When you get to our age and a guy asks you to come out into the woods to film a movie on Saturday – it’s a little weird…”
Today we chat with film director Steve Dayton, actor Jason Anderson and musician Alex Spiegel as they discuss their recent collaboration on the movie “gIVE” which “provides a look into how we move on from tragedy.” We chat about the film production process, individual origins, and the in and outs of releasing an independent film.
This podcast is sponsored by Artspire La Crosse.
This podcast is brought to you by Artspire presented by the Pump House Regional Art Center to attract, engage, and connect artists in the community through an Art Fair and Sale on Saturday, June 12. Information is that artspire.thepumphouse.org. Today we chat with film director Steve Dayton, actor Jason Anderson, and musician, Alex Spiegel, as they discussed their recent collaboration on the movie gIVE, which provides a look into how we move on from tragedy. We chat about the film production process, individual origins, and the ins and outs of releasing an independent film. You can find more conversations on our website, lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy. And I’m Brent. And this is La Crosse Local.
Steve Dayton 00:50
My name is Steve Dayton, I was born in lacrosse, Wisconsin. So how I got into filmmaking is in high school, we had a project where they gave us the option to do a video. And I thought that was going to be the easiest route. And I found very quickly that I was taking it more serious than everybody else in the project. And from that moment on, I fell in love with the process of making videos. And I’ve never stopped since.
Brent Hanifl 01:19
So an aside, and I’m kind of maybe guessing your age, was this back in the day when you had to stop and start it to edit the video? You know, you pull out the camera, and basically, you know, you’d almost do claymation with actual video in some ways.
Steve Dayton 01:34
You know, I was right on the verge for, the first camera I bought came with a little bit of a digital editing program, that I push forward. So there was still a little bit of making sure that you’re getting the right stuff. Each time you didn’t want to create too much footage to edit.
Jason Anderson 01:55
Jason Anderson, born in La Crosse as well, raised in West Salem. So just right off the cusp here and very similar to Steve’s story is I actually started with play productions and doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff there. Really kind of enjoyed watching everything behind the scenes and realizing that nothing could happen. And then I got into filmmaking, or video production doing a health video. And again, like Steve said, myself and a couple of my friends that were all into it, we took it a lot more seriously than everybody else did. And because of that we raised the teacher’s bar on videos going forward. So everybody was real happy with us about raising the bar, and then started doing some commercial work. Did that for about 17 years or so. But while doing that, I also found myself getting in front of the camera a lot, for actually for Steve quite frequently. And Steve and I have been friends for quite a long time. We actually became friends with his first movie, they did Pop Punk Zombies where they needed somebody to come into a scene. So I came in, filled in. Next thing I know two scenes later, I’m got three scenes in this movie. and stayed friends work together for quite a few years doing like commercial work. Then he said he had this idea for this movie, and I jumped on board and we ran with it.
Alex Spiegel 03:19
Yeah, so Alex Spiegel, I’m from Neillsville, Wisconsin, which is a city that you probably drive through and don’t know they actually went through. A city of 3000 people that live there, probably less now. It was a strange place to grow up. Because even though there was only 3000 people, there was a pretty active art scene at least when I was living there. When I was in high school, I played in punk rock bands. And I think at the time, there were like five punk rock bands in a city of 3000 people, which the cool part was, there was nothing to do. It’s kind of before the age of internet. So if you put on a show at the VFW or something the entire city would show up. So you kind of, you kind of thought you were a rock star. But yeah, the next question is, how do I get into scoring movies, as if that’s something I do. I really just did this one. I know Steve, uh, cuz I’ve, you know, played in rock and roll bands my whole life. And if you live in a city of small size of La Crosse, if you play in a band that does a lot of stuff, and there’s a guy making movies, you’re probably gonna, you know, bump into them. Especially if they’re making a movie about Zombie punk rockers, which is what his first movie’s about and he contacted the people I was organized with, into using our music in that movie, which resulted in we were kind of overachievers in that band and we decided to make an original song for the trailer. And it was basically a song the band played. And then on this movie, which is gIVE, I’ve made an album at home at a home studio and I; doing that as something you probably should never do as a s omeone who makes music. So I just handed it out to friends. And I gave one to Steve. And Steve was like, Oh, you make music and stuff still? Well, I’ve made this movie, would you want to do something with it? And I first said, No. And then eventually I was like well, I’m never going to get an opportunity to do this again. So that’s where we ended up and brought us here in this conversation.
