An Interview with Pascal Payant – By Misty Layne

Several months back, I reviewed Pascal Payant’s short film “On the Horizon” and absolutely loved it. It’s been awhile but Pascal is back and I’m here to discuss with him his recently finished feature of “On the Horizon”, his work process and so much more!

ML: Hi Pascal! It’s been awhile. When last we spoke, you had, I believe, just finished up your short film “On the Horizon”. Now, here we are again but this time “On the Horizon” is now a feature film – and your first feature film at that. Out of all the shorts you’ve done, why did you choose “On the Horizon” for your first feature? What was it about the story that begged to be taken further than the constraints of a short film?

PP: My pleasure. For over 2 years, I’ve been trying to get funding for my first feature film called Dark Days and Night. My investor fell through so I was like, “It’s been a while since I’ve shot anything. I want to get back out there and shoot something quick just to wet my feet again.” So much energy was put into this investor’s dealing that I missed shooting so much. So I decided to go to L.A and shoot that short. When the short was over, I had an idea. Is it possible to take my original script and rewrite it in a way so that I can make it for way cheaper? Using the story element of this short and after shooting “On the Horizon”, that’s what I did. I decided to take my script, Dark Days and Night, and rewrite the whole thing. While keeping some elements, I wrote a new version called On The Horizon. There were something so liberating, free about the short film when I was in the desert shooting it with actress Jolene Kay. I wanted to reshape my story to bring the same vibe I had while shooting. So now the feature film is called On The Horizon.

ML: Which format do you prefer – short film or feature?

PP: They are both fun to do. Of course the feature film is more rewarding in a way that people will see that way more then a short. It’s where you make your name for yourself. You enter into the big league in a way. It demands way more preparation and years of work. Compared to short film it’s a 1-2 day process and that’s it. The short film On The Horizon was shot in 3hours just to give you an idea. The big difference for me is that short film is still the best way to find yourself as an artist – to practice, to test new gears, new techniques, etc. Once you feel that you’ve had all of this, then you can attach bigger projects like a feature film. At least that’s my view on it. Even if now I’m doing a feature film, I know that in the future I’ll go back to short – just for the kick of creating, having an idea that doesn’t fit as a feature film but maybe as a short. You go, you create, you show to the world and you move on to the next project.

ML: The original version of “On the Horizon” was the story of two women, correct? But the feature film version is of a man and a woman? Why the change?

PP: I wrote a version with 2 woman being in love, then I did something in the script that was just too artistic for no reason. I thought it was cool but realized I was wrong. It was just too complex for no reason. Simplicity is always the best solution. When it feels too complex and pretentious you feel it and it’s a sign for you to step back and rethink the story you are trying to tell. So I took an outside look and decided to rewrite it as a man and a woman. It was the best decision cause my casting for Casey ( the male lead) Tyler Johnson was the perfect vision of what I’ve imagined.

ML: You partly shot the film in France, specifically a scene (scenes?) in a castle. Is the castle the only place you shot in France? Did you go there just for that location? If so, what was so special about that location that it had to make an appearance in your film?

PP: I’m from Montreal. I’ve always been influenced by European movies. In the feature film, I’ve tried to create something bold and different. Most of the film is shot in Utah, in Salt Lake City and south of Utah. Every decision I made about the story or visual symbolism needed to have a meaning. The castle in France is crucial because the female lead – she’s always in a state of fairytale, everything needs to be in a big and grandiose kinda way. So that’s mainly the reason of the castle. You can’t get truer to the point than this. We shot in Angers downtown and at the Chateau de Challain. It was splendid. The France cast was just a dream to work with especially Mickael Delis. He will steal the film.

ML:  I know you’re also a fan of shooting in wide open spaces, places of great natural beauty. What outdoor locations did you use in this film and how did you use their beauty in your film? Simply as a backdrop or as almost another character or something entirely different?

PP: I’ll say that 60% of the film is shot outside. We shot in various of places. That’s why I said it’s a ambitious film. We shot in France, Salt Lake City, Bonneville Flats, Zion National Park and 2 more parks nearby. A very secluded waterfall that took us 1 hour on a dirt road with a mini van to get there. It’s all part of various elements – first, a visual story but after that each place is a character in the film to support the mentality of the story or the leads. I don’t shoot or select locations cause it looks cool. It needs to have a meaning behind all of this.

ML: The 2 leads of “On the Horizon” are Tyler Johnson and Sandy Leddin. How did you go about finding your leads for this film? Did you have an open casting call or use actors you’d previously used before? How hard was it to find the perfect actors to portray your characters?

