LANCE WEILER by Owen Keehnen

  How did the idea for the film HEAD TRAUMA come about?

The concept for HEAD TRAUMA stems from two unrelated events in my life. The first was a head on collision that left me in intensive care and erased a number of days from my memory in 1994. The second seems a little more abstract in its connection to HEAD TRAUMA but nonetheless is very important. For a little over two years I worked to get a TV show that I co-created off the ground with a major network. We eventually got to shoot a pilot, which tested well, but never got picked up. Soon we found ourselves in development hell. The process reminded me of the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. So I decided to incorporate the five stages of grief into the script for HEAD TRAUMA. They provide the backbone to the story, which plays out over five days. Each day represents a different stage of grief.

Do you have a favorite scene from the film?

I have a couple favorite scenes for different reasons. The ring of fire scene is exactly the way I envisioned it. I really enjoyed shooting the scene where we blew up the car and also when the house was knocked down. It’s hard to find a favorite. But I also love the run through the cemetery – its funny a lot of people have thought that was a steadicam shot but it is just a car with the DP shooting out an open window and me driving. Poor Vince (George Walker) had to run so many times and the sun was setting. We didn’t have permits and we were trying to steal the shot. In the end we nailed it just as we lost the light.

One of the strongest things about the movie is its ability to sustain an unsettling mood. As a director do you have any secret for achieving that?

I was trying to keep things off balance and in the process I wanted to create a sense of tension. The films that effect me the most tend to be the ones that take their time and build an atmosphere. You want to create a balance between story, character, tension and full out scares. What you think on set is often challenged in the various parts of post. The advice I’d give is the chill factor. Does it give you chills when you write it, at times when your shooting it, during the editing and when its married to sound design and music? If you hit any number of the above you might just end up scaring someone.

So how can our readers check out the movie. I know you played Sundance and Cannes...but are there any pending plans for a DVD release?

The movie actually played the LA Film Festival and a couple other festivals in Europe, Asia and South America. HEAD TRAUMA had a 17 city theatrical release late last year. The movie is currently available on DVD in the US and Canada. It can be purchased online and also in retail outlets. For more info visit In addition I’m doing a number of special screenings across the country and in Europe this summer. The screenings are what we call a Cinema ARG (alternate reality game) they are a mashup of movies, music, gaming and theatrics. The movie is scored live, characters emerge from the audience and viewers can interact with the movie by using their mobile phones. The next screening is in NYC on July 14th, then the movie will travel to LA, San Francisco, and Europe.

Is there are specific reason for the 8 year gap between this and your first film the acclaimed
'The Last Broadcast'?

I was working on a TV show that I created for FOX, started a tech company and was directing commercials and music videos. When the TV show fell apart after shooting a pilot I took the frustration of the process and started writing HEAD TRAUMA.

How do you think you grew as a filmmaker between your first effort and the second?

In so many ways. I’ve found a confidence in my work and my voice as a writer and director. I’m more comfortable with the business side. Plus most importantly, I’ve slowed down to enjoy the whole experience. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet that I can do what I love to do for a living. And I’m happy to say that the same obession to make movies is still there. Like it was when I first picked up my first camera at the age of 16.

And as a filmmaker who or what have been your biggest influences?

The biggest influence to my work are my own life experiences. Drowning at the age of 10 and being ressecitated. Losing everything we owned in a house fire when I was 14, hiking the Appalacian trail, living out of my car, hitch hiking through out the United States and South America and almost dying in a head on collision with a garbage truck. Outside of life experiences. I’m a fan of narrative, doc and experimental films. Stan Brackage, Roman Polanski and Fredrick Wiseman have had an impact on me. Music is also is a large influence from jazz like Sun Ra and Rashid Rollin Kirk to bands like Can, the Minute Men, the Clash, the Rolling Stones and many many more.

You're also currently working on a book, 'Putting the Mass Back in Media'. What's the general thrust of the work?

The book is part of a free resource that I’ve started for filmmakers called workbook – The book is about changes in media creation, distribution and consumption. It is meant to bridge the gap between tech and filmmaking.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to let the readers know about?

I’m working on two dark and twisted flicks. Both are based on events in my own life mixed with fiction. Similar to how HEAD TRAUMA dealt with my own head on collision with a garbage truck that left me plagued by vicious nightmares, these new works draw from some of the darker experiences in my life.

'Wired' magazine named you as "one of the 25 people helping to reinvent entertainment and change the face of Hollywood". If you could reinvent Hollywood instantaneously through some magical means what would be some things you would change about it?

That content creators would see a fair share for the work that they’ve made. A reduction in sequels and remakes. And a focus on stronger stories, characters and writing.

Okay, we're pulling the car into the Lance Weiler Drive In. What three horror movies will you show on the triple bill for the night and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

1. the tingler – gotta love the first LSD trip on film

2. the exorcist – because I saw it when I was 11 and it still freaks me out

3. If it’s cool I’d like to hold this space for my next dark and twisted flick.

The concession stand – full bar PLUS all the regular concession fare.

What scares you in real life?

Not too much