Brent Hanifl 05:22
You know, I haven’t actually watched the movie yet. I’m planning to actually do that tonight. I did watch the trailer, and it was quite creepy. Hopefully, that was intentional. How did the idea for this movie come about?
Steve Dayton 05:35
So for me, give comes out of my two greatest fears, my fear as a child of being taken away. I remember laying in bed thinking that aliens would common steal me away. And then I went, I’d be without my parents. And then transitioning, I got over that fear a little bit. Now I’ve transitioned into being a father of four, where my greatest fear is something happening to the children. And so it’s a mixture of those two perspectives, kind of intertwined into the story of gIVE.
Brent Hanifl 06:12
What are some of the influences you think you’re pulling from with this? I know, you said kind of your, your background, your history of just kind of your personal experience? Is there any sort of influences you’re pulling into this? You know, you’re talking about music, to your own background, to other people that are in movies?
Steve Dayton 06:27
I hate to say that, but it’s the truth. So I was rummage saling one day, and I came upon a blu ray of three Stanley Kubrick movies. And it was $1. And I like, internally was freaking out. I was like, how can I find this for $1? Bought it right away, ran home. And I put on 2001 Space Odyssey that I’ve seen, you know, a couple times. And I was just laying like, I think the kids were outside playing. Well, that makes me sound like a bad father. Out of the house. They were out of the house. And I had put on 2001 Space Odyssey and I was just lying there, listening to it kind of just almost napping. And I, I had the thought of, hey, maybe I could do something like this. And from that point on, I went down a dangerous road of making a feature film. So the movie gIVE is available on Amazon so people can check it out.
Brent Hanifl 07:24
What is the process? Like if even getting, you know, like you said, just going down the road of starting to feature film? What is the process for each of you in terms of actually trying to pull that off?
Alex Spiegel 07:35
The music thing? Steve approached me to do it. And it’s one of those things where you go, Yeah, that’d be awesome. That’d be super cool. People will think I’m smart and stuff. And then you actually start doing and you’re like, well, I don’t know, any. I don’t know how to do any of this at all. Like, I mean, it was when you’re Googling how to score a movie. Yeah, that’s not a good sign. And that was pretty much what it was. And we actually, I created not entire scores, but the one that you can download here in the movie, that’s the fourth score that I presented to Steve. So the first one is what a friend of mine said, it’s what you expect out of me. Because the first one I was like, wierd drums and feedback, guitar and stuff. And I played it to Steve. And he was like, oh, probably not gonna, this isn’t gonna work out. And I was like, What? And then, and then I started having to Google how to score a movie, and came across a couple of things that I thought I could do. And they were really, you know, like using MIDI keyboards and MIDI and all that kind of stuff. And the second one was a kind of like a Hitchcock when Bernard Herman sort of thing. And that didn’t work. And then there was another one, and then I did the unthinkable. And I actually asked Steve, what he wanted the score to sound like. And then from there, if I told you what, what he told me, you would say, well, the score doesn’t sound anything like what he asked, and I’m not going to share what his suggestions were. But that got me going down a road of something that I could hack my way through. That was good enough for him. And I got, I gotta say, like, it was like three months of nights and weekends of working on it, the score. I made a lot of mistakes. Number one, when a for real movie person gives you a movie, it doesn’t look like a movie. It’s it’s like 17 hours long. And the first time I got it, I’m like, What is this? And he was like, No, you see, when you make a movie, you have all this stuff, and then you watch it and then you cut down and because it’ll just be the same scene, like six times, you know, and all that stuff. And, and I just started scoring to that, because I’m, you know, a little stupid, especially at this. So, you know, I would have to keep doing and keep doing it, then I would send it to him. He’d be like, great. So this is where the movie’s at now. And everything you done was a giant waste of time, you know? So, um, yeah, it was just a really interesting learning curve. And it was super fun and I gotta say, I’m really proud of it. It’s not something that I would say sounds like me It kind of sounds like an already weird movie score. But I’m super proud of accomplishing something that’s complicated.
