It was June of 2019 at the Dances With Films Film Festival when I first watched the horror/comedy Driven and met the two filmmakers behind the wheel. They are Glenn Payne, who is the director and a producer of the film and Casey Dillard, who is the writer, producer and star of Driven.
This interview was a year ago, but I find myself typing it now, in the middle of Covid-19 quarantine over in Los Angeles. The reason for the delay is because Driven is about to be released on DVD and digital platforms. You can find details on that below after the interview.
You can read my review of Driven here for an in depth take on the story. For now, here is the log line.
Emerson’s [Casey Dillard] night as a ride share driver takes a dramatic turn after picking up a mysterious passenger [Richard Speight Jr.]. She quickly becomes and active participant in this man’s quest as they must race against the clock to defeat a force of evil.
Buckle up, here comes the interview.
Curt Wiser: Driven combines many elements, how did this ride-share/horror/comedy come about?
Glenn Payne: I thought it would be interesting to have a story which took place almost entirely in one vehicle. Casey and I came up with a few different pitches for each other. We had a treatment for two different stories, kind of a competition.
(Who won, I wonder.)
And she won, in the end. I liked her story better than mine. That was how it originated, then she wanted to go with a little more of a comedy angle than I originally planned. I’m really happy how it all came together.
CW: Were any other ride share movies an influence? Or even stories set in a taxi, like Collateral?
GP: Collateral was a movie that I enjoyed quite a bit. Strangely enough, it wasn’t on my mind whenever this film came about. One movie that did influence it, to begin with, was Locke, with Tom Hardy.
(I really said it this way, like some fan boy. Recording these interviews to type it out later is starting to make me self conscious. Enough about me, back to the interview.)
GP: Locke was different in most every way, except that it takes place in a car. We were trying to push the boundaries, get outside our comfort zone.
CW: Because the majority of the production was set in a car, what challenges did that create and how did you overcome them?
GP: It affected the logistics a lot. Because it was all in one location, I thought it would be controllable. It actually turned out to be the opposite. We ended up with 27 locations, because the car had to be somewhere.
But the visuals too were a big challenge, because even though you were confined in this one space you want as much variety as you can get. So I had to be really strategic, we had storyboards for the entire film. My cinematographer Michael Williams had a lot of great ideas too.
CW: Was some of it poor man’s process?
(If you don’t know, poor man’s process is a technique of shooting vehicle scenes inside a sound stage and using tricks like green screen, image projections or moving lights to give the illusion that the vehicle is moving.)
GP: Yeah we did some poor man’s process. It was a mix of that, and actual driving. Whenever there were long chucks of dialogue, we did it in a studio to simulate the driving.
CW: For when you were actually driving was the camera attached to the car? Or did you use a process trailer?
GP: When we were actually driving the camera was inside the car somewhere. We did have some car mount shots, but they were never of the characters. Those were just shots looking down at the road, or shots of tires.
CW: I saw that you shot the film in Mississippi, did that make things easier for production?
(Glenn quickly says “I’ll let Casey answer that one.” He hands the phone to Casey Dillard, the writer/producer and lead actor of Driven.)
Casey Dillard: The fact that it was filmed in Mississippi, it definitely did. We’re not the hospitality state for nothing. When we started looking for locations and very specific props, people were very quick to step up and help us.
As far as setting the story there, it was kind of any town, USA. There was nothing in there that actually made it Tupelo, Mississippi. So for the writing of the story it didn’t affect the project but for the filming it definitely did, and I’d say for the better.
CW: Was Driven your first feature screenplay you have written?
CD: Yeah, this was my first feature screenplay. I’ve written some shorts, and a few sketches I’ve done in Chicago before. And a series that’s on Amazon, Stagrassel Paranormal, I wrote that.
CW: Are you happy with how the final film of Driven turned out?
CD: I’m pretty pleased with it. I thought the crew did an amazing job of always making us look like we were in motion [for the car interiors]. I’m proud of my scenes, and I feel the dialogue plays well for a crowd.
CW: As the writer, tell us about how these different genres and elements of Driven come about?
CD: Neither of us is really inclined to explore horror, so it’s a fun way to push ourselves. We have different ways of making it enjoyable. For me I like horror/comedy. Horror with comedic elements, like Hot Fuzz, Shawn Of The Dead, things that have really threatening elements, but a lot of laughter too.
I tend to like comedy more. When I had it in mind to write a comedy/thriller, I thought the easiest way to make something comedic set in a car, is to have an odd couple pairing. Instead of having a per-established odd couple, it was a pair meeting for the first time, which is how the ride sharing came in.
