Thursday, May 31, 2012
Samuel Haun: Texas’ Next Big Thing
“I fell in love with the idea of telling a story through lighting and photography; capturing emotions with subtle movements and context. It felt like it was the most natural path I could take in my life..."
TYLER After releasing the film trailer for his thriller “Creatures,” it became evident to East Texas director Samuel Haun that his latest project was different from those he had previously tackled.
“This is the first project that I will have written myself, so it's very personal for me to see it take flight,” said Haun of Smith County. “We've received a pretty strong response from both the community and film industry so far for ‘Creatures.’ We've had a few tentative attachments from notable talent and quite a bit of internet buzz with the media. I think people are excited to see what we are working on.”
While many have only recently become familiar with Haun’s work, he has been a key player in the East Texas film movement for the last seven years.
After serving in the U.S. Navy, Haun returned to Texas where he played in a band. Entertaining, art and creativity have been part of his persona as long as he can remember.
“I always liked to entertain folks and created songs that expressed the emotion I felt in my soul,” he said. “Even as a kid, I knew that I had a voice inside screaming to be let out.”
Admitting he’d grown tired of the music scene, Haun began searching for other forms of artistic expression. He worked on photography, just as his paternal grandfather had. But, as fate would have it, an impulse purchase changed the course of his future again.
“The year that I was discharged from service, I received a large enough tax return to buy a small miniDV camcorder,” he recalled. “At the time, I'm not sure why I had bought it. I just felt compelled. Two days later, a musician friend of mine left a note on my door that he wanted to talk about making a music video. We made the video. His fans loved it, and I wanted more.”
Haun immersed himself in video production.
“I became obsessed with filming,” he said. “It wasn't until I took a film history class in college that my eyes were completely opened and felt that I had found my calling.
“I fell in love with the idea of telling a story through lighting and photography; capturing emotions with subtle movements and context. It felt like it was the most natural path I could take in my life and I haven't looked back since.”
At the time, film production wasn’t flourishing in East Texas. Haun admits that limited resources, including large productions to gain hands-on experience and a lack of crew made the endeavor more difficult.
“It was just harder for me to break away to neighboring states for production.” he explained. “I overcame it by working hard and never giving up. I formed my own crews and created production after production.”
Haun kept himself busy producing and working on music videos, commercials and films. Overtime, the projects became larger. His reputation for having a creative eye quickly spread, earning him top titles on several Texas-based productions. He served as Director of Photography on the recently-released “Patient Zero,” an experience that gave him the confidence to try his hand at directing his own future projects. In addition, through the project he built a successful relationship with Texas producer Kerri Navarro of Black Irish Girl Productions. (Navarro is now producing “Creatures”).
While shooting press footage for Richard Linklater’s film “Bernie,” in Central Texas, Haun had the opportunity to spend one-on-one time discussing his future with the filmmaker.
“At one point, it was just Linklater and I riding out to a location and I had the chance to talk to him about directing, particularly about knowing when to take that next great leap into the unknown,” said Haun. “The answer is in your heart — the confidence that boils over and radiates to others around you. If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will.”
In addition to getting “Creatures” off the ground, Haun most recently had the opportunity to direct and edit the introduction title sequence for the film “One in the Chamber,” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., directed by Haun’s close friend William Kaufman.
“It was an incredible feeling to put together something that impressed him and mixed well with the direction and style of his film,” he said.
Now, after months of rewrites and tweaks, he feels prepared to see his own film “Creatures” come to life.
“’Creatures’ came from a discussion with my friend, actor Mark Hanson. In the beginning, it was about a monster you could not see — just a basic concept of survival and misdirection with the characters. It's evolved into something more psychologically dark and thrilling, but it was those conversations with Mark that sparked it.”
Haun said the film has elements of horror and drama. The plot focuses on a General, played by Van Quattro, who wages war on a small town while on a quest for vengeance.
“In a way, it goes with the theme of what happens when you give one man way too much power and the abuse that may happen,” he explained. “The story is unique and engaging, leaving you to wonder whether to hate or pity the antagonist. The film is a roller coaster of doubt and misdirection. You don't know who to trust.”
Haun, Navarro and a seasoned crew shot the trailer in the Dallas area, including Royse City where hundreds of volunteers came out to act in the production. Military vehicles, tanks, crashed automobiles and plenty of firepower were included. The result was a polished trailer that is rapidly making the rounds on the internet. As the momentum builds, Haun admits he is eager to move forward.
“It'll be interesting to see what happens with this one,” he said. “It's definitely not some cheesy sci-fi film or bad horror. The story is very personal to me and I want it to carry the weight of my artistic intentions.
“It'll have the action, but also the art behind the storytelling and cinematography. I'm a fan of unorthodox angles and practical scene direction. It makes sense that a scene consists of several emotional triggers for the audience. All of these things, combined with a passionate cast and crew, will equal a very great film.”
Though the first trailer for “Creatures” has been released and is prompting interest, for Haun, there is no time to rest.
“The next step is to get it fully funded and locked into preproduction,” he said. “In the interim, I've been adding a few tweaks to the script to enhance a few areas. We also know where we plan to shoot. So, there are several things that have already been mapped out and scratched off the to-do list.”
Haun intends to shoot the production in the East Texas and Dallas area.
“The East Texas area itself has always been fantastic,” he said. “People are willing to offer locations or props, and the environment is beautiful. Without the backbone of East Texas, I would not be where I am today as an artist.”
It’s Haun’s artistic style that is gaining him increased notoriety. And, while he admits that there is a certain amount of pressure involved, he isn’t nervous about undertaking a project as demanding as “Creatures.”
“It honestly does not scare me.” he said. “I get a little anxious before every production, but I always seem to get through it.
“I think the biggest thing to remember is to do what you know and construct it to its finest. I brought the story back to that principle, and I feel like it found its true purpose.”
Looking back, he acknowledges that just as the film movement in Texas has grown and changed, he has as well.
“I've evolved leaps and bounds as an overall artist these last few years,” he said. “From a technical perspective, I feel like I have really sharpened my chops over the years. My photography is my own distinct style, and as far as storytelling, it's easier for me to set tones and understand complex structure. I wasn't always like that.
“I think the greatest change was an increase in confidence. By just knowing that I can accomplish anything I set my mind on, it's easier to focus on the fine details that really bring it to life. As I’ve gotten older, my perspective has matured -- in a way, it's a sensitivity to my art and no longer settling for what I want to accomplish.”
In addition to moving forward with “Creatures,” there are several projects in development that Haun has been asked to direct.
“I don't want to settle for one genre and ride it to the grave,” he said. “My goal is to continue learning and growing as a director and cinematographer. I've got several different films in the works that will reflect different aspects of myself and my style of direction.”
It’s been a long journey for the filmmaker, but he is happy with the results. As “Creatures” takes shape, he is hoping to build on his relationship with Throttle Films, and is encouraged to see the excitement for not only his project, but filmmaking in general, erupt in Northeast Texas.
“Never give up,” he said. “It's easier said than done, and most people are not able to keep fighting the fight. But truthfully, it's a matter of how much you want it and what it means to you. I'm personally not able to walk away from it. Physically, yes, but not in my heart. It's been a brutal seven years of the unknown, but my absolute love for it has kept me marching on. It's a part of me.”