Jason Anderson 10:11
And Alex, I gotta say, it sounds Excellent.
Alex Spiegel 10:14
Thanks, man. I use a lot of technology, I’ve never used before. I would have a almost primarily made out of samples and what a sample is, it’s a recorded instrument that you can use to play an instrument. So it’s like a piano with a record one note. And then you play that one note, as if you’re playing a real instrument. I had never used that before. And the movie forced the fact that those sort of instruments have to get used. And the kind of cool thing is, for someone who doesn’t really know anything about music, you could take this movie, the score, and you could have like a, a small orchestra play some of it, which would be kind of super neat, do something we can’t afford, maybe on the next day.
Jason Anderson 10:57
So I, Alex, he gave you quite a bit of a challenge, kind of like when he presented me with this idea of the movie. He goes, I have this idea. I’m like, all right, explain me the idea. Awesome. Let’s do it. Because here’s the catch, though. There’s no script, it’s, I have an outline, I have kind of an idea I want you to do, but you’re improvising it. Pretty much like, awesome. It was a challenge to improvise a lot of that. Don’t get me wrong here. There was some direction. But a lot of it was coming up on the fly and trying to pull that feeling out again, I went inside just like Steve did with the loss of his kids. I’ve got my own kids that, you know, I really pulled from what would I feel, had I lost one of them. Trying to find them. And God, I don’t want to ever experienced that in real life. But yeah, it was, it was a challenge. And a lot of running. Yeah, I was hurtin after that.
Steve Dayton 11:56
So for me, I think you’ve kind of figured this out that it’s finding the right people that are going to take on the project and run with it. I know that Alex is super talented, and just he’s like a true artist. I know you’re gonna hate that. But I just knew that I had to give him the pieces. And he would elevate it and which he did. Jason not so much. No – joking. Jason, was the same thing. As I needed somebody who would be comfortable with that style, and that I could work with to feed off of. That he would get what I’m looking for, and that we could have the openness between us to have those conversations, on the day on the moment to try to capture lightning in the bottle a million times.
Brent Hanifl 12:54
What do you want the viewer to get out of this project?
Steve Dayton 12:57
The overall goal of the movie is to think about how we process loss, how we move on from extreme pain? And what type of answers. I don’t want to give you all those answers. I want you, I want the audience to look inside themselves and say, How can I be inspired to live a better life? Because we’re all going to deal with some sort of pain, some sort of drama in our life.
Brent Hanifl 13:23
For someone who’s you know, interested in the movie making and making movies on what seems like a smaller budget? How do you roll out a movie like this? Like, how do you even get to Prime video for people to watch it?
Steve Dayton 13:33
That I always think that these are going to be short projects that I’m going to do quickly and move on. So the thing about making movies is they live with you forever. Pop Punk Zombies is still something that I talked about 10 years after the fact. gIVE is going to be something that it doesn’t go away when we finish the edit. That’s just the beginning. Now I have to you know, shepherd it to new audiences. Going back to what Alex said is, we’ve learned some things is that for the score, we need a final cut. And then he can do his magic. And then there’s a process of distribution. For Pop Punk Zombies, we originally went with a distributor, and they took care of putting it everywhere that it needed to be or where they could get it. For this one, I knew that I want to do self distribution. So there’s some avenues that you can take to do that. So you can actually submit your movies right now currently to Amazon direct. Any filmmaker can do that. And then I’m also in the process of using self distribution marketplace where I put it on this platform and different streaming services can pick it up. Different countries can pick it up. So we’re in the process of getting that getting gIVE on Tubi TV which is a free streaming service also. Which is really exciting for us. So it’s also just a learning process overall. The other big thing about why I love making movies is I’m always learning, I’m always improving on how I can do stuff.
