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Things Are For Stealing

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Things are for Stealing poster.jpgThings Are For Stealing. Are they?  That is the premise and title of Zachary Davenport's new movie which will be premiering this Wednesday in a private screening for the cast and crew. 


"Trapped by a horrifying past, Marty struggles with day to day life. As a pastor in his community he realizes his impact on those around him but does little more than go through the motions of his position.  Life has little meaning to him.  He simply clings to things that seem to give him some memories of what might have been."


Zachary is a student at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and is relatively new to filmmaking but from the looks of the footage I've seen he is well on his way to making a name for himself.  




"A director should not just be the one who has a vision and tells people to do it. A director should be the one knows the story and bring everyone to tell that story in the best way possible."


Things are for Stealing has a great cast consisting of Robert Gramm as Marty, Christopher Tolleson as Gene, Bryce Lotz as Harper, Alyssa Gera as Beth, and Zach Walker as the pawn shop owner.

Wendy Cannon helped produce and was Assistant Director on the film.  Production Design was done by Melissa Rosson.  Sound Design by Chris Horton with music by Sheppard Gibson.  Executive Producers are Bobby McCage and Renee Morse.  Director of Photography Jonathan Martin.

Other crew members included are Boom Operator: Sammy Figueroa, Concept Artist: Stephanie Jochman, Script Supervisor: Indya Thompson, Script Consultants: Raul Navedo, Trevor Glindomrong, and Rob Harmon, Assistant Casting: Heather Denton, Key Grip and Gaffer: Matthew Schaper, and the closing credits song was sung by Chelsea Goodman. 

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What inspired you to write the screenplay for Things are for Stealing?

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Zachary Davenport: Oh wow, this may take a novel to answer. It started with listening to music outside in the cold on a swinging bench. Many of my ideas start this way. I was listening to my favorite band, Fleet Foxes, and images swept into my mind. I don't know exactly which songs I heard, but the songs Your Protector, The Cascades, and Helplessness Blues were commonly revisited during the writing process. 

What I saw was an old church pastor alone in a cluttered house. Two boys broke in, stole a vase, and escaped into the forest. The man exited his cottage with a shotgun only to find that the kids had vanished. So he ran into the woods and fired at anything that moved. I saw a pawn shop filled with enthusiasm, but nothing worth paying for. I saw a lonely shop owner who concealed his deprivation with a demeanor of nonsense. I saw truth mixed with fallacy and love mixed with contempt. I saw many people deemed failures, struggling to amount to something of worth in the eyes of others. Mostly, I saw a visage of myself.

From the months of December to late July, I molded a disjointed thriller into a timeless drama set in a secluded village. What kept me going was the obsession with these lost souls and the constant times when saw the characters in the eyes of the people around me. By late spring, I knew this story needed to be shared.



You've piqued my interest. This sounds very interesting. Did the writing come quickly? What was the next step in bringing these characters to life?

Zachary Davenport: Yes, and well no. Writing always comes quickly to me. However, what I write may not be worth keeping. I started this story with a series of images and ideas, not clear cut events or a structured plot. I even wrote about 5 drafts when I realized the entire film needed to be restructured. As you can see from my initial inspiration, I knew where to start, but I struggled where to end. Many drafts ended in awkward moments and unresolved emotions. There were many times I just wanted to give up on the project completely.

For Example. After I started fund-raising on indiegogo, I went on a family vacation in Florida. It seemed like every hour I had to check the website or call people scheming ways to make the project seem intriguing. On the way traveling back home from Key Largo, I was staring at the indiegogo page saved from a time I actually had wifi. We were well over half-way through the fundraising process and only had about 40% of our goal. I looked over the script. (I think it was draft 15.) When I did, I saw a completely chaotic story with no resolution. I tried fixing it in the car, but only made it worse. I decided to save everyone the trouble. I was going to cancel production.
 
When I got home, like instinct, I checked indiegogo. We were only 20% percent away from our goal! By the time the funding was over, we surpassed our goal by 122%. So I regained my bearings, got this mess of a script, and began to structure it out once again. A good friend of mine helped me tremendously at this point. He would send me pages and pages of plot holes. Many times I would read them and say to myself, "Oh. Oh. Oh yeah that didn't make sense at all."  When it was all over I had written 19 drafts for an 18 page script. Writing is easy. What's hard is writing stories worth telling.

