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Cobalt Blue: An Interview with Craig Lief

Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I was a bit of an outcast throughout my teenage years. I often felt like no one understood me, as many youths do. I found comfort and inspiration in independent films and I would even go as far to say as I had a kinship with them. Knowing how these films helped me, and continue to help me navigate a world which I can often find overwhelming and in opposition to myself was truly inspiring! They lit a creative fire under me, making me want to tell stories that would hopefully have similar effects on others.

Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?

One of the biggest challenges to filming Cobalt Blue was the primary location itself. We shot at an abandoned ranch in Southern California with no vehicle access. We had to hike over 1.5 miles to the location. Therefore, we were forced to be scrappy and only bring the minimum amount of equipment and supplies to support our cast and crew. In a way, this paired down way of filmmaking was liberating, allowing us to focus on only the essentials, story, performances, and shots.

Director Craig Lief

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

I find inspiration in human perseverance and I revel in telling stories that follow societal outcasts or the downtrodden who persevere and often thrive against all odds. I find coming of age and family drama’s to be thematically rich for telling these types of stories but I also enjoy using fantastical and/or bizzare situations to metaphorically represent my protagonist’s journey as well.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

As cliche as it may sound, when I approach a new project, everything from the style and tone, to the shots, lighting, score, ect. comes from the story. I know a project is for me when the script paints a vivid picture as I read or write it. From there, I create a plan as if I have all the money and time in the world. Of course no one ever does, but then it's time to be creative and ball on a budget as they say, rather than sacrifice my vision.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

Some of the most influential films and filmmakers to me are: Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream (2000) , Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite (2019), and Luca Guadagrino’s Call me by your Name (2017). Although these films are vastly different in tone and structure, they all tell very human stories in a unique and captivating way.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

I think the industry is ever changing and nowhere more rapidly than the independent filmmaking landscape. I think Covid actually opened doors for independent filmmakers in regard to creating a space where we had to utilize minimal equipment and crews while still servicing the story cinematically. What I learned is I don’t need a full grip truck, and a crew of 30 to tell my story, or at least this isn’t necessary for every story. I found that sometimes a more intimate set with a few skilled collaborators and a minimal amount of equipment was all I needed.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

I touched on this earlier but don’t let practical constraints like budget get in the way of your vision. I actually think limitations are wonderful and create a space for creatively to thrive. Avoid following standard conventions, especially if you are new, sure conventions are tried and true but if you think outside the box you may discover an incredible and unique style, or even better, you may fail, and failure is perfect for learning and creative growth to thrive.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Absolutely, films are very often a reflection of reality and then they in turn influence the social conscious, therefore creating a cyclical cycle of influence which can often lead to changing the world in small, and sometimes great ways.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

I think people are more drawn to shorter-from content these days like television shows as opposed to feature films. The pandemic likely had a significant effect on this. We couldn’t go to the theaters for well over a year and we had more time at home to binge television. As much as I love feature films, this does not upset me because with the huge push for more and more content, television shows are becoming more cinematic, enthralling, and emotionally resonant overall, making them a place where an auteur filmmaker can really shine.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I recently finished another short film I am very proud of, Sylvie’s Monster, a story about young Sylvie (10), who is tormented by a Monster sent to teach her fear, a subject she is already well versed in. Sylvie lives with her abusive and manipulative Father, Maxwell (36), after he took her away from her loving Mother, who plans an escape for Sylvie. An escape interrupted by both of Sylvie's Monsters. I also Co-directed a feature film titled Phantom, a Phantom of the Opera inspired thriller which is currently in post production and to be released sometime early next year. Lastly, I am currently in post production on another short film, Down Valley, which follows June (20’s), and her process of letting go of her late father, a journey interrupted by evil tormentors representing her attachment.


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