Convergence is the latest film from American filmmaker Drew Hall, whose previous credits include Sons of Liberty and The Phoenix Rises. This latest film, of which Drew was involved as both writer and director, is an intense supernatural thriller. The film focuses on a detective who fights to redeem his soul when he becomes trapped in a hospital that serves as a gateway between heaven and hell. Starring Clayne Crawford (Rectify) and Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait), check out the trailer below.
The trailer for Convergence definitely has a lot going on. It’s action-packed but also has this horror film vibe, even some religious imagery. Suffice to say, it doesn’t seem easily categorized. How would you best describe the film to the uninitiated? What can they expect?
I would honestly go into watching it as a psychological thriller or supernatural thriller. There are some horror elements. I tried very hard not to categorize it as a horror film. It does have some horror elements in it for sure, but if you approach it as a psychological thriller you will have a much better experience than if you approached it just assuming it’s a horror film. We all have expectations in today’s day in age. The easiest, best way to approach the film is to read nothing, because there are spoilers out now. Read as little as you can, just sit down and watch the movie and commit to it. Because it’s something different. It’s not a normal movie by any means.
You have both writing and directing credits for this film. Does working as both writer and director offer you more freedom during production? For you personally is there any added pressure working in both important roles?
Here’s the thing with Convergence specifically, I got very fortunate with someone believing in me and I wanted to make a film that was in many ways a combination of many styles put together. I think I kind of had to write it because it’s such a complex film and narrative. Also, I’ve directed before, so they let me jump in the directing seat. I would say I didn’t have as much pressure, as much as I had a lot of freedom because it’s an extremely risky proposition, what we try to put together as filmmakers. We try to make something, as you said can be summed up in one commercial button “horror”, but we tried to make something that fit into multiple different categories because it tells a unique story in an interesting, unique universe.
What was your inspiration behind Convergence? How did the story come together?
The film got triggered when, unfortunately, a friend of mine lost his battle with cancer and so it started as a kind of catharsis. The character’s name is Ben Wald, which is the same name as my friend who passed away. There are two different kinds of people, the Ben that I know is not like the Ben in the movie. The Ben that I know was a super laid-back, chill guy. But then in the movie he’s a little more aggressive. He’s a cool cop, action hero-type. The investors, the people who got behind the movie initially wanted me to do a thriller or horror film, so I reached into my own history and the stuff that scared me was these religious cults that were operating near where I grew up. They were really big on anti-abortion and would go in and bomb places or commit these really heinous crimes in the name of God. That always terrified me because that’s not what I believe. The God I believe in is a pretty nice guy and not vindictive and wouldn’t go down this path. So I used that, and it just kind of started flowing. The real trigger of all triggers was when I forgot my glasses one day, and that set in motion these three different elements: losing my glasses, Ben dying, and my history. Once they all kind of clicked it just worked itself into the story. As far as visuals go, as far as movies go, The Shining is the scariest movie ever to me. The space in The Shining was so scary: I don’t know where he’s going, I don’t know where I’m going, the fact that the geography doesn’t make sense; it’s disorienting. That and In the Mouth of Madness were the two that put my over the edge.
You’ve said in previous interviews that you’re not a fan of most conventional horror. Does Convergence represent your idea of an atypical horror film, or does it play off of audience expectations towards traditional horror?
Sometimes we set things up where you believe you know where it’s going to go and audiences are smart. They’re way more sophisticated than they were 10-15 years ago even. I think cinema-language wise we played the audience a little bit, we played with them, and definitely played into the conventional thriller- horror technique and suddenly flipped everything around the 80 minute mark. This film has a very weird turn, it has a very big twist, which unfortunately has been spoiled a lot. But when it takes that turn it goes in a complete different direction and creates a whole new world. Literally a whole new world for the audience to experience, but is buttoned up at the same time. You don’t want to go so unconventional that you don’t tell the story. So everything buttons up where you thought there was these threads hanging, everything closes up very nice, tight and clean.
The trailer depicts a lot of violence. What type of horror elements does Convergence contain? Is it a more visceral experience, or are there psychological elements lurking inside?
