For 6 years The Drifter has been in production - a year’s worth of writing and planning and anticipating; two months of working 12-hour-days napping in hotel rooms and driving without windshield wipers in Florida storms; and five years where director Craig Calamis locked himself inside a room to edit, developing an original score with composer Matthew Duncan, working to push the film through festival after festival until finally signing for distribution. Terror Films helped pen the last chapter of The Drifter’s complete production in the Spring of 2017; and we are forever grateful to them for it.
If you don’t already know, there’s more history dating back to 2006 with this film. That’s where the name Daniel Smith comes in. It’s where the skeleton of The Drifter was built. It’s where kids having fun turned into a set of career goals. It was a guerrilla mess but it was our mess and it was complete and people liked it. So we kept going. We built a portfolio of work that brought us here. Here in the hands of the viewers. Because that’s what we all do it for, isn’t it?
The viewers... Oh how they will never understand what we do in their name.
Sometimes we literally kill ourselves for their affection. Which is a misunderstood concept now. We think it’s attention we want. That simply a view or a click or a mention of our work will make us feel better. That all our emotional suicide will have been worth it if so many thousand people give us the time of day. But that was never the case back then; back when we were inspired by film. Because back then filmmakers were telling stories for those who wanted to listen and if we all understand how story works, its primary goal is to pull out our heart and stomp on it. Then bring it back to life and stomp on it again. It wants you to fall in love enough so that you’ll forgive it for stomping on your heart and then ask it to stomp one last time.
We wanted to make that type of film.
I personally think some moments of The Drifter are very close to that aesthetic. Who doesn’t get a little weepy at the end when you see who the survivors are and why they are the way they are? But there is a dilemma in this design. People in this 21st century no longer seek out those films that pull on their heart strings. They want action, horror, laugh-out-loud comedy or a peek into lives that aren’t very close to their’s. With the dawn of the internet and a camera in everyone’s hands, real life isn’t so hard to imagine on film anymore because we see it every day on social networks. The idea of a film isn’t as relevant. The idea that people want to see characters go through every day struggles they can relate to doesn’t translate. When was the last time you saw a character wait in line for a bathroom on the silver screen? You haven’t. Because they don’t make those scenes anymore. They make superhero films with space travel and CGI spectacles and car chases that defy the laws of physics.
Okay, so I’m being dramatic. There are a few academy award winners that are actually worth the respect of a good heart stomping reaction and there are some even better films on the independent market that’ll demand your respect as well. We wanted those moments but we also really wanted to make something that would see the light of day. Which meant it had to be interesting and not depressing. It had to be dipped into horror and not just drama. It needed to appeal to the masses of online viewership and not the theater seats that would inevitably never be filled (however we did win the audience award for the turnout we had at the Queens World Film Festival).
So Craig and I took our best qualities as filmmakers and storytellers to bring you what we thought was the best way to tell our story. The best way to bring an audience the film they want to see, the film they need to see, and the story we wanted to tell. And now it is in the hands of the viewers to decide if what we did was right. We leave it up to them to watch and review and comment and critique and we will take those responses to our next project because we cannot stop. We are born storytellers. I used to stay up for hours after my bedtime with action figures to create epic adventures that only my eyes could see. I knew I would be doing this for the rest of my life and once I hit puberty I knew why. Story is an emotional journey and if we don’t acknowledge our own journeys then we need to accept the challenges of others (characters) as signifiers of what we’ve learned in our own lives. We need to establish affection for those characters so that when they choose good over bad we can see why; or when they choose bad over good we can tell ourselves why not.
We leave The Drifter up to the viewers.