Bringing the characters to life. I guess the best way to answer this is to explain the casting process. Well, the casting process was rough. This was my first time making a film of mine in the area. Most of the people I knew were theatre actors. Of course two of the actors I casted are theatre actors. However, the main character, Marty, doesn't even speak significant lines until almost half-way through the film. Theatre is all about telling. The actor who would play Marty couldn't do that until his character was well-established.

It was 5:45 am two weeks or so before production. I had the entire cast lined up and ready to go. All except for my protagonist: Marty. I was sitting in my car dressed in my Chick-fil-A uniform wanting to cry like a teenage girl. I had about ten minutes before my shift and felt like a failure. I prayed to God asking for a miracle. I didn't want some random person. I didn't want a last case scenario. I wanted Marty. If God had gotten me this far, then why should he leave me now.

I clocked in, poured a cup of Columbian, and began the day. My shift leader was beside me. She's the only person I've ever met who's under the age of 50 and giggles hysterically at 6 o'clock in the morning. I wiped the counter for the 9th time and asked her, "Do you know anyone 40-50 who's ever considered acting. Maybe at least seen a movie once or twice." She plainly responded, "I don't know. What about Rob over there? He likes movies I think." Needless to say, Rob was cast and was exactly what I was looking for, probably more than.


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You've got the story, funding, and cast. What did you do next?

Zachary Davenport: I prayed. A lot. If I made this film, then it would have been a disaster. I had to give it to God. As a director, I took bites of the story, piece by piece, until I consumed it. I would sit on the swing, where my inspiration originated, and went through the entire film in my head at least twice a day. I listened to mostly instrumental music during this process. My favorite was the score for film, "The Hours." It has haunting lost melodies that perfectly embodied the emotions I wanted to express in Things are for Stealing.  Some of my favorites times visualizing the story were days when it would rain. The swing was on a covered porch and I could see the water dripping from branches and birds darting for cover. I would spend hours lost in this sylvan world.
 
These moments greatly aided me when I had to communicate my vision on a chaotic set. I had to rely on the memories of the "swing dates" and explain them in a way that was understandable to the cast and crew. This can be very difficult. Many directors say they have intuition. Which, I believe is true. However, one thing that helps me is to know my story well enough to marry it. When situations arise and I am forced to alter an aspect of the script, it is important for me not just to fix it, but to supply an alternative that is better than the option suggested in the script. A director should not just be the one who has a vision and tells people to do it. A director should be the one knows the story and bring everyone to tell that story in the best way possible. This gives creative freedom to all who participate without there being an abundance of disconnect.
There are also a lot of logistical things I did prior to production, but they are very monotonous to recite and read."


How did you get involved with the project Wendy?

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Wendy Cannon:  I came on board with Zachary after he asked me to help him produce Things are for Stealing. Everyday on set was an adventure! It was fun working with Zachary and a new group of people who I hadn't got to work with before! Zachary is crazy, in a good way though! I love him and the crew to death!











Robert tell me about your character Marty.  What's he like?

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Robert Gramm: Trapped by a horrifying past, Marty struggles with day to day life. As a pastor in his community he realizes his impact on those around him but does little more than go through the motions of his position.  Life has little meaning to him.  He simple clings to things that seem to give him some memories of what might have been.

Had you ever acted before?  How did you prepare for the role?

Robert Gramm: My background in acting is limited to a few independent films.  I grew up, however, in a family  of theater, music and film lovers that covered a wide range of genres.  But I guess my greatest influence has been my brother who has been an actor of stage and screen for most of his adult life.

To prepare for the role, I relied on the keen sense of Zachary to help develop my character.  Zach wanted me to begin thinking like Marty.  What would Marty do or say in any given situation.  I took that to heart used his advice to put me in the right frame of mind.  I tried to be Marty, on and off screen while at the film shoot.  Marty was not one to carry on long conversations, keeping mostly to himself, only appearing when necessary.  Between shoots, while others where socializing, I went to a distant corner, reading a book or writing.  I kept this a secret from the cast and crew but it helped me to be the solemn character that Marty had evolved to.

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Christopher Tolleson: My character's name is Gene. Gene is the younger boy in the film and he has a lot to think about. He wants to make his Dad happy, he does not want anyone's help...especially Harper, and he is trying to be a tough guy. Gene goes through a lot of changes in the movie.
 
It was a very exciting role for me and it was my biggest role yet! I had a lot of lines, a lot of action, and I worked really hard for 3 days! I am grateful to Zach for letting me be a part of this project. 
It was fun and I learned a lot!






