Q&A for Death of a Tree
1. What made you decide to become a filmmaker? (Or what made you decide to stick with filmmaking as a career choice?)
Decided to become a filmmaker when I realized that God had blessed me with gifts of creative expression – and that film is a powerful medium, to use those gifts, to convey truths that will provoke thought, and hopefully bring prospective viewers to a deeper understanding of life’s purpose.
2. How did the idea of Death of a Tree come to you?
“Death of a Tree” came to me through personal experiences – understanding the struggles of trying to make the correct choices in a seductive world pulling you in different directions.
3. What is the significance of the title Death of a Tree?
The title “Death of a Tree” is a metaphor for life. The life of a tree is quite beautiful, quite remarkable. I often wonder why someone would cut down a healthy beautiful tree – bring death to something so full of life, as I wonder why we bring death, rather than give life to fellow mankind by putting ourselves and desires ahead of others.
4. As a second-time filmmaker, what were some of the challenges you faced?
The challenge of trying to grow beyond what I did in my first film – “Vito Bonafacci”. There were things I ‘let slide’ in “Vito” that I was not going to ‘let slide’ in “Death of a Tree”. I started to understand that the films integrity is paramount and that no compromise should be made to appease crew, actors, etc.
5. Did you ask God for guidance during the making of this film?
6. Tell us about the casting process.
The casting process was difficult – Once I found Erica (Gracie Tyrrell), who I knew would do a dynamite job, it was much more difficult to find the lead because she was more attractive than my original conception, which meant I had to find a lead actor that would seem believable considering the 30+ age difference the script called for.
Finding Jimmy, who had to be a dynamic actor with the right chemistry between he and Erica, took over a year’s time, and was truly blessed to find Ronnie Marmo.
7. Was there a religious atmosphere on set?
The atmosphere on set was, at times, very stressful, which was my fault for pushing members of the team beyond what they expected. I learned that it is necessary to spend time in pre-production with crew and actors to let everyone know where I stand as a director and what I expect – as well as feedback from them as to where they stand and what they expect.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process and cohesion on set should be preeminent.
8. What do you wish for people to take away from this film?
From viewing “Death of a Tree”, I would want people to understand that we are a vulnerable, frail, and fallen humanity. That we are not to judge, but to be instruments of love knowing that God’s greatest attribute is his infinite mercy.
9. Who do you think is the audience for Death of a Tree?
The audience for “Death of a Tree” are people who appreciate content and not “fixated on the bombast”. In other words, people who “need not see fireworks to look into the sky”.
10. Do you think the making of your first film adequately prepared you for making your second film? Any major differences?
The first film prepared me in the sense that I had more confidence going into the project which allowed me to follow my convictions, as well as welcoming input. The key is to hire the most competent people possible to help you realize your vision. Obviously acting, cinematography, editing, and music are preeminent. Also blessed to have a great assistant who helps keep things running smoothly.
11. What was your favorite scene to shoot, and why?
Favorite scene to shoot was the scene in which Jimmy creates the “Black Heart” painting. As a painter, it was very exciting to have an actor do what I do. I actually created the painting a few days before the shoot. To recreate the painting through the directing process was an incredible high – the directing of a painting within the directing of a film.
12. What is your next project?
“Awakening” – Another story that delves into Life, Death, and Eternity in a way that will rattle some bones.