by Justin Tucker
Back in 2009, Columbia College alums Matt Glasson and Bowls MacLean first created Love Stalker as a short for St. Louis' 48 Hour Film Project, where it was one of the most well received of the festival. The filmmakers then decided to expand on their short and create a feature length movie.
Shot in St. Louis in 2010 on a microscopic budget, Love Stalker tells the story of Pete (Glasson), a single thirty-something who makes it a goal to have sex with as many women as he can. He eventually meets the charming Stephanie (Rachel Chapman), a writer who Pete falls in love with. When she discovers his past, however, she breaks off the relationship. Rejected by a woman he truly has feelings for, Pete takes a dark turn and begins to obsess over Stephanie.
This “unromantic comedy” — as described by the filmmakers — caught the attention of Billy "Silver Dollar" Baxter, a producer who helped bring George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead to the masses. Baxter was so impressed that he decided to become a presenter of the film.
In May 2011, the filmmakers took Love Stalker to Cannes, where it premiered as part of the festival’s Marché du Film. Last February, the film had its Chicago premiere at the historic Portage Theater, one of the city’s best venues for film, where it screened with Baxter’s Love & Anarchy.
Recently, Love Stalker was awarded "Best Micro Budget Film" for The Greenpoint Film Festival in Brooklyn, which takes place September 20th-23rd. The short film will be screened Sunday September 23rd, 2012.
UR Chicago: The film started out as part of the St. Louis 48 Hour Film Project, then evolved into a feature length production. Tell us a little about the making of the film.
Matt Glasson: The 48 Hour Film Project is a great way to propel a filmmaker into action because the choices are simple: fail or deliver. Bowls and I had met in film school in Chicago and had worked on a number of projects together over the years, so one year he signed up for the 48 hour Film Project in St. Louis and I flew out from New York to help him make it happen — and happen it did. Not only did our short film get completed on time (under 48 hours), it was well received by the judges, and it won a few awards. Afterwards, Bowls and I looked at each other and had one of those “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?" moments where we both knew there was a bigger story to be told, based on the short. The feature Love Stalker and the short Love Stalker are two totally separate stories, but the short definitely propelled us into action and was subsequently the inspiration when we decided we would make a microbudget feature film ourselves. About a year after our 48 Hour Film success, we were going into production on the feature-length film and so, the whole thing happened fairly quickly.
UR: The film was shot near or in several St. Louis landmarks as well as in some of the city's great drinking establishments. Tell us about shooting in the great city of St. Louis and making the city a character inside the film.
MG: St. Louis IS a character, and every city/town is in its own right. The nice thing with the city is that because of Bowls’ history there and the many relationships he had developed (along with many of the bars that he frequents in South City), it opened up a lot of locations that we were able to get for free. In general, the people of the city were very supportive and welcoming to us making our own feature film. I think in the bigger cities like LA, NYC, and Chicago it’s a bit more commonplace, but down there they were very enthusiastic about what we were trying to accomplish, and that made the whole endeavor a lot of fun for me and the rest of the cast and crew. But visually, there’s a lot of older architecture and inventive designs that can be surprising at first glance. It’s a beautiful city and has a lot more to offer than just that arch.
UR: How did the legendary Billy "Silver Dollar" Baxter get involved with the film, and how was the experience of taking the film to the Cannes Film Festival?
MG: Billy Baxter was introduced to me through his son Jack a few years back to hire me on to edit a trailer for Billy’s short film Diary of the Cannes Film Festival from 1980. He was getting ready to re-release it and needed a short, so we met and instantly took a liking to each other. Billy was the type of guy who you’d either love or hate (and often both). He told you whatever was on his mind, and he loved to bust everyone’s balls. After we made the film, he asked to see a copy of it and liked it enough to offer to lend his name to the project, something he hadn’t done in over 30 years. It was a true honor for me, Bowls, and our producer David Ohliger to have his name and blessing on the film. I mean, here’s a guy whose name is on THE original poster for Dawn of the Dead. That’s a very high endorsement to us film fanboys.
