It’s hard to regain one’s faith once you’ve lost it. Director Tracy Trost explores this spiritual struggle in his latest film The Lamp, in which he offers viewers a much-needed message of hope. Now available on Video on Demand, The Lamp is the story of a mysterious messenger (played by Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr.) who helps a couple (Jason London and Meredith Salenger) rediscover the joy in their lives after grieving over the loss of their son.
MM spoke to Trost about adapting The Lamp from Jim Stovall’s novel, his decision to write his own companion novel to the film and his experience directing different mediums.
Samantha Husik (MM): What inspired you to adapt Jim Stovall’s book, The Lamp, into a film? What about the book seemed particularly cinematic?
Tracy Trost (TT): When Jim shared The Lamp with me, I immediately got the concept of the book. I knew it was a story that many people could relate to and connect with. Of course with any adaptation from book to movie, there were sub-plots and supporting characters that needed to be added. I remember after I read the book, on a flight from Dallas to Hawaii, I wrote an eight-page treatment of my ideas for additions and changes to make to the story entertaining to viewers. I sent them to Jim and he loved them. We work very well together.
MM: What was the biggest challenge you faced on the set, and how did you overcome it?
TT: This may sound strange, but we really didn’t have many big challenges. In the course of making a movie you are always confronted with issues, but I have to say that our sets always run very smoothly. We are very thorough in our pre-production and we usually anticipate the issues any given location may bring.
In fact, there was one day that we were scheduled to shoot outside in the driveway of the house all day. That morning it started to rain just before sunrise, so my AD, Jason Stafford, and I got together and we came up with a plan to shoot some of the inside scenes until the weather cleared. We moved inside and shot some scenes from a day further down the schedule, then the sun came out in the afternoon and we moved outside to get the scheduled shots. We actually ended up a day ahead of our schedule because of this. I have to give huge kudos to my staff and the crew at Trost Moving Pictures for keeping issues that do arise from becoming big problems. We are always on time and on budget.
MM: You also wrote a book, Just Believe: 10 Principles of the Message, as a companion piece to the film. What was the impetus behind this decision?
TT: The Lamp has a strong message at its core. That message is that anything is possible if we truly believe that it is. Our characters Stanley (Jason London) and Lisa (Meredith Salenger) go through some life-altering events that make them question everything they believed in their life up to that moment. In the movie, the Messenger, played by Louis Gossett Jr., brings them a message of hope and shows them that everything they could want or need in their life is available to them if they are first willing to believe it is. I wrote Just Believe because there is much more to the message than could be shared in the movie. In The Lamp, Stanley and Lisa learn just one of the 10 principles, which is the principle to “Just Believe.” In the book, Stanley is introduced to other Messengers and learns the nine other principles of The Message. This book will help anyone who is open to looking at their lives from a new perspective, in order to make their life everything and anything they want it to be. That is if they are willing to… “Just Believe.”
MM: You started in TV, transitioned into films and are about to make your directorial debut in the theater? Does your approach to directing change depending on the medium? How so?
TT: TV, film, and theater are very different yet much the same. Most of my experience in TV has been live shows with multi-camera live direction. In that situation I have to think three steps ahead and plan my camera selection and shot selection on the fly. I love the energy in live TV.
Film is a lot more planned out and much more in the moment; there is a lot of pre-production to make sure you can be in the moment on set. My favorite part about film is working with the actors, helping them to take the character to a place that they might not have imagined and then to help them bring a performance that they might not have known that they had within them. That is my greatest reward. I love the collaboration of bringing a character to life.
Theater is the most different for me as a director. Much like film, it has a lot of collaboration with it, but I think the best part about theater is the immediate response from the audience. I love it when you have a humorous line in a play and as soon as it is delivered the audience reacts and laughs out loud. I know for me it is very gratifying and I know for the actors it gives them a charge and inspires them in their performance. The aspect of theater that I enjoy the most is that the play and performances take on a life of their own. Each time we do a performance we can measure the reaction from the audience and make adjustments as we go. For A Christmas Snow Live (based on my movie), which we are doing at the Starlite Theatre in Branson, Missouri this year, I am fortunate to have the cast from the film reprise their roles: Muse Watson (who plays Mike Franks on “NCIS”), Catherine Mary Stewart (The Last Starfighter, Weekend at Bernie’s) and Cameron Ten Napel. They all have stage experience and are very collaborative. We will do 76 performances this season starting November 1st and each performance is an opportunity to try new things until we will perfect the play.
MM: Much of your work has made its way around the festival circuit. Why are fests still such a viable exhibition opportunity for indie moviemakers? What’s the one piece of advice you’d offer to other moviemakers about to embark on their own tour of the film fest circuit?
TT: Festivals are still very viable because many of the people attending are in the industry and they are looking to find new work and new talent. I personally enjoy festivals because I like to see the audience’s reactions to the films shown. I enjoy sitting in the back of the theater and watching the audience to gauge whether or not the filmmakers have done a good job of engaging the audience.
Festivals are important; they’re a great way to get your work seen and a great way to network. I would suggest to anyone who is making an indie film to put money in the budget for festivals and be sure to add money for travel to the top five they plan to enter.
MM: Time to answer the question posed in The Lamp trailer, “If you could have anything, what would you wish for?”
TT: To give MovieMaker Magazine interviews on my latest film, 20 years from now.
To view the trailer for The Lamp visit: http://www.thelampmovie.com/.