Wyatt McDill: Interview

Photo of Maya Stojan and Nathan Phillips courtesy of Sleeper Cell Films

BRWC went behind the scenes with Writer-Director Wyatt McDill 

Writer-director Wyatt McDill has made multiple films, music videos and TV commercials over the years including the latest to be released “3 Day Weekend”, which he made with business partner and wife Megan Huber, set to release October 8.

What is the backstory to your latest film ‘3 Day Weekend’? What inspired the idea for the film?

Megan and I wanted to make a film we’d love to watch, an old-fashioned caper where one surprise just leads naturally to the next ‘til everyone is miles off course. Making films is hard, so we figured, let’s pour it on! “3 Day Weekend” is the result: a dense puzzle, seen from four points of view, with time jumps forward and backwards, and all told with no dialogue.

It is fascinating to us at BRWC that you chose to write the script without any dialogue. Why is that? 

In the film, people occasionally talk, and even sometimes to each other, but they never successfully communicate. A Sleeper Cell film always makes the writing itself a key part of the story, so no dialogue – or communication – just made sense. I always love a movie that shows a story, not tells it, and asks the viewer to keep up, or even fill in what’s happening. No dialogue is just taking that idea to its extreme.

With that in mind, how did that effect casting? Can you explain the process ahead of your final key cast choices of Maya Stojan, Morgan Krantz, Nathan Phillips and Scott MacDonald?

Real life – with its history and its nuance and its messiness – is ten times more interesting than this hokey thing we do with actors and scripts and costumes and cameras called filmmaking. For this reason, we always ask our actors to stay as close as they’re comfortable to playing themself in any given role. In the end, we couldn’t have been happier with the expressive performances given by Maya and Morgan and Nathan and Scott, who all had a really difficult task: create a compelling character without ever speaking a line!

Photo of Maya Stojan and Nathan Phillips courtesy of Sleeper Cell Films

In a few words can you explain your directorial approach to the story?

I was somewhat surprised to find that, when you’re shooting a film with no dialogue, there will also be no shot-reverse shots, and from there a lot of the rest of traditional filmmaking technique goes out the window, too. We ended up developing a specific way of shooting – a three-quarters over the shoulder shot that would come around the character to show reactions – to reflect the unique importance of POV in this story. I came away with a new fascination for filmmaking – it’s an artform that can adapt and innovate depending on the story you’re making. What other genre is like that?

What was the atmosphere like on-set? Were there any challenges?

Shooting entirely outside in Northern Minnesota on the cusp of winter would be a challenge for anyone. Also, we threw our actors into lakes and holes, onto ATVs, and into trucks and boats before literally burying one of them (Morgan Krantz) alive! Luckily, Megan creates the same atmosphere on set no matter what the challenges are: it’s calm and she’s in control. It’s only possible to make films under circumstances like these if the drama stays in front of the camera.

Do you have a specific preference of the genre or types of projects you both want to spearhead?

All of our films contain a storytelling conceit. Our first film, “Four Boxes,” was a movie that was actually a web drama. “3 Day Weekend” has no dialogue. Our next film, “Hollywood Fringe,” is a comedy about L.A. actors staging an autobiographical play in their apartment. What genre we work in isn’t as important to us as HOW we tell the story, which we always try to make innovative, like another character in the story.

Can you tell us yours and Megan’s top 5 films of all time? Do you share a similar taste in films?

I never settle down anywhere for long when it comes to lists, but “Mulholland Drive” is always there, and “American Movie.” Megan has the viewing taste of an 88-year-old widow – she can bark out all the lines from movies like “42nd Street,” and “Cabaret.” We overlap on Olivier Assayas. And “Sense and Sensibility.”

What’s next for Sleeper Cell Films?

We recently world-premiered “Hollywood Fringe” at the DWF Festival in Hollywood and were pleased to win an Audience Award. Next summer we’re back in the woods shooting another thriller, called “2 Feet Underground.” It’s the next installment in our “10,000 10” Series, which is ten puzzle-thrillers that all start with a number 1-10. And we’re developing a cooking show, and directing a Holiday special, and…

How can people find out more about you? 

Our movies have Facebook pages, I’m on Instagram, and we have a site with information about our projects at www.sleepercellfilms.com. Also, we are developing a streaming site where people can watch our films direct from the filmmaker: www.sleepercell.tv.

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