So it's 2010, and I'm getting ready to shoot my first student film. I've made a few short pieces before, but this time I want to at least pretend as if I'm going to do this as a professional, which partly entails casting performers who are for once neither my friends nor family. I'm getting a little nervous, as I have yet to find a suitable lead actor. The clock is ticking, and I don't want to compromise on a character who is in literally every single frame of the eventual film. A series of auditions have been somewhat of a bust, and so a classmate suggests I check out a guy that he's worked with a couple of times who he believes may be a good fit. I look up some of his work and decide to set up a meeting.
When I first approach Darrell C. Hazelrig at a local coffee shop, he's working on some story boards for a short film of his own - he's a filmmaker himself, you see. Of course he is. Who isn't these days? Yet as he begins describing The Dark Companion to me, I begin to realize that if nothing else we are henceforth going to be linked (on my end, at least), by that great binding agent among creatives: professional jealousy.
The more we talk, however - about our work, about the film I'm trying to cast and the role within that I want him to play - the clearer it becomes to me that, provided he agrees to do my movie, Darrell is going to be one of my closest artistic allies in the years to come. He not only engaged with the material like no other performer I had spoken to, but he truly seemed to understand it on a sub-molecular level. He knew exactly the tonal balance I was going for, and he even used some of the same reference points that I had carried in my head while writing it.
I cast him on the spot, without him even reading a single line out loud.
If there's one element of the resulting film works, it is the performances - most especially Darrell's portrayal of Harold, a haplessly lovelorn loser who must struggle to hide the body of his lover's dead husband amidst a myriad of distractions. All failings were ultimately mine, of course (characters not fully conceptualized, story beats not completely thought through, and all of the other pitfalls that first-time filmmakers seem to sometimes gleefully leap their way into), but at the very least I had found the perfect vessel to bring to life a character who, for better or worse, was a very personal representation. Here was someone who could bring to life aspects of my own psyche in a way that was not only moving and entertaining, but also visually and thespianically palatable to a wider audience. But what really stands out was his generosity. We were a bunch of grubby little film students, and he was not only willing (and obligated) to stay on set all day, but actually seemed to enjoy it.
Now, five years later, Darrel has finally taken the plunge and is preparing to direct his first feature. And after several years and a few films' worth of indulging my directorial whims, he has further honored me by asking me to help him produce Edgor & Izzy. We've just launched our crowdfunding campaign, and you can click here to check out the film's Indiegogo page and maybe even give a few bucks. The ask is quite ambitious, but so is the vision behind the movie. At the very least, check it out and spread the word if it seems like something you or someone you know may be interested in seeing. Our first collaboration may never see the light of day, but let's make sure that this one does.