4 minute read

Culdesac

The hardest part of growing up is letting go of what we’re used to, and moving on from something we’re not. We start finding ourselves within life changing experiences like it’s our 9 to 5 job. It is when we start embracing the journey and finding comfort in uncertainty that we truly see how far we’ve come.

Young film director and screenwriter Dylan Ashton gives face to the feels of youth with his new short film Culdesac. Feeling young and free, yet not free enough to avoid the hardships that come with having to grow up is something we all resonate with. For Ashton, his creative process started after his move to LA just after high school. He describes it as a scary time, also adding that he wasn’t even old enough to sign a lease. That dichotomy of innocence both withheld and slipping away all in a moment’s time. He says, “What is at the heart of Culdesac is the loss of innocence, or rather that tragic moment in our childhoods that we simply stop believing.” Ashton was able to tell a story all his own, all while having the ability to remind us of ours.

As a young filmmaker, the journey of creation isn’t always easy. Having an independent cast and crew certainly had its obstacles. The biggest obstacle: being taken seriously in a world surrounded by individuals with more experience under their belts. Above all the doubt from himself and others, the title of “young filmmaker” was a title they were fighting to reclaim from those who criticize it. He says, “Although making a film is a long and seemingly endless fight, it is worth it. Anybody really can do this, and can be taken seriously doing it.”

Ashton’s strong sense of independence makes endless room for individuality within what he creates. The soundtrack of Culdesac is a perfect example of that. Its primary influence being Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, which he says helped maintain a particular tone for the film. Longtime friends Romil Hemnani of Brockhampton as well as Albert Gordon (Natalie Green) collaborated with Ashton to provide themes and melodies for Culdesac that set the mood that will bring the audience along for an intimate and emotional ride. He says, “I very clearly remember the day we finally landed on what became the Culdesac theme melody, too. You would’ve thought we won the lottery, we were all so happy.”

Another way in which Ashton presents his vision is with his deep admiration for the films and filmmakers that came before him. He says” It’s only recently that I realized how my experiences watching Spielberg films during my childhood helped really shaped who I am. Particularly a film like Catch Me if You Can, which in many ways is where I found the emotional core of Culdesac.”

For Ashton, what makes a film memorable is how confident a filmmaker is in the story they want to tell, and how sincere they are in the way they approach that story. He says “I believe it was Spielberg who, when making Close Encounters of The Third Kind, said that he wanted to make a movie that made “reality fun to live with.” That’s something I’ve always wanted to emulate and anyone who can do that in their film has a special place in my heart.”

Director Spike jones is a big influence on the film. “In high school, I watched Scenes from the Suburbs, the short concept film Spike collaborated on with Win Butler, and it changed my life.” He says. A film that captured a poignant time and place he related to immensely. What stuck out to him the most, was how Spike chose to only focus on the flashbulb memories that define our childhood.

When asked what he’d like others to take from the film, he says “Filmmaking may not be the romanticized process that I and many others might envision, but as long as you cherish your vision and fight to preserve the honesty of the story you are trying to tell, you’ve managed to do something great. Above all, despite our limitations, we set out to make something that was truthful and sincere. So if nothing else, I hope that people can feel that, as well as the spirit and energy that went into making this.”

As for his plans for the future, Ashton is finishing up a script for what he intends to be his first feature length film. He says, “It’s about a family of criminals in Texas and I’m really excited about it. I’m also working on a film festival, which I intend to officially announce sometime later this year.” 2018 is already looking incredibly bright for Ashton and we can’t wait to see his creations on the big screen. Till then, we’ll be over here awaiting the public release of Culdesac.

Although making a film is a long and seemingly endless fight, it is worth it.anybody really can do this, and can be taken seriously doing it.”
Written by T'Keya Marquez | Photography by Dylan Ashton + Starr Smith