CW: The super-natural element really brought it into a different direction than I’ve seen before, with these ride share movies.
CD: It’s such an interesting concept to start with. We’re told all are lives not to get into cars with strangers, but here’s this glaring exception. I think there’s a general un-ease with that concept.
CW: Did you do any preparation for this role of Emerson, did you do any ride share driving, or stand up comedy? (Her character is also an aspiring stand up comedian.)
CD: I tend to veer more toward improvisational comedy instead of stand-up. I have done stand up, but it’s definitely not my main pursuit. I’ve definitely had the feeling of bombing at stand up, so I understand her fear to do that. As for ride share, I haven’t driven for Uber or Lyft, but I have been a personal chauffeur, for people from out of town before.
Some friends of ours was putting together a horror convention in Tupelo, they had a couple horror icon guests, and I was one of their handlers. I would drive them around places. I think that was the beginnings of Driven. I had not finished a draft, but we were talking about making a movie that takes place in a car.
And I’ve talked to some friends of mine who have done the ride share service thing. That stuff informed the beginning montage of driving in the movie. Like specifically the girls in the beginning who are trying to get the perfect picture taken of them. A friend of mine told me a similar story, but in that case they were trying to hand off the phone to the driver to take a picture of them while they were driving.
CW: All of the cast was great. Richard Speight Jr. was a perfect addition, how did he become involved?
CD: Several years ago at The Oxford Film Festival, his short film America 101 was screening there, and our short film which I wrote and Glenn directed was also playing. And he came back next year with a different film, and he exchanged info with us.
Once we had the script for Driven, I don’t remember which one of us brought up his name. But it stuck, I think he could be really good here. Glenn actually stayed in touch with him better than I did, so Glenn sent him the script, and he ended up liking it a lot.
(America 101 is a short form comedy which Richard Speight Jr. wrote and directed.)
CW: Did he also live in Mississippi or did you have to….
CD: We had to fly him in. He’s LA, he’s originally from Nashville. So, coming over and filming in the south isn’t as daunting for him as it is for others. We had some really terrible weather and what not, but he’s a super good sport, so we got it done.
CW: Do you feel that was the biggest challenge, the weather?
CD: Yes, absolutely. We had maybe two days of filming, that were above freezing. There was one day when three key members of the crew were iced in, they could not get to set because ice made the roads too dangerous to drive on.
And the only reason we were able to get what we needed shot that day, was because friends texted us on a whim saying, do you guys need help? I was like “Yes, how soon can you get here?”
CW: So what’s next for Driven, and your future plans?
CD: Boy, that’s a great question? (Look Ma, I asked a great question. See, that college degree was worth it.)
It’s doing the festival circuit, which we’re hoping will lead to some kind of distribution. (It did, I am happy to report that Driven will be released by Uncork’d Entertainment starting June 16. More on that later.)
As far as what’s next, Glenn and I are always writing on something separately, sometimes collaborating. So, we’ll just see which one of those floats to the surface first I guess.
CW: What is the question you always wish you were asked during these Q and A’s? Now is your chance to answer it.
CD: Oh gosh. I’m trying to think what I’ve already been asked. I’m going to let Glenn answer that while I think about it.
GP: As far as Richard Speight Jr, and casting Richard, he was our number one choice. He’s especially good at playing characters who are quick witted. He’s very smart, and can handle a lot of tricky dialogue very fast.
Before we sent him the script, or sent him anything about it, we thought, what if he says no? She was like, I don’t know, who else could play this part? It worked out great because, when you get to know him better he’s just an amazing person.
CW: Is there any scene that sticks out with him [Speight Jr.], in regard to his performance?
GP: Yeah, there was a scene that ended up working out really well for the two of them. It was closer to the end of the film, where there was arguing going on. A lot of emotion, and he really nailed it. He went as far as he could, without going too far. Which gave Casey a lot to work off of too.
I remember at the end of that take, when I said cut, the entire crew behind the camera was really jazzed, the were super excited. After it was all over they were doing high fives with the actors, out of respect for those kinds of moments.
(I can relate, we had two moments like this shooting my first feature Cam-Girl. This is why we do what we do, to be an active part of the discussion. To contribute something to this expanding world of ours, even if it is the gift of laughter, or crafting a character that one out of one-hundred can identify with.)
Driven is available for pre-order in DVD on Amazon with a release date on June 16, 2020. The movie will also be released on iTunes and other major digital platforms on that release date. Fans of the genre really must check this movie out, Driven is one of a kind. It is filled with laughs, supernatural fun and creatures of the night.