Alpha fault, Philadelphia, USA, writer / director Dan Lantz’s sword and witchcraft story of an average man destined to keep a secret demon at bay, will premiere at the prestigious Dances with Films festival (DWF 24 ) on Tuesday, August 31 in Los Angeles, United States. Lantz’s film is an ongoing twenty-year project that explores a legend of modern knights battling supernatural evil.
As the first chapter of the Alpha fault universe, Lantz intends to expand the Alpha fault mythology into a franchise that examines origin stories and traces various characters and archetypes through lore, an incredible feat given the film’s modest budget.
Dan spoke to Film Daily to talk about the film, his journey and his passion for creating the Alpha fault universe.
Tell us how you got interested in cinema. What does your career in cinema look like?
When I was 15, I read a magazine article about Industrial Light and Magic and was blown away by the special effects. At first I wanted to become a vfx artist, but over time I found the story of the effects more interesting. Eventually I started making my own short films. My parents weren’t fans of the idea of me making films. I believe my father’s exact words were “Prepare to starve”. However, in high school one of my short films was shown on Dick Clark’s bloopers and practical jokes. This national television attention earned me Student of the Month at my high school, Conestoga High School in Berwyn, PA. After that, my parents supported me a lot.
You wrote and directed your current feature film project Alpha fault. Where did the concept of the film come from?
In 1995, long before superhero movies were a thing, I thought “what if” a superhero really existed. The person should be delusional, almost like Don Quixote. I wrote a screenplay called “The Nobleman” about a fanciful comic book fan who shaped his existence around his favorite superhero called “The Nobleman”. This theme has since appeared in dozens of films, such as Kick ass and the vigilantes padded in The black Knight. Over time, my “original idea” has become a cliché and the project has languished somewhat on the shelf.
However, in 2017 I went with my boys to a PAX gaming convention. While there were mostly video games, I noticed an entire section for tabletop games and a group of fans who were incredibly dedicated to painting miniatures. Being a model maker myself, I joined in the fun and quickly realized how awesome the game is and especially I finally had my hook to spin The noble in Alpha fault. The comics were out, the games were in, and suddenly my story was fresh and my hero Nolan Parthmore became relevant.
Also, unlike 1995 when superhero movies were considered a bad investment, today superhero movies are the hottest thing, so getting a green light was pretty easy and I was able to finally complete my 22-year quest. Note, my car’s license plate is QU1X0TE a tribute to this original idea.
How does directing your own script compare to directing someone else?
The difference is night and day. When I’m directing another person’s script, it’s about what I can add to the existing story. When I direct my own screenplay, it’s a singular quest to bring my vision to life. Alpha fault was the most creative experience of my life.
What was your biggest challenge while working on the film?
Maintaining a consistent tone throughout the film was the biggest challenge. My goal is to make an entertaining and fun move, but we have a lot of intense action and a villain who is himself an apostle of the devil. It was important to maintain a fun and entertaining tone throughout without getting bogged down in the heavier aspects of the film. I definitely left the darker moments on the cutting room floor.
Do you have any favorite moments from the shoot that you can tell us about?
I have to say the scenes in the control room were awesome. Lance Henriksen mostly played heavy and serious characters, but I was blown away by how funny he can be. His little moments with Rachel Nielsen kill me every time. His tongue-in-cheek humor on camera went beyond what I was trying to accomplish and off camera he was the best guy you could have on set.
I also really enjoyed working in the abandoned prison. The conflict between Nolan (Aaron Dalla Villa) and Vicars (Graham Wolfe) really went perfectly in these scenes. I really like it when the actors bring it in and all the subtle undertones of character show on their faces.
What did you learn while working on the film?
I learned to follow my instincts. In the past, I trusted others’ opinions too much and didn’t trust my own. I always ask for comments, but I’m much better at filtering them.
What do you want the audience to take away Alpha fault?
I want them to smile, to say “Oh yeah, let’s go! You have to look at him to understand.
What are your favorite sword and witchcraft movies?
My brother and I had to watch Disney’s The sword in the stone a hundred times. Excalibur and the musical Camelot are the favorites. I am also a big fan of the whole Don Quixote complex.
Do you play fantastic role-playing games?
We have a weekly D&D game with some of the Alpha fault to throw. I also play Diablo III.
Tell us about your creative process when developing a story.
I am a great brainstormer. I throw out hundreds of ideas until the best reach the top. I’ll then write a quick draft of a script and put it on the shelf. Over time, this will seep into my subconscious, and then out of the blue, I will have a revelation and I will dive back into the writing vigorously.
What part of cinema are you most passionate about?
Accessories. I like to make personalized accessories. I am handy in the design and manufacture of props for all of my films. it is not a surprise Alpha fault speaks of a “Magic Helmet that turns a fan-boy into a superhero”.
What has been the greatest achievement of your career?
I hope it will be Alpha fault.
What are your current influences?
Jerry Bruckheimer and Kevin Feige are my two biggest influences. They really know how to entertain an audience. A common joke on set would be, “What would Jerry Bruckheimer do?” I literally asked the cast and crew that during filming and we could have found the most entertaining approach to a scene.
What do you think are the five films that every aspiring filmmaker should see?
The Stuntman by Richard Rush, HEY by Steven Spielberg, Back to the future by Robert Zemekis, Big fish by Tim Burton, Pirates of the Caribbean by Gore Verbinski. Each of them is a master class in the combination of art and entertainment.
What’s your next project?
I’m doing a horror comedy called “Hayride to Hell” about a small farmer who takes revenge on unscrupulous land grabbers.
Do you have any advice for new filmmakers?
Make very, very short films. It is better to make ten 3-minute short films than a single 30-minute film. You will learn so much in the process that you will watch your first movies and hate them, but then you have a new 3 minute short that will be watched by everyone. I still do shorts – I shot one 2 months ago.
Have you ever worked with a mentor and do you think mentoring is important for a developing filmmaker?
Mentors are a double-edged sword. If your mentor is in exactly the same career as what you want, then great, great. However, if you want to do romantic comedies and your mentor loves horror, they’ll hold you back.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This is a question that is impossible to answer, but Creation seems to reveal something new every time I look at it.