Director/Writer Andy Stapp spoke with Horrornews.net about his new critically acclaimed film, Destination Marfa. It stars Tony Todd, Stelio Savante, Richard Riehle, and Marcus Jahn.
DESTINATION MARFA wins BEST HORROR FEATURE at MANHATTAN FILM FESTIVAL
Andy Stapp‘s Destination Marfa (Tony Todd, Stelio Savante) took home the Best Horror Feature award as Manhattan Film Festival wrapped up its 15th edition in NYC’s East Village.
Stapp’s feature debut follows four lifelong friends who decide to veer off the road and venture into a small West Texas town known as Marfa, where they encounter strange lights as the line between reality and fantasy become increasingly blurred.
Todd and Savante play opposing forces in the town of Marfa. Also starring Brittany Jo Alvarado, Kyle Colton, Marcus Jahn, Tracy Perez, Richard Riehle, Lisa Roumain, Neil Sandilands, Kimberly Christann Pember, Sasha Thurston and Scot Scurlock.
Described as a surrealist Sci-Fi, the film will also be screening at the Montreal Independent Film Festival and the LA Sci-Fi Film Festival. SP Releasing will officially release Destination Marfa on August 3rd.
Hi Andy, it’s great to talk with you. Please tell me about Destination Marfa?
Andy- It’s a small town in the very southern part of Texas, it’s about ninety miles from the Mexico border. I had never heard of it up until about twelve or thirteen years ago. It has this phenomenon out in the desert where these lights mysteriously show up, and its unexplained till this day. Back, in the nineties, Unsolved Mysteries came in and did an episode on it. I thought, no one has heard anything about this phenomenon that’s happening in this small West Texas town. I wanted to write a story about that, and create my own spin on what these lights are.
That’s fascinating. I have had a few experiences and met people who had experiences that they can’t explain.
Andy- I love stories like this, and the world if full of these types of mysteries. While we were down there filming, Diane Keaton came on set, and Kevin Bacon just made a series, and that was filmed in Marfa. Marfa is a place…. The only way, I can explain it to people is, if you want time to stand still, go down there and visit. During the day its’s almost haunting because its quiet and eerie, and then at night the sun goes down, the parties come out. This is the type of place where people pull buses over on the side of highways, and they just start living there. Terlingua is right next door, it’s a famous chili cook-off place. I’m a huge John Hughes fan, and I wanted this movie to have a teenage, bopping kind of John Hughes feel to it with a twisted Rod Serling feel to it.
This sounds like it’s going to be good. I did watch the “diner scene” trailer. That gave me goosebumps.
Andy- Thank you. I will tell you this, Hollywood had a tough time figuring out what genre to put this in.
I love the fact that there is a story. You shouldn’t have to just stamp one genre on the film. I’m so excited to see Destination Marfa. I think sometimes you just want to watch a movie you want to watch, no matter what genre.
Andy- Let’s go back in time, I don’t go to Blockbuster…
Oh, I miss Blockbuster.
Andy- I don’t go looking for certain genres. I love all films, but it’s all about the story. This was a bucket list item for me, Janel. I’m going to be honest with you. I took the time, over three years to write this film. I know this doesn’t happen for a lot of filmmakers but I’m blessed. I have a lot of gratitude for where I’m at.
How did you prepare for the film, and direct this awesome cast?
Andy- It’s funny you asked that. When I started talking to Tony Todd about his character, he said, “Andy, who is going to direct the movie?” I said, Tony, this may disappoint you but it’s going to be me. He said, “no, no, no That’s a great idea since you wrote the store.” I grew up in a world where I strive and I live off of determination. I self-educate myself. I educated myself to do art, to airbrush. I didn’t know what a screenplay was, I didn’t know what a treatment was, and I learned all of that as this progressed. I decided that, I wrote this story and I know it well. I’m a picturesque kind of guy, that’s the way my mind works. I need to be the eye through the lens, and get to the audience what I want. When Tony told me that, that built up my confidence. Onset, as a first-time director I was comfortable because my mind sees things in images.
What was it like for you to watch the movie and see this story you wrote onscreen? How did you feel?
