From Christopher Landon's Happy Death Day 2U and the Netflix series Russian Doll to Johannes Nyholm’s Koko-di Koko-da and Tom Paton’s Stairs, 2019 has been the year of time loop entertainment, and director D.C. Hamilton looks to add another compelling time-warping experience to the list with The Fare. Based on a screenplay by Brinna Kelly (who also co-stars in the movie), The Fare follows a taxi driver (Gino Anthony Pesi) who must figure out why his latest customer (Kelly) disappeared from the back of his cab... and why he keeps experiencing the eerie event over and over. With The Fare out now on Blu-ray and DVD from DREAD, we caught up with Hamilton in our latest Q&A feature to discuss filming The Fare in six days, making the movie stay fresh while filming primarily in one location, and the upcoming projects he hopes to make with Brinna Kelly.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, and congratulations on The Fare! Like your previous projects, this movie was written by Brinna Kelly, who also co-stars in the film as Penny. When did you first read Kelly’s screenplay, and what made you excited to bring her latest story to life on screen?
D.C. Hamilton: Well, first off, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Brinna Kelly is a phenomenal writer, so any time she hands me something, I know it’s going to be special. The Fare was unique partially because it was playing in a different genre for her, but the main thing was… without going into spoilers, I just thought it was brilliantly conceived and executed. The story she chose to tell, the way she chose to tell it, the setup and payoff… the characters and what you learn about them, the way you learn it, the economy in storytelling, the discipline in the telling… I was picking up my jaw off the floor for an hour after I read it.
Where did filming take place, and how many days did you have in your shooting schedule?
D.C. Hamilton: We filmed primarily in a studio space in Woodland Hills, California, and we shot for six days. When we wrapped, I gave Joshua Harrison, our amazing cinematographer a hug and said, “We did it. We just made a movie in six days.” To which he replied, “Never tell anyone, they’ll expect us to do it again.”
Of course, now here I am telling everyone.
The Fare primarily takes place in a taxi. Is it difficult to film largely in one location and find new ways to keep it fresh for viewers?
D.C. Hamilton: It was something we thought a lot about in the planning stages and I think we prepared for the difficulty. Partially because we knew that with only six days to shoot, we would need to be very economical with our shoot, or we risked not finishing the film.
On top of that, Josh Harrison and I didn’t want to just shoot lots of coverage and worry about it in the edit. We really wanted the camera placement, the lens, the light, the framing, to tell the story of each scene and the characters. There wasn’t any blocking to speak of, so the photography had to carry that extra storytelling weight. We didn’t want the cab to feel unwatchably claustrophobic or oppressive, but we wanted it to feel confining all the same.
So, being selective with our compositions became the game.
Fortunately, we had two incredibly watchable actors armed with a terrific script, so at the end of the day, we did everything we wanted with the camera, but Gino and Brinna are what keep your attention on the screen.
This film hinges on the chemistry between Gino Anthony Pesi and Brinna Kelly. Did they have a lot of time to rehearse and create a bond prior to filming?
D.C. Hamilton: Actually, the exact opposite. We only had the time to do a few short rehearsals prior to shooting, and those sessions were limited. Gino and Brinna are just both pros and fell into a very natural rhythm quickly. They really made each other laugh. I suspect it was weird for them, because there’s this whole crew and cameras and such outside the car, and there they are just stuck in that front seat, sort of on their own. So that may have helped things along.
But on the Blu-ray, there’s a gag reel and you can clearly see from that how much of their chemistry just comes naturally, them just making each other laugh and having a good time.
Looking back, I realize how lucky we got. You can overthink that sort of thing in the auditions process, with a ton of chemistry reads and such, which we didn’t have time for. We were fortunate that they clicked.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or memorable moment that stands out?
D.C. Hamilton: On our last day in the studio, we shot a sequence where we get to see other passengers in the cab. Much of it was scripted and we hired actors, but the whole crew had been having fun, everybody sort of was giddy that we were almost to the finish line of the movie happening so fast, so crew members started jumping in the cab and shooting cameos.
Our Chief Lighting Technician, Key Grip, and 2nd Assistant Camera all took turns. I took a turn in there. It was just this euphoric sense that settled over the crew. We would watch Gino and Brinna and see their chemistry, and we knew it was special. Pretty much everything we set out to do, we did. So, we just finished by having some fun.
From the Happy Death Day films to Russian Doll to The Fare, we’re seeing a resurgence of time loop Groundhog Day-esque movies. Why do you think these types of stories are so popular right now?
D.C. Hamilton: That’s a good question. I hadn’t really thought about it. The cynic in me says that from a production standpoint, it’s convenient to use one camera setup to shoot five, six, seven different scenes, just making small adjustments to the dialogue as you go.
But truthfully, I think it’s because it’s a fascinating concept for drama. It so organically creates conflict and stakes. There’s a lot of room for creativity in these types of stories, and tonally, you can go a million different ways with them. It’s very much a blank canvas.
Were you influenced or inspired by any other horror, sci-fi, or time loop movies or TV series while making The Fare?
D.C. Hamilton: In terms of influence, I mostly focused on films and filmmakers who excelled at building suspense in a confined space, with very little real estate to play with. Hitchcock’s Rope was something I studied closely.
But the influences were widely varied. I studied the flawless opening scene of The Twilight Zone: The Movie with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks, to see how to create such a watchable, but still suspenseful dynamic between characters in the front seat of a car.
For the time loop element, I didn’t watch Groundhog Day, but I did spend a lot of time watching and re-watching (at Brinna Kelly’s suggestion) the brilliant Vince Gilligan-penned episode of The X-Files called Monday, where Mulder and Scully are trapped in a time loop that ends with them dying in a bank explosion before every commercial.
I could go on and on with all the films and TV shows I watched to get my head into the right space for The Fare. Your readers would get super bored, but it was a fun prep to be sure.
Ultimately, what do you hope viewers take away from The Fare?
D.C. Hamilton: I love movies and I want to make movies that other people love. I want to make something that makes them feel something. I love to make people laugh, or gasp, or cry (hopefully all three in this film). I want to tell you a story and have you hooked and then leave you glad that you heard that story. To me, the best movie is the kind that not only entertains you while you’re watching it, but then a few days later you’re thinking about it, and you’re like, “Yeah, damn, that was really good…” I just want to take a shot at making people feel like I do when I see one of those.
What has it been like to partner with DREAD to bring The Fare to the masses?
D.C. Hamilton: DREAD has been an amazing partner. Patrick Ewald and the team that he’s built over there… they’re what indie filmmakers hope for in a distributor.
The world of sales and distribution can be so anxiety-inducing for filmmakers with passion projects. You’ve poured your heart and soul (and often your bank account) into something, and then you need to turn it over to people who are going to bring it to the world, but first they have to help you package it and force your brain to stop thinking of it like a child who needs to be protected, and instead look at your film as an adult that needs to go out into the world and get a job.
DREAD has been great at that. We’ve very lucky to have them as partners.
With The Fare now on Blu-ray and VOD from DREAD and Epic Pictures, what other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about, and where can our readers follow your work online?
D.C. Hamilton: I have a few projects that I would love to make, that I genuinely believe people would love to see. Brinna Kelly is prolific and she just keeps writing. She’s got an amazing Shaun of the Dead-ish horror-comedy that I am hoping to make, mostly just because I want to see that film right now.
She also has a domestic thriller/horror with some terrific fantasy elements in it, that’s really unlike anything I’ve ever read (or seen for that matter). I hope we can make that soon as well.
But money is always the kicker. Indie films and filmmakers require people to believe in them. Hopefully The Fare can start the kinds of conversations that can lead to the next project.