Interview with Discontinued Writer & Director Trevor Peckham

Interview with Discontinued Writer & Director Trevor Peckham. A couple weeks ago, I brought to you a fantastically fun film from a brilliant Indie crew and cast, and I got a chance to catch up with the brains behind that operation, Trevor Peckham. If you haven’t yet gotten a chance to check out Discontinued yet, what are you waiting for? Also – I make reference to some of Trevor’s short films, make sure you check them out over here.

THiNC. – I gotta get this question out of the way early… I adore your vibe that you bring with the musical score. Minimalist, and yet, really impactful. Who does the music for your film? 

Trevor Peckham: Thank you! I think we took some big swings on the music and for the most part people have really liked it. It’s sort of eclectic, but I think there are definitely notes of Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead and Daft Punk. Also, Kubrick fans tend to appreciate the “Barry Lyndon” reference.

A lot of the bigger pieces were actually done before we even shot, which was very helpful because we were editing as we went. We also had the songs for the party sequence ahead of time, so everyone is dancing to the actual song in the film (a pet peeve of mine is when it’s obvious that the actors are dancing to a different song at a completely different tempo).

The intention was always to add more music, but it didn’t really feel right having a typical score layered under the dialogue. Once we had the edit, I think we only added one or too diegetic background pieces and the music under the last big dialogue scene.

The music was done by the extremely reclusive Olaf Thorvaldsson. The soundtrack is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal etc.

THiNC. – Awesome! Soundtracks rock! You guys can find it here on Amazon, here on the film music site, or here on Apple Music.

Where did the genesis of the story come from for Discontinued? Was it based on a book, or story, or was it an original idea?

Trevor Peckham: It was an original idea, but obviously one that borrows heavily from the existing world of sci-fi. That said, while the movie definitely has sci-fi ideas, it’s less about the simulation aspect itself and more about what’s going on in Sarah’s head.

I had the basic idea in the Summer of 2019 and wrote a few scenes, but nothing to pull it together. A few months later, I was in a meeting for another project and I was talking about this idea when I suddenly had a bunch of big ideas for how to actually structure it as a feature. I got out of the meeting, called Mike and went on an incoherent rant as I crossed Manhattan to meet my wife for dinner. I have no idea if I was making any sense, but luckily I remembered everything when I sat down to write it out the next day. I got to work on it more consistently and I had a first draft done by the end of 2019.

And then 2020 happened. It went through a bunch of relatively mild rewrites for the next year or so before we kicked it into proper pre-production in early 2021. The biggest changes actually came shortly before shooting when Mike made a really good suggestion to reorder some scenes, which led to the opening shot being what it is now.

THiNC. – As a Christian myself, I’ve chuckled a little bit when reading some writers talking about your film and how you didn’t delve into the obvious spiritual parallels within your story. But you explained pretty clearly that The Simulations come from humanity in the 32nd Century, no? And that the simulations come from tests that these humans are running to evaluate the impacts of various variables. Why? Why does a future humanity care about the impact of variances on the earth to a past civilization? I mean, it’s a clever explanation for a human made multiverse, for sure.

Trevor Peckham: There are definitely “spiritual parallels,” and I think that’s a better way of phrasing it than “religious parallels.” The commentary isn’t ultra specific, but the ideas are there for people to dig into if they want. I’ve noticed some people picking out a few things that are interpreted as “Christian,” but on the whole I’d label the predominant philosophy something more along the lines of “shitty Buddhism.”

I think there are a lot of reasons to want to investigate different possible histories…it could be the human desire to explore, maybe something went wildly wrong and they want to know where/when…or it’s just entertainment and Sarah’s life is basically a video game. That said, I think it’s impossible to know for sure. Imagine trying to explain almost anything in our daily lives to someone living 1,000 years ago; anything you’d tell them would be followed by ten more questions. I have to assume that we wouldn’t have anywhere near enough context to understand why they’d do just about anything, no less why they’d create simulations.

At the end of the day, the sci-fi aspects of the film are more of an excuse to explore modern issues than speculate about the future.

Or maybe it’s aliens.

THiNC. So great… Maybe it’s aliens! Take a page out of the Dark City playbook… oh, whoops. Spoilers?

Anyway, when reading a little about yourself, I discovered your short film Green… which was really great. I have to mention that the opening and closing of Green felt really similar to the opening of Discontinued. And many of the same threads seemed to be there in both. What did you learn making Green that informed your development of Discontinued?

Trevor Peckham: Green was quite a different film in a lot of ways, but it was a testing ground for the ultra efficient production philosophy I had in my mind. As a DP I worked on so many indie projects that just threw their budget around in the wrong places, didn’t do nearly enough prep, and ran extremely long days. I knew there had to be a better way, so Green was partially made out of frustration with the kind of work I was doing for the year or two leading up to it.

Green made me realize that we could actually make a feature in the nimble and low footprint way that I was planning in my head. There were some things we cheaped out on for Green that I realized we couldn’t skimp on for a feature, but it also positively reinforced a lot too. Even though Discontinued was definitely a bigger production, we had some days that were only a crew of 2-3 plus 1-2 actors like on Green.

Creatively, I went into Green with zero directing experience so it really does feel like a cinematographer’s film. It’s a little weirder and more about the tone/vibe than telling a detailed story and which led to me trying to make Discontinued a lot more “accessible.”

