Sunset Edge – Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Daniel Peddle

Utilizing the natural beauty surrounding a long forgotten area, filmmaker Daniel Peddle showcases a keen eye on capturing the mysterious, intriguing and haunting qualities of the world that surrounds us in his film Sunset Edge.  Click through for my interview with Writer/Director/Producer Daniel Peddle.

Dora May Moon The Last Tenant of Sunset Edge

Synopsis of the Film:

Two tales clash violently in this meditative portrayal of disaffected youth set in a graveyard of abandoned mobile homes known as Sunset Edge. The first story is a nostalgic thrill ride of peculiar normalcy for four aimless, suburban teenagers. Hooked on modern technology, they text and Instagram amidst the creepy forgotten refuse. A lazy afternoon is spiked with Suicide Soda, a heady brew of cheap pop and energy packets. After skateboarding the park, the teens disperse and crash …alone. But someone is watching. Playing tricks. Our teens are completely unaware that this park is where a lonesome boy is confronting a horrific past and soon they are lured into the woods. Now lost the second narrative surfaces like a repressed evocative memory. The protagonist 16yo Malachi is a social outcast– his father, a murderer, his grandfather, strict and isolating. In an attempt to reclaim his physical childhood home, he confronts psychological trauma. Here both stories meet at the trailer park and the secrets of Sunset Edge are revealed in a paralyzing finale. One group wants to escape their everyday lives, the other wants to find what‘s left. The resulting impact is intense, eerie and bound to keep the audience holding their breath.

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Interview with Sunset Edge Writer/Director/Producer Daniel Peddle:

1. After being in NYC for over two decades what was it like filming back home in North Carolina?  Can you share the story of how your Parents helped find Sunset Edge?

It’s ironic because I spent my childhood and teenaged life wanting desperately to get off my dirt road and out of the South. Then I moved to New York where I spent fifteen years struggling and hustling just to live here. Now I have turned the corner on that and I feel like I am always trying to get out of town! I go home so much.

My parents own a construction company and do a lot of demolitions so they are always exploring dilapidated structures and weird job sites. My mom kept going on and on about “this place you’re gonna want to make a movie at”. She would not let up. So finally on a trip home, they drove me out to this very rural isolated dead-end road. We drove at dusk and when we arrived my nephew, Jacob, who was 14yo, jumped on his skateboard. As I watched him disappear down the cracked road at sunset I was blown away. It was lined with tons of abandoned trailers, just staring at us with their blown out windows and missing doors like so many hollow eyes and gaping mouths. I knew my mom was right. I thought to myself “I am going to make a movie here.”

That first trip actually really informed the final film, as my number one goal was to capture my first impressions of this eerie place with all its strange haunting magic.

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2.  With your tremendous history in finding talent for some of the biggest companies in the fashion world what made you decide to cast unknowns for your film?  What was it about the youth at West Forsyth that caught your eye?

You know we did try some actors and frankly there is a lot of baggage that comes with trained actors that just did not feel right for this film. I really wanted the movie to have almost a documentary sense to it. My nephew Jacob has these two best friends that are very eccentric for their age. For years I had enjoyed their shenanigans. So I thought why not try these guys? That proved to be a great instinct as their real-life dynamic was so palpable on film. They all went to the same high school so I basically went to that school’s drama classes and started auditioning for the remaining two teen-aged roles. Originally the “villain”, “Malachi”, was supposed to be this white-haired, blue-eyed Children of the Corn type. But I really loved how Gilberto read for the role. As he is Latino, I ended up rewriting the script to fold in this whole new layer about identity and race. It made the film that much richer.

MALACHI EXITS FIELD

3.  The visual style of the film is really impressive.  Can you talk about what you and Karim were looking to capture with your shot selections?  Also choosing to shoot with natural light was bold, but totally worked can you discuss the choice to shoot that way?  What cameras did you shoot on and what did you edit on?