There’s both. There’s two rather graphic, to me, gore sequences that aren’t just superfluous gore. They’re there for a reason, they motivate actions. It’s the distinction between action and violence in a movie. Violence in a movie, to me, is when there’s an emotional impact to it, action is more when the good guy dodges every bullet in the world, right? So there’s two scenes of that. Everything else falls in line with, there’s a taste of supernatural in the film and the paranormal, and there’s a tremendous amount of psychological, when you start touching on religion and other aspects. I tried to not make it preachy but more psychological than anything else.
It is apparent that there is much more going on than meets the eye in Convergence. Part of the fun of having a secret is determining how to reveal it to the audience so that it has the biggest impact. Is this an important aspect of this film? How did you approach the reveal?
It’s interesting, it’s polarizing right now. Some people totally click and they didn’t see it coming and get excited by the idea of something new they’ve never seen, whereas others are frustrated and angry I guess, maybe they just didn’t like the movie, but if they mention the twist or big reveal they are often irritated by it. For me, I had to make a commitment to this idea that at this certain point in the film we’re going to do something very non-conventional, it’s what independent films should do. It should push the boundaries. If I am making the exact same movies as everyone else as an indie guy, I’m not really contributing much to cinema. So if we try something different, and slightly conform into the normal expectation of a film, but then suddenly we break these expectations, that’s the point of independents. That’s where we should embrace the fact that we are pushing boundaries in a different directions.
Music and special effects are important parts of a psychological film such as this one. How did you approach these areas of production to enhance the end product?
The music is composed primarily by Page Hamilton, who is a guitar guy and rock and roller from a band really popular in the 90s called Helmet. Working with him was Patrick Kirst, and Patrick is a professor of music at USC. These guys got together, and I’ve worked with them several times now, but they got together and really crafted this score that to me has a call-back to a little more classic cinema. So much so that somehow we came in under budget and got to record with a live orchestra for the film in the US and in Seattle. There’s this really nice big swell of “big movie music,” what we kept gleefully calling it. Page and Patrick’s approach to the music was a very sound design feel, but there’s also a lot of just really great, quiet moments of beautiful violins. We put the orchestra in place to accentuate those pieces we really wanted to turn. Then with the visual effects, my partner and I, our company is called Frame 29 Films, and my partner works for Weta, which is down in New Zealand and did Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. So he had a really cool background in visual effects. We started talking about the effects and we decided to go through and build this somewhat practical approach to doing the effects. We would rehearse the scenes with an actor in a black suit, who would let me at least adjust the other actor’s performances who would eventually be on camera. I would adjust them to whatever I had him or her do, and then we would go back and shoot a clean plate version of the actor against nothing and do composites and plug in the effects. So our effects are really good because it comes from the very experienced visual effects people from around the world.
Were there any new challenges you faced during the production of this film that you hadn’t encountered before? What lessons have you learned from past projects and put into practice for this one?
I don’t want to sound rude about it but no! I got really blessed. Convergence is my fourth film, and I’ve gone through the really terrible process of hard indie filmmaking, working for someone else basically, I was a hired hand. So I experienced a lot of stuff: crew or cast getting sick, and having to reschedule or reshoot, rewrite the whole script on one movie, just chaos. On Convergence we were really blessed. I would say, just on personal point of view, we were really blessed from a spiritual level, every time we came across an insane problem it ended up benefitting us and benefitting the film. So the best example, one day we were supposed to film this introduction of this character called The Brut, and we shot the back half of the scene first because the lights we were supposed to have were running behind, and so we shot his scene first. Something else went wrong and the lights weren’t going to make it until the next day and the actor playing the Brut had a hard out, meaning he had to leave the next day so we had to rewrite the scene, which now, for most people, is their favorite scene in the movie. So something really bad happened and it turned into something really great.
What’s next for you?
We have a film, another supernatural thriller, called Black Eyed Kids, based on an urban legend, fairly popular on the internet, getting that together to hopefully shoot this year. I have another bigger project that’s between myself and Horst, the other gentleman who is part of Frame 29. We have a project called Aether, which is a really massive, epic science fiction film, and we just recently shot a proof of concept for it. We have a really cool crew for it too–really cool science fiction guys. You can view that stuff at www.aetherprologue.com and you can see some really cool stuff we’re doing.
You can learn more about Frame 29 Films at www.frame29films.com.