In Conversation with
In Conversation with Lucas Wakman
We got the chance to have a very interesting conversation with the
young filmmaker, where we talked about his artistic journey,
his accolades, his goals and plans for the future
After graduating from high school, Lucas moved to Montreal where he enrolled in Concordia University. Although he initially started his education in Psychology, he soon discovered that his true passion lay in film, so he switched majors to Communication Studies, and his path as a filmmaker started from there. Ever since, Lucas has undertaken numerous different projects, expanding his range as a filmmaker while learning how to work under different projects and goals. Not only has he created two amazing short films (both of which have been Official Selections in different film festivals), but he has also worked in developing music videos for many different musical acts, including White Kinghts by Sean Hassard, 10/01 by FADED BreeZie and Mal Herido by Tropico Bravo.
In the last few years, Lucas has gotten many accolades under his belt, including Official Selection at Shock Therapy - Short Indie Horror Film 2018, Official Selection at Canada Short Film Festival 2018, Semi Finalist at Hollywood Screenings Film Festival 2018 for his short film “Side Chick”, as well as Official Selection for the XXI Festival Internazionale Corti da Sogni Antonio Ricci in Ravenna, Italy for his latest short film, “Gran Theft Auto”. In merely a couple of years, his work has already started to generate buzz within the film & cinema community, and us here at The Pyramid are eager to see what the future holds for the up-and-coming filmmaker.
We got a chance to chat with Lucas and ask him about his journey as a creative, his passion for film, his thoughts on his work and his creative and practical process when developing his films. This is what he had to say:
First off, let’s talk about your start in film. When did you first get interested in film and cinematography? Is it something you were always interested in or did your passion for it develop as you grew older?
My interest in film has always been with me, maybe you remember during our high school years I was a writer, specifically prose and short stories. Growing up though, I was much more attached to music and performance. However, once I arrived in Montreal and began my specialization in Communications with a concentration in Sound, I was introduced to film in my first year, as all first-year coms students are. It was specifically the theoretical and historical context with a bit of practical. After studying that my interest in film skyrocketed, and I pretty much put aside my sound studies and began making projects outside of the scope of the university since I wasn’t in the film department. It was like a holy calling that found its way in my life as I was already questioning what I was doing. But it turned out to be the right choice, today all my energy has been put to filmmaking, whether that be directing, writing, producing or working as a grip or gaffer on another production. Every element of this industry fascinates me, which prompts me to further my knowledge in each field to then have a solid grasp of everyone’s role on set. I was never truly able to find that kind of love in music because like many I didn’t have the ear for it, I couldn’t tell if your track had be mastered or not, what the difference is between 24bit/48khz audio and 24bit/96khz audio, this kind of information completely eluded me. However to tell you whether your shot has proper composition, to tell you if you story has solid plot, and surprisingly enough whether or not your sound design and composition compliments your imagery, that was something that I understood, and that’s when I knew, nothing was truly going to spark as much joy as this did.
“To tell you whether your shot has proper composition, to tell you if you story has solid plot, and surprisingly enough whether or not your sound design and composition compliments your imagery, that was something that I understood, and that’s when I knew, nothing was truly going to spark as much joy as this did.”
100%, my whole life I grew up abroad, fourteen years in different countries Africa, four and half in the DR and now seven here in Montreal, I couldn’t specifically tell you how my artistic pursuit would differ but I can tell you this, having the upbringing I did one thing I truly got to learn was people. Having met all these kinds of individuals from all over the world with all different world views and perspectives truly helped me grasp humans with all their flaws and differences, which is actually why I started my university career in Psychology before I ended up doing Communications. But having this knowledge I feel has helped with character development in screenwriting. A lot of writers base their characters on people in their life and I feel our best source material is our life, fact will always be crazier than fiction. Which is why all my stories are actually either based on real events that transpired or hypothetical events that very well could happen in this crazy world we live in.
“Having met all these kinds of individuals from all over the world with all different world views and perspectives truly helped me grasp humans with all their flaws and differences.”
Gran Theft Auto
I know that your most recent film, “Gran Theft Auto”, is part of the official selection for the XXI Festival Internazionale Corti da Sogni Antonio Ricci in Ravenna, Italy. I also know that a previous film of yours, “Side Chick” also got many accolades, being part of the official selection for the 2018 Canada Shorts Film Festival and being a semi-finalist at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival. Do you feel that getting this recognition for your work has affected the way you view yourself both as an overall artist, and more specifically, as a writer and director?
Well you know, recognition for one’s work is always good, whether it be positive or negative, the mere fact that people are watching and engaging with it makes me extremely grateful especially since I’m relatively new to all this. By getting this recognition it gives me the fuel to want to continue and make even bigger strides. As a writer it makes me want to write more stories like the ones I love, and as director it makes me want to hone in on my capabilities and create something bigger and bolder every time. Also it reminds me that these things take time and there’s many steps one goes through before they reach their ideal peak, there is a lot of growth to be had and a lot of refining to be done throughout the years and that is only really done once you put your work out there and let the audience decide for themselves. It can be ruthless, but the important part is remembering why you do this and it’s because you love it and you want to be best at it.
“These things take time and there’s many steps one goes through before they reach their ideal peak, there is a lot of growth to be had and a lot of refining to be done throughout the years and that is only really done once you put your work out there and let the audience decide for themselves.“I feel like the contrast between “Side Chick” and “Gran Theft Auto” really proves that you’re a writer and director with a lot of range. On one hand, the suspense in “Side Chick” had me at the edge of my seat. On the other, “Gran Theft Auto” literally made me laugh out loud with the characters. Do you have a particular genre of film that you prefer to direct? Or do you enjoy every project equally regardless of the genre or style?
I got to be honest; I love horror, drama and thrillers. Because these are the genres that speak to me the most on screen and that elicit the strongest response from an audience. When people watch my films, I want them to be taken on a journey with a character where they will end up bonding with the character regardless of who they are, good or bad. However, I’m constantly open to furthering my artistic horizons with projects that I would otherwise never do. Back in DR when I made music with my crew, we called our label Versatility Records, meaning we prided ourselves in being able to take on all forms of music and make the best of it. I’ve continued in that philosophy through my filmmaking years, I think it’s important to not put oneself in a box, there is so much great art out there, as an artist you’re doing a disservice to your art form if you don’t explore the many facets of it. Little do you know; you might not yet have found the best one for you.
“When people watch my films, I want them to be taken on a journey with a character where they will end up bonding with the character regardless of who they are, good or bad.“
I saw that you also have a couple of music videos under your belt. Could you talk a little bit about the difference in the process of directing a music video versus a short film? Are the experiences pretty similar or are they completely different?
Well, to begin music videos have a huge number of categories, in fact some music videos can be short films, so for that when looking at purely the production process behind both, it isn’t vastly different. You still need a strong pre-production process where you prepare yourself for anything that could happen. When the days of shooting start, no matter what you’re shooting you’ll probably run into issues. One of my sayings is: ‘if your shoot is going so smoothly that you don’t have a single issue, something must be wrong, or you just have a very simple set up with little room for error.’ However, all of these challenges you need to deal with them with a clear head, so every obstacle just becomes a hurdle to overcome, you need to be solution oriented. And all of that comes with both short films and music videos, it all comes down to being prepared so the day of shooting goes by with the least amount of inconveniences, and that you set yourself up for success in the editing room. This is why it’s great to have a big crew, everyone takes on a very specific role and takes full responsibility for it. On smaller shoots a lot of people end up wearing several hats (cinematographer, gaffer and grip, sometimes even more) and that’s where the potential for problems arise. Every shoot ends up being an enriching learning experience which better prepares you for the next. It all comes down to how ready you are.
“One of my sayings is: ‘if your shoot is going so smoothly that you don’t have a single issue, something must be wrong, or you just have a very simple set up with little room for error.’”
The writing process always allows you reach deep in your imagination until you find really what suits you. However, when being an indie filmmaker mostly on a budget you need to be very conscious of what you’re writing. This means that you’re going to have to decide whether what you’re writing is financially feasible for production with the means you or clients have. And to be honest it can really stifle creativity, a lot of writers don’t see that, and write huge elaborate productions that will take them years to refine and maybe might never come to fruition. So, you need to think of the scale of your project and the goals that you know you are able to meet, which can be a reality check, but like I mentioned before it’s all about being prepared and solution oriented. A lot of filmmakers have been able to make a lot with a little, it all comes down to approach and how well you know your craft, and most importantly how well the people around you can contribute to your project and make it even better than you imagined. A lot of times you come with a very clear-cut idea in your head but once you get to set you realize what you’re creating could potentially eclipse your initial idea in both good or bad ways. So to answer your question, I always try and meet the standard I created for myself, meaning I need to know that I can accomplish what I have in mind. Some shoots you just pick up the camera and hope something good happens but most of the time you’re very prepared and every move ends up being very calculated.
“A lot of filmmakers have been able to make a lot with a little, it all comes down to approach and how well you know your craft and most importantly how well the people around you can contribute to your project and make it even better than you imagined.“
Ever since I first met you, you’ve always been a very creative and artistic individual. I know you’ve always had a passion for music, so I was wondering; are there any other artistic mediums that you’d be interested in exploring in the future, apart from film and cinema?
Like I mentioned to you before, music was my first calling and continues to hold a fond place in my heart. I recently shot a music video of my own song and it felt really good to go back to music after focusing on film for so long, however, I revisited my music through the film lens wanting to primarily make a video. I don’t think music will ever leave me since it was my first love. When it comes to other mediums, I’m always open to learning more and expanding my horizons if it benefits me, the truth is it could be anything, when it comes to the artistic pursuit it is never ending and constantly evolving.
“I’m always open to learning more and expanding my horizons if it benefits me, the truth is it could be anything, when it comes to the artistic pursuit it is never ending and constantly evolving.“
When it comes to directing and writing some of my biggest inspirations are Jordon Peele, Ari Aster and Bong Joon Ho. These are directors that take you on a journey with their work, whether that be a searing commentary on the tumultuous racially divided society we live in with Peele’s Get Out (my personal favorite film of all time), whether that be the acute social commentary on class with Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite or whether that be the extreme situations the characters in Aster’s Midsommar are put through, I feel all three of these writer/directors are arguably the best at what they do. When it comes to TV writing nothing beats the writing of Damon Lindelof whether that be with his amazing take on Alan Moore’s Watchmen or his marvelous world building of The Leftovers(my personal favorite show), Lindelof writes the kind of stories I want to write, so for me he’s definitely up there as one of my favorites.