But first, full disclosure, I need to share a little story about how this interview came to be. I was originally supposed to meet Casey and Glenn, as well as attend the screening of Driven at the Dances With Films Festival in Hollywood on Saturday June 15, but instead of getting to do that very fun thing I accidentally fell down my stairs and ended up in the hospital hoping that my ankle wasn’t broken. Good news: it is not! (Just very badly sprained and approximately the size of small watermelon.) Even better news though, is that Casey and Glenn very graciously agreed to conduct our interview via email instead. So I just wanted to give a very hearty thank you and shout out to them for being so awesome. And now, on to Driven!
Nerds and Beyond: Casey, where did the idea for this story come from? What was the inspiration behind it?
Casey Dillard: Glenn came up with the concept of an entire movie in and around a car and I mostly tried to fit a story within that context. I’m a fan of odd couplings and any stories where a protagonist is dragged into an adventure unwillingly.
Nerds and Beyond: Glenn, what drew you to the idea for this script?
Glenn Payne: I’d been curious for a while about the possibility of making a film that takes place entirely in a single vehicle. Casey and I both came up with different ideas about what type of story could fit that template. Her story won out, as my ego shivers, and she began working on it. The element that I liked in her version over mine was the fact that the car was a part of her profession. It was a “driving” force in the narrative. In my initial idea it was just a car people happened to be in. So, the rideshare concept was really interesting to me. Aside from that, Casey is an excellent writer. She’s extremely thorough and there are rarely any “holes” that pop up later. It was super witty and packed with energy all the way through.
Nerds and Beyond: Casey, as a writer and actor, what is it like to star in your own baby, if you will, and what are some of the challenges that come along with it? Did you draw inspiration for Emerson from yourself/your own experiences?
Casey Dillard: I overall enjoy it because I pretty much always know where the character is coming from. That being said, the stakes always feel high to me because I’m already attracted to the script so there’s extra motivation not to mess it up. Emerson and I share some similarities, but I think she’s overall more positive and resilient than I am, though I think my fear of failure is less paralyzing than hers.
Nerds and Beyond: It’s still so rare to see a film where a queer woman is front and center, and forgive the pun, literally driving the story. Was that part of what motivated you to create Driven?
Casey Dillard: Emerson being bi was about representation and putting more female characters in the story. I knew she had an ex, so why not make the ex a woman? I definitely want more characters in the community in movies and TV, and if I want to see it I should be writing it.
Nerds and Beyond: This is extremely important. Was the “turd spoon” in the original script? And was it inspired by a real-life turd spoon by any chance?
Casey Dillard: Yes and yes.
Nerds and Beyond: What was it like working together, and with Rich [Speight, Jr.], both behind and in front of the camera? Especially in what becomes a kind of fight scene?
Glenn Payne: I can’t say enough nice things about Rich. He’s exceptionally kind, generous and talented. I personally enjoy working with actors that are also directors, or that have at least directed one thing in the past. The more ideas the better! If the movie is stronger for them we’ll incorporate it into the film no matter who comes up with it. Richard had some great ideas that he brought to the table as well as lots of experience directing car scenes in Supernatural. Co-producing and directing is such a mental and physical gauntlet that I usually steer away from acting in the same projects, but I very much enjoyed getting to perform in a few scenes. Rich is great with his physicality both comedically and in action situations so it was a joy…..even though he may have beaten me up. I will say that both Rich and Casey brought something to their characters that I don’t think anyone else could have, and I mean that with total sincerity.
Casey Dillard: We work together so much (movies, improv, other improv team, marketing) that it’s part of my day to day life at this point. And since we end up fighting a lot that’s pretty familiar territory as well. In all seriousness, Glenn is talented in ways that I am not (visually, organizationally) and is a very open-minded and collaborative team leader. I always feel like my material is safe in his hands.
Nerds and Beyond: What were the challenges and advantages of shooting a film almost entirely inside a vehicle?
