Exclusive Interview with “The City of Gold” Director Harry Locke IV

It was Alfonso Cuarón who inadvertently encouraged filmmaker Harry Locke IV to pursue his dream of filmmaking. We caught up with the rising filmmaker to discuss his new movie “The City of Gold.”

-PH: Would say this is a genre you’d normally gravitate towards, Harry?

-Harry: Absolutely! Growing up I gravitated to almost anything that had an epic sense of adventure and action. This includes not only films, but video games, comic books, graphic novels, and even music. When I first began diving into creative writing, and experimenting with film as a medium, my stories always tended to dip into the realm of large scale storytelling.

-PH: Have any films or filmmakers from your youth -heck, even now – influenced this one? How so?

-Harry: I fell in love early with the works of Alfonso Cuarón, and while Children of Men remains a top 5 film for me, it was his work on Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban that I found to be a total revelation. There is a subtle injection of horror elements, that really helped to distinguish his take on the fantasy-adventure genre from other films within the series. My Director of Photography, Sean Addo, and I also paid a great deal of attention to the aesthetic done in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto and Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain in creating our look for the scenes that circulate around Vernon Wells as the Grand Inquisitor.

-PH: We know you have a love of comic book films but growing up, did you have a favorite or go-to scary movie?

-Harry: While not inherently advertised as a horror movie, Black Swan, another Aronofsky masterpiece quickly comes to mind as the type of scary movie I gravitate towards. The film employs all the horror movie elements we have come to love: hallucinations, stigmatic bleeding, and evil spirits to uniquely show the deterioration of the lead character’s mental psyche. This is something we see similarly in The City of Gold, where our protagonist suffers from dark visions linking him to the violent past of his bloodline.

-PH: This movie is a bit of a mixed-genre movie – was that part of the appeal for you?

-Harry: While there were definitely genre-bending elements in Ronald Blum’s original screenplay, these elements really became much more pronounced during the course of production and post-production. The team and I wanted to find ways to be inside the head of Jonathan Davenport, the film’s protagonist, and help audiences understand the nightmare that is festering inside him. In the end, I feel we created a horror movie that is internalized by Jon, and an adventure film that is experienced by the surrounding cast and their larger goals.

-PH: CGI or practical effects. Preference?

-Harry: Practical. There is a greater assurance to me as a filmmaker when I can see an effect that looks good on set and in-camera. It takes away the mystery of will it or won’t it look believable once it is added after the fact. Fortunately, I had a wonderful team that was able to deliver the goods for both the film’s practical and digital needs.

-PH: How was it like working with vets like Vernon Wells and Christopher Atkins?

-Harry: A total revelation for me as a filmmaker. I directed The City of Gold immediately after graduating from film school, and so it was my first exposure into making a film with a veteran cast and crew. There’s a bit of a giddiness to get over in the initial stage, when you’re standing on set next to film legends you grew up imitating on screen, and are now collaborating with you to bring new characters to life. Chris and Vernon would ask me all the tough questions about their character’s motivations, and it was incredible to see their process in digesting the information and turning it into performance. The two of them, along with Branscombe Richmond (Scorpion King, Renegade), really helped me grow exponentially during the course of filming and I look forward to hopefully working with them all again.

-PH: If the movie were part of a double feature at a drive-in theatre, what would make the perfect support/second movie?

-Harry: Kong: Skull Island. This movie was released a couple of years after I wrapped principal photography on The City of Gold, and I was quite impressed to see a number of similar aesthetic and tonal similarities with the film we created.

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