MAY SPOTLIGHT: DREW MYLREA
Film Role: Director | Homebase: Los Angeles, CA
Q: Okay Drew let’s start from the top. How did you get into film?
Drew Mylrea: I was always obsessed with puzzles and magic tricks, so stealing a video camera and trying to recreate hollywood films in my pre-teenage years was a natural fit. My friends and I would create more and more elaborate stories, and accumulate more and more weird gear to make it happen. By high school we were working on some hilariously ambitious projects (at least two feature films that never saw the light of day)... but we also were able to write an NEA grant that funded a video productions class...which turned out to be a really cool setup: the school cleared out a photo studio they had built which was being used for storage… and my drama teacher who spearheaded the effort let myself and another classmate, Brian Firenzi, create and teach video curriculum. We didn’t really know what we were doing… but the filmmaker bug really caught on… pretty soon we had 30 classmates staying up all night making weird awesome stuff.
Q: That is an awesome memory. So, what are you working on now?
DM: I’m wrapping up post on my first feature, Spy Intervention. It’s an existential spy comedy that follows a disillusioned James Bond character as he settles down into suburbia. It has an old school, Thunderbirds aesthetic, so we shot all of the big set pieces and effects using a combination of live-action and miniatures. I’ve been incorporating models and weird non-CG effects into my shorts, but this is a much larger scale… so we’re in the middle of perfecting the edit and look of the effects right now.
I’m also trying to sneak away from the edit as much as possible to prep a small thriller we’re planning on shooting in the fall.
Q: How did you get hired to direct ‘Spy Intervention?
DM: I was working on a screenplay in an airport and this weird guy approached me, asking what it was about, etc. Turns out the guy, Sunil Perkash, had actually produced some big movies and we struck up a conversation. I sent over some shorts and we kind of lost touch until a year later, out of the blue, he sent over the script for Spy Intervention. I immediately connected to the themes in the script and hammered out a rip-o-matic trailer (a trailer made from clips of similar films), and things kinda picked up steam from there. Soon we were getting actors interested and raising money. All told, the project came together in less than a year which is insane.
Q: That’s incredible! And all from a chance airport meeting. Was this the largest budget you’ve worked with? How did having a big budget impact your approach to the piece?
DM: I’ve done some 50-100k commercial projects, which turns into a stressful couple of days. Although Spy had a bigger total budget, we were still stretching things as far as possible… so the shooting days, while stressful, really amounted to everyone on set doing as much as they could to make wine out of water… which is the environment I hope to create regardless of budget. Not that I want people to be under-staffed or under-payed, but it’s important to me that everyone on a movie is showing up for the love of the project and is excited by the material. Spy definitely had that vibe and I’m very grateful.
Q: Do you have any advice on developing a successful producer/director partnership? How did it work out on this feature?
DM: I think the cardinal rule is work with people who you are in awe of… people that do the things you can’t do. When I work on projects on my own I can easily get sidetracked on tangents, and it was important to me to find a producing partner who has laser focus and made sure I wasn’t going off the rails.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of directing your first feature? How was the process different from your previous work?
DM: I was working off a script I didn’t write, which was both a blessing and a curse… On one hand, it freed me from obsessing over prose and let me look objectively at the scenes… nothing was “precious.” On the other, if something wasn’t working my instinct was to blame the script (the thing that ‘I’ didn’t do)... which was not an objective instinct. My producer Sunil was very good about stopping me from becoming the “third writer” as he called it… which freed me to focus on making what we had great and not stress-changing the script every day.
Q: What had you been working on before the ‘Spy Intervention’ job?
DM: Before Spy, I was making a living directing branded content and developing feature screenplays-- both of which I still pursue.
Q: What new opportunities has your first feature presented for you?
DM: It’s really broadened my network of collaborators, and given me the opportunity to develop material with extremely talented people. A director is only as good as the people they work with, and before Spy, I was in a place where I tried to do everything myself. Getting to meet new writers and actors, working with legends like Avy Kaufman during casting, has changed the way I think about putting together projects. People have also been responding really well to the rough cuts of Spy, and that has introduced me to production companies and financiers that can help get new projects made.
Q: When will the film be done, distributed?
DM: We just have a few more effects, sound, music and color correction… so we’re close! We have an international distributor, Hyde Park, who is selling our foreign territories (just got news we sold to China, which is cool)-- and we’ll be entering festivals to broaden our exposure, and hope to get a great domestic deal.
Q: And lastly, what’s next for you?
DM: I’m developing a few screenplays, and have a thriller (which I didn’t write) that is being packaged to shoot in the fall. But my day-job is trolling the Hexagon Initiative slack channel ;)