303 Magazine‘s Exclusive Interview: Kyle T. Cowan
After the wildly successful, exclusive trailer release and interview with actress Amrita Acharia (via 303 Magazine, which can be found HERE) for the upcoming thriller Camouflage, directed, written and starred in by Kyle T. Cowan, all of us here at 303 would love to give you the opportunity to see what Kyle had to say about the entire film-making experience.
Everything from the rigorous 13 day shoot that had the entire cast on a tight schedule (some crew members even sharing sleeping quarters in Kyle’s own one bedroom apartment), to the overall concept of the film and the meaning behind Camouflage — Kyle shares all.
You can also check out the trailer for Camouflage, below the interview.
303: How did you originally come up with the concept for Camouflage?
Kyle: The Aurora shootings hit me close to home for two reasons: one was because I attended college at the University of Colorado Denver, and the other was because my best friend works for the Governor’s office in Colorado. When the Aurora shootings happened, my friend visited a lot of the victims and their families. He told me about these encounters, which led to me contemplate the shooter’s family, and how awful it must be to know someone who could do something so horrific. I’ve seen Elephant and other movies that explore the topic of school shootings, and I noticed that none of these films answer the number one question on people’s minds, “What was the motivation?”
Kyle: I spent a lot of time researching mental health, and mental illness before I started writing the screenplay for Camouflage. I decided that the story would be fiction, and that I would take prominent social issues in recent news and use them as fuel for why the main character gets pushed over the edge. The main issues I decided to focus on are gay rights, bullying, and mental illness. I finished the first draft for the screenplay in a week. Once I picked the mental illness that the main character would possess it was easy for me to hone in on the plot for the film.
303: What was your intention behind creating Camouflage?
Kyle: My intention as the writer of Camouflage is to open people’s eyes to specific issues. The main focus of the film is gay rights. To me this is an important aspect of current media. While half of the country is open to homosexuals having the same rights as the rest of the population, the southern portion of the United States typically is not. This is a divided debate that has been prominent in the news lately and I explored the possibility that this might have something to do with self-hatred among men in their twenties.
The best gun control we have is our brains, and we need to start using better judgment.
303: Are you advocating or proposing a certain position/stance throughout the film, in your message?
Kyle: I think with a movie that is a social drama it is important to leave opinions open ended so that the film does not preach. As the writer, I am not telling the audience how they should think, but rather I present the issues in a dramatic way so that people will learn to think for themselves.
303: How did you come up with the idea of using crowdfunding to raise the money to make the film?
Kyle: I wrote this script with the intention of raising the money on Kickstarter to produce it, thus the majority of the film takes place in one room, and at times it can have the structure of a stage play. The picture is pretty unique in its composition and style. The movie follows the chronicles of Austin Griffin — the shooter — from childhood up to the massacre; every scene victimizes the main character because it is told from his point-of-view, and at the end of the film the audience gets to decide his true motivation for committing this crime.
303: Since you decided to use Kickstarter, did you have an initial plan set in place? And how did that campaign run and what was its focus?
Kyle: Adriana Leonard [Producer, actress playing Samar] and I launched our Kickstarter Campaign to raise $55,000 in February of 2013. We designed our Campaign as a human rights movement piece. Our video focused on the issues we would address with the film, and I think it was successful because people really connected with the topics we chose to spotlight. The task was nerve wracking, but with the help of fundraising events and social media we were able to reach our goal. Kickstarter and crowd funding are what made Camouflage possible. Without the site [Kickstarter], this movie would probably have never seen the light of day.
303: So, you raised the money to produce the film, what came next?
Kyle: After we had the money, Leonard took the screenplay to her managers and pitched them the idea. We garnered attention from these respectable industry folks and packaged the film as a team effort with recognizable actors. We ended up with a great cast who worked on the film because they loved the script so much. Kadan Rockett [Dark Skies] was our first recognizable name. Then Lew Temple [Walking Dead, Lone Ranger, Lawless], Amrita Acharia [I am Yours, Game of Thrones], Jimmy Bennett [Star Trek, Hostage, No Ordinary Family], and Drew Van Acker [Pretty Little Liars, Devious Maids] simultaneously jumped on board.
303: What was that casting process like? And how were you able to catch the attention of these seasoned Hollywood actors with your independent film pitch?
