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Interview: Take a Look Inside Some of the Creative Minds Behind 'The Dark Age'

November 11, 2018

Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

'The Dark Age' is a short film that picks up seven years after a catastrophic solar storm destroys the global power grid, plunging humanity into darkness. It follows two women from a survival colony as they track down an electronic signal they've discovered. The electronic signal eventually leads them to a deranged loner who will stop at nothing to protect his mysterious power supply. It's a gritty thriller that examines our addiction to power and confronts the real life consequences.

 

 

Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

Alright. So we have Jonah Schwartz and Jeremy Dash here from their mysterious, yet thrilling movie called, ‘The Dark Age’. Can you guys let us know your roles in the making of the movie and what kind of team you guys were working with on this project?

 

(Jeremy)
First and foremost, thanks for having us. It’s a pleasure. Jonah and I have literally known each other since the third grade, along with our other partner on this project, Brian Trichon. Jonah is our Director, Brian is our writer, and I’m one of the lead actors in the film. Collectively, we have been creating together literally since we were kids. We’ve each grown to have careers in our selective crafts. Brian as a writer over at the Paramount Network, Jonah as a director, and myself as an actor. The timing was right for us to form Voltron once again. This time, as adults with experience in the game. And so birthed our creation, The Dark Age.

 

(Jonah)
I would be the Director of the film, as well as co-executive producer alongside my good friends and collaborators, Jeremy Dash and Brian Trichon. We produced the film, created the concept, and created the story from scratch together. It’s been a very collaborative effort. Brian wrote the screenplay and Jeremy plays one of the lead roles in the film.

 

Have you guys ever collaborated on a project of this size before or is this the first?

 

(Jeremy)
Absolutely. We are each strong where the other is weak and together, we were really able to create a solid film. The best part is that every single person that worked on this project was hand picked by us...all talented friends from the production assistants to the director of photography. There is no better feeling than working with people you genuinely enjoy being around.

 

(Jonah)
Yes. We all have different skill sets and backgrounds in the industry. We combined our various talents to really form like Voltron and create a film making machine. Jeremy was acting in my first short film that I made in high school back in 1998. He starred in my final thesis film at film school around 2002. A few years later, we worked with Brian as a screenwriter/ producer and another friend of ours on a feature film project where I played the role of cinematographer. Since then, we’ve all kind of ventured down our own separate paths in the industry until recently. But we’ve all been good friends since elementary school.

 

(Jeremy)
Yes! Reunited and it feels so gooood... (yeah I just sang that)... Real quick. I'd like to share something. I’ve literally been a fan of Jonah’s art since we were in the 3rd grade. I’ve told these stories before. I’ve always enjoyed watching him draw and create. I ALWAYS knew in my gut that one day we would all be doing this for a living. We have a lot of creativity to share with this world and now is the time for us to do it!

 

 

 

Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

[Laughs] It’s always the bonds that have been built since childhood that synergize and create the strongest, most passionate art. The most important part is that you guys are obviously and most certainly enjoying every second of the process for making this dope movie.

 

Was the idea of ‘The Dark Age’ influenced by anything that draws from your childhoods or anything from your paths that led you here now?

 

(Jeremy)
Man, if Brian were here, I know he’d have a great response to this question. But, he’s probably changing his second baby girl's diaper at this moment. [Laughs] She was literally just born a few weeks ago! And I know Jonah has his reasons. For me personally, I was just extremely excited to have the opportunity to play a role unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I’m always either kicking someone’s ass or getting my ass kicked on television or film. For me, it was awesome to have the opportunity to flex a completely different side of my abilities and craft the character Isaac. He’s nothing like any character I’ve ever crafted before. He’s a loner, socially awkward, an introvert, he has a twitch, and he’s out of touch. It was both challenging and rewarding bringing him to life and I loved every minute of it.

 

(Jonah)
I can say that there are many aspects of the film that have been influenced from my childhood. The most obvious would be my film watching experiences as a kid. I have been obsessed with watching films of all kinds since a very young age. I have a love for all genres. But I always feel the ones that stood out the most for me are the Science Fiction and Adventure films of my youth growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. Some were deep and thought provoking, some were just campy and fun. But they have all left a mark on my subconscious in some way. My father was always a big Science Fiction fan. He would introduce me to all kinds of Films and TV shows from the past that I would have had no knowledge of without him. I think I have always been drawn to using the imagination to create an alternate reality. When I was a child I used to love to squint my eyes to narrow my vision and try and trick my mind into thinking I was in another place. Like sitting in a park but blocking my view of people and cars where I could imagine maybe it was 100 years in the past or in the future. I wanted to capture some of that feeling from these films and emotions of my past and bottle it up into this film right here.

 

Well congrats to Brian on his newborn! The team here at PAZ wishes the best for Brian and his family!

 

Jonah, that’s a very interesting way of trying to narrow and broaden (no pun intended) [Laughs] your perspective and let your mind fill in the blanks with pure and unfiltered creativity. How do you continue to vitalize that creative mindset now, after growing up and dealing with the industry and other facets of adult life which seems to inundate and slowly nullify that source of creativity?