Andy- It’s crazy to write something and all of the sudden have somebody step into the character you developed. It’s a weird, great experience. The acting was phenomenal. I’d lay in bed at night just thinking, this cant be real. What was just a thought in my mind is playing out in a full story in front of me. It’s an experience that I can’t explain. It’s better than my Marine Corps graduation, getting a pilot’s license. It was better than anything I’ve ever done in my life.
How long were you in the Marine Corps?
Andy- I was in the Marine Corps for five years.
Thank you for your service Andy.
Andy- Thank you.
And you have a pilot license? That’s awesome.
Andy- I am, I have my pilots license, flying is something I’ve always loved to do.
I love locations and I would love to visit Marfa. What was it like?
Andy- If you ever need time to stand still. There isn’t a ton of stuff to do and they have some of the strangest art exhibits on the planet. The El Paisano Hotel where the cast of The Giant stayed. James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor stayed there. That hotel is unbelievable. It’s a neat experience. It was about twelve years ago when I stumbled upon the name. It isn’t what it is now, you’ve got all these celebrities going down there. James Hetfield from Metallica was just there.
What advice would you offer or words of wisdom?
Andy- I think its important that you have a feel for all departments because it makes you a more rounded individual. For instance, I can be a better director if I understand lighting and audio. The experience that it has given me has allowed me to advance into other projects. Don’t just focus on one department, try to learn from all of them.
What do you want to say to everyone that will be watching Destination Marfa?
Andy- I want them to go in knowing basically nothing. I would say this is a film where John Hughes wrote The Twilight Zone. I’m hoping that it touches people’s hearts.
Is it too soon to ask if you would be working on a sequel? Or are you doing something else?
Andy- One of the guys that helped me in the sound department. His name is Dean Andre. We became friends and he told me, the more I watch this film, the more I love it. He wants to be involved in the next film if I write another story. I’ve been given that task and I talked to Tony Todd so, I thought about a Marfa point five. I thought it would be cool if we could do a prequel. We need to know how this town came to be? Why does it exist? Why is Tony Todd the Mayor of this town? How did Stelio’s character, The Hitchhiker get to this town? I think there is a lot that I can develop to make a prequel.
That sounds exciting. (Side note: Since the interview, I was sent a screener and watched Destination Marfa. It is a great film. Andy should make a prequel. I have so many more questions. It truly leaves you wanting more.)
Andy- We need to know how we got there.
Do you have any other projects coming out and will you be writing and directing again?
Andy- Yes, I have full intentions of writing and directing again. We are talking about a second film. Stelio Savante has helped me out a lot too. I appreciate that.
Stelio is crazy talented. It was awesome to have Tony Todd and Stelio in a film together.
Andy- Tony Todd and Stelio were great to work with.
I believe in a lot of different stuff but I’m also skeptical. I ask questions. Do you feel making this film has made you more of a believer or led you to be more skeptical?
Andy- That’s a good question. I am skeptical of everything. I went down there just to go; oh, this is some bullshit. I don’t believe in this crap. I get down there and the first night I saw them. I’m not a believer until I actually see things. I’ve never seen a UFO but I’ll tell you why I believe in them. I think it would small-minded of us to believe that God only created one planet in an entire endless universe, and just put some people on there and didn’t do anything with anything else.
I agree, it’s crazy. I don’t know if you saw all the stuff on storming Area 51 also?
Andy-Have you ever drove through that area?
No, I haven’t but I would love to one day.
Andy- I was in Northern California, I was heading back to Texas. This was about eight years ago. If you ever look at a map you just can’t angle back down to North Texas. I decided I’m going to take this little highway. It took me a lot longer to get home but I love road trips. I want to see different things. I ended up on the extraterrestrial highway which runs through Rachel, Nevada. You see all these alien signs and all these weird things on the highway. They tell you to get gas because your 155 miles away from getting gas again. I stopped in Rachel. It has that Marfa kind of feel. The desert does weird stuff to your mind. When I left Rachel, I started seeing signs and they tell you to stay on the highway. You can’t see Area 51 and you can’t see over the hill. It is neat to see.
I’d love to go visit one day. It was such an honor to talk with you. It was a blast. Thank you, Andy.
Andy- Janel, thank you very much.
Andy’s IMDB page www.imdb.com/name/nm10274640/?ref_=ttfc_fc_dr1