EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW — Dan Hannon Writer/Director of ‘The Pond’

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Alex Miller, Film, News
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[Posted by: Alex Miller]

The Pond is an incredible new short film starring Alicia Witt (88 Minutes, Friday Night Lights) that is currently gaining steam on the film festival circuit. After watching the trailer I knew I had to email director Dan Hannon and see if he would answer a few questions for us. He just won the 2010 Directorial Discovery Grand Prize Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.  Luckily he not only agreed to the interview but afterwards was kind enough to send me a copy of the film! It blew me away. Honestly, everything in it is just fantastic and I sat through the credits wishing it would keep going. After the jump we’ve got the full exclusive interview, pictures from the film, as well as the trailer!

Dan Hannon, 

First off I would just like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your intriguing new short film The Pond. 

My pleasure.  I appreciate your interest in the film.  You’ve got a cool new site going.  Congrats. 

Without giving anything away obviously, what is The Pond really about? What themes did you have in mind? 

The film follows a distraught young woman whose husband returns to life after she scatters his ashes in a little pond, a place where they had shared some special times together.  This impossible phenomenon, as you might suspect, comes with a catch – in the form of a mysterious, violent man and a special organization he’s a part of.  She learns their little pond is very, very special and sits in the midst of a secret place known to all mankind but never seen; a place she never truly believed even existed, nevermind in her town and in her favorite apple orchard.  Her discovery cannot be allowed to stand and she must make a choice that will determine her and her husband’s fate forever.  The film is a small, emotionally charged drama with some fantasy and surprising twists mixed in.  A lot happens in 20 minutes.  I’d say the dominant underlying theme is hope. 

What inspired you to write it? Was it based on experiences you’ve had? 

The story is definitely inspired by my own experiences, which is why I think it felt so natural to jump right into this film as my first directorial endeavor.  In a town in southern New Hampshire, there is a small pond in an apple orchard, with an old, rickety dock and a large weeping willow tree looming over it.  It’s a place that’s very special to me and my wife.  Whenever we have the chance to stop there, it’s like we warp back to the memories of the first summer we met and shared some fun and magical times there.  It’s as if time has stood still there; as if we could stay the same age there forever.  This was the leaping off point for the story.  And no, the pond in the film is not this pond.  That one is still ours. 


(Writer/Director Dan Hannon and David Morse on location for The Pond)

Your film has been featured in several prestigious film festivals, most recently the Rhode Island International Film Festival. What goes through your mind, as the writer/director, while your film is playing at those types of big events?  I imagine it would be nerve racking. 

It’s one of the greatest feelings.  I had hoped this film would entertain and impact an audience, and make them want more; make them want to know where the story goes next.  And that’s what it’s been doing at the festival screenings, which feels incredible.  There’s definitely the butterfly feeling in my stomach when I’m sitting with the audience, which I love.  But it’s the coolest when you hear the reactions to the film all around you – the startles, the laughs, the tears.  The festival environment is really special, because everyone in the audience is dialed in and ready to watch with intent and wide eyes.  That open-minded attention is priceless. 

The film appears to have a very specific look. It is obvious that the visual element was very important to you as every shot seems to be framed very beautifully.  What specifically did you and the production team do to achieve this look?  Were the results what you envisioned? 

The visual look of the film was a huge factor for me.  I wanted it to fit the significance and raw emotion of what was happening in the story, and between the characters.  I wanted a vivid, organic feel, almost bordering on surreal without quite getting there, to exhibit the environment it was all taking place in.  We achieved this with an amazing crew and by using a small level of diffusion throughout the whole film.  The only time we have a truly crisp, undiffused picture, is during a flashback to some of the couple’s memories at the pond.  I liked that it was a reverse of the norm.  The results were so much more stunning than I ever envisioned. 

What was it like to work with Alicia Witt?  Most of our readers probably know her from 88 Minutes with Al Pacino or Friday Night Lights, as well as guest appearances on The Sopranos and others.  However, I think she might get the most cool points with me for her early performances in Mr. Holland’s Opus and Dune.  Was there a particular performance she did that made you offer her the part? 

I can’t even begin to express how great it was to work with Alicia.  She’s extremely professional and breathed the character of Shelly and her emotional roller coaster to life in such a deep, spiritual way; for that, I’ll be grateful forever.  Since many of the tough moments in the story spawned from my own feelings, it was awe-inspiring to see them happening in front of you.  I teared up on a few occasions while shooting – it’s that good.  Alicia was always my first choice for this role.  I had known and admired her body of work, but it was my recollection of talking with her in person several years ago at a film festival that stuck with me.  She is a wonderful person, full of energy and beauty, with this raw, feminine, gentle side that hadn’t had a chance to shine onscreen yet.  I knew she’d rock this role.  And she did. 

What elements of this film are you most proud of? Any regrets? 

I’m most proud of the cast and crew that joined me on this adventure.  They were struck by the story and believed in me to capture it onscreen.  They trusted me and I trusted them.  It isn’t my film.  It’s our film.  I look forward to an opportunity to work with any and all of them again.  The one single regret of mine is fortunately very small.  I just wish we could have found a still photographer in time to spend all day and night with us during production.  I would have liked to have a few more photos from the set, mostly for my own personal behind-the-scenes record. 

What films initially inspired you to become a filmmaker? 

Oh wow, I should have seen this question coming.  Actually, since this is an online interview, I guess I did see it coming, but I still felt I had to say that anyway!  I don’t think there’s any way for me to narrow down my initial inspirational films that started the burning desire within.  But what I can tell you is that I’ve loved going to the movies since I was very young.  I can remember going to see one of the Star Wars films with my grandfather.  It was late and I fell asleep during the film, but I remembered it being awesome and having some crazy dreams that night.  I acted in local theater and film throughout high school and college, but didn’t get the bite to write until about 8 or 9 years ago.  Then came the bite to direct more recently.  And now, here we are! 

Are there currently any plans to stream The Pond online? 

Since the film is still early in its festival life, it will not be available in its entirety online for a little while.  But I’m excited to say that we’ll soon be signing with one of several short film distributors that have approached us, so the film will eventually land on iTunes, among other places.  The interest in the film in that sense is also something that feels awesome. 

What’s next for you? Do have another film in the works? 

On the writing side of things, my co-writer and I have several irons in the fire at various stages.  And on the directing side of things, there are two feature length scripts of mine I have in mind to sink my teeth into.  My hope is to get the ball rolling on one of those as soon as possible!   

Thanks again for taking the time to answer a few questions with us! I hope you’ll join us again on your next project! 

You bet!

[YouTube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqts4ElODns&hd=1″ &w=640&h=385]

Learn More About The Pond: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

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Comments
  1. Laurel Oldham says:

    Before acting in you film I read the brief summery of what the film was about. I knew just by those few words that I would be so proud to be a part of it. In just a few minutes this short touches down deep… it makes one want to know more while we question our own inner thoughts…it pulls us in and makes us wonder what we would do. I wish it success in every way. Should it go on to be a feature length film or series I would be honored to be part of such a wonderful story line…its possibilities are endless and enlightening.

  2. Jan Hartley says:

    So happy to see that Dan & his film are getting the recognition that they deserve. He did a tremendous job. And, to quote Alex, “It blew me away. Honestly, everything in it is just fantastic and I sat through the credits wishing it would keep going.” I think Alex spoke for most of us.

    Love you, Dan, keep up the great work.

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