, frankly, the snow did a better job of making a wasteland within the city limits than anything we could find in the Midwest. I know Dan was quite happy with our finished product, but I'm interested to hear if the trailer's frozen tundra creates an initial impression for an audience member that then colors the entire play.
CW: The day of shooting. Woof. Sean Thomas [who portrays the Father in the show], that poor bastard. The weather was supposed to be warming up. The weatherman was wrong. The good thing was that we caught a desolate landscape, which wouldn't have been as epic with just the sand. The bad news was, whether Sean has admitted it or not, I know for a fact he lost a few toes.
TT: And lastly, why should people come see Sandalwood:
AP: Support local art.
CW: You should come and see Sandalwood if you like a good western, and if you like the search for atonement and justice. But most importantly, you should come to see how Sean walks around with missing toes.
If you haven't yet seen the trailer for Sandalwood you can click the image above or here to play.
Sandalwood March 27-April 20 Thurs-Sun at the side project