I’ve always tried to look back at projects after the fact and evaluate what worked and didn’t, and I think the jump from Green to Discontinued validates the importance of that process. Now I’m thinking about how to take what I’ve learned from Discontinued and take it to the next one.

THiNC. – How did you land such a great field of star power for Discontinued? First, how did find Ashley Hutchinson? And then how did you get connected to Lawrence’s son, Langston Fishburne? And Robert Picardo? For a low-budget indie, you snagged some pretty great talent. Kudos!

Trevor Peckham: I’m a big believer in the power of casting. I have more of a technical background as a cinematographer, so I knew I needed actors I could really lean on. Early on, I was pretty confident in how the movie would come across technically, but it wasn’t until I saw a few days of rough cuts that I realized that it was going to be a performance-driven movie.

I’ve always appreciated what actors can do, but the experience of watching them transform my own thoughts and words really opened my eyes to just how powerful their skill-set can be. The cast is really one of the biggest strengths of this film and I really just tried to stay out of their way. We did a lot of prep beforehand and then I’d just let them go for it on set. I joke that I “curate” performances more than I direct them.

Ashley was actually the lead in a short film that Mike did a few years ago that I was the DP on, which was actually our first time working together. Sometime relatively early in the writing process he mentioned her, and once she was in my head I started writing in her voice and seeing her in the scenes. Mind you, we had not talked to her about this at all, so I think it came a little out of left field when she got an email from some DP she worked with for a few days once. We had her do a few reads on Zoom and then brought her out to my place to do a screen test, which she almost cancelled day of because her Mom was afraid I might be a serial killer. After assuring her that my wife was home and that Mike would be there (and giving her Mom our address) we shot a few quick scenes and it was immediately apparent that she was perfect for the part. I think that’s when I got really excited to make the film, because I could really see how it was going to come to life. We did have other people read for the part, but it was really just to confirm that Ashley was right. 

This is a very, very big role. She’s in every scene, on every page. It is 100% her movie. It was Ashley’s first feature, so I’m sure she was a little nervous at some point but she absolutely nailed it. If Sarah doesn’t work, then the movie doesn’t work…and almost everyone who sees it comes out raving about Ashley. I really hope this leads to her getting bigger and better jobs, because she really deserves it. By the way, I’ve met her Mom on multiple occasions now, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t think I’m a serial killer anymore.

Langston came in through an online casting call. We were struggling a bit to find the right vibe for the Guide and he came at it from an angle that was both unexpected and completely in line with my original intention. We got along immediately and realized that we shared the same sensibilities (except for our differing opinions on Kubrick and “The Big Lebowski”), so it was a no-brainer for me even if there were some people who were a little unsure. We’re from the same area and he actually used to hang out in front of my apartment building in Boston during college, so it felt like we were meant to meet.

Just like Ashley, Langston came through and elevated the part into something way more complex and unexpectedly emotional than I imagined. Another underutilized talent that I’m very excited to work with again.

We also got connected with Robert Picardo through the casting call. We were looking for someone recognizable for that part, and I was surprised when he was submitted. Like most people, I mainly knew him from Star Trek, but what really convinced me that he was right was his part in “Hail, Caesar,” which is among my favorite Coen Brothers scenes (which says a lot). He is an extremely nice guy and really delivered on his day of shooting.

I’d also like to mention the rest of the cast, since they all kicked ass: Michael Bonini, Charlie Talbert, Risa Benson, Michelle Yazvac and Bill Sorice. All great actors and great people…we had a lot of fun making this movie.

THiNC. – Got any stories or anecdotes about the making of the film that our aspiring movie makers would love to hear about?

Trevor Peckham: Like every production there are tons and tons of stories, but we can’t always share them for various reasons.

The day we shot the end of the world party was fairly eventful, and I barely remember anything about it once we started shooting (we basically had to get everything with the extras in an hour or so because of how late it got dark in August), but we were there many hours before prepping. The art department started pretty early in the morning, so when I was driving in at about 1pm, I looked over at the house and saw the giant “GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD” banner hanging from the deck in broad daylight and visible from the road. I figured it would be a good idea to take that down before someone called the cops…

Oh, and the A camera got fried by a power surge from a monitor on day 3…so that was fun.

As with any indie film, we had our share of chaos but in general it was a very fun shoot. We didn’t work crazy long hours and ended up hanging out after shooting a bunch of the days. It sort of felt like movie summer camp, and I’m really excited to get back to work with the whole group.

THiNC. Do you have any new plans for another film or a follow up? Discontinued 2? Or heck, maybe I could interested you in a Post-Apocalyptic short story for a new film idea?? 

Trevor Peckham: “Continued”, “Recontinued”, “DiscontinTWOed”…the Discontinued cinematic universe awaits.

I have a few other projects in the works that I’m not quite ready to discuss out in the open, but I’m really looking forward to getting back on set. Making movies is not easy, especially if you’re trying to do things a certain way and retain creative control. It is definitely helping that Discontinued is now out in the world and receiving mostly positive feedback. It’s been a roller coaster, but I’m optimistic we’ll be moving on something soon!


I really adore interviews with movie makers that give you a cool new angle on the work that goes into making a film from beginning to end. And you can tell here that Trevor had his hands in all of it. Trevor, if you ever need a lackey to snag you coffee on the set, just give me a yell, I’m there for you chief.

Thanks so much for talking to us here at THiNC. and we will keep beating the war drum to try and get more people into camp Trevor Peckham!

Edited by: CY