Kyle: Casting Camouflage was a long process that started even before the Kickstarter was completed. The key to getting good actors is to not be shy. Seriously. I was on the phone with managers and agents all across L.A. pitching the project trying to get name actors to sign on. Adriana Leonard had a big part in getting the script in front of her managers, which led to a lot of name-talent interest. We had a few actors pass due to various conflicts, but I think we ended up with the best cast possible on our budget. People involved in this project loved the script, and that was their entire motivation for coming on board. Actors love to sink their teeth into something controversial and dark; Camouflage delivers on both fronts.
303: Were you nervous, at first, working with these recognizable Hollywood actors?
Kyle: The read-through was extremely nerve wracking for me because I am twenty-five years old and did not want any of these actors with extensive resumes to think that I didn’t know what I was doing. Even though the read-through and rehearsals went terrifically, I always felt like I was trying to prove myself, and I was always intimidated.
303: What was the actual production process of the film like for you as the director, lead actor and writer of the film?
Kyle: Every day I went to set praying that everything would go smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, we did extensive pre-production on the movie, but this was my first feature film and my schedule was nuts. We shot the film in 13 days. I spent 12 hours a day on set, entered payroll at night, memorized lines in my free time, and went through shots with my DP [George V.K.] whenever we had a second to spare. During the shoot my DP and the 1st Camera Op [Maxwell Q Grummer] lived in my one bedroom apartment with me. Needless to say the entire experience is unforgettable to me, and all the memories will be cherished. I learned a lot, got to work with some amazing talent, and could not have asked for a better product.
303: What’s behind the name Camouflage?
Kyle: The title Camouflage is a metaphor for every character in the film. I actually came up with the title for the movie before I even started writing the script.
The entire experience is unforgettable to me, and all the memories will be cherished. I learned a lot, got to work with some amazing talent, and could not have asked for a better product.
303: Does the film take a political stance on gun rights specifically? Or do you, yourself have a specific stance that you take, especially after the many tragedies that have occurred right here in Colorado?
Kyle: The film’s political stance on gun rights is up to audience interpretation. The movie takes place a few years in the future after strict gun laws have been put into effect. My personal belief is that gun control will help the issue, but it will not prevent attacks like these from happening. The best gun control we have is our brains, and we need to start using better judgment. I would say that the most effective way to prevent more atrocities is by being more aware of mental illness, taking a more liberal stance on human rights as a country, and identifying at risk youth before they feel like they have to hurt themselves and others. I hope that gun violence declines and mass shootings stop.
303: When can we expect the film to release?
Kyle: The film’s release is all about festivals at this point. We have entered a ton of festivals all around the world, and my hope is to make a stop at Starz! Denver Film Festival at the end of the year.
303: As a film-maker, when did you decide to make the transition to Los Angeles for your career?
Kyle: I graduated from the University of Colorado-Denver in 2010, and moved back to New Mexico to work there for a year. I used a lot of former connections that I built in high school to get a job as a casting assistant at Kathryn Brink Casting. Kathy Brink helped cast all of the supporting roles in Camouflage. After I joined SAG-AFTRA I could no longer work in casting and keep auditioning in New Mexico, because of this predicament I decided it was time to make the transition to LA.
303: Who has inspired you as a film-maker? Any specific independent or larger budge films that inspired you?
Kyle: I have wanted to be a director since I was in kindergarten and that hasn’t ever changed. My biggest inspirations in film have been JJ Abrams, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Ben Affleck. I have people telling me all the time that I should just pick one track and focus my energy to that career. I think Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Lena Dunham, and various other actors have proven that this is no longer the case. Independent films inspire me just as much as big budget features. My favorite independent films include The Road, Blue Valentine, and Like Crazy. Every year a new film comes out that inspires me to perceive, in 2013 that film was Prisoners.
303: Aside from the Camouflage release, what are your plans for the rest of 2014?
Kyle: My plans for 2014 involve hopefully bringing Camouflage to a lot of different festivals around the world. In addition to touring with the film I will be auditioning for various projects in L.A. and New Mexico as an actor, and I just pitched my next feature to my manager so we will see if we can round up some financiers for funding. The plan is to shoot my next project in the fall in New Mexico where I am originally from.
Check out the Camouflage the official film trailer:
Written by Samuel Lang of 303 Magazine.
Photos and video courtesy of Project Studios 505.