 

(Jonah)
Oh yeah. Life gets real some times and over the years, it definitely weighs down on that part of the brain. I think for me, I just have very vivid memories of the past. My mind is very visually oriented. Whenever I need to find that creative place, I look back into my memories and I put myself back in my own head as a youth and think about what inspired me at that time. I can see everything very clearly there. That’s always my fallback, but I also feel the people and the world around me today continues to inspire me and fuel that same creativity. There’s inspiration everywhere. Just need to look for it.

 

 

 Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

I’m sure being able to visit those memories so effortlessly makes for a very reliable creative outlet. The other half of that battle is definitely like you said, being in tune with the world around you and picking up every little bit of creativity that you can.

 

Jeremy, do you think that this different role from your typical acting experience is something you may want to pursue further in other projects now that the door is open for it?

 

(Jeremy)
Absolutely! The thing is, as an actor or an actress, we are all going to get type casted in the early stages of our career. That just seems to be the way things work. I’m well aware of how I look and what people may see on the outside, but I have worked very hard through my training over at Maggie Flanigan Studios learning the Meisner Technique to become comfortable in every single side of my emotions and really tap into who I am and what makes me tick. But with that said, since birth I’ve always loved to express myself. I love art. Filmmaking is art, acting is art, style is art, man EXISTING is art if it’s in you. Some humans just have that creative, stylish, and expressive gene in their bodies, some don’t. I firmly believe that. It’s either in you or it’s not. Like Charles Bukowski said: “Ive seen dogs with more style than men...” Charles ain’t lying!

 

For those that don't know, can you explain the Meisner Technique? And how has Maggie Flanigan Studios helped you as far as your acting career?

 

(Jeremy)
Technically, the Meisner Technique is an approach to acting which was developed by American theatre practitioner Sanford Meisner. The focus of the Meisner approach is for the actor to "get out of their head" and behave off of instinct. Through this process, you really learn about different personal “hooks” that can evoke specific emotions in us from rage, to joy, to sadness, and everything in between. It’s intense. The interesting thing is I began my career without any training at all, booking roles here and there simply based on my raw ability. It was recommended by many friends of mine in the business that I go to acting school to really focus on my craft and become an even stronger performer. Boy, am I glad I listened to them. Training at Maggie Flanigan Studios in NYC under the talented Charlie Sandlan truly changed my life and made me that much better. In my heart, I believe this is what I was put on this earth to do.

 

That sounds like a really cool "flow of consciousness" type of technique. I’m sure something like that has a very profound effect on your entire life and not just your career.

 

So. ‘The Dark Age’ focuses on our society’s addiction to power. Is this "addiction to power" a metaphor that is prominent in the movie in regards to control, as well as electricity? And if so, what made you guys want to take a topic that seems so controversial (especially in regards to the youth of our society) and try to maintain a clear cut analytical and psychological approach?

 

(Jeremy)
We didn’t really see it as controversial. The idea that people are addicted to their devices is something extremely prevalent everywhere you go in the world now. Everyone’s face is buried in their phones everywhere you go. We wanted to play on this in a post apocalyptic situation where the only way one of our main characters, Isaac, can connect to society or the memories of anything that feels real is through looking at other people‘s videos from the tablets that he has found along the way. And then when real human beings finally show up, we wanted to show his inability to connect to those people and how he still relies on his devices as a clutch. And yes, it is a metaphor in regards to power as in electricity and power as in control. At various points in the movie, each character has more power over the other at different points and that’s a result of their proximity to taking control of Isaac’s fusion generator which is a real literal power supply!

 

(Jonah)
Yes, there’s definitely a few levels to what’s happening in the film. On the surface, there is this main narrative revolving around a world without power and how these characters in this world cope with their circumstances. But of course, beneath all of that, we also see the relationship of the concept of power (in this case, electricity) and the power of control. Without power, we lose control. Both literally and figuratively. In this film, our characters are looking to find or keep power in order to take control of the world around them and it’s interesting to see how that plays out in the story. On yet another level, there is also a lot of symbolism in the film relating to ideas that are relevant to our society today. The more we become dependent on technology and the more our lives become interwoven with the internet and our devices, the more we seem to lose touch with reality as whole. As a consequence, we lose touch with our humanity. These are general feelings I have about the world everyday. I wanted to express this without being heavy handed or critical, but more as a general observation.

 

 

Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

That’s actually a really dope outlook and play on the whole scenario! It definitely leaves plenty of room for great story telling. It's very obvious that these issues you guys are talking about are seemingly going to be around for a long time and thus, makes a film like this stand the test of time. 

The film also stars another PAZ featured artist, Manni L. Perez. How did Manni fit into this narrative that made you guys want to pursue her for a starring role and what was it like working together?