PP: It was a long process. It took me almost 8 months to find 13 actors. One thing for sure is that you need to be patient. People will drop and drop and drop on you. You need to be ready to turn back quickly and find a Plan B. I had my lead for 5 months then I let him go because he didn’t support the vision I was creating. I did an open casting in L.A. Everything was done via submission email and videos. It was pretty insane. It was my first real casting so I received more then 50,000 submissions. Tyler came out out of the blue. I saw him, we talked and I said, “This is my guy.” Most of the actors are people that I knew before or tried working with but didn’t have the right project for them. Like Jade Harlow, we’ve been trying for 3 years to make it work but now it was the right time. Same for Jessica Morris and the amazing talented Kristen Kerr (David Lynch’s, Inland Empire) with whom I’ve been in talks for 6 years. Brian Watson was an actor I’ve worked twice before. I always love his craziness so I brought it back. Another newcomer, Alex Lundqvist, was such a gem to work with. My female lead, Sandy Leddin, had the perfect vibe and look for Elissa. I really tested her to make sure she was right for it. She brought Elissa to life and made what I had envisioned for her. The casting in France was different. I searched online, on agency sites and found the right people. I had a special cameo from Emmanuel Curtil. He’s a big deal down there. He’s doing voice over of Mike Myers, Jim Carrey and more. Overall, I’m very pleased with my casting and everything happens for a reason. The right people will click with you and it will make sense.

ML: Something you’re known for is financing your own films with or without the help of outside investors and shoots each and every scene with or without the help of a professional crew. Is that how you operated with this film as well or were you able to get more outside help considering the “‘feature film” status? How hard was it to film a feature like this with such a limited amount of cast and crew? How exactly did that work for you? I know in projects of my own, I’ve been in the same situation and the result has been the cast also playing the part of the crew and pulling double duty – did that happen here?

PP: That was my main question. Is it something that can be done – bringing my work style into a feature film? After revising the script to have a smaller budget, it was easier to find an investor. I’ve been very lucky to have that person on board. He’s been more then supportive. He loved my work and believed in me. So yeah, I did the whole shoot alone with my sound man Olivier Houde and my actors. That was the crew. Me and Olivier were on head for everything. We helped each other on both departments of our work. I had a sponsor for the camera. It was shot on the Red Dragon 6k. So, overall to make something great, of course you need help. But to make an actual film? Yeah, you can do it almost alone. We did it and the visual looks amazing. The advantage is that we can go very fast and shoot a lot of stuff but the downside is that it’s more demanding on everyone involve cause everyone is helping. Fatigue can arrive rapidly cause of that. Every one helped and it was a family vibe to it. You have no choice to be close. It’s a  different approach to filmmaking, but when the trust is established you can achieve anything. Now that I broke the ice on this one, I know what to do to be better. I’ve learned like crazy on On the Horizon. I’ve made mistakes. It’s the same as a short. The more you do it, the more you’ll learn. I have a list of what to do better. Overall it went well. For having that many locations we had very few problem. Sometimes problems becomes positives and made the scene even better. You have to be prepared to capture it and not freak out.

ML: You mentioned in an earlier conversation we had before this interview that you had a wide variety of vehicles in the film, as well, such as bikes and old cars. What specific vehicles did you have and what importance do these pieces bring to the film? Or was it just that you were able to find some wicked sweet cars?

PP: There’s a company in Salk Lake City called Knuckle Bashers. The owner, Ryan Border, really helped and went beyond. He rebuilt a car for us, the Grand National 87. That was the main car in the film. We used his shop and team. He brought muscle and exotic cars for different scenes. Ryan was like an extended crew member. He used his contacts to get us an amazing 2015 Ducati Diavel. Also for a scene in Bonneville Flats, we had a 1965 Triumph Tiger. He just brought something unique to the film.

ML: You also direct music videos and, as such, have become friends with several musicians and bands – some of whom are lending their talents to the soundtrack for “On the Horizon”. Who can we expect to see on the soundtrack? How will the soundtrack fit into the overall scheme of the film?

PP: Like always my music choice is very crucial. Music can destroy or make a film. It will be the kinda same moody vibe ambiance tone like in my short, On the Horizon. I got a bunch of amazing bands and artist coming to help with the soundtrack. Silver Swans, Heinali, Principe Valiente and more. I want the film to be filled with music that is subtle and justified to emotion. When it’s forced, it means it doesn’t work. When the image and sound blend together flawlessly, that’s where you know it’s working. It’s a delicate process.

ML: What’s next for “On the Horizon”? Are you having a general release next year? Are you running the festival circuit? What are you future plans for the film?

PP: The release date should be in June 2015. I’m in the editing process right now. Once the film is done, I’m hitting all the festivals, I’ll do the promotions and touring with the film and then sell it online on VOD like Vimeo on Demand, VHX and more. I truly believe the Net is the future for indie film. I love having the possibility to watch it when you want, where you want, without being distracted by other people around you. I’ve going against the waves here but I don’t know, I always preferred watching a film alone without any noise or distraction.

ML: What’s up for you next? Will you continue making short films and music videos or do you think that now that you’ve been “bitten by the feature bug”, as they say, you’ll stick with the longer format? What can we expect to see from you in the future?

PP: I love creating and I think it will depend on the timing for short film. If I have an idea that I want to do now, then I’ll just go shoot it. I’m already planning another feature film called FYR. I hope to be shooting it in 2016 after On The Horizon.

You can keep up with Pascal on his official Facebook fan page here:

You can also check out the On the Horizon Facebook page here: