Filmmaker David Spaltro's 'Things I Don't Understand,' Makes Him One Of The Best Filmmakers Of 2011

When Highlight Hollywood’s staff viewed “Things I Don’t Understand,” a recent film by maverick filmmaker David Spaltro, we didn’t know what to expect. Dozens of DVD screeners flood into our Beverly Hills editorial offices on a weekly basis, but this one however caught all of our attention. It’s about a Grad student dealing with eviction in Brooklyn, who forms a cathartic relationship with a local bartender hiding his own secrets and a terminally ill hospice patient, she’s interviewing for her thesis on what happens after we die.
But what a grand experience and almost a travel for the viewer on a long distance marathon that leads you to that moment of realization, that none of us really understands death, and no one can definitively tell us what happens afterwards. However, filmmaker Spaltro manages to build up such a genuine and extremely intense interest by the moviegoer, who wonders from time to time, just what is next? And when you think you have it all figured out, David throws more curve balls in his eloquently written creative genius piece, that belongs on the big screen worldwide.

There definitely is a new filmmaker on the canvas, and David Spaltro is that man, who comes on the heels of the greats from Billy Wilder, to Spielberg and even the positive traits that David Lynch has, are embodied in Spaltro’s work. However, do not mistake what I am saying, by comparing him to the greats. He’s still his own man, and he has a masterpiece on his hands, and this is all of his own doing. I spoke with the handsome filmmaker earlier this week so I could introduce him to Highlight Hollywood readers.

Q-How long have you been involved in filmmaking?

A-“It’s been a proper ten year journey at this point. I moved to NYC in 2000 to study film the School of Visual Arts and my early time there and (miss) adventures were the basis of my first feature film (“…Around“) (http://www.aroundthefilm.com) which we shot in September 2007 on a budget of 175,000…40 credit cards. Before I made my first film I’d had some set experience and mainly worked in post-production as an editor assistant editor at different advertising agencies and post facilities in Manhattan and Brooklyn. “…Around” did well on the festival circuit and was quite favorably reviewed and I spent about two years getting it out as it found a life and fans online, VOD, Netflix and eventually our TV debut on PBS/CH13 in New York last year as part of the Reel Indies program. I did a foray into Los Angeles to meet with producers and agents while rewriting and fine-tuning “Things I Don’t Understand” only to move back in February 2010 and spend a year raising the money and putting the project together independently.”

Q-Do you prefer directing and filmmaking or acting?

A-“I enjoy acting, having been part of a great theater program in high-school that is actually where I was first pushed into playwriting and learned how to produce a piece and work with actors from start to finish. I also did some acting when I first moved to the city, mainly for money, booking short films, plays and commercials (including a Trojan Condom spot I dare you to find). I enjoy it as I enjoy all the processes of storytelling and would do it in the future if asked or the bug bit me, but I’d never pursue it completely. Writing and directing is my best expression of storytelling and the one I’m most comfortable and apt in.”

Q-What has been your most daunting task as an Independent filmmaker?

A-“As someone who not only writes, directs and edits but also produces his films there’s the constant art versus business mentality struggle that you have to find a meditative balance between. You’re forced to keep two completely separate and at times combative parts of your brain from both conflicting with each other and being alert at all times. There’s also the pressure, working at the budget that I have, of not shortchanging the project or the message and finding the right compromises while still championing the vision for the characters and film that you have in your head. I’d like to think I’ve found a good balance in my two films, even more so with “Things I Don’t Understand” of quality and originality of story at a low-budget but without losing production value– also a credit to hiring an amazing cast and crew that can facilitate those needs under my direction.”

Q-How did “THINGS” come to get made, and wow, is David Lynch one of your favorite directors?

A-“‘Things’ was a journey that started as a tossed away half-written short film while at SVA in 2003. I brought the old pages out again as a cathartic exercise while dealing with some personal issues after “…Around” had been completed and then it became an idea as a vehicle to work with “…Around” co-lead Molly Ryman again and give her a chance to stretch and show her strengths as an actress and range. After failing to find financial backing while in Los Angeles in 2009 despite the script receiving raves from every producer and exec that read it and meeting with talent to attach I decided to once again have some faith and produce the film in NYC myself over a long year. I knew I had collected a special group of people and had a story that was the perfect follow-up to my first film.

“While I’m a fan of David Lynch’s earlier work such as “Twin Peaks” and “Blue Velvet” my favorite Lynch film is his more normal Americana fable “The Straight Story”. I’m an avid student of film of all eras, domestic and international, drawing inspiration from everyone as well as writers and the fine arts, but my biggest directing inspirations are Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, John Carpenter, Danny Boyle and Billy Wilder. Wilder’s “The Apartment” is probably my perfect film and the tone, a balance of drama and comedy along with great, natural characters is what I probably most respond to and aim for in my own work.”

Q-What is your next project coming up?

A-“I’m going to spend a year just writing scripts while “Things” does the fest circuit and finds distribution. There’s a great book called “Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons” I don’t have the rights to but am going to pursue writing an adaptation of. It’s always been a passion of mine since reading the book over ten years ago and it’s a great, true period piece story that would make an amazing and original film. I’m also executive producing a TV pilot by former classmate Vance Tucker called “Caught in the Act” (http://www.indiegogo.com/Caught-In-The-Act) that’s aiming to shoot in March 2012 and has several cast members from my first two feature film. I’m also helping produce a holiday themed script by actress and writer/producer Jenna Laurenzo who’s an extremely talented and original voice, having made some waves with a recent web-series she produced called “Parker and Maggie (http:www.parkerandmaggie.com).

“There’s also a 3rd, untitled as of yet, small NYC-based valentine I’d like to do at some point to work with “Things” actors Grace Folsom and Lynn Justinger as well as a host of people I’ve worked with before and have wanted to since. I’ve also been approached by a publishing house to write a half auto-bio/half how to make an independent film book that will detail intimately my experiences with my two features, my life philosophy and a collection of NYC tales from my decade here. Even my years off are slam packed.”

Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: “Things” poster by Wandering/Cut Films and David Spaltro head shot by Rima Nassar

Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHlwd; @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd

Leave a Reply