INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN SCOTT LAWRENCE
Writer/Director of Take Me To The Stars
This week we're highlighting a film that is premiering this Friday, April 10th at 9/8c on VIDI.SPACE and that was showcased at VSFF 2020. Take Me To The Stars is a short film about a disabled boy struggling with a heartbreaking loss, further challenged by his alcoholic father. I had the chance to interview Justin about his inspiration behind the film, what it was like working with a child actor, and what we can expect from him next. - AR, Editor
”I really wanted to show how horrible it can feel as a kid to deal with grief and trauma. “Take Me to the Stars” came in part to my own personal experience of being a child and dealing with loss. - Justin Scott Lawrence
What inspired you to create Take Me to the Stars? The film has so many “currents” running through it. Life, death, disability, space, grief, trauma…. There’s so much there. Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the film?
When I wrote this film, I really wanted to show how horrible it can feel as a kid to deal with grief and trauma. “Take Me to the Stars” came in part to my own personal experience of being a child and dealing with loss. Although I didn’t lose my mother to a car accident, like Carl did, I felt like I lost my dad when my parents went through a divorce. He moved out of the house, we saw him very rarely, and this was very hard for me and my siblings to deal with. It felt sometimes as though he had died. There was a massive part of me that died when he left. I felt paralyzed, I had very vivid dreams and nightmares, I would sometimes “space out”, staring at the space posters on my wall for hours at a time, playing video games, disappearing into a good science fiction book – all things I could do to forget what was really happening in my life at that moment. My imagination would run wild with almost anything. I just didn’t understand at the time that I was actually just going through stress and depression as a kid. I didn’t know how to deal with it. This film isn’t just about the main character, Carl, it’s also about his father, and the depression, isolation, and guilt that he feels because of also coping with the loss of mom. His dad is bordering on becoming an alcoholic, becomes very distant from his son, and forgets things like what day it is. And because of the age difference between dad and Carl, it makes it harder for them to bond, heal, or really talk things out. I believe that most viewers of the film just want to see the two of them work things out. This need to connect to our parents is a large part of what inspired me to tell this story.
Also, we usually didn’t ask Paul for more than three takes. I usually got what I wanted from his performance on the second take but would do a third take occasionally just for good measure and to see if there were any more surprise moments in his performance. It also really helped having two highly trained adult actors playing his parents. Vip Paruthi who played Dad and Meltem Tugal who played Mom, would rehearse and bond with Paul him before each scene. They were crucial in helping him become more comfortable with them, which in turn, made him more natural acting on camera.
I recently executive produced a short film called “Su Promesa”. This film is about the horrors of being a child bride in a third world country, marrying a man out of arrangement and need. Su Promesa also explore themes of LGBTQ suppression, domestic violence, and immigration. We just wrapped on post-production and are looking to get it into the film circuit within the next few months. It was written and directed by my good friend Rafael Soto, and we completely shot it in Spanish.
I’m also working on a coming of age, feature length drama/comedy film about clogging, and the lifelong friendships and memories that the dance world can create. I used to be a competition clogger as a kid, so I really want to open up that world by making a film about it.
“Take Me to the Stars” is ready to go to the next phase, as I want to turn it into a feature. In the feature, adult Carl will actually go to space, and explore the galaxy to find the peace he deserves from losing his mother back on Earth. I would explore the same themes of loss and spirituality, but am hoping to expand more upon space travel, where we’re going, and why we’re here. I’m still in the development phase, but plan to have the script finished by the end of this year.