If there’s one story every filmmaker has in common, it would be his or her connection to their very first camera. Writer and Director Michael J. Saul is no exception.
“My grandfather had one of the first home movie cameras following the war,” the director recalls. “We had hours of footage from family vacations. Videos of my mother as she grew up. But it all really started for me when my father got tired of filming one day and handed the camera to me.”
And just like that, a filmmaker was born.
Fast-forward to the present and director Michael J. Saul has numerous features and short films under his belt. His latest film, The Surface, is about to be screened at the Frameline39 International LGBTQ Film Festival in San Francisco.
“It’s one of my favorite festivals,” Saul exclaims. “Most of the cast from this film will be attending this year, and we’re all very excited to be there.”
The Surface portrays a young college-age man who is growing disenchanted and depressed in life. Having grown up as an orphan, Evan Jones (played by Harry Hains), has spent much of his life being shuttled between foster homes, never really having a family of his own. This is in stark contrast to his boyfriend, Chris, who had a fairly normal childhood with a wealthy family who supported his gay lifestyle.
One afternoon Evan discovers an old 8mm camera and some home movies at a local garage sale and watches old home movies from a family he didn’t know. He begins to live vicariously through these short films, and falls in love with the boy in them, who is presently a 43-year-old man named Peter.
“[The film] was 3 years in the making,” Saul states. “I had lost both of my parents and was going through their things, including old home movies. I realized I watched my whole life. I felt it would be interesting to have a character with no history who attempts to acquire a story of his own.”
Australian actor Harry Hains delivers a splendid performance in the lead role, a performance that is emotional, believable and, at times, reminiscent of an early Johnny Depp.
“Casting was a painful process. We had a number of actors interested in the role,” Saul points out. “Harry had only been in LA for 4 weeks at the time. He was in New York a short time before that, so he was sort of fresh off the boat from Australia. He truthfully wasn’t what I had first envisioned for the role, but Harry brought everything into it that I had wanted. The choice was made clear.”
The Surface is poised to garner praise at Frameline39, but like most successful filmmakers, Saul already has more works on the way.
“I have a stack of scripts waiting for me,” the director laughs.
Read our film review on The Surface