Thomas Torrey’s indepedent genre flick Fare (review) is one of the coolest road movies to come along in quite some time. Now available on VOD and digital outlets, the film is a truly unique slice of genre cinema and an independent movie that truly deserves your attention. We recently sat down with Torrey to discuss the production of the film, its engaging setting, and the state of independent filmmaking as a whole.
Cinema Slasher: Everything about Fare feels deeply personal. How much of the film was inspired by your own experiences?
Thomas Torrey: It’s interesting that Fare became such a layered exploration of marriage, love and what it takes to remain committed. You would have thought I set out to make this film in order to explore these themes. The truth is that I set out to make a suspenseful little genre film that we could shoot in a weekend with no money. The single-location of the car and the limited characters that we encounter were all conceived for this purpose, which was the original inspiration. It wasn’t until I started filling these characters with lines of dialog that all the deeper thematics rose to the surface. On the one hand, there’s very little that I would say is based on any personal experiences. I’ve never driven for a rideshare car service and I’ve never had to reckon with adultery like the characters do in Fare.
On the other hand, as an artist, you can’t help but fill your craft with the things that are swirling around inside your head. So you’re right to say that the film feels deeply personal. My wife and I have been together for over 14 years — over 12 of them as a married couple — and any committed relationship that grows and thrives does so by fighting through the fire of hardship. And we’ve certainly had to do that at various times in our relationship. The Foreigner character quotes from a book called The Screwtape Letters, which is a deeply influential book for me, written by C.S. Lewis, when he says, “To fight for is to fight against. The other or the self is the question.” So the film poses an idea that in any given commitment of love, we’re either fighting for the other person or we’re only fighting for ourselves. Fare explores that idea on many levels — intellectually, emotionally and, ultimately, viscerally physically. Fare is a film about marriage, and in that way it is deeply personal.
The film was shot in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, and you really capture the vibe of the Queen City. Was that intentional going in, or did it come naturally?
Both. I envisioned the rich colors of the uptown cityscape spilling into the SUV that our film is set in. I thought it would be compelling visually, but I also knew that, practically, we would benefit from the city lights illuminating the car interior. We shot on DSLRs after all, with a few cheap LED lights. To help with exterior light, we specially rented an SUV with a moonroof for maximum illumination.
In addition, there are many cutaway shots peppered throughout the edit that, on the one hand, show the setting and provide an opportunity for Charlotte to be seen by the viewers. On the flip side, these insert shots are important to cover up the many edit discontinuities that a shoot such as ours resulted in. I also wanted a stark contrast to where the film begins, locationally, and where the film ends up. Therefore we needed to see as much of the rich city life as possible in the first half of the film.
Speaking of North Carolina, as a local myself, I can attest to the fact that the film industry there has had its fair share of ups and downs over the past few years. Was it difficult to get the film produced? Did the low-budget nature of the project make it any easier?
Our budget was so aggressively low that state film incentives were never a factor. So our filming location was determined by the fact that we had a weekend to complete our entire shoot, with a week of prep beforehand. In order to do this, I knew I needed cast and crew who would work deferred — volunteering essentially. Therefore, we had to shoot here at home and rely on the love and belief of the local film community, based on the friendships that I had forged over the years.
Perhaps because the film business in town has waned, it allowed the cast and crew we did get to dive in wholeheartedly and put their trust in me. Had these talented men and women had other options, it could have been harder for me to find the help I needed. In many ways, the local business is a lot like it was when I first moved here, some ten years ago. It’s slim pickings, but when there’s a fun narrative feature to be made, people show up just for the love of the craft.
One of the most interesting aspects of Fare is that it’s this really dark, anti-love story that’s kind of hopeful and sweet at the same time. Did you have difficulty balancing the tone?
That’s good to hear, because frankly, I was skeptical if I was correctly balancing the tone for most of the process. The lead character, for one, is an emotional volcano, with wild swings that, as the actor playing him, I was comfortable doing. But as the film’s writer/director as well, I was not confident that this character would illicit the right amount of sympathy from the audience. Thankfully, Katherine Drew and JR Adduci filled their respective characters with so much humanity, that the love triangle, as weird as it is, has enough pathos to hold the audience.
At the same time, the entire film is somewhat of an experiment in tone, or, at least, in form and structure. We take some wild creative risks that I never knew would pay off. And for some people, they don’t. But I knew if what was compelling to me about the experimental nature of the film could be effectively realized without us blowing it too much, then perhaps there’d be enough of an audience for this little thriller to validate its existence. And thank God, there has been.
A major issue facing many independent filmmakers today is online piracy. Do you believe there is any way to combat this, or is it just an unfortunate aspect of a technologically savvy society that we must deal with?
Ultimately I believe the market will self-correct, much like it has with the music industry. It’s not about eliminating piracy — I’m sure people still steal music here and there — but it’s more about adjusting to a mutually beneficial model, where viewers are comfortable spending and makers can make a profit. Subscription-based services are proving to be a part of this model correction, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier for independent film (who often still need to rely on transactional rentals or purchases to make a profit).
I think the first step is for people to care about the fact that if you were to watch Fare, for instance, without paying for it, then you’re literally robbing me and my cast and crew out of money that we deferred to make the film. It’s not hypothetical. It’s actual. But I also recognize that for most people who regularly consume their new releases illegally, getting them to care is a lost cause. Not all, but most. But for the general public, perhaps most consumers will just choose the path of least resistance. So if there’s an easy way for them to affordably see Fare — and there is, on all VOD platforms — then most will choose that path, hopefully.
Fare will be available through VOD outlets on February 21st. Why should people check it out?
Correct. On February 21, Fare will be available on most on-demand platforms in North America and the UK. This includes, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, DirecTV, Dish Network, Vudu etc. There will be a coming tide of Uber-themed thrillers in the next few years, and Fare is among the first films to experiment with the ride-share conceit. And we do it in a really interesting way, setting our entire story inside of a moving car, which we filmed in real traffic. We also shot the film in three days, so if for nothing else, hopefully some film students will be inspired that there are really no limitations to going out and making a movie.
What’s next for you? Do you have any upcoming projects you can talk about?
Yes, my partner Justin Moretto and I founded our film company, Bad Theology, in 2015, and Fare is our first feature. Our second feature will be a sci-fi thriller called Premise, which Justin and I wrote, about neuroscience and consciousness. Justin is a scientist himself, so the story is told with a deep level of authenticity. It’s a true mind bender. We’re partnering with producer Eric Schultz and his company, Relic Pictures, which has produced some of the best arthouse indies of the last two years, and we’ll be shooting the film this summer, for a 2018 festival release.