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Interview with The Shadow Effect director Amariah Olson

Action thrillers are one of those genres that are really hard to get right. Most end up getting at least half of it right, but they fail to mesh the two together. The latest, The Shadow Effect looks to bring their twist to the genre with a great cast including Cam Gigandet, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Brit Shaw, and Michael Biehn. I had the chance to sit down with one of the directors Amariah Olson to talk about how this thriller came together. 

Bobby: How did you guys get involved with The Shadow Effect?

Amariah: My brother and I own a production studio so we don’t so much get involved, but make a decision to make a movie and go find a script and shoot it.

Bobby: This film has a bit of a nonlinear story that I love, but was that something that was originally written that way or was it something that was developed as the project moved forward?

Amariah: The basic idea was in the script, but we worked on the storyline to make it more cohesive and have the structure where it needed to be. If you watch the film multiple times you will start to realize that it is a cohesive and linear storyline that you just don’t see it. It was a fine line with making a film that if someone watched it numerous times could pick it a part, but with that first go it unravels.

Bobby: As a filmmaker how hard it is to juggle the balance of this kind of story. On one side you have a character dealing with an emotional breakdown and then on the other side you have an action film.

Amariah: The actors tend to be able to figure a lot of that out with the script. They get the timing of what is going to be done and then work with the production schedule to be able to work out those changes. So it really isn’t all that hard of a challenge with one film or the next as they all have the same issue with shooting out of continuity and having to make sure all the scenes are on point. The biggest issues comes from that continuity of everything matching correctly, but performance wise it is just making sure you keep that same continuity of where they were at and where they are going from each scene and just roll with it. 

Bobby: Did you already have a cast in mind that you wanted for this project?

Amariah: We work with a casting director and kind of develop a cool wish list of actors we think can do the parts and then it is a matter of seeing who is available and who is interested. You go through your pool of people and we got lucky that Cam Gigandet and  Johnathan Rhys liked it. They are great actors and brought a great energy to the film.

Bobby: How much had to go into setting up and how hard was it to shoot the action shots in this film?

Amariah: We had to break it down in multiple pieces and we were lucky that the actors Johnathan and Cam have done action films so they can do a lot of their own stunts. We basically rehearsed it the day of the scene we were going to shoot so we could block it out with the stunt coordinator. Things like going down the sides of the building and car chase stuff we break it up with the second unit and shoot it all with doubles to make it manageable. That lets us break it down more that way and work out how to make it safe, believable and cool on film. 

Bobby: Like most, the locations played a big part to this film. Did you have an idea what you were looking for when you started scouting these locations?

Amariah: We break down the script by locations and where we think they might look cool and then put our scouts on it. They go out for a couple of months and we build this huge database of locations and from that we start picking them out and determining which locations we can actually get. Once we find those places we think look cool and will work for the various sequences then we lock them in and add to the schedule and shoot them. 

Bobby: When you make a film like this that not only has action, but a kind of sci-fi tone to it with aspects that you have to make come across to represent moments affecting someone’s mind in a way like this, does it become a challenge as a director to try and mesh that all together?

Amariah: It is challenging with sound design, performance and all in between to figure out the flow and how to make it feel right that you are in this world with this stuff going on. Since it is shot out of sequence it does present a challenge to get it all together to make it cool and work in a way that audiences will enjoy. Experience plays a lot into it as well because once you have made a few films it becomes less challenging because you know how it all works, but it is still a process that takes a lot of work to deliver. 

Bobby: There is an aspect that messes with someone’s mind, did you get to play with a lot of ideas on how to design that or was it something that was already kind of laid out in the script?

Amariah: Just due to the schedule on this one we did some drawings but we just didn’t have a lot of time. So we just tried to make it as cool as we could with the time that we had to do it in. On the visual effects stuff we had a lot more time to figure out what that is going to be like.

Bobby: Is there anything else you have coming up that you can tell us about?

Amariah: We just finished Body of Sin, a female thriller shot in exotic locations that is coming out soon and then we have a science fiction thriller that we are shooting this summer that should get rolling shortly. 

Bobby: I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. I enjoyed the film and wish you luck with it and your future projects.

Amariah: Thanks I appreciate it.

Check out The Shadow Effect available now On Demand, Digital HD and DVD from Momentum Pictures.

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