HEC Profiles: Writer/Producer/Director David J. Garfield

By Christine Tello-Lorenz
Posted on 20 Jul 2009 at 4:19am

Multitalented and multitasking David J. Garfield not only has his hands full as a writer/producer/director but he can be seen running from set to set as an extra, chatting it up with Mark Whalberg on the set of The Fighter as well as on the set of Furry Vengeance, which just began filming in Topsfield. Adding to his already full plate, he is currently preparing for the red carpet premiere of his newest film, The Suitcase which opens this Saturday, July 25th at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA. The event will be complete with red-carpet, photographers, limos, an after-party and live music.

David J. Garfield

David J. Garfield

David began acting at age seven and making films at age thirteen. He attended the California Institute of the Arts for acting and directing. His film and T.V. credits include: Grown-Ups, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Pink Panther 2, My Best Friend’s Girl, Wayne’s World, “Baywatch,” “Trial by Jury,” “My So Called Life,” “Columbo” and “1st and Ten.” Buy your tickets for The Suitcase here and meet this Hollywood East ‘Mover and Shaker’ on the red carpet!

HEC: How did you get started in your career as a film producer?

I got started as an actual filmmaker at the age of 13 when my father gave me a Cannon Super 8 stop motion camera. I studied filmmaking, angles and such from books on my own. I produced The Blob short film on stock Super 8 without any editing. That means, when I yelled action, it was shot right in sequence since I had no way of editing my movie in those days. You can watch the two-minute movie here. At that age I asked myself if I just wanted to be an actor, or if creating it all would be more fun. I decided that the most important parts to me were telling the story and good writing.

HEC: How has your education helped you?

My official education is all self-taught. Director Robert Rodriguez was a big influence in this decision, as he shot his first successful feature with $2K. He is quoted for saying: “Don’t waste your money on film school, use that money to make a movie yourself; you’ll learn a lot more.” My lifelong career as an actor and being trained from early childhood into my young adult years have really helped me understand the difficulties of stripping away layers in a performance and allowing an actor to perform naturally. On my short film Why I Hate the Last Day of School, I used primarily non-actors and young teens as the cast, renting out a high school and classroom for a set. Getting a clean and natural performance out of them was delightfully easier due to my “If you are acting, you are a bad actor” approach, allowing them to act the way normally would. Catering the script to their personalities was the most important lesson I’ve re-learned recently working with non-actors and actors alike. For example, “Well, if you wouldn’t say that (so you keep forgetting your line), what kind of thing would you say? Oh really? Say exactly that then!” Works like a charm!

Garfield directing a scene in "The Suitcase" in Warren, RI

Garfield directing a scene from "The Suitcase" in Rhode Island

HEC: What is it like as a film producer?

Film production itself is a huge endeavor, especially on a feature length film. In the words of Jodi Foster, “Each project feels like it takes a little bit of my soul with it.” But it’s worth it. My angle with The Suitcase is that it’s actually a bunch of short films all tied together by the ownership of an object, making kind of a ‘Creep show’ or vingetting angle like the Twilight Zone movie. It is much more plausible organization on such a low-end budget, yet still holds the meat of the story together. As a producer of only a handful of short films before this venture, I learned that the expense of a short film is much more digestible, which is why I went at the feature length with this approach.

HEC: What are the best and worst parts of being a Writer/Producer/Director?

The best part is getting to create a world with characters and to bring people in to join you. Sharing this kind of experience is the most fulfilling kind of work I can ever imagine. The WORST part would be coming up with the best concepts that can be interpreted on screen and how to cater to a niche or wide demographic. I noticed my colorful characters often use cuss words, and well, in hindsight, that can cheapen a script to sounding like the writer has a lack for better words or writing.

HEC: Any advice for new graduates?

In the New England area, sources like OurFilmSpace.com are invaluable. You can find music composers, actors, crew, and all the help you’ll need if you believe in your project and are ready to embark on the long struggle to get your picture made. I want to add a personal thanks to Hollywood East Connection and their wonderful support in helping our film making community. Anyone striving to make films should do so no matter what the obstacles might seem to be. Even if you only have a camera phone, a friend and the drive to make a movie, learn and do it! Don’t let ANYTHING stop you is what I’m saying. An example: Stephen Spielberg shot his first student film using an old warplane parked on the ground in a field he had access to. He used some simple smoke and shot from below making it look like it was in flight and inserted stock footage (royalty free footage) of war fighter planes to make it look like his main characters were actually in battle. Ideas like this, simple but effective, and taking the time to get it to look they way you really want it to, is the heart of what makes a good film maker.

Garfield with co-star Susan Garibotto in "The Suitcase"

Garfield with co-star Susan Garibotto in "The Suitcase"

HEC: What has been your most memorable work experience?

The most memorable work experience as a writer/producer/director was watching the special effects of my stories (not digital post effects, but physical, on-set mechanical effects) come to life in a scene. It gave me the feeling Spielberg or George Lucas must have had when getting their ‘monsters’ to do things without any help but the on-set hands. Kind of like a kid playing with a toy and making things do stuff on their own with his imagination. To be more specific, things like making matchbox cars animate themselves, or, when I was 13, making the blob (a sleeping bag) run around were the same kinds of memorable moments as the feeling after getting the film back from developing. This is the same feeling that I’ve continued to bring into my present day productions, giving me that rewarding sensation that “I’ve created something that didn’t exist until I made it.” I held onto my guns when I wanted the classic “thunderstorm” to launch a scene due to it’s obvious appeal in suspense films, and planning to digitally add it in. Amazingly, during our shoot in Nashua, NH, we actually got a legitimate thunderstorm and reset to roll cameras to use it in the movie. We couldn’t have been blessed by the gods any better than that. Plus, I hear that if it rains during your shoot, it’s good luck for your final product.

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