 

(Jeremy)
Manni is awesome man! Manni and I actually share the same manager, Jenevieve Brewer. When Jenevieve heard that we were casting our film, I gave her the breakdown and she said she had the perfect person for the role of Maya. She sent Manni in for the read and she owned it from the moment she walked into the room! And that’s no BS! I loved working with Manni. We really did vibe off of each other very well and her energy is contentious. We will be friends forever and I look forward to working with her again in the future. For real.

 

(Jonah)
Well, when we started the project, we already had the role of Isaac decided. So we did a casting call for the roles of Val and Maya. Manni showed up for the auditions and blew us all away. We knew we wanted the character of Maya to be really strong and forceful and Manni totally hit the nail on the head. She came out swinging with intensity and passion. She did her research, dove deep down into the character and showed us an impressive range of emotions. I really loved the energy and the rest is history. I couldn’t imagine what this film would have been without her.

 

For sure. It’s great having someone like her who is so versatile and passionate about what she does.

 

Another big eye catcher for the film, to me, was the location/scenery that you guys used for the film. What made you guys collectively decide the perfect setting for this type of movie?

 

(Jeremy)
Letchworth abandoned mental hospital, man oh man! Listen, I don’t really believe in ghosts and spirits and all that hocus-pocus but let me tell you, that place is 100% haunted! It was freaky! What was really special about the location was that it was literally like having a multi-million dollar set at our disposal. There are acres of land with buildings that literally haven’t been touched in decades. And all of the furniture, machines, and even patient files are still there. They are run down and destroyed, but they are still there! There is a definite aura about that place, man! I even accidentally recorded a few unexplainable ghostly like shadows while we were scouting and shooting up there! I’ll show you! I haven’t been up there since our final day of shooting but we are supposed to be heading back up there for a photo shoot tomorrow with you guys so you will see for yourself! It’s freaky, but it truly was the perfect backdrop for the world we were trying to create. The place has a character all of its own.

 

(Jonah)
I knew from the start that I wanted to find a sprawling, abandoned location to base our story in.
We wanted the world of the film to look as realistic as possible, without any special FX. And the only way to achieve that, was to get our hands a little dirty. We had been scouting locations all around the tri-state area for months and months and found many good candidates. But then, one day, we stumbled on the perfect place. It’s called Letchworth Village in upstate, NY. It's about an hour outside the city. It is an abandoned mental institution complex that spans many acres composed of over 50 buildings. No matter where you turn, there are run-down abandoned structures. Some look so bad that you can’t even walk in there without worrying about the whole thing falling on you. It's definitely an apocalyptic looking landscape. In addition to it’s appearance, it’s also scary as hell. And that really adds to the energy in the film. The institution was the site of many human rights atrocities in the old days of mental health care in America. It was eventually shut down after a television expose. The buildings are said to be haunted. I’m not big into ghosts, but after my experiences here, I am starting to question my beliefs. And it’s not just us, the television show, “Ghost Hunters,” has shot episodes at Letchworth as well.

 

Letchworth sounds like it was basically made for this film! [Laughs] We’ll definitely have to do some investigating ourselves and maybe even get an interview with one of these ghosts you guys encountered!

 

(Jeremy)

Do it man! The ghosts won’t be hard to find, I promise you that! They’ll probably find you before you find them!

 

 

 Photo by Roger Richardson

 

 

I’ve got one more question and then I’ll let you guys run. What would you guys say was your favorite part about filming this movie and what was your least favorite part? Also, is it safe to say that we should expect Voltron forming again in the future for some more sensational projects?

 

(Jonah)
My favorite part about this was being able to collaborate with an amazing group of dedicated and talented friends to make a dope film come to life. My least favorite part was how cold it was when we were outside shooting there in the middle of winter. It was definitely painful, but it was all worth it in the end. And yes, Voltron is always ready to assemble at any time. Could be coming soon!

 

(Jeremy)
Personally, my favorite part of creating this film was definitely being able to go to work everyday and be surrounded by talented people that i can also call my friends. Working alongside people that you truly enjoy being around is a blessing in itself. We all worked our asses off on this film, but we also had an awesome time in the process. That’s the end goal for me man; to work alongside my closest friends and share our creative juices with the world. I’ve always believed in us. This has always been a dream of mine. In a sense, this whole experience was a dream come true. The only thing missing was the big pay day. But if we continue to work hard and create on this level, the money will come. This is my career, this is my life! This is our passion man. This is what we love to do! Off the top of my head, I can’t think of my least favorite part of this process to be honest. Of course, like with everything, there were bumps in the road. But we ironed them all out to the best of our abilities. And I was working alongside my closest friends throughout it. So no matter what, in the end, everything was always all good. I think this film is proof that we are ready to create at the top of the food chain. It’s all there. It’s just a matter of time. And I promise you we will not stop until we get to where I know we deserve to be. If it were up to me, we’d already be gearing up for the next one! So yes, I can confidently say we will be forming Voltron again soon. But first, it’s time to share our current project with the world. The Dark Age is here...

 

Watch the full trailer for 'The Dark Age' here.

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