Unfortunately, he passed away earlier this year, but I know he was proud of the film and enjoyed working with us on it towards the end of his life.
One of the things that Billy had advised us was to take the film to Cannes and to work it in the Marché and try to shake up some interest with buyers and distributors. We went as a quartet with Dave (producer/composer), our leading lady Rachel Chapman, Billy’s son Jack and myself. I had never been to Cannes and so, you could imagine that the experience was quite a whirlwind of meetings, screenings, and working the film however we could. Ironically, I didn’t get a chance to see a single film while we were there because we were so busy, and I was so exhausted when our film had its screening that I fell asleep next to my co-star in the theater!
As much as we were freshmen at the festival, a lot of good came out of it: a photo shoot at the Variety tent, a mention from GQ magazine, and we actually got a distributor interested from Spain who is working on a subtitled version of the film as we speak! As much as I love that the film is going to get a release in Spain, I’m kinda devastated that they’re not going to dub my voice en español — that would be awesome!
UR: Rachel Chapman, who played the film's love interest, looks beautiful and does a good job in the film. What was it like working with this talented starlet?
MG: Rachel is a total sweetheart and is indeed a knockout to boot. It was not difficult for me, in character as Pete, to feel myself falling in love with her on set. She is one of those people that can make you feel very special when she directs her attention towards you and, in turn, I could feel myself wanting her validation as a result, which added to the dynamic of our relationship on screen. There were times, I think, when she wasn’t sure if the film was going to come out or not. It took a lot of bravery on her part to take the time to do the film as we did and for as cheaply as we did. I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.
UR: The film screened with Love and Anarchy, another film produced by Baxter, at the historic Portage Theater in Chicago earlier in the year. Tell us about the film screening at this once-endangered landmark movie house.
MG: Screening at the Portage was a thrill for me on many levels: first of all, it IS an amazing theater with a deep and rich history — they don’t make ‘em like they used to! Secondly, the Portage screening was our Chicago premiere, so, for me, it was a homecoming event as well. My family and friends (some of whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years) came out in a wonderful show of support. The screening went well enough that we’ve arranged to play for a whole additional week this September!
UR: The film has played several festivals, including the St. Louis International Film Festival and most recently at the Little Rock Horror Picture Show and the Kansas City FilmFest. How has the film been received out on the road? Are there any other screenings in the works?
MG: It’s hard when you’re a no-name microbudget film trying to compete with the bigger budget indie films out there, but when you consider the landscape of indie cinema in today’s market, I feel like we’ve had a very successful run with it. It’s been a bit disappointing that we haven’t gotten into more festivals and/or achieved a broader level of distribution, but we will continue to push the film onto the market ourselves and get it out there however we can. In fact, as of this writing, the film has just been approved for addition to Amazon Instant Video, which we’re really excited about. Hopefully someday we will get on Netflix with it, but by the end of this year I think we all want to walk away from Love Stalker and be working on something else.
UR: Any future projects for yourself and your co-director, Bowls MacLean?
MG: I know that Bowls has been working on a new screenplay, which is currently titled Joe Nobody. He described it to me as a “fish-out-of-water/hand-up-skirt” film, which sounds right up his alley. I’d love to be involved in some acting role in one of his future film projects, but I know that creatively we have our own ideas and worlds that we’d like to explore post Love Stalker. I’m working on a screenplay for a project called The Last Westie — also inspired by the 48 Hour Film Project that Dave and I did in NYC starring Jack Baxter. It’s about an aging Irish gangster who runs an illegal poker game on the west side of NYC and starts getting squeezed out by his rivals. I also have an idea that I’ve been kicking around for years that takes place in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn which is a comedy/horror that takes aim at the hipster culture. Obviously, with both of these projects, the budget would need to be a little higher, so I might try to figure out something.
UR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MG: We just got word that our film was accepted as part of the Greenpoint Film Festival here in Brooklyn, so Love Stalker continues to have a life on the festival circuit, which is a good feeling. I hope it lasts!