Robert Gramm: Throughout the shoot, Zachary was keen to listen and give solid direction to help each of us preform to our best potential.  One example solidifies his directorial prowess.  During the scene in which I was preparing my sermon, the character Gene walked into the chapel needing answers to some rather troubling questions.  The child actor, played by Christopher Tolleson, had played his character brilliantly but was having trouble focusing his emotions in this one scene.  After a few takes, Zach asked me to stand in the aisle, look directly at Chris and slowly walk toward him as he delivered his lines.  I was not part of the shot, but the difference in the intensity of Chris delivering his lines was amazing.  He even seemed quite nervous as I stared harshly at him and slowly approached.  Such a simple direction that made a huge impact.


Sheppard, when were you approached about the soundtrack for Things are for Stealing. Did you have a good idea of what was needed for the film from the start?

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Sheppard Gibson:  Well, when Zachary first asked if I would do the soundtrack for Things Are for Stealing I was really excited. We had spoken about me composing a film score for a project of his before, but it never came to fruition. I suppose that, this time, I was determined to collaborate with Zach, because I know how good of a writer he is. We spoke about the story line a few times over coffee and I got some ideas for eerie water-glass based musical atmospheres, but the soundtrack has become much more as time has gone on. So I suppose, on the whole, I knew what the basic sound of the film would be from the start, but because of the strength of Zach's story and character development, the film has, in a way, taken the composition a bit out of my hands and molded it to it's own preference. I love it when that happens! When a film has a certain kind of strength and vitality, it starts to help me compose. At that point, I know it's a good collaboration.



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As assistant director and producer what occupied your time the most Wendy? 

Wendy Cannon: Well for pre-production, I had the role as producer, and what consumed my time was paper work. Getting acting and location agreements, crew deals, stripboards, schedules, broken down scripts etc. But on set I was first AD and what consumed my time then was keeping Zachary on schedule. And trying to balance hurrying him along but allowing him to get what he needed.


Christopher Tolleson: The best part of filming was that we were in the woods a lot and I got really really muddy. I had to keep changing my clothes and getting my clothes on and off with the mud was fun. Zach's Grandma washed my clothes for me. That was really nice. I also remember that we worked in a few different places...locations. The woods, a pond, a workshed, a church. So, I got to go around to some new and different places, too. I liked that.


Zach Walker: I was Zachary's high school theatre teacher. He asked me earlier in the year and I was excited to contribute. I don't get to perform as much since, as a teacher, I've morphed into a director. This was my first experience in a film. Zach said I would be perfect as the pawnshop owner. Basically I just had to be a middle age guy that was trying way too hard. I guess...that was, a compliment. Ahem. 

I'm very proud of Zach, his crew, and his professionalism on the set. It was slightly bizarre receiving acting direction from a former student, however he pushed me into a place where I hope/think he wanted this character to go. I'm excited to see the story unfold on the screen. Super proud of Zach!


Chris, tell me about your job as the sound designer for the film.

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Chris Horton: A sound designer's job is to make the film come to life through audio. It's my job to make you believe that you are in the environment the director has put you in -- whether that be through adding environment sounds of the forest or low rumbling engine noises of how the engine would sound from the interior of the car, or small details like a grandfather clock ticking in the background of a peaceful living room. Also I manipulate the previously recorded on-location dialogue and audio. I mix it so that it plays evenly from scene to scene as well as bring out the dialogue to be clearly heard and understood. Anything to further the subliminal experience of the viewer to immerse themselves in the environment.

One of the biggest challenges that I am facing in this film, as I am still working on this scene as we speak, is the second point of view dream sequence the main character has as he reminisces about his long lost wife. I don't want to spoil it for the viewers, but the main character begins to relive a very heavy and traumatic moment of his life with all the little nuances of fantasy that dreaming entails. I received the scene is completely silent, which means that I have the opportunity to craft the listening atmosphere of the viewer entirely from scratch. That includes footsteps, breathing, movement of clothes, interaction with objects, etc. all in the context of how one would hear it in the context of a dream. And accomplishing this without drawing attention to the sound design is the challenge. If I overdo the sound design to the point where it is distracting or if I don't sync it to the video properly, the audience won't believe the shot and I've failed at drawing the audience even deeper into the mind of the main character.

