Interview with Tony Dean Smith, Creator of the movie Volition

Volition Movie Interview with Tony Dean Smith

THiNC. is a small oasis of indie films and interesting movies that you won’t find just anywhere. And these innovative, mold-breaking motion pictures can only happen because of the think-outside-the-box individuals that make them. Well, just the other day I was excited to bring you a film entitled Volition that I couldn’t stop oohing and ahhing about. A small time travel indie film that really challenges your assumptions about free will, and the possible illusion there of. Well, today, I’m excited to bring you a conversation I had with Tony Dean Smith about his film, its inception, creation, and maybe even its meaning. Alright, let’s do this, a Volition Movie Interview with Tony Dean Smith.

If you still haven’t seen the film – stop. Do not continue. But guess what!? I can help with that, because you can watch the film right now on Amazon. Just leave this tab like, right here. Click that link, see? Didn’t that make you feel good? Perfect. Now watch Tony’s movie, then come back, talk through what you watched over here, and then!, read this interview. Alright, let’s get to it.

Volition Movie Interview

THiNC. – “I personally feel like your film comes from the Nacho Vigalondo school of film making, especially his film Timecrimes. (Which is meant as a huge compliment by the way.) Are there independent film makers out there that have inspired you? Or encouraged you in the making of this film?”

Tony Dean Smith – “- I’m such a fan of cerebral science fiction and one of the filmmakers that inspired me was Mike Cahill. I loved how he took arguably the biggest concept and unknown idea (is there life after life, etc.) in his film I ORIGINS, yet made it feel very grounded and personal. The idea of waiting around for the cavalry is just so debilitating, so I was also inspired by Robert Rodriguez’s REBEL WITHOUT A CREW book. The point being, we have cameras and edit gear, so the only thing stopping us is either fear, or perhaps a stubborn notion of what the film/budget needs to be bigger than what we have. In truth, limitations really foster creativity, so that always inspires me.

THiNC. – “That is so inspiring. To see guys like you go out and tear it up in spite of zero budgets and zero movie company backing is amazing. Ideas in this world are king. Now, speaking of which, your story-boarding on this script must have been critical. How did you keep all the balls in the air, and all the plates spinning where they should be??!”

Tony Dean Smith – “Yes, the shot-listing, story-boarding and pre-viz for Volition was incredibly important, mostly because we had a very short and difficult schedule of 18 days. So when shooting any single scene, I knew that I had to block the scene globally, and then pick away at all the necessary angles (not just for the current layer of the scene, but also the POV angles for the later layers in the scene). Tricky stuff, but it’s something that comes very naturally to me. Perhaps it’s the years of editing, or perhaps it’s just how my brain functions – but I enjoy spinning plates! When we were pitching the project, I had also created an animatic, with full actors, SFX, etc., – so that I could show the potential investors what the ending would look like. We’ll be sure to release that with the Blu-Ray release down the road.”

Volition Movie Interview with Tony Dean Smith

THiNC. – “Super dumb question – forgive me for not knowing this… I assume you and Ryan W. Smith are, not related? Can you tell us about how the two of you came to this idea? There were two really interesting elements here – the foresight, and prescience – and also the syringe time traveling element. Where did this all come from?

Tony Dean Smith – “Actually, Ryan is my younger brother! So that makes writing and working together incredibly deep for us, as we really get along on every level. The original idea was something I came to back in film school (a long time ago). I was obsessed with the idea of foresight and what the ramifications might be if we really looked at what foresight might mean. In essence, it proposes that what we consider “present” might have already happened, and if that’s the case… yada yada. I could never crack that short story (I fully wrote it, but didn’t love it), so I tabled it for a while. A few years later, I was feeling very stuck in my film life, thinking that “I’ll never make the movies I want to make” and it’s at that moment that I stumbled upon JAMES as a character. He was like me. He was also feeling stuck. I realized then that my fearful perception was almost working like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And the only way to change my “future” would be do radically push through the fear. So this is where Volition was truly born. I wrote a first draft and showed it to Ryan, who was off working on other content. He loved the idea and pitched me on a structural way of turning the script and clairvoyance in on itself. Cut to 140 drafts later, which we both wrote together – and Volition was truly born. The syringe was something we stumbled upon very early actually. We knew we didn’t want an external machine – and we also knew that the “traveling” would be addicting and have side-effects, so that injection method was created from those ideas.”

THiNC. – “Oh, wow! Hearing the origin story of James and his back story and how it was inspired by you is insightful. Gives him, and this movie tons more depth and back story. Fascinating. Volition. The word is all about free will – conscious choice. And, as with almost all time travel movies, the conversation seemed to center around the philosophical debate around free will and determinism. The smiles at the end hint at free will – and yet, one could make the argument that this movie sides 100% with Kant and Hobbes deterministic perspective. Do you want to share where you side on this argument?

Tony Dean Smith – “Can we have our cake and eat it, too? lol Yes, you are correct, you could argue both sides of the thematic argument. I’d prefer to leave it to the viewer, as I think there are many ways to interpret the film. However, the paradox of fate vs. free-will is endlessly fascinating. For me, I see that we have free-will, but we might be destined to have it… :)”

THiNC. – “At the end, everything comes to fruition – all bad, it all comes true. And as the film wraps up, James and Angela are shot, bleeding out (?) but then there are smiles. What do you see happening to your characters after the cameras stop rolling?

Tony Dean Smith – “Firstly, they have a lot to clean up. :) I’d also like to think that they live on together. Doesn’t mean forever, but these two souls came into each other’s lives for a reason. I also like to think about what the final shots means. The eyes of a very Young James. Will he make different choices or he is destined to live out the lives of James prime? Was the entire movie a premonition to him?”

Volition Movie Interview with Tony Dean Smith

OK, stop the interview… Was the entire movie a premonition to him??! WHAT?! Wow. OK. Go again. But WHAT?

THiNC. – Do you have plans for a sequel, another film? Anything in the hopper that we can help drum up support for?

Tony Dean Smith – “We have a few very exciting projects, both in the feature film and series world. Ryan and I love cerebral, social/moral science-fiction (like Twilight Zone or Black Mirror), so we can’t wait to share more new in the very near future!”

After I finished throwing a pile of questions at Tony, and before he answered – I watched the film two more times as I was trying to grok that ending that absolutely alluded me. And then it all clicked and I threw my epiphany at him and asked if I was anywhere close… and here was his gracious response:

Tony Dean Smith – “As for the ending, yup…. that’s how I see it!! James7 (prime) dies, and all of his life-experiences get essentially fused with James5 (in the bushes), who makes a different choice – freeing him from that wheel/version of his life. It’s a paradox in a way, but it’s also a multi-verse, not a universe – as Back to the Future, etc., adhere to. It’s a universe until we face our greatest fears – and by breaking through – we potentially open up a new branch/quantum field. Weird philosophical stuff!! :) I hope this all helps!”

Thanks so much Tony!! And Naveen – fantastic move suggestion chief. Thanks for bringing it to us. And Tony!!? Fantastic answers, really helped illuminate the film even more than your already bright celluloid did. Keep up the great work. And if we can help you at all, don’t hesitate to ask. We are here to help you make more magic happen.

If you loved this movie, and you’d like another movie like it, I’d recommend a few: Time Lapse, Time Crimes, Coherence, and I’ll throw in a Radius just for good measure. Thanks guys.

Edited by: CY