We had the good fortune of connecting with Skyler Lawson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Skyler, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Overcommit and deliver. I live by those words. Risk is present in every component in my work, I almost see it as a collaborator. I feel the real work happens once you’re outside the comfort zone. I like pushing everyone I work with to let go of expectations and let the work speak. That allows an atmosphere to create something fresh, and the audience deserves that. When you get out into the unknown, you have no choice but to trust what the film/story wants to be. Accepting that leads to authenticity which is of top importance in filmmaking. I always tell my cast and crew “If the needle lands in the middle then we made nothing.” Taking risks is the key to making something fresh. I see it that simply. When you’re literally on the edge of failing, and you don’t, I think the audience can feel that energy and they can relate. That might be intangible and abstract but I believe it. I could either sit and enjoy films in the audience, or I could be a part of it. I chose to take part.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I try to evoke an era of filmmaking thats fallen to wayside in the form the American Epic, but bringing those stylings forward with a modern voice. I’m well aware that those films of the past came with a price tag that often isn’t viable for the powers that be, but I’m talking about more than physical scale. Transporting the audience is top priority. Immersion. Letting the real world get behind you for a couple hours is a cause worth the effort. Especially these days. I strive to put provocative perfomances front and center on celluloid film, and put the audience in the front seat of an something they want to be in the physical movie theater to have. I want to give audiences an experience they won’t mind leaving their houses for.

grew up on a grain farm in Indiana. Making movies is far off from that lifestyle. But I watched my family work that 100 yr old tradition, putting seeds in the ground, praying that the weather and conditions will cooperate to put up a proper crop, praying that the equipment will hold up and get us through the harvest. Filmmaking is the same in a lot of ways. I left to go to art school, and while I was gone, my Father had a heart attack on the job. He survived but it was a wake up call that if I wasn’t going to be there to work that tradition at his side, I needed to make this venture worth it and leave work behind me that can last the test of time. to do that, I have to risk it all.

I went on to do commercial work for a time, but I got married to my high school sweetheart, and I gave that up full stop to make feature films. I had made short films to hone my craft and find my narrative voice. I wrote a couple feature films that didn’t get off the ground, because I was writing stories that required to large of a budget. So I looked around and wrote a film I could make NOW with assets I had access to, with the top tier team I had grown fond of working with. I raised the money in the location I was going to shoot in. The result was a ‘Whelm’ – A depression era crime drama/thriller set in the expansive Indiana fields and small town I grew up in. Fast forward to now and we are premiering that movie in 35mm as a roadshow event starting August 13 at The Fine Arts Theatre Beverly Hills, as well as digital and BluRay alongside Gravitas Ventures. All it took was for me to release control and surrender to the moment, and adapt, then push the limit of what that moment could contain for me and my team. I believe the result is a pretty impressive debut feature film. Audiences will be the judge of that. The film is theirs now.

It’s extremely important to trust your gut in this business. When it comes to writing, make sure you are pouring your heart into something you love. If you’re trying to hit the zeitgeist, you’re gonna miss and be too late. Authenticity is timeless, and making the thing ONLY YOU can make is imperative with the ocean of content out there. And don’t you can’t wait for anyone’s permission or approval to get started when getting a film together. I’ve found it’s best to just act as if it’s already happening and bring the people you trust onto that moving train. Surround yourself with collaborators who are better than you are; ones who believe in you and your vision. Give them a reason to believe in you. If you’re pushing for something new, they’ll be more inspired to follow. That’s the name of the game, a director’s job is to pull the best performances out of everyone. So in essence: my job is to inspire.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If I had a friend in town, we’d definitely start with breakfast at Beachwood Cafe.

I’m from the country so we’d definitely find some good hikes, Topanga Canyon, Cave of Munits, Castle Peak, Griffith Park.

We’d hit Kogi Taqueria for lunch at some point.

I’d find a 35mm revival screening, or a Secret Movie Club screening someplace, preferably in a historic movie palace like – Los Feliz Theater, The Million Dollar Theatre, The Fine Arts Beverly Hills, The Secret Movie Club Theater downtown, or The Vista (when Quinten Tarantino reopens it)

And I’d finish off a night in the warm breeze of The Rooftop by JG for food and drinks.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I can’t make motion pictures without the collaborators that work at my side. They inspire me everyday and push the work to be more than I ever could alone. Ed Herrera is my Director of Photography and to be honest one of my best friends. We worked together for the first time on my debut feature film ‘Whelm’ and not only did he put some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen on the celluloid, he’s worked at my side everyday since in getting the film out into the world. ‘Whelm’ is being presented theatrically in 35mm as a Roadshow opening August 13 at The Fine Arts Theatre Beverly Hills. That would not be possible without Ed, and I’m blessed to know him, let alone be his friend and collaborator. He’s truly one of the best working cinematographers.

Delil Baran is an actor I’ve worked closely with for years. He is constantly challenging me to push the work further. He has a knack for pulling the words off the script and making them levitate into something you never thought you’d see, yet its exactly what the story needed to exist. I’m incredibly indebted to him for his friendship and collaboration.

Noelle Hubbell is a producer I work closely with every single day. I met her at a screening and I just knew that that she was the real deal. I didn’t even know she produced, but I know I wanted to work with her in that capacity. Turns out she’s the best creative producer I could ever imagine working with. We have some incredible work on the slate that is going to change things in Hollywood. I’m confident in that. Noelle can be the audience as she takes in a new script, find weakness, and inspire the right changes for the right reasons, as if we are directing the movie before it exists. She can shift gears in a moment and get right down to business logistically when the material deserves to be made. Its of most importance to know when things are ready and she does not compromise. Instead she inspires me. For that I’m eternally grateful, and we’re just getting started.

Website: endrowpictures.com

Instagram: @skyler_j_lawson

Twitter: @skyler_j_lawson

Youtube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCzS7zGuw-n7fS5CBRgMarew

Other: ‘Whelm’ , my directorial debut is available to buy/rent/stream on digital, VOD and BluRay. Amazon Prime, an iTunes, but my team and I are taking the film on the road theatrically, presented exclusively on 35mm in historic cinema palaces and independent theaters as a part of the Whelm 35mm Roadshow.

The Whelm 35mm Roadshow Tour is the onset of the film’s theatrical run, with a focus on exclusive 35mm exhibition. Presenting the movie the way it was intended. Following the exhibition lead of the legendary filmmakers like Chris Nolan, Quintin Tarantino, and Paul Thomas Anderson, the Whelm team is striving to elevate the theatrical experience and give audiences an “event” that they can be excited about leaving their homes for: an experience they can’t get at home.

For more information, and screening schedule visit: endrowpictures.com/showtimes
The tour will be returning to LA very soon.

Image Credits
Paul Schreiber Natalie Lawson

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