Karim López was both our cinematographer and editor and I think that was an amazing combination of skills to bring to the table. He shot the film with a CANON 5D MARK III and edited on Final Cut. The decision to shoot with all natural light was part of our overall plan to capture the inherent creepy quality of this place with its stark contrast and minimal palette.  Karim embraced this challenge. Though there were some moments when he thought I was crazy! He would be like “But it’s a NIGHT scene!” I would just say, “You can do it!” He ended up masterminding all these incredible “tricks” to stretch the dusk light out as long as possible. He also came up with the idea to shoot all the trailer park scenes handheld and all the farmhouse and Malachi’s backstory on a tripod. So we had this subtle dichotomy between the two narratives.

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4. Where did you find that old lady with the flowing hair?  She's spooky as hell!

Oh man that is quite a yarn! Basically I had this vision of this older woman with long flowing hair and when we started searching for one locally we just could not find this type. Most women down South, of a certain generation, tend to keep their hair done in a very controlled neat style. Even up until the day before we were to shoot I was still searching for this silver haired lady! So the night before I decided I would have to write the character out of the film. On my way home to do so, I stopped into this kind of honkytonk general store to buy some batteries and on line at the cash register was the very lady I had imagined! She had hair down her back and a beautiful face. So I just went up to her and told her what we were doing and asked is she would consider the role. Turns out she was from France and had a strong accent but had been living in NC for many years. So we were able to bond over shared experiences from Paris! I think that charmed her and in the end she agreed to be “Dora”. The very next day we started shooting her and she was really a trouper! We traipsed that poor woman all through the woods and all manner of sketchy situations and she never once complained! Her scenes are some of my favorites. I think she is spooky but also very beautiful.

5.  Is narrative filmmaking your primary choice from here on out or would you jump back into the documentary world?  Have you thought about doing a doc about the fashion world you've been apart of since going to NYC? 

I love documentary filmmaking and I definitely plan to continue making them. We actually are just finishing my third feature documentary which I have been working on in Hawaii for four years. But I also LOVE making narratives because there are fewer restrictions. I am in preproduction right now in a new narrative that I wrote that actually is a comedy about the fashion and art world of NYC. And I am writing a new script that follows a young American model and her first trip to Paris to do the shows.

BEAUTIFUL HALEY IN TRUCK

6.  With your work in the fashion world you've explored Europe especially France, and in your docs you've traveled to unique places.  Where in the world haven't you been that you'd like to go to?

Oh so many places! I really want to go to the Galapagos Islands and Tibet.

7.  How did you NYU grad experience impact you as a filmmaker?  Has a favorite course or professor stuck out more now because you've made multiple feature films?

Going to NYU was really tough for me because I was coming from a really rural experience and struggling to survive in NYC. I was working a fulltime job while at one of the most difficult graduate programs around. To be honest the best thing about NYU graduate school was getting to meet other filmmakers. One of my best friends, Cindy Stillwell is a filmmaker and professor in Montana and we met at NYU and are very close.

8.  What was the hardest part of your shoot?  What was the most rewarding part of making your fiction feature debut?

God everything was hard. I was going to bed at 3am and getting up at 6am for like 25 days straight and that’s not an exaggeration. Because we were a skeleton crew I was thinking about all kinds of details and tasks beyond just directing and mentally was always like twenty steps ahead of myself. It was grueling and took everything I had in me. But I loved every minute of it … especially bonding with the cast and crew. And my family helped enormously. Luckily my family is a very creative group who does not shy from hard work!

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9.  Our audience is a Texas southern tilt, so what would you say about your film to southern audiences?  You’re opening though in LA and NY – how would that message stay similar or different to those audiences?

I am a New Yorker now by default having lived here so long but the South is still my heart. It is changing so fast and while I mourn the lost of so much of the traditions and the rural landscape, I am actually really inspired by the social shifts and how it is becoming so diverse. I think it is a very exciting time to be Southern. By the way, we will be playing some Southern towns too!

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10.  Finally, what are you main influences as a filmmaker?  Directors, films, books, art work, docs….???

Life! Haha! I am a triple Pisces and that is a blessing and a curse! I absorb like a sponge and I am constantly soaking in the world around me. You never know what will inspire you. It can be the smallest detail. I just try and keep myself open and engaged in the moment. 

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Sunset Edge opens in LA and NYC on May 29th and expands from there.  For more information about the film please go, here.

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