‘Dead Hearts’ Comes To Life: An Interview With Director, Stephen W. Martin

Stephen W. Martin is a California based author and director. He splits his creativity between writing for children’s books, and directing intriguing short films. In his spare time, he also creates weekly YouTube videos, where he posts tutorials about how to write picture books.

Martin’s award winning short film, Dead Hearts, has been featured in 155 film festivals and has won 45 awards. It was also qualified for an Oscar through the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Dead Hearts Film Still

What was your inspiration behind the concept of Dead Hearts?

Dead Hearts was actually written as a love letter to my now wife Lola.

The actors were phenomenal throughout the short film. What was the casting process like?

The casting was done by a Vancouver company called Kara Eide Casting – Kara is AMAZING she read the script and knew exactly who we should meet. All our young actors were incredibly talented and brought so much to the roles. I spent about a two weeks in rehearsals with them breaking down the scenes and fine tuning the beats. It was super rad working to discover/explore each of their characters arks in movement and gesture rather than voice.

What was the budget for Dead Hearts, and how long did it take to complete filming for this project?

Our budget was $15,000, half of which came from the BC Arts Council and the other half from some of our Kickstarter campaign. (Thank you everyone!!!)

During fast paced scenes (such as the action scene involving the biker werewolves), the camera movement looked very controlled and stable. What type of equipment was used to stabilize the camera?

We actually shot all the fights scenes on our Red Epic using a steadicam rig. Our stunt team lead by Tanay Ulgen was amazing! Everything was blocked and pre-vized before hand which was extremely helpful on the day.

Dead Hearts Film Still 2

Though there are many comedic elements in this short film, a clear message was presented: Everyone must die eventually, and true love will prevail. Why did you choose those specific points as the central theme of Dead Hearts?

That’s a good question – I’m not sure. At the time I was listening to a lot of ‘Stars’ a fantastic Canadian band – all there songs have a tragic/melancholy feel but seeped in romance. Anyway I heard their track ‘DEAD HEARTS’ and thought this is the kind of feeling I want to convey in the my next film.

Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you’re working on? If so, will it be similar to Dead Hearts, or will it go in a completely different direction?

I’m actually writing my feature film now. It’s a horror film of course set in the Redwoods. Also, my newest children’s book just came out in bookstores! It’s called ‘Charlotte and The Rock’ and it’s published by Penguin Random House. It’s about a little girl who really wants a pet, so her parents get her a rock … a really huge rock… And madness ensues!

Symbolism is a huge part of intellectual storytelling in modern day cinema. How did you come up with the concept of using physical blindness as a way to overpower the love between Lola and Milton?

I wanted Lola to have a physical disability but for her not to be impacted by it…. also I’m really into Daredevil!

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers and directors?

For the horror festival circuit make sure it’s fun and can connect with your audience. There is so much stuff out there, so it’s extremely important to have something that stands out! Also be sure your narrative has a beginning, middle and end, even if it is a proof of concept or a 2 min ultra short film. Everything story should have some structure and some kind of a hero’s journey no matter the length.

Dead Hearts Film Still 3

Monica Ring

Though Monica isn't Monica Geller from Friends, she's Monica from Monologue Blogger, which is even better. =) Monica is a current student at SUNY Purchase. She's an aspiring screenwriter/director, who hopes to someday work in the Hollywood industry. You can follow her on Instagram @Monicafromfriends