Interview: Tommy Stovall Talks Directing, ‘Room for Rent’May 2, 2019
Recently, we had the chance to talk with Tommy Stovall about life as a director and his new film, Room for Rent.
Did you always have an interest in directing or did that evolve over time?
Tommy: Yeah, I did. I actually started making films, just rudimentary films, as a teenager just for fun and it didn’t really occur to me until a got a little older that this was someone I wanted to do for real. I finally took the plunge, wrote a script, shot my first movie and here we are, this is my fourth.
Besides directing you’ve done some producing and writing as well. Do you have a favorite, or do you like doing them all for different reasons?
Tommy: Yeah, I like doing them all for different reasons. I actually see all of them as a whole of the overall process. Working with actors was something I wasn’t sure I could do but I ended up loving that part of it. I love the production and editing part of it as well, I find them fun, even post-production. That part, the post-production, can be long and tedious but to me, it’s enjoyable because you get to see everything come together, all the work you put into it and see what’s it’s going to look like.
In terms of directing, what has been the biggest challenge for you, learning to direct or just directing in general?
Tommy: I think that challenge is always, when you’re working with limited resources, a limited budget and stretched for time, you have to be very creative. You don’t have the luxury of being able to do what you want by throwing more money at things, you have to be much more resourceful, that’s the most challenging part of it.
What would you say to someone who is interested in becoming a director?
Tommy: I always say just go out and do it. There’s really no reason why anyone can’t go out and make their own movie nowadays. With all the equipment that is available, you can make a pretty decent movie without a lot of money. Like most things, the only way to really learn it is by actually doing it. You can study it, watching other people is beneficial too, but until you actually do it, that’s when you really learn the process. You learn something new every time you do it, and as you keep doing it you’ll get better.
You have a new film out called Room for Rent. How did you end up getting involved with this film, both as producer and director?
Tommy: Well, I was looking for a script that we could do with limited locations and so I looked online, I was reading through a lot of scripts and I came across this and I loved it, I loved the character of Joyce especially. I ended up optioning the script and Lin was the first one I thought about in terms of casting Joyce so I sent the script to her to see if she’d be interested. Thankfully, she was interested and so we went ahead and scheduled the shoot and got it done.
Did you have someone else in mind in case Lin passed on the project?
Tommy: You know, I didn’t think too far ahead on that part of it. When I talked to the writer about optioning the script I told him my idea for casting, told him about Lin, and he immediately loved the idea, which I thought was a really good sign. I had worked with her twice before and I knew I wanted to work with her again so I just said, if she isn’t interested or it doesn’t work out we’ll go to plan B, whatever that may be.
There are a lot of great moments with little to no dialogue in the film. Is it hard to film those moments when an actor has to sell a scene with nothing but a facial expression?
Tommy: Yeah, I think it’s all about the acting, really. You have to have talented actors to portray scenes that don’t have a lot of dialogue. I think Lin does a great job with her character in this film, she goes through such a transformation, and you can see how complex she is. She really conveys the changes the character is going through and what she endures. I think it always makes for a better scene when you can show it instead of using dialogue.
Was this a difficult shoot, over and above the usual hurdles such as lack of time and money?
Tommy: (Laughs) Yeah, those were, and usually are, the biggest things to deal with. We also had a pretty small crew so everyone was busy all the time, which is good and can be fun, but it’s just a lot of work. The shoot itself was actually a fun shoot to do. Lin is a joy to work with, which was great because she was on the set most of the time as she was in almost every scene. She kept people laughing and really, we just tried to have a good time. It was hot, shooting in Arizona in the summer but we were able to smile and get through it.
The movie looks wonderful, some great shots with shadows, giving it that sense of dread. Did you have some specific things you wanted to do with the film, a particular look or feel that you wanted to establish?
Tommy: Well I did want, as you just said, the look of dread, that would be a good way to describe it. I just wanted that sense of darkness, that sinister feel, being a dark movie I think it just adds to the suspense of it, the eerie sense hanging over each scene.
So what other projects do you have coming up next? Will you be producing, writing, directing, all of the above?
Tommy: (Laughs) Yeah, I hope so. I have a couple of projects on the backburner, nothing is scheduled yet. We are trying to raise the money for a project but you never know what’s going to happen, hopefully, something good will happen and we’ll be making another film soon.
I want to thank Tommy for taking the time to talk with us.