Interview with Filmmaker Gabriel Renfro (THE FUTURE RICHARD DENISONS)

THE FUTURE RICHARD DENISONS was awarded BEST PERFORMANCES at the February 2018 COMEDY FEEDBACK Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Gabriel Renfro: I thought it was a funny idea that appealed to a universal human question: what if I take a different path in life? In my career? My marriage? etc? And it had a fun visual challenge, featuring the same actor playing off of himself. This idea was something I hadn’t seen before, that I wanted to see. I also found that I could make it in one room basically for no money, which is what I needed to do as well.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

The initial spark for the idea was given to me by my buddy Jacob Kindberg, who has a shared story-by credit on the film, and then I developed the concept further to write the script. The script was written very quickly, probably in a weekend, but then I revised according to the notes of my brother and some good friends of mine. Then the casting process involved two casting sessions, it took awhile to find the older Richard Denison. Young Richard Denison is a good friend of mine that has been in several of my films. I did two three-hour rehearsal sessions with the actors. The shoot was 4 days over two weekends, and then I spent about a month editing and three weekends on the sound.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Funny, mind-bending

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The visual gag of having the same actor playing off of himself brought a number of challenges, both in production and in post.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

So excited. It was fun to watch people talking to each other about something that I had worked so hard on and that was a creative expression of myself. It was even better that the audience seemed to really enjoy the film.

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

My friend Jacob Kindberg and I were talking about a question that exists in Christian philosophy between God’s predestination of all events and human agency (or free will). How can God predestine all of human history, and yet humans still have agency/choice? We discovered that there is actually a middle way of understanding the tension between those two positions called Molinism (from which the character in the film Molins gets his name). Molinism comes from the sixteenth century Jesuit priest Luis de Molina, who said that God foreknows every possible universe that can result from every human choice. So yes, humans do have free will that to some extent limits God’s predestination, but God foreknows all possible universes that would result from human choice, and chooses the universe He sees fit.

So that got us thinking along the lines of alternate universes, and the idea that someone could, like God, see their own possible futures that resulted from their choices. From there it was about relating a super heady idea to a universal desire, because everyone asks, “Am I taking the right path in life? What will happen in the future if I choose A rather than B?”

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s a toss up between Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can and the Farrelly Brother’s Dumb and Dumber. Catch Me if You Can is one of the best examples of the type of movie I would like to make, and Dumb and Dumber is just the funniest movie ever made.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is the best film festival submission platform that I have used. Their searching tools and festival ranking tools are super helpful.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Metallica’s Fuel with the San Francisco orchestra playing behind them. I play it on repeat when I go running.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

My wife and I just had our first child a few weeks ago, so I am enjoying the magical and exhausting experience of being a new parent. I am writing the feature script for The Future Richard Denisons and writing another feature about my older brother’s year in a behavior modification camp in Western Samoa when he was 17.

the_future_richard_denisons

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