This weekend at the Little Rock Film Festival, talk of the Benton, Arkansas filmmaker Daniel Campbell's short film ANTIQUITIES was constant. A madcap mini-rom-com, ANTIQUITIES captures a day in the life of a hapless antique-mall clerk who is smitten with a charming dealer and struggling for a career breakthrough in the used-goods biz. Unfortunately, he is cosmically doomed by conversational gaffes and goofy hair.
For all its shortness, ANTIQUITIES packs a lot of punch—and punch lines—and the movie ended up winning the Charles B. Pierce Award for the Best Film Made In Arkansas at the Little Rock Film Festival. But we don't think it stops there; we'll go so far as to predict that Daniel Campbell will be a major Hollywood director.
The day after the Festival, The OA caught up with Campbell, for a micro-interview to match Campbell's abbreviated media, to discuss his roots, his influences, and the lessons he learned on-site.
THE OXFORD AMERICAN: You grew up in Benton, Arkansas. When and how did movies take hold of your life?
DANIEL CAMPBELL: I was a movie addict from the start. I was quoting RAISING ARIZONA in elementary school. It was my dad's favorite film and he watched it constantly. He wouldn't let me see it due to the language so I used to sneak in the living room and sit to the side of the couch without him knowing.
THE OA: What did you aim to accomplish with ANTIQUITIES?
DC: I definitely want to turn it in to a feature. That's the ultimate goal.
THE OA: ANTIQUITIES seems to have distinctive pacing and timing. Would you please describe the kind of rhythm that you were after?
DC: I just wanted it to seem natural and I didn't want to rush anything. When I was writing the script, I started to notice each character was sort of setting their own pace. I knew if I could get the actors to do what was in my head the rhythm would work itself out.
THE OA: Did your vision for the movie change in the editing room?
DC: In small ways it did. To me it's a character-driven film and I kept the characters very close to how I originally pictured them.
THE OA: Even though ANTIQUITIES is a very short movie, every character in it seems fleshed out. In other words, the acting is universally good. I have heard you be humble when discussing this but I want to get beyond that. How does a director cause good acting and how did you get the acting you wanted for this picture?
DC: Well, thank you for saying that. I kind of approached each actor differently. In my opinion, you have to let the actor play with it and mold the character into their own and if they did something that didn't work we would just change it up and go again. Before we would shoot, I would give each actor the point we were trying to make in the scene and kind of reemphasize the situation they were in at the time. A lot of times when it seemed rehearsed, I would toss the script and kind of challenge them to adlib to get the point across. It's not at all about the lines to me and sticking to the exact dialogue, I just want it to be as natural and to seem as effortless as possible.
THE OA: Much of the ANTIQUITIES buzz at the Little Rock Film Festival centered around the character of Blundale (played by the non-actor Roger Scott). Why is this character so effective and how did a non-actor manage to achieve all this?
DC: He's a natural and one of the most talented people I've ever met. Roger and I are really close friends and we have the same sense of humor. Before we started filming, I told him that I wanted this to be "real life"-type situations and I wanted to stay true to that with the dialogue. Even when he was adlibbing, it never seemed to me he was out of character. The man's talent is unreal.
THE OA: I'll be honest with you. The one moment that disappointed me was the shot of the main character taking a leak. Too many directors use this shot as a way of indicating reality. The same shot occurs in THE COLONEL'S BRIDE. Am I missing something?
DC: Well, I wanted to show him just one time in the film where he wasn't a nervous wreck, and for some reason that's what popped in my head.
THE OA: Everybody who I spoke with loved the feeling and movement of the movie...but you strike me as a perfectionist. Is there anything about ANTIQUITIES that you have regrets about?
DC: Yes, when Terrance is taking a leak. No, honestly, I'm pleased with the outcome. I wish I would have done a few things differently or taken more time to maximize a scene or two, but having no budget and very limited time to shoot, you roll with what you get, I guess, and hope it makes people laugh.
THE OA: Did the short-film format constrain you in any way or does it help you be concise?
DC: I think the format just forces you to stay on track. Especially if you have as many characters as we did in ANTIQUITIES.
THE OA: I understand that you are planning to shoot your second short film this summer. I don't think you want to talk about its content so I'll give you a pass on that. But have you started thinking yet about a feature-film length movie and, if so, is there anything at all that you can tell us about it?
DC: It takes place at an antique mall....
THE OA: Which movies have inspired you as a director?
DC: BOTTLE ROCKET, RAISING ARIZONA, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED, and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE are definitely at the top of the list. I recently saw AWAY WE GO, and went home immediately afterwards to write.
THE OA: You probably started with a rough visual in your head of how ANTIQUITIES, when finished, would look. And then reality had its say-so. Was discovering a slightly different movie from the one you started off with in your head a pleasing or difficult experience? What did you learn from that?
DC: It was very difficult at first, but when it all started to come together, I was thrilled. If I learned anything, it's that it will never turn out exactly how it is in your head—but in my opinion, that's what makes it so fun.
THE OA: How different was the movie in your head from the movie we saw?
DC: It's not too far off at all. There were a couple of scenes that we had to rush because of time constraints that I would have changed, but other than that I think it's pretty close.
THE OA: What is your favorite moment in ANTIQUITIES?
DC: Oh, definitely when Blundale snatches the bottle from the little old lady. It showed how much of a complete jerk he really is.
THE OA: What is the biggest lesson you learned in this, your first directing gig?
DC: Surround yourself with talented people who all share the same vision. Everyone involved in the making of ANTIQUITIES was amazing.