One of the many pleasures of attending a film festival like the recent Another Hole in the Hole Film Festival is discovering films in a theater setting that you may otherwise not discover on your own. This Examiner.com columnist had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Brianne Davis, Mark Gantt and Gary Cairns who are three of the principal actors and producers of the independent horror and science fiction film known as The Night Visitor.
The Night Visitor chronicles the tell of an estranged couple as played by Brianne Davis and Gary Cairns who solicit the help of a spiritualist to help them resolve their marital issues. The spiritualist suggests that they begin to film themselves in order to help them rediscover their love. In the process, the couple discover that their son is in communication with an unseen entity whose intentions are unknown. The Night Visitor also marks the directorial debut of actress and now director, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn.
The interview began with an explanation of the title and how it relates to the story of The Night Visitor. Co-executive producer, Mark Gantt begins, "Lony Ruhmann who is our executive producer came up with the story idea along with Night Visitor 2 and 3 and 4. Lony is very interested in the story of these kids being able to communicate with beings from another planet and for him this is very real-it is something he believes in. This is something that happens at night to these children and he is trying to explore that in these four movies." Gantt continues, "what happens to these children that are overtly sensitive as they communicate with these beings."
The Night Visitor was very well received at the film festival and once again demonstrates how successful a Kickstarter funding campaign can truly be. Once again, Mark Gantt has thoughts on the subject. Mark speaks, "it is a great way to build a grass roots audience and a fan base that sometimes just comes to help. What is exciting is that within a year there will be a bill passed by Congress that allows us to basically do Kickstarter with everyone getting a piece of the pie. Instead of donating money, a person can be an actual investor in the movie." Excitement continues to build in Mark's voice. Gantt further explains, "independent filmmakers can go to the public and explain their budget and state to those that are putting up money that they will all be owners in the film. Hollywood does not want it because it is going to give us the power!"
The star of the film is Brianne Davis who impressed this reporter and so many with her head turning performance in Among Friends. She has the task of shouldering a fair amount of screen time in The Night Visitor. Her performance in The Night Visitor cements her in this columnist's head as being more than a strikingly beautiful woman. She creates a character in Jen who is on the edge of turmoil and the subtle performance delivered by Brianne is truly one of the highlights of the film. Davis addresses this and replies, "There is so much turmoil going inside my character of Jen that I have to go through so many things. Being concerned for my child, holding my marriage together and trying to decide if we stay or go. I hope I did a great job. As an actress I am my own worst critic, but I feel really lucky to have done it and I am really excited to be directing the second one!"
The other major starring role in the film belongs to that of Gary Cairns II. The actor was given very little prep time which reflected the hectic and breakneck pacing of the filming which caused the actor to explain, "you are as great as you with! It was actually pretty smooth for me. If it was a bunch of amateurs it would have been very painful and I wouldn't be here right now! The hardest thing was just figuring out what we going to do with the cameras. One of the cameras is a character in itself!" Brianne Davis further adds, "working with that camera was a new experience for the both of us, especially Gary who had to act with the camera many times."
Producer, Mark Gantt has had the good fortune of being part of low and rather extravagantly budgeted films throughout his career as an actor and producer. His observations on the dynamics and chemistry of a film crew is fascinating and very illuminating. Gantt explains, "you are like a family-immediately! You don't know anybody else! You automatically bond. I was doing one of Jennifer's(Blanc-Biehn) films-Hidden in the Woods and one of the actors hated the fact that as he has gotten bigger, they put him up in a separate hotel from the cast and crew. This actor basically wanted to be with everybody so then we he went out to eat he could bond with the other actors, the DP and the AC. When we are on set, we are looking at each other and we are in a vibe and we are a machine!" Mark continues, " on The Night Visitor, we all got along immediately and had a great time. It was such a small crew and nobody sat around waiting for something to happen. Gary would move a light there and everybody was doing their jobs and other jobs also!"
The Night Visitor is the first of a proposed series of films about possible visitations and abductions by aliens from another world. It was announced that actress, Brianne Davis is going to take over directorial duties for the second film. Davis discusses the exciting news. Brianne begins, "I am very excited! When Jen(Blanc-Biehn), Mark and I were talking about the second one I said I could do this and I have been working in movies for a long time. I got to watch Jen directing the kid and I really loved it. I know the story, I know everybody on the set and I know how it works and I can direct it!" Davis continues, "you learn from every director that you work with! You get to a certain point where you know how to tell a story."
There appeared to be an interesting theme throughout the interview and that was of opportunity and individuals daring to run with opportunities! The Night Visitor allowed actress Jennifer Blanc-Biehn to continue to grow not only as an actress but now as a director. The sequel will now be Brianne Davis' directorial debut. Perhaps the individual running with the ball the furthest is actor, photographer and producer, Mark Gantt. Gantt is the epitome of the classic character actor that can always be counted on to deliver a solid performance that many times will elevate the film that he has been cast in. Mark Gantt is more than a handsome face as he explains his progression to being a reliable producer. Gantt speaks, "as an actor waiting for my career to happen that was not happening basically I started creating my own projects. I found that I could put people together-how do I get that DP with that director and how do I get this together. I feel like I am good at it and it definitely comes easy for me. I have worked behind the camera in every department-from being an actor, a prop guy, a grip, electrician, photographer, assistant director and production assistant. It really gives me the advantage over another producer because I know the language and I could do everybody's job!" Mark concludes, "I really want to continue to do this because I love doing this. I love working with talented people. Directors or actors-I love putting people together!"
Films like The Night Visitor represent a growing decentralization of the film-making process away from familiar mega studio brands such as Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures. Although movies released by these aforementioned studios will continue to dominate the film landscape for the conceivable future, there can be no argument that the independent film funded from diverse sources will continue to capture the imagination of the movie loving public. Passionate and intellectual film creators such as Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Brianne Davis and Mark Gantt continue to demonstrate that imagination, enthusiasm and sheer confidence will trump wanton and sometimes reckless expenditure of money. Brianne Davis and Mark Gantt will continue to realize their visions under their production company called, Give & Take Productions. Their next film to be directed by Mark Gantt is called, A Place Apart which was written by J.L. Blakely and will star Brianne Davis. This columnist looks forward to discovering the further visions to be found in The Night Visitor and am quite confident many more will also be of the same mind set as further films are released.