Exclusive Interview with “[Cargo]” Filmmaker James Dylan

[Cargo] helmer James Dylan wrote the movie for one of his favorite actors, as the filmmaker explains in this exclusive interview.

-PH: Most independent filmmakers, I’ve discovered, tend to make movies in which the main subject or storyline is of personal interest to them. Is that the case here? –

-James: Yes, I would say so. I wanted to make a contained thriller. In this case literally. Something in one location with one character with a cell phone trying to wile his way out of an impossible situation.

-PH: Can you talk about some of your influences? –

-James: The Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, Sam Raimi, Chan-wook Park, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Stanley Kubrick, Dario Argento, Hal Hartley, Quentin Tarantino, Sergio Leone, Akira Kurosawa. I could go on and on really. I’m a film fanatic.

-PH: Did you toy with different incarnations of the story or plot before squaring it down to the one now on our screens? –

-James: I think from the start it was one location, one actor, the other people he deals with are the voice over actors heard on the cell phone. After seeing the Tom Hardy film Locke, a British dramatic thriller set in a speeding SUV, I toyed with the idea of having a second actor in some scenes. Tom Hardy sees his father in the back seat of the SUV in some scenes in Locke, even though it’s all in Locke’s mind. I thought it might be interesting to do the same thing in [Cargo].

In [Cargo] The lead character Anthony Peterson played by actor Ron Thompson receives some phone calls from his ex-business mentor, Sully, who he knows is dead. I thought maybe having Sully in the container with Peterson might be interesting for a few scenes. But in the end I decided to just limit it to voice overs for the other actors.

One sidenote, the name Anthony Peterson is a combination of the names Tony and Pete, two characters Ron Thompson played in the rotoscope animated rock film from Ralph Bakshi called American Pop.

The character name was created by the film’s producer, J.C. Macek III, who also did some voice acting working in the film and wrote the official [Cargo] novelization that was recently published by Bloodhound Books.


-PH: And was there any research involved before putting pen to paper? –

-James: Some, the biggest hassle was finding a cargo container to rent and where to put it. We ended up placing it in the front yard of my cinematographer’s house. It was originally supposed to be a forty foot container only it was too big for the front yard. So we were delayed a day replacing it with a thirty foot container.

-PH: How many drafts of the script did you go through? And what did you find you were chopping mostly? –

-James: Mostly is was about keeping the script in one location, one actor. Keep things simple so we could shoot fast, cheap and out of control (so to speak). I’d say we did about 3 drafts of the script, me writing it and my producer J.C. Macek III giving me feedback.

-PH: How do you know if your story or script is working? Do you test it on family members? –

-James: I tested it on my producer, J.C. Macek. He was basically the unofficial creative consultant on the project. I can be stubborn as hell yet a lot of times when I finally relented, I found out he was right about a lot of changes that needed to be made to improve the story.

One thing I disagreed with him on, and J.C. spoke about this on the DVD cast commentary with Ron Thompson, Jose Rosete who played Merc, a solider of fortune character and Eliot, who played the voice of our villain who was simply known as Kidnapper, was in the second to last scene in the film J.C. plays a desk sergeant who only has two short lines. J.C. thought some additional lines should have been added to the performance since they would have worked in the context of the film. I decided against since it was a huge climactic moment in the film and having a supporting character chime in with additional lines would have been distracting for the audience. I felt so anyway.

-PH: Did you write the film with any actors in mind or did that come later? –

-James: Yes. I wrote the film with casting Ron Thompson in the lead. I was a fan of his film American Pop and wanted to work with him. I finally met him on Facebook a few years ago and we finally managed to work on a project together.

Plus I’m very proud of the soundtrack by Thorsten Quaeschning of the band Tangerine Dream. I’d always loved that classic Tangerine Dream sound in films like Thief and Risky Business, Sorcerer, Legend, Three O’Clock High, Grant Theft Auto 5.

I placed an ad on Craigslist looking for a composer who could create us a Tangerine Dream-esque score and someone in Thorsten’s team saw this ad and forwarded it to him. We spoke on the phone and later on Skype and we collaborated to created what I think is a fantastic score. It was recorded with his other band Picture Palace music and another member of Tangerine Dream, violinist Hoshiko Yamane, also performs on the [Cargo] soundtrack.

-PH: Sequel plans? –

-James: My producer J.C. Macek has several sequel novels in mind for [Cargo]. My idea for [Cargo 2] involves Jose Rosete’s character Merc being captured and imprisoned in a cargo container. So we’ll see how things develop!

[CARGO] is now available on VOD and DVD

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