A young woman walks down a desire path next to her house and invites a demonic figure into her life in this vampire film with an elliptical plot, minimal dialogue, and characters that are defenseless against their drives.
| Desire Path still frames
Desire Path was my second collaboration with director, Marjorie Conrad. Our first foray was Chemical Cut–an absurdist dramedy about the woes of the modeling world. For her second feature, Marjorie couldn't have written something farther afield from her debut. This time around, she remained firmly behind the camera and created something dark, foreboding, and at times deeply unsettling. These are all things I love, so I was beyond excited to collaborate again.
We filmed Desire Path in Austin, Texas over the course of a 12-day shooting schedule with a week's worth of prep. The prep time was essential, as we decided to approach the shooting cold–meaning, no storyboards or shot lists, and script that was essentially an outline, clocking in at only 11-pages. This is a working style I feel right at home with, and I was glad Marjorie was brave enough to follow through with it.
I arrived on location about a week early with my gaffer, Dan Juenemann, a true master of light and shadow, and my human security blanket. During our prep, Marjorie and I planned shot ideas scene by scene, but didn't hold too tight to anything in particular. We really wanted to leave enough room to experiment on set when the actors and light were in place, but we did make sure we had a kind of loose plan to fall back on just in case things went off the rails on our shooting days.
Thankfully, we were going to be contained to one main location for most of the film. I say thankfully because we'd be shooting mostly at night during the winter, would have to create a shot list on the spot for each scene, and would be using a specialty thermal imaging camera for a significant part of the film–a piece of equipment I'd have to familiarize myself with as quickly as possible before filming began.
| Desire Path still frames
On top of figuring out how to best utilize the thermal imaging camera, we also had to come up with another visual device to represent Lana, the main character's, figurative descent deeper and deeper into a world of madness. I had been experimenting with a technique called free-lensing for some time, and on a whim, I proposed the idea to Marjorie as a way to inject a different feel to some of the scenes where she wanted Lana's plight to be felt by the audience.
Free-lensing essentially involves hand-holding the lens in front of the camera's lens mount and adjusting focus by physically moving the lens forward and backwards. It's a technique that can seem heavy handed if overused, but in this case, it provided the perfect aesthetic. I set up a quick test to show Marjorie what the result would look like, she approved of the idea, and we ran with it. We ended up shooting much of the film this way–something completely unexpected until the day of.
Thanks to our awesome cast and crew, filming went off without any major issues. It was freezing cold, and by the end of it, we all felt like vampires having not seen the sun in weeks, but the footage looked great.
At that point, Marjorie and co-editor, Aiko Terui, set about crafting our strange images into an experimental narrative that was nearly devoid of dialog, but heavy on mood and atmosphere. The thermal footage evoked the look of old black and white film, but with a surreal quality that would have been impossible to replicate with any other means.
And Andrew Banewicz's sound design planted the film firmly in fever dream territory.
Desire Path is a one-of-a-kind film, both in presentation and production. It's a challenging film and not for everyone–with its elliptical plot, lack of dialog, and art-house pacing–but those who make the commitment are in for a treat they're not likely to forget anytime soon. It's a film that leaves you in your seat after the credits, wondering what exactly you just saw.
Audience Award Winner: Best Narrative Feature Film - Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, 2020
It's currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime, or to stream free on YouTube.
Amy Deanna – "Lana"
Otto von Schirach – "Otto"
Andrew Banewicz – "Andrew"
Key Crew
Marjorie Conrad – Writer, Director, Lead Editor
Andrew Banewicz – Produer, Sound Designer
Clementine Leger – Producer
Aiko Terui – Lead Co-Editor
Mackenzie Mathis – Cinematographer, Colorist
Dan Juenemann – Chief Lighting Designer, Gaffer
Marc Rodriguez – Location Sound
Sloan Priest – Best Boy Electric
Thomas Negrete – Camera Assistant
Alessandra Jara Del Castillo – Camera Assistant
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