Friday, July 19, 2013

Dan Castle Interview Part I of III

Dan Performing at 7020 Melrose

DAN CASTLE  (part I of III)
Writer/Director, Musician, Painter, Photographer

I’m grounded enough to admit that my writing has a lot of room to grow. My aim in life is actually to get better at it and be able to write an eloquent literary fiction. In times such as this I wish I already am a talented writer.

I’m anxious to write about Dan Castle, he is after all a modern day Renaissance Man, Writer/Director, Musician, Painter, Photographer, he accomplished so much I’m afraid that I cannot give justice to his achievements with my writing.

I met him performing in 7020 Melrose and I was intimidated to approach him because my first impression of him was that he is a serious and aloof musician. May be its because he is so good at playing his ballad, singing in pained and longing voice, I actually thought him a detached and lonesome man who would pounce at anyone who attempts to give him company in his isolation (also he kind of look badass and with a name like Dan Castle—forget about it!) But when I introduced myself I was immediately struck by his open-minded personality, humble demeanor, and down to earth tone of voice. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

We talk a little bit and I mentioned to him my Blog and the kind of stories I’m collecting. I thought he was just humoring me, like how one usually does in a social gathering when one deigns interest, but he gave me his business card after our brief conversation and told me that he’d be okay for an interview. I immediately look him up in the internet and visited his website (, and after several exchanges of email, he agreed to show me his projects. What an awesome guy!

I visited his house, several days later, and I immediately noticed his works, tools and toys—the paintings, guitars, easel, surfboards—it seems like everything is ready to burst out and spill their stories. To be honest with you that two hour interview wasn’t enough, there was just too many stories behind all his artworks occupying his home. At this point my perception of the aloof and mysterious musician is completely gone. It must be the coziest house I ever visited, if he has Ikea or Pier One furnishings there I hardly noticed them at all, because his paintings are the ones standing out. They are so appealing, so peaceful yet invigorating it just summons you (I’ll get back to you on his paintings in a bit). So there I was sitting comfortably in his seating room surrounded by his paintings and the stories began to emerge. I tried to keep up (Dan can attest to this, I actually broke a pen trying to write as fast as I can) and mostly I did just because of the short window of time that we have—he was forced to curtail most of his anecdotes.

Dan, despite his creativity and accomplishments, is a humble man, he is proud of his work but more like how a father is to his child rather than an artist to his masterpiece. I can feel the sincerity of wanting to share the experiences he had. In fact, he did say that some artists are afraid to share their work as if they would lose it. “To me, art is like a candlelight in a dark room, you have to share the light to make the space brighter…do not be afraid because sharing the light won’t extinguish it” he says eloquently.

To give you an idea how talented and dynamic this guy is let me throw in some of his accolades. His films, “The Visitor” won the Best Screenplay and Best Fiction Short at the St. Kilda Film Festival and Best Short in Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Honolulu Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. His other one, “Newcastle”, got good reviews from LA Weekly, Sydney Morning Herald, Herald Sun, Inside Film, ABC Radio, just to name a few.

I personally haven’t seen the whole movie at the time of this writing but I’ve seen the trailers of “Newcastle” (for some reason I can’t find it in Netflix in my internet even though it’s supposed to be available; and even though Dan sent me a link). It’s a coming of age film about teenage surfers set in the hypnotically beautiful New South Wales beach town community—Newcastle. “The cinematography from Novocastrian Richard Michalak brings the salty sting and sun-kissed grit of Newcastle right off the screen, but he also captures the emotional swell of the ocean” the ABC Radio raves in its review.

As a side story, I was immensely embarrassed thinking that Dan was born in Newcastle (I questioned him about his lack of Australian accent). Well he was born in Newcastle, but it is in Newcastle Delaware not the one in Australia.

The cinematography and editing of “Newcastle” appears to have been handled by a master. Film productions, any film good or bad, are notoriously difficult and expensive endeavors. I participated with a production back in college and it was top-to-bottom an amateur work filmed with handheld video cameras—it was something I probably would not be too eager to do again. If I had nightmares with that college experience, I can’t even imagine what kind of hellish experience awaits someone who undertakes a full length movie production.

We will get back to the movie Newcastle later on. I would like to take us a little bit back in the past. Dan went to NYU for music and business and his initial passion in film is not directing but in sound design. I can see the allure of sound design to a musician, putting music into a movie is like breathing life into it.

He said that he didn’t really have the talent to play the guitar when he was young, and that he was no prodigy, but he worked hard on it, practicing daily. Dan is humble almost to a fault, learning to play the guitar is one thing but learning to arrange musical score is another. He may not be a musical prodigy when he was a child but I think he has a dormant prodigious aptitude to music that emerged later on. I will abruptly cut short the story of his talents in music here (I know I’m leaving behind too many unfinished stories but it will all come together near the end).

He interned in an independent film distribution company called “Strand”, here in LA, where he met Mike Thomas. Mike ventured on to establish his own boutique film distribution company called “Jour de Fete Films”. Dan worked with Mike in a supporting role—mostly handling the book keeping side of it—or producing in some of the films (Sometimes it’s hard to keep in mind that the Indie film industry is first and foremost a business enterprise). They produced or distributed films such as, Todd Phillip’s “Bittersweet Motel”—yes, that Todd Phillips who directed the “Hang Over”— a documentary about the rock band Phish, “Relax, It’s Just Sex” starring Jennifer Tilly, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” directed by Dan Ireland and others.

At some point while in the process of finding himself and getting busy with so many film projects, he learned to surf. What can I say about surfing? Nothing really since I am no surfer. But I see surfing as a life drama—a man trying to conquer, or temporarily tame the waves—both athletic performance and artistic expression; a theatrical production by the ocean unfolding in a grand scale. I don’t know how Dan saw the waves, and the surfers courting it, but it is no doubt that he was inspired by it.

End of Part I

Copyright 2013 RG Los Angeles Stories


1 comment:

  1. Jour de Fete Films only distributed "Bittersweet Motel".