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December 12th, 2012 REBECCA JACOBSON | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

From House Seat to Director’s Chair

David Edwards masterminds his own mythology.

screen_nightscape_3906DAVID EDWARDS - IMAGE: Tatiana Wills
Legislator-turned-filmmaker David Edwards wants to make one thing very clear: Nightscape, his debut feature, is not political commentary. It’s a fair disclaimer. The supernatural horror film, which follows an unlucky drifter named Kat who comes across a phantom car that leaves bizarre carnage in its wake, is dark, brooding and determinedly hard-bitten. With the characters’ cowboy twangs, it seems to channel classic Westerns—until a spiky tentacle shoots out of a character’s body, causing Men in Black to spring to mind.

“I’ve certainly generated a lot of potential material that could be used against me,” says Edwards with a dry laugh when asked if he considers returning to politics. Edwards, a Democrat, represented Hillsboro in the state House for two terms before exiting in 2010, in part to care for his wife, who has an autoimmune disease. “It’s challenging for folks to separate the artist from his work.”

That’s perhaps all the more difficult given Edwards’ expansive imagination. Nightscape, he says, is just one installment in what he hopes will be a long series. “I’m building a series of parallel universes,” Edwards says, that are linked by related supernatural threats and an atmosphere of existential dread. Nightscape makes several subtle references to Moby-Dick, and Edwards found inspiration in author H.P. Lovecraft’s belief that horror should emphasize the unknown over the gruesome. He’s not limiting himself to film: He’s already published a novel, and he plans for at least three more films and another book, as well as several short stories.

“The books and movies are connected by virtue of the theme and mythology, but not necessarily by characters,” says Edwards, 46. “Part of what I wanted to create was a franchise that could perpetually renew itself because it doesn’t rely on any one character. My attempt to avoid that problem is to develop a series where the central attraction is the mythology.”

Though Nightscape—which Edwards wrote, produced and directed—marks his official debut, he’s not new to film. He studied screenwriting at the University of Southern California for two years, and he’s written a few screenplays that never made it to production. With Nightscape’s 20-day shooting schedule (locations included Sauvie Island, Hillsboro and Banks) and its under-$500,000 budget, Edwards says it required the same unflappable attitude he brought to politics. He also credits his people skills.

“Any exceptional work of fiction requires a strong sense of imagination,” he says. “I think that was one of my strengths as a politician, frankly, in talking with people and relating to folks of various stripes. That’s how I approach my characters.”

One moment that required particular adaptability and imagination occurred when an actor fell ill and Edwards had to find a last-minute replacement for the role of the preacher. “There was no time to cast that role, and since I wrote the screenplay and knew the lines, I knew I had to do that part,” Edwards says. It’s far more than a director’s cameo—the preacher delivers a four-minute, fire-and-brimstone-filled sermon at a tent revival.

“I had done some acting, but not much,” Edwards says. “But my roommate in college was from Louisiana, so I had a pretty firm impression of his accent. I decided to apply that, which helped calm my nerves. I felt like I was somebody else and not me.”


SEE IT: Nightscape screens at the Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 493-1128, on Friday, Dec. 14. 9:30 pm.

 
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