Writer, Director, and Animator Scott Storm shares with us his natural path to storytelling and the inspiration behind his short The Apple Tree.
When did you begin filmmaking?
Like many children of the 70’s, Star Wars had a profound effect on me and I was obsessed with it. I started making films at the age of 11, making a stop-motion clay animated film on a subject I know nothing about; world politics. Several other animated efforts followed before I made the leap to live-action in 1982 with a surreal little film called Dreamer.
Where did you attend film school?
I am from New Scotland, New York, which is a small town just outside of Albany, the state capital. I attended high school in Voorheesville, New York, where I made friends with people who would shape the course of my filmmaking life. Yvonne Perry, an actress best known for As The World Turns, was my first thespian. She starred in all my early works when I worked in the medium of Super-8 film. I’m afraid that dates me. I met my best friend, animator and NYU professor Dean Kalman Lennert at a film program in Buffalo, New York in the summer of 1982. He and I share a great love of nature and animation and he has been my closest confidant and supporter for nearly 35 years. Also just before leaving high school, I met Joe Kraemer, who has also acted for me and scored every film I have ever made. He most recently hit the big time with the score for Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, which is currently in theaters and the #1 movie in America. Go Joe!
I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City as a freshman. It was here that I met a young man named Bryan Singer. I correctly predicted that out of any of the rest of us, he would hit the big time. He is the director of The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, Superman Returns and many of the X-MEN films. It bears mentioning that he also tied for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1993 with his first feature, Public Access. He continues to be a good friend, fan and supporter to this day.
Who has been an inspiration to you?
Other than my dear friends, my parents were always my most loyal and fierce supporters. Mom chaperoned us when we ran about the woods shooting off guns filled with blanks and making sure we didn’t injure ourselves…and Dad selflessly bank rolled my output, always telling me to never give up doing what you love. On the professional side, I’ve had great inspiration from directors Peter Weir and Terrence Malick, both of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
When I was color timing my first feature film, Burn, at Deluxe Studios, merely by chance I noticed that the person that signed in before me was none other than Peter Weir, who was color timing The Truman Show in the theater next to us. I saw him in the courtyard having a cigarette with his DP and my producer, Anthony Miller, told me that “If you don’t talk to him, you’ll regret it the rest of your life.” I did so and found him to be the most charming and honest man I’d ever met. When I told him how nervous I was…he said. "It never changes. Never take on any project that doesn’t scare the hell out of you.“
He followed up by saying "I’d love to see your film!”
I answered..(thinking he’d give me an address to send a screener) "I’d love that! How can I make that happen?“
His answer: "Get a distributor.”
Burn sadly remains undistributed to this day.
Tell me about the short that brought you to HollyShorts:
The Apple Tree is an idea I’ve carried around with me for the better part of 20 years. Since coming to Hollywood, there have been many ups and downs. As we all know, it is extremely difficult to find financing for low budget independent films…or any film for that matter. After several stumbling blocks with larger projects, I told myself “I’d better sit down and work on this so I have something so show for however many years it will take. So I did just that. I sat down at my computer in the winter of 2010 and just began working. I completed the film exactly five years later in 2015. I have a deep love of nature and an extreme displeasure of people to disrespect it. The Apple Tree is my statement about that.
What sparked you to begin telling the story of the boy in The Apple Tree?
I came upon the very scene depicted in the film on a walk in the woods many years ago. It made me angry and stayed with me a long time. At a point when getting projects off the ground was proving to challenging, I decided to sit down and start work on it in the winter of 2010. Having been a lifelong lover of nature and the forests of the northeast, in general, it seemed a very natural story for me to tell. Hopefully, it was not too preachy. It’s more a love letter to being young and mischievous and capturing a moment in time than anything else. I’m very proud of it.
You write, direct, produce and animate, which is your favorite role and why?
I only write occasionally, as it is a process I find daunting and stressful. If I’m close enough to the material, I’ll write it. More often than not, I leave that to someone more qualified. Directing is my favorite aspect when working in live action because I love to collaborate and see what others can bring to the vision I have. You have to be open to the fact that one or more of your team members may have an idea that’s even better than your own. You’re all in service to the movie, so that’s an important part of that process. I animate purely for my own artistic satisfaction and I work entirely alone. Since I have no aspirations to work professionally as an animator, it is akin to writing a book. You are solitary and you answer to no one. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What are you working on next?
I have several projects going on at the same time. You never know what’s going to hit next or gain momentum, so it’s always good to stay busy. First, there is Custodian, another animated short with a medieval theme. I used to play in the Society for Creative Anachronism and have always harbored a deep love of the middle ages. My creative time and I have also been prepping a modern noir thriller called Straight Razor Jazz, screenplay by David Scott Hayand produced by Anthony Miller. It is rather ambitious and may be further down the line for that reason. I did create an animated sizzle reel for this project which is available to view on my website, www.scottstorm.net.
On a smaller scale, we are preparing OPPO, a political thriller set in Chicago, which was written by Glenn Jeffers. Just last month I completed an outline for a survival thriller called Rim Of The World, which I will hopefully co-write with someone at some point.
What advice do you have to your fellow filmmakers?
Be tenacious. Watch a lot of movies. Listen to your peers (if you respect them) and learn from them. Don’t believe everything everyone tells you in this business. Most of it is well-meant bullshit. And don’t let that discourage you. Above all, keep dreaming…keep creating. Never stop.