James Mann and Brandon Nicholas are the directing team of the coming of age indie drama, Desert Son. The film centers on Phillip, a teenage boy who learns how to survive in an unconventional circumstance when he’s dropped off in the middle of the desert by his alcoholic step-father. He meets and befriends a beautiful young woman named Lucy who takes him in and makes him a part of the pseudo-family she’s created with her unstable and verbally abusive boyfriend Jack.
The trio live together, work together, and eventually commit crimes together, which adds a life altering element to their already unhinged set up. The story has a lot of twists and turns that you don’t see coming, and Phillip is dramatically changed from the naive and defenseless boy we meet in the beginning of the film.
Mann and Nicholas were inspired to make Desert Son after they spent some time in the dry and isolated location several years ago. Something about the empty space sparked their imaginations. According to Mann:
“The inspiration for Desert Son really came from our visual passions. I began photographing old mines and mining facilities, abandoned houses, and other industrial installations in the desert about six years ago. There is such contrast, contradiction, beauty and conflict. It’s vast, it’s rough, it’s unrelenting and it’s ancient in a way that we cannot even begin to grasp. The desert always sets my imagination spinning.”
In Desert Son, Phillip, the protagonist is left in an area similar to what Mann described. His step-father abandons him in the middle of the road to fend for himself against the elements and the creatures of the inhabit the area. After wandering around, he stumbles across a vacant house filled with ragged furniture, and dirty clothes. The house was based an an actual shack the filmmakers encountered during their time in the desert.
“The place was so post apocalyptic, it was beyond eerie. We just sort of tip toed around waiting for something horrible to happen, ” added Mann.
That lack of knowing is what sparked the story for the film. The journey of a boy who has no idea what he’s getting himself into but he still goes along for the ride. It mimics the steps that the filmmakers took when producing the film. They encountered their fair share of challenges and quickly realized that anything and everything can go wrong. But if you have a dedicated cast and crew you make it through the most intimidating obstacles.
Nicholas revealed, “At our biggest we had a cast and crew of 8, which means that everyone had to wear many hats. We would be shooting in the smoldering desert heat,and then have to put the camera down and make lunch for everyone. Needless to say it got tiring but you can’t stop because the second you do, it all falls apart.”
After going through such a gorilla style production, Mann and Nicholas have plenty advice for aspiring filmmakers, but the most important thing to know is…
“You have to keep believing in the film. There are going to be all sorts of doors closed in your face through out every stage of the process. As it is in life, it’s not about getting knocked down, it’s about getting back up,” said Mann.
Desert Son is currently on the schedule for the Hollywood Film Festival but the filmmakers are keeping their run limited because of an agreement they made with Shoreline Entertainment.
Mann says, “Part of that deal was a sort of limited festival run (so as not to overplay the film in potentially viable markets). So, we’ve had to keep it at a minimum, which has actually been cool. It makes the screenings that we do pretty significant.”
Desert Son is about to be shown at the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood, which is one of the top venues for premieres and Independent films. It’s a big deal and one that Nicholas considers a nerve-wracking but exciting experience…
“To me one of the most exciting things about movies is the lasting effect they can leave with the audience. If a viewer walks away feeling what the filmmakers hoped, it’s the best feeling ever. Ultimately in the end that’s the goal. Light projected on a giant white screen making people feel scared, happy, sad, all of it is good.”
Desert Son is one of the most original and endearing films I’ve seen all year. It stars John Bain, Erica Curtis, Nathan Halliday, Elvis Winterbottom, Chauna Wertlow, and Bill Oberst Jr.
The film has previously played at:
- The Method Festival – Official Selection, Best Supporting Actor
- The Vision Festival – Official Selection, Best Cinematography
- The Hollywood Film Festival
Desert Son is playing at the ArcLight Hollywood Theater on Friday, October 22nd. Buy Tickets Here.
Visit the film’s official website for more details.