Saturday, October 21, 2006

Filmmaker Focus: Daniel O'Connor

picDaniel O'Connor, writer/director, RUN ROBOT RUN!

Run Robot Run! is a science-fiction comedy making its world premiere at the 13th Annual Austin Film Festival today at the Dobie Theater at 3 p.m.

Daniel O'Connor is a Canadian filmmaker living in Toronto. For the past 18 years Daniel has lived a dual existence, making short films and leading his own management consulting company coaching Fortune 500 leaders. With Robot Daniel has finally taken the great leap into feature film production (and living his dream).

Tell me about the evolution of Run Robot Run from concept to script.

I was reading the newspaper one morning about artificial intelligence and how quickly it was progressing and it occurred to me that is only a matter of time til we are replaced by robots in our jobs. They wouldn’t be moody or tired in the morning or cranky – they’d just do their jobs and make us look bad. So I sat down and wrote the screenplay. I had a clear idea of the tone of the film and the screenplay came quite easily.

When writing the screenplay, did you always envision directing it yourself?

I’ve directed every screenplay I’ve written so it was always my intention to direct the film. It’s a great way to make sure your screenplay turns into the movie you wrote.

What aspect of filmmaking surprised you most about jumping from comedy shorts to a feature?

I think the biggest surprise was the way the story had to be structured. It’s one thing to carry a film for 10 or 12 minutes. It’s a completely different thing to do it for an hour and a half. In the editing room I realized that I needed to really be ruthless in trimming the story in order to keep the audience entertained and engaged.

Run Robot Run! is a sci-fi comedy -- there are some nice touches that depict life in the not-so-distant future. Tell me about the production design and some of the pieces of which you're most proud.

We wanted to keep the look clean and sleek. That fit well with our limited budget which didn’t allow for a lot of futuristic CGI. When we needed props I thought that the best ones would be ones that looked like 50s sci-fi props, ones that didn’t compete with films like Minority Report or I, Robot. This movie is a character study so I wanted to ensure that the props didn’t distract from the story. I’m most proud of the beer glasses that are used in the future. They’re gigantic and people find them very funny. I like the idea of exaggerating the trends we see already with food servings getting bigger and bigger.

What direction did you give Peter Mooney (Adam) about how to act like a robot?

Peter plays two roles in the movie, two different aspects of the robot. In the first role, I suggested that he play the role as if he was the nicest guy in the world, very naïve and innocent. In the second part he plays, I said that he should keep the nice guy part but be a lot more cool and hip. It seemed to work.

What's next?

A movie about people who are in jobs that aren’t their dream, people who want to do something different, to unplug from the corporate world and live from the soul.

The feature RUN ROBOT RUN screens at 3 p.m. on October 21st at the Dobie Theater and again at 7:15 p.m. on October 25th at the Arbor. Film passes to the Austin Film Festival are just $35 for admission to all screenings (space permitting).

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