Casey Dillard: On my end, it was much more challenging on the writing front! There were certain cuts and views that I couldn’t write into the action. I did a lot of complaining during the writing.
Glenn Payne: Finding the variety in the visuals was the biggest challenge for me. I spent many weeks storyboarding the entire film. Almost every shot of the film was planned out prior, although Michael Williams, our superbly talented cinematographer, always brings his own great ideas as we go from shot to shot. It was vital to know exactly how each scene should be shot from cut to cut. If you don’t do it that way you risk repeating the same shots too often from one scene to the next given the whole thing takes place in the same small area. It was a fun challenge trying to find ways to introduce variety. We used different angles, camera moves, color schemes, dramatic lighting setups, etc. In the end I was really happy with how it came together.
Nerds and Beyond: What was your favorite scene to shoot? What was the most challenging?
Glenn Payne: There’s a scene where Emerson and Roger kind of have it out. Without giving any spoilers it’s a pretty intense and emotional scene. When I yelled cut I think the entire crew was super proud of what both Rich and Casey had pulled off. There was a very special feeling to it.
As for the most challenging, I’d probably say it was one of the final scenes in the film. The “big showdown” so to speak. We had to deal with the most ridiculous weather you can imagine. We filmed for two weeks and every night was an overnight and outdoors with temps in the teens to thirties. This location was out in the wide open so the cold wind was cutting right through everyone. It was an incredibly important scene but people could barely use their fingers due to the cold. Rich had a ton of dialogue standing just outside the car and I was blown away that he could even move his lips given that we were all nearly frozen solid. The team rallied together and did an amazing job. The weather conditions they all put up with were extraordinary. I couldn’t be more proud or thankful.
Casey Dillard: There was a fight scene outside the house that was tough to do logistically, but the climactic scene towards the end was one of the most brutally cold nights ever. I felt terrible for our “entities” that night.
Nerds and Beyond: What has the audience response been like for you guys so far? Are they reacting the way you’d hoped?
Casey Dillard: It’s been very positive response and experience so far and I’ve met some really cool people through the movie. People are laughing and getting a positive takeaway from the movie and that’s the best thing I can hope for.
Glenn Payne: I couldn’t be more pleased with the audience response. People seem to really get the heart of the film and the characters. They share laughter, jumps and heartache with us, and I couldn’t appreciate it more. They’ve been wonderful to us.
Nerds and Beyond: Is there any chance for a Driven 2? And what else might you want to explore in Emerson and Roger’s stories?
Glenn Payne: We joke about a sequel a lot. I think the characters were left in a really good place, BUT I would absolutely be interested in seeing them in another adventure on one condition….they have to get out of the car. Nothing but wide open spaces! In all seriousness, we’ve never planned on any kind of follow up story, but there are a couple ideas out there that are interesting. I’ll keep those under my hat for now.
Casey Dillard: For me, the chances are pretty slim. I love both the characters, but I’m satisfied with where we left them.
What are your favorite scary movies?
Casey Dillard: I love The Babadook. Get Out was really good and I will always have a soft spot for the original Scream movie.
Glenn Payne: Hmm.. it would depend on your definition of scary. I loved Get Out, The Babadook, and tons of other movies I’m totally blanking on at the moment. Basically, I’m a sucker for anything where the writing is smart and the rest is executed with a lot of passion.
Nerds and Beyond: Normally at Nerds we like to end our interviews by asking what color lightsaber you would have, but to stay in theme with the film, I will ask this instead: If you could be any classic horror monster, what would you be and why?
Glenn Payne: Interesting! Frankenstein’s Monster has too many daddy issues. I’m a poor swimmer so the Creature from the Black Lagoon is probably out. Being a Werewolf sounds painful. Mummies have no social life. I’d probably go with a vampire. It seems like it has the most benefits, aside from the whole damned soul thing.
Casey Dillard: Once you go Black Lagoon you never go back. 😉