Some filmmakers toil away for years and years before their work gets noticed by someone with any kind of influence in the industry. For Rowlett native Ronnie Allman, all it took was a couple of months and a desire to push his creative limits.
Allman's first-ever short film, Filter, is one of 20 finalists in Canon’s Project Imaginat10n contest, which aims to discover talent among amateur filmmakers. Those 20 films will be whittled down to five by none other than director Ron Howard and his daughter, actress/director Bryce Dallas Howard.
The five remaining films, which will be revealed on September 19, will be showcased along with five films directed by celebrities at Canon’s Project Imaginat10n Film Festival in October. We talked with Allman, who now lives in San Francisco, about his filmmaking background, his semi-dystopian film, and his reaction to being chosen for the contest.
CultureMap Dallas: What kind of film experience did you have prior to this contest?
Ronnie Allman: My film background isn’t very extensive at all. I bought my first video camera a year and a half ago and just started filming my life. After doing a year of that, I said, "I should challenge myself more and try to actually be a director and work with actors."
I’m an art director at an ad agency. I’m in a creative atmosphere, so I kind of know a little bit about forming a story and things like that. I just used what I knew in my profession to try to make the best of it.
CM: Your film is set in a world where people can’t use tap water or go outdoors without wearing gas masks. What was the inspiration for that?
RA: It was one of the pictures we got to choose from in the contest. There were 91 different photos, and there was a picture of a small child wearing a gas mask, and you could see a neighborhood and houses behind him. That’s the spark for the entire story.
In my head, I was like, “What if we lived in a world where kids could still go out and play, but they had to wear gas masks?” I was just thinking, “How would this world be transformed and not be like all these other post-apocalyptic videos where it’s so detached from the world that’s in the present that it’s not familiar to anybody?”
I wanted to make something eerie, like this could happen tomorrow, and we just don’t know it. You still have to go to work, and you still have to go through your daily struggles, but things are just a little bit different.
CM: That's exactly what I thought; aside from the water and air restrictions, life seems to be pretty normal in the film’s world. Could you imagine living your life like that?
RA: It’s funny – I put on the gas mask while I was writing this for like 30-45 minutes at a time and tried to really get in the mood of what it would be like to wear these things. It was really uncomfortable; it was very confined. Your breathing habits are different. But if I had to, yeah, I could do it. It’s just a little bit sweaty. It’s really a unique experience.
CM: The film conveys a lot of emotion without a single line of spoken dialogue. What was your thought process behind that decision?
RA: I wanted this really rich story, but I don’t have access to people who’ve acted before, so I didn’t want the story to suffer because of that. Not having dialogue I think helped out the film because it wasn’t a distraction. The acting could’ve been bad if they weren’t comfortable in front of the camera, and I wanted the story to shine.
CM: How excited were you when you found out your film was one of 20 that will be seen by Ron and Bryce Dallas Howard?
I was shocked I was a finalist, because I had never done anything like this before. I was able to look at some of the other films after I submitted mine, and I was like, “Wow, these are really talented people that I’m up against. If I make top 20, I would be super happy.” I’m definitely up against some great, imaginative people.
It’s crazy, because Ron Howard will see this film that I’ve created using just two small cameras and a couple of great friends who were willing to help out. Now he’s the person who gets to watch it and hopefully likes it.
To see the films of all 20 finalists in the Project Imaginat10n contest, go to longliveimagination.com.