Down the Road
Directed by Erik Margolin
When a paperboy goes missing in the local woods, it's up to his friends to find answers. Following a mysterious trail of clues, they venture into the heart of the unknown, and unearth something much deeper…
Q&A with Erik Margolin
Q1: Tell us a little about Down the Road, Winner of Best Feature Film in the festival.
Hi, and thanks again for letting me be part of this Q&A post! “Down the Road” is an atmospheric mystery, with a subtle dip into the supernatural. Set in the small fictional town of Clearwood, it begins when a paperboy goes missing in the local woods, and follows his friends who try to find him.
Q2: Where did the idea for this film come from?
It actually originated from a short story I wrote back in middle school (one of my earliest ideas). Mostly I was just obsessed with telling stories that took place in spooky/mysterious forests (which I still am), and supernatural mysteries. Years later I revisited it with a more professional eye (revamping it into an exploration of loss and the subconscious ways we deal with it), and adapted it into the feature you see today.
Q3: What were some key challenges when making this film? How did you overcome them?
For one thing, waiting for cloudy days to film. I wanted that subdued look of gray days and soft shadows, but being in Southern California it was a huge waiting game. Likewise, coordinating everyone’s schedules, considering this was a passion project we weren’t getting paid for and it was all done in our free time. But my main challenge by far was being the only person on post-production (which was especially challenging for the VFX stage). I don’t recommend that. Go out and find people you can lean on sometimes, cause you can quickly burn out working intense hours alone. But I got through it all, mostly just being patient and chipping away at it bit by bit.
Q4: Tell us a funny anecdote or a memorable moment from making this film.
The funniest was probably our pets interrupting the shoots. I made a blooper reel for the film and so much of it is my dog or my neighbor’s cats entering the shot and hanging out on set. Another memorable thing was how we created a rain storm for a finale sequence: with one garden hose. It looked super silly on set, but it actually turned out really good and one of the things I’m most proud of in the film.
Q5: How did you get into the film industry?
I’m not quite sure I’m actually there yet; I’m still very much on the outskirts in zero-budget land. But I got into filmmaking as a kid just filming skits with my friends. I later got serious about it in high school with classes and summer programs. And eventually I got a screenwriting degree at CSUN (California State University, Northridge).
Q6: What films or filmmakers have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
One of my first inspirations was Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone. Then it was Hitchcock, Robert Zemeckis, and of course Steven Spielberg. Then I became a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan (particularly his earlier works “The Sixth Sense”, “Signs”, “The Village”). But the through line through most of these is that they mix the real world with the supernatural/fantastic, and that’s something I really gravitate toward. I’m also very interested in the location/setting a story takes place in, and some of my favorite films (like “Jurassic Park”) have such creative/iconic locations that it almost becomes a character on its own. Otherwise, pretty much any director who is also the writer of their film (as that’s what I aspire toward).
Q7: Do you have a favorite film project that you have done? Why?
You know, it might be “Down the Road”. It was a huge labor of love, and I spent so many years with it that I almost never wanted to finish. A lot of nights immersing myself in atmospheres of fog and woods and spooky stories. Despite the challenges and time it took, it was a really fun experience. Otherwise, it might be the feature film I attempted (but never finished) before this: “The Other Dimension”, a ridiculously ambitious action-adventure-fantasy, which occupied a huge part of my life with my friends throughout middle school and high school. It was way less professional, but so much fun to work on.
Q8: What advice would you share with a new filmmaker about filmmaking or the industry?
Start small, keep it simple. Don’t go for crazy features first like I did. Focus on honing your craft with small projects you can easily finish. The biggest way you’re going to learn and improve is by making mistakes. And each project you finish gives you another chance to sit back and analyze what’s working and what isn’t. Also, networking is huge. It’s my hardest challenge as I’m very introverted, but that’s how you get the best opportunities; make yourself and your work visible.
Q9: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
Right now I’m working on a lot of