So that's my main challenge at the moment, but the film is coming along very nicely and I look forward to seeing the finished product myself!  It's been great working with Zach as the director. He has given me much creative liberties to massage the sound track to be what I think it should be, while at the same time providing me with clear and concise direction for his vision of the film. Looking forward to future projects!


Does your job include mastering of the audio for the completed movie?

Chris Horton: Yes, I will also be doing the sound mixing and mastering for the film, which involves putting all the pieces of foley, dialogue, environment, room tones, music etc. together to create the final solidified piece that you will be hearing in the movie


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Chelsea can you tell me something about the song you sang for the ending credits and how you were approached to do it?

Chelsea Goodman: I've been friends with Zachary since high school and a month or two ago he messaged me on Facebook and asked if I would sing a song for his film. Then, he got me in touch with Shep, the composer of the song, and I've been in communication with him about it.  Its a very unique song and I love every aspect about it! I think the melody line is very captivating and warming.  t's definitely been a fun process to work through! 

What's the name of the song and what's it about?

Chelsea Goodman:  I actually don't know the name of the song! He sent me a scratch recording of the song along with the lyrics typed up. I'm currently attending school in Boone at Appalachian State University and he is in Hendersonville. So, a great deal of this process has been done via communication through email. A week from today I will be driving to Hendersonville to work in the studio and make the final recording!

But the song (to me) is about a journey. And the outcome of that journey isn't necessarily what you originally thought it would be. Its definitely characteristic of a difficult journey, one that might even lead to being completely alone in the end. In my mind it's very representative of the process of changing, growing, and learning as a result of one's own decisions, mistakes, and lessons.

Do you have any other songs on the Internet?

Chelsea Goodman:  Currently, no. I used to sing with a band called the Smokey Joe Show when I was about 14-16 years old, (my dad played the bass guitar in that band, too), and you can find about 4 songs if you search "Smokey Joe Show" in the music search engine on myspace.com. We recorded 2 cds, but since that was a little over 5 years ago my voice has changed and developed.

Currently, I lead worship at Elevation:AppState Extension each week. It is an extenstion of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, and our site is currently led and operated entirely by college students. My closest friends and I have made up the band here for the past year and a half, and that is where I sing on a consistent basis.  Very different than when I was with the Smokey Joe Show.

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When will "Things are for Stealing" be released and what are your plans for it after that?

Zachary Davenport: I'm not sure exactly. When the film is finished I want to see what kind of film it ended up being. Based on that, I will enter it into festivals that suit it's quality/style/genre/content. Ultimately, I just want people to want it. Things are for Stealing is a passion-project. I didn't make it so I could get a profit. The reason why I want to enter it into festivals is because viewers are more likely to watch it if it has been selected or won awards.

I am a student filmmaker, and I am learning new things everyday. Chances are, this isn't near the best work I will do. What I really want to do is just upload it online. Nonetheless, I don't want it to slip away into the grey void that is online videos. The viewers who would most appreciate this film don't spend long swimming in that pool. To answer your question, it will be released either in 2013 or 2014 depending on the festivals. I don't really have many plans for it after that. By that time, it will belong to the fans to who love it. Hopefully they will be more than just my Mom.



I'm sure it will be more than your mom.  What's next on your horizon?

Zachary Davenport:  Currently, I am working on a few scripts. I go through hundreds of ideas in my head, but only a few actually make it to the page. Each one I spend a lot of time getting to know in my mind first. I tell people, "I make sure to have a solid relationship with my story, before I say the "L" word.

As of recent, I have been scripting a narrative involving magic and bullies. I've never been excited about a story/film as much as I am with this one. Though I'm still drafting the script, I believe it has the potential of being made and having a positive impact on society. In writing it, I'm making sure that I compose a piece that I know how to make, but still stretches me as a filmmaker. I also have to keep a reasonable budget in mind. I like to make films that best suit what resources I have. If they are rough, then it is because that is their truest nature. Plastic coating and smooth edges only work if the film requires it. Most of mine do not.

I am attending the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and hope to graduate with a degree in Film Studies and a minor is Studio Art. Although my classes don't always require it, I cannot help but make, share, and listen to stories that evoke the human condition. I am imperfect and many times feel like a complete amateur, but telling stories and creating art with other people is a part of my being. Art and Film aren't hobbies for me. They are necessary for life. I am not an artist. I am not a filmmaker. I just need to exhale.



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Learn more about Things are for Stealing and Zachary Davenport at: