We had the good fortune of connecting with Scott Monahan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Scott, how do you think about risk?
The higher the risk the higher the reward. While this is a very common saying it’s not always true. I’ve been taking risks my entire life and have become very comfortable with dancing on the blade of a knife and something I have learned is that taking a risk doesn’t always mean diving in blindly, although, let’s be honest, it’s a hell of a lot more fun.
The risk I want to tell you about is how I decided to direct my first feature film, fund it myself, and shoot the whole damn thing chronologically over five days. The movie is called Anchorage. Here’s the short synopsis for the movie. Two brothers attempt to drive a trunk full of opioids from Florida to Alaska to cash in big in the Land of Gold. A split-second act of violence somewhere in the California desert derails their trip and sets them on a crash course with tragedy.
For those of you not in the filmmaking industry the return on investment for an independent feature is already high risk, let alone if it’s coming from an unknown director and two no-name actors that nobody has ever heard of. However, I felt like by funding it myself the film can be a direct reflection of my vision, raw, and unfiltered. Sure, I had to max out a couple of credit cards, use my life savings, sell some family jewelry, and do a crowdfunding campaign, but hey no risk no reward right?
It’s not hard to see the similarities between my relationship with risk and the story of the first feature film I decided to direct. My co-creator Dakota Loesch and I are cut from the same cloth, and like the brothers Jacob and John in the movie, we were ready to take a big risk to cash in big in our own land of gold. Hollywood. The land of the movie stars.
If someone had told me each and every little thing I would have to do to get this movie out to the world, I might not have done it. So I broke it down and took it one step at a time. Can I act and direct at the same time? Can I shoot a film in 5 days? Can I handle the financial responsibility if I never see a dime from this movie? Sure, let’s go for it. Then I moved to the next step, and the next, and the next. Next thing you know, you’ve got a real movie, Jack. We’ve got some huge festival news we can’t share just yet but our risk is finally paying off and this year is shaping up to be an absolute home run for us. Keep tabs on us on social @anchoragemovie to see what I mean.
Something that I have been working on my entire creative career is balancing the business and the art, the money, and the craft, and the life from the work. Each one is interconnected in a tangled web and by focusing on one you can forget about the others. It’s easy to think of reward purely with a financial mindset. But, what I have learned about filmmaking is that it is so much more than that. Movies are eternal. They are a snapshot of a unified vision and a collective effort of translating that vision. They form a life of their own after they are released into the world. They will outlive you and your kids and possibly even your kid’s kids if we haven’t destroyed the planet and relocated to Mars by then.
And, who knows, maybe some cyberpunk kid hardwires the microchip in their brain to an archive of movies and they stumble across a vintage digital edition of Anchorage to watch as they take their protein pills and fly away from planet earth. In that case, I can only hope that they are moved, that they feel something, and that maybe, they get a glimpse of the heart and soul that was put into the movie and the people that made it. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be taking this risk again because the reward is greater than I ever could have imagined.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
In the past couple of years, I have been very busy. I took some time away from the path that is laid out before every actor when they get to this town. Which is: book a commercial agent, do some student films, build a reel, take some workshops, go to UCB, get repped, get a co-star …. somehow this path ends up with you becoming a character in a Marvel movie. Ask any actor in this town and they will tell you that someone probably told them the same thing. For me I found it to be too prescriptive so I was like what if I did everything I’m not supposed to do and just did what I was drawn to do? And, honestly, I’ve never been busier in my life.
I am a company member with Ceaseless Fun which is an immersive theater company. We spend many months collaboratively devising a show, writing, workshopping, exploring different movement practices like Butoh, Viewpoints, dramatic improvisation, contemporary movement, etc. There is not a creative muscle that lies idle during this process. Then once the show opens the fuel is added to the fire which is the audience. This is when the process takes its next form as each night each moment with different audiences and how they react to the piece is different.
When I am not working with this company I have been working through references and referrals through friends in acting work in tv, film, music videos, and commercials. I have a feature film that I worked on with some friends called Eating Cars which is on the festival circuit now. Hell, I even got to do an erotic fetish fashion short with Violet Chachki called The Sissy where I got to explore drag for the first time. Now the rest of this year is about me taking Anchorage on a tour around the world.
I think it’s important to release everyone else’s expectations for you as an artist, reference them, but release them, and follow your own path. I don’t feel like I am living the dream, but rather I feel like I am living mine.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Let me give you my post-Covid19 fantasy I’ve been dreaming up for over a year now. This is a 24-hour itinerary and my recommendation is that this should be done alone. Really spend some time with yourself alone in the world.
I head to the WiSpa around 5 pm. (a 24hr Korean bathhouse/Spa/Restaurant) Shower, shave, steam, soak, and then book a body scrub. I then put on the Wi Spa uniform and head upstairs to eat their Rice Cake Soup. I’ll spend the night here rotating from hot saunas to cold plunges, Himalayan salt saunas to steam rooms, on an endless cycle, finally sleeping on hot jade tiles until the morning.
Then it’s straight to Cafe Tropical for a breakfast croissant with bacon, egg, and avocado, and a black iced coffee.
Next up is The Arclight Hollywood. (RIP this was written before they closed) Watch movies all day, maybe breaking for food, a beer in between films, and watching every title I can until they close.
Then I head straight to Bar Stella in Silverlake, where I’ll sit on the patio and drink cocktails and smoke cigarettes until the bar closes.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to Shoutout a few of the women who made Anchorage the movie that it is because without them it would not even be a glimmer of what it has become.
Meredith Treinen (Associate Director)
Not only is she an Associate Director of Production at NVE and experiential agency full-time, but she also directs and produces her own theater, and took the time to work on Anchorage as an associate director. She has been involved in every stage of the process of this movie from the first script to the final product. I don’t know how she is able to juggle it all while remaining one of the kindest humans I know.
Erin Naifeh (Cinematographer)
We were lucky to have met Erin by chance of her coming to see Meredith Treinen’s immersive show Grief. From the first moment we met to talk about her shooting Anchorage, I just knew she was the right person for the job. She is a magician with the camera and is soon to be a household name. She is an artist and her self-portrait work in photography is introspective, creative, and just plain stunning. Working with Erin on Anchorage was a dream, and now I can’t even imagine filming without her.
Savannah Wheeler (Composer)
Savannah was one of the first people I met in Los Angeles. She had always talked about making music, shared her music with me, and we have stayed connected over the past 8 years. When it came to making this movie, her name was the first on my list and it was the perfect reunion to be able to meet each other as the people we have become. She writes her own music, works in movies, designs, and creates music for immersive experiences, I mean, I just don’t think there is anything that she can’t do.
Gia Rigoli (Producer)
I was recommended by a friend of mine that Gia was the perfect producer for this movie and boy were they right. Gia was selected as a 2019 Berlinale Talents participant, a 2019 Project Involve Producing fellow where she was awarded the Sony Pictures Entertainment Fellowship. She is currently co-producing her first Virtual Reality Interactive experience, Frontera, which was selected to participate in the 2019 Biennale College Cinema VR and Venice Production Bridge. She is an inspiration and has so many things in the works. I can only see success in her future.
Kaitlyn Battistelli (Colorist)
COLOR COLOR COLOR. Kaitlyn Battistelli is THE colorist in Los Angeles. You have probably been admiring her work for years and no idea who was behind the curtain. I had never worked in a color session on a film before, and seeing the magic she is able to create, and how effortlessly she is able to paint emotion and feeling into a moving image is pure witchcraft.
Other: Follow Scott Monahan: Instagram @chipsahoyjunkie Website: www.scottjmonahan.com
Production Still from Anchorage Cinematography by Erin Naifeh Copyright Anchorage Movie LLC 2021