Actress Delila Vallot, who has appeared on TV shows like American Dreams and films like The Singing Detective with Robert Downey Jr., has taken her first crack at directing her own full length feature movie, teased in the Tunnel Vision trailer.
Getting behind the camera and cutting together the dark and gritty tale was "surreal" for Vallot, and I recently spoke with her over the phone about stepping into the director's shoes and bringing a film to life.
While the actress grew up in Hollywood and did a few commercials as a child, her mother and the environment that Vallot grew up in set her on a natural, "This is what I'm doing" course.
"My mom worked at Capitol Records for a while. She actually worked as a secretary and moved her way up to first female Vice President there. She did that without college, she never came home and complained about being a female, and she actually never really complained about work. I just saw her go do it."
Vallot continued, "I got to go see Duran Duran play. I got to go see Van Halen. I got to go see all these local bands, and I was surrounded by people who were in the arts."
And yet, while Vallot has directed a few short experimental films, the prospect of directing a full length film never really crossed her mind until it practically landed in her lap.
"My ex-husband, when I met him, we were dating, and he showed me a trailer for this idea he had and it was horrible. I was like, dude, 'Do not show that to anybody.' He had it on like mini-DV and tinted it green to make it look gritty. And we sort of talked about it, and I thought maybe he should shoot it on Super 16. People will realize you're more serious if you do that, and these are the elements I would add to it. And we kept talking about it, and he was like, 'If you've got all these ideas, why don't you direct it?'"
So began Vallot's journey of trying to raise money for the project which started out with a mere $30,000 before ending up shooting with around $125,000.
The film itself, about a jury that fails to convict a serial killer who savagely murdered a man's family, and the one man who must rise above his desire for revenge to uncover the truth to find justice, was the type of suspense thriller that Vallot was attracted to.
"I like dark gritty stuff like Memento and Requiem for a Dream," she said.
"The main character [played by Cristos] is a motorcycle mechanic and he's all tatted up, and it was a time when Sons of Anarchy hadn't come out yet, and it was still surprisingly edgy to have a protagonist that's all tatted up looking."
Where the first script involved a broker, Vallot said that they wanted to switch it up and "change what a good guy [was]."
Luckily, shooting in Newcastle, Pennsylvania had its advantages for the suspense thriller because of the "juxtaposition with Victorian and Industrial mix and steel town mix at the same time, I wanted it to feel like a bleak place [to really capture that dark tone]."
Unfortunately, Vallot had a fear that being a female director might hinder the project saying, "I don't consider myself soft spoken, but apparently I am, and I didn't know if I was going to have enough authority. But it was fine. As long as I was doing my job, people treated me fine, no matter if I was male or female."
With the process working out, and digging into the material rewarding, it was getting to work with the other actors that proved the best part of the experience.
"Instinctively, I feel like I really like nurturing other people's talents and finding what's great about them Once they're engaged and coming back with ideas, it's like playing with play dough."
Vallot continued, "It becomes other people's projects as well. I love that."
As for what people should take away from the movie? "You should appreciate what you've got because it can be taken away from you at any minute."
You can see Vallot's directorial debut and Official Selection of the 16th Annual UrbanWorld Film Festival, Tunnel Vision, on DVD now.
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