Alex Spiegel 15:06
This is the first real movie that I was involved with, from a certain point to the end here. If someone’s gonna make a movie, Steve worked in LA and he has like, he actually if you ask him a question, he has an answer. So if you asked Steve a movie question, he has some sort of answer, which is super impressive. And we did another podcast and we were talking about movie stuff. And like we just rambled on for like an hour just asking Steve like, how do you do this? Steve can break down the matrix of having star power in your movie and not. Steve would say something like, even if I could, even if I had a chance of having a big actor in this movie, this movie’s not gonna make enough money to cover their wage. So it’s not worth it, it doesn’t matter. What I’m trying to say is that’s really part of making a movie, when you see a director like Steve or someone that you know their name from Hollywood, 95% of their work is to allow for 5% of artistic creative. You know, insider control, because it’s people management, it’s nailing down a location, it’s getting someone that can do it, not necessarily the best, I’m not the best, but I’m cheap. He had to find someone that will work for cheap, you know, and like, and like, you know, and he’ll say, straight faced at a certain age, when a guy like us at our age asked you to be in their movie that’s gonna get filmed in the woods for free on a Saturday. Now, it’s a little weird. So you got to find a right set of people, if you want to make a movie, even if your intention is to release it on YouTube, that’s fine. Just to get to that point, is probably more work than you’ve ever put towards a hobby in your entire life. And it’s really easy to lose focus. And what’s cool now is Steve, still doing this. Like Steve sent me an email, saying we’re gonna do this interview. I mean, it was three months of work just to do the music, who knows how long Steve’s been working on it, and he has to keep going. Because just doing one accomplishment of doing the music or create his world, finding some guy to do the music, finding of some guy to act without scripts, all of that, you know, is a lot of work. It’s easy to lose focus at the end, to say, like, I don’t really care if it’s on Amazon or not. But he’s, you know, if you want to do a big project, you got to learn how to people manage, you got to learn how to manage yourself, how to do long term goals, you know, you can’t just wait for like, you know, inspiration to hit you. You have to just keep trudging through. And that’s the difficult thing.
Brent Hanifl 17:38
Who are the people you know, that are going to like this genre? Who do you hope the audience would be? And also, where can they find out more about the project?
Steve Dayton 17:44
I would say that this has a loose narrative. So people who like a little more of an experimental type storytelling, that would be the audience. So I would say this, David Lynch style fans, Stanley Kubrick style fans.
Jason Anderson 18:01
People who like open interpretations of movies, which I am a huge fan of movies that can be interpreted different ways, depending on essentially the mood you’re in when you’re watching it. And I’ve actually watched it two or three times and tried to watch it from a viewers point of view, not Hey, I was in this movie, let me watch myself because I’m so narcissistic, because I’m not. And I ask people for feedback. And depending on the type of person they’re all interpreting, it’s slightly different. And I love hearing that. Because somebody can take something different away from it. Those are the kind of people that are going to join people who like to kind of take something away from it without being told this is what you’re supposed to take away from it.
Alex Spiegel 18:45
Yeah, you hit nail on the head when you said like, Lynch, like Stephen Lynch, sort of, you know, but the other thing that you need, Steve’s a super normal regular guy that has like a normal household with kids and stuff, and he just made the craziest, weirdest movie. Like, where, where Jason? Jason watched it two or three times I did the score, and I cut to the movie. So I’ve seen it about 620,000 times. So I can definitely say, you know, it’s super super arty. Like it is a very arty super interesting movie. The person who would be interested in watching as that we also have to not forget the fact that three schmucks from La Crosse, Wisconsin, did this. You know, so it is a local film made off of a budget, which is Steve’s bank account. And it’s just people contributing any time and resources they have. And I think that has to be viewed realistically, and it’s a movie made under those criteria. Absolutely. Stephen Lynch, you know, Twin Peaks, Eraserhead that.
Brent Hanifl 19:50
So I think on that note, where can people find out more and watch this thing?
Steve Dayton 19:55
So you can visit moviegive.com to find out information. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime for free if you have that account. Tubi TV very shortly, we’re also on all the social networks, all of them so Facebook, Instagram, tik tok. You name it you can find gIVE movie.
Amy Gabay 20:18
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About La Crosse Local
La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.
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