Five Questions with Filmmaker Shawn Spitler

Soul-Stealer---webShawn Spitler began making movies at the age of 15. He would later join the Marine Corps at age 22, serving as a combat photographer and videographer for five years. In 2010, after separating from the Marines, he attended graduate school at New York University’s Tisch School of Film and Television. He now lives in Southern California with his wife and two daughters and continues to work on film projects.

In 2014 Shawn garnered a Best Director award from the 2014 Canada International Film Festival for his film “Soul Stealer”, a short about a female Marine photographer ambushed in Afghanistan. The film is part of the 2015 GI Film Festival.

Where are you from and what is your film background?

I’m originally from Ohio. I was a combat photographer/videographer in the Marines for five years. After leaving active duty I was accepted into NYU’s Tisch School of Graduate Film & Television. Soul Stealer was a class project. I now live in Southern California.

Who are your biggest influences in film and why?

Akira Kurosawa, Sam Peckinpah, Samuel Fuller and Walt Disney. That’s quite an eclectic grouping. Kurosawa has taught me to treat every frame as a painting, filled with meaning and emotion. Peckinpah (himself a Marine) made gritty, violent films with heart. Fuller (who stormed the beached of Normandy) uncompromisingly made movies his way. Disney, though not a director, made successful films not because of his own talents, but because he surrounded himself with people who were at the top of their game – and he trusted them to do their jobs.

What was the hardest part about getting this film made?

Preproduction was very difficult. I was to film in Southern California but I lived in New York City. Getting all of the pieces to line up just right, and praying they would the day we came to set, was something I had to give to the grace of God. It worked out.

What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?

What a viewer takes away after watching my film is not for me to say. That’s the beauty of film. No matter my intentions, the viewer brings his own experiences to the viewing table. If anything, I hope they can teach me something about my own film.

What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?

We made this movie in five days and made our schedule every day. It was filmed entirely in Southern California.

Soul Stealer directed byShawn Spitler is playing at Angelika on May 24, 2015. Click here for tickets.