This past Wednesday night, former General Hospital and One Life to Live star Michael Easton’s short film Ultraviolent starring his best friend and OLTL castmate Trevor St. John was screened during the LA Short Fest.
The international festival showcased some of the most talented filmmaker’s works from around the globe, and some of whose short films will be eligible for Academy Award competition. Easton who wrote, directed, and produced Ultraviolent, chose none other than St. John to play the lead in the short film based upon the life of avant-garde film director Donald Cammell. In the film as in his real life, Cammell shoots himself in the head putting an end to a lifelong obsession with art, insanity, and death. All the more impressive is that Ultraviolent was shot over a two night period, and yet Easton was able to come out with this true piece of cinematic art.
Ultraviolent is all St. John commanding the screen in an incredible performance that left audience members breathless. His acting talents were on display against the visual imaginary, editing, and creative storytelling under the direction of Easton. On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Michael and Trevor immediately following the L.A. screening to get their thoughts on: collaborating on the project, how they chose to portray the life of the eccentric and troubled Cammell in their short film, shooting on such tight time constraints to get the desired effect, and their hopes for the future life of Ultraviolent.
When discussing working together, St. John said of his best bud: “Oh, it was wonderful. Michael is the guy you want to work with. He knows the good stuff when he sees it. He lets you play. He is open to change, but he also knows what he wants. Michael has that perfect combination. He has vision, but he is also free enough to let things transpire in ways he didn’t predict. I will say, Michael is a brilliant man. He is a brilliant director and writer, and he has a big career ahead of him. This is his wheelhouse, and he should be doing this. “
Easton said of St. John’s performance: “Trevor is mind-blowingly good. I picked the right actor! I don’t think Trevor really knows how good he is. That is one of the nice qualities about Trevor. I like that. You never want to hire an actor who knows how good they are. (Laughs) He was magic in this movie, and there was a bit of magic while we were shooting it. We were up there in this isolated house in the Hollywood Hills with the sights and sounds and the city below us, and using that. The character is constantly looking out at this city that has rejected you, and having to face this every night, and yet still you face it. One of the most amazing things for me when I watch Trevor’s performance is at one point; you think there are two people in the room, or at least I did. A lot of credit for that goes to Don Hamilton our cinematographer. I tried to edit it to look as if it were two people talking, instead of one person.”
As for how Ultraviolent came to the screen, Trevor related it didn’t happen overnight: “Michael was working on a script for awhile. I would look at the script to tell him what I thought, but this film is something the two of us have been thinking about for a long time. Michael created this structure, because it could be a much bigger story.” Michael added Trevor’s involvement was very important to the project: “Trevor and I had talked about the script. I had the advantage of being able to craft the script for him. We talked about it for months before we started shooting. But on the night we shot, it was basically Trevor’s stage. He was free to do whatever he wanted. There was no right take. There were just takes. I would say to him, ‘That’s great. Let’s do it again. Now, do it as if it’s the funniest story you ever told.’ Then, Trevor would go there. Then I would say, ‘Now, it’s the saddest story you ever told. Now it’s the most inspiring story you have ever told. Now you are talking to your father, and now you are talking to your son, and now you are talking to yourself.’ Trevor would then deliver all of that.”
In Ultraviolent, Trevor sounds a bit like Rolling Stones lead singer and pop icon Mick Jagger, who is actually very important to the back-story of Cammell. St. John even emulates some of Jagger’s moves in a key scene. Easton agreed: “Yeah, Trevor kind of did the Mick Jagger strut! It’s interesting. If you haven’t’ seen the film Performance that Donald Cammell directed, Mick Jagger is the star of it, and he’s amazing in it. That is why in Ultraviolent we had the posters in the background of Mick, and stuff like that as a reference.” Trevor concurred on his accent in the film: “It was kind of Mick Jagger-ish, because Donald was a bit on the upper-to middle class side. So that is what I chose. I wasn’t doing cockney.”
As to if this is just a stepping-stone in order to do a full-length feature on the life of Donald Cammell, Easton said: “We have a larger story about Donald Cammell, and getting to tell that would be the goal. And it’s not this story, per se. This film is just a little appetizer of what his life was like. I think it’s very relatable to anybody who has strived to do something, and is more talented and able to do it better than others, and doesn’t get recognized for it, and lives a very frustrating life.” Trevor added that he would jump at the chance to play the eccentric filmmaker again exclaiming: “Oh, yeah! I would love to play Donald! It would be amazing. I had a blast doing this role.”
In one of the most horrific and heartbreaking scenes during the film shortly after recalling his young son, Cammell shoots himself in the head. Trevor said his wife had an emotional reaction to the scene: “She had a hard time watching Donald killing himself. She also had a hard time watching our son. That was actually my son Aidan in the film, as well.” Easton added about the film’s very dark turn and how Cammell took his own life: “No one is quite clear on exactly what happened. He did shoot himself in his home and these are the stories that came out of it. He wrote that he studied at CIT with a neurologist about different ways you can live after shooting yourself, and the heightened consciousness of it, and all those variations of it, and heavy detailed subjects. Trevor and I talked about it. We thought no matter where you were, or how detached you were, that one of the thoughts you would have is about your son – even if you were, as he was, very disassociated from his son having never seen him in 20 or 30 years at this point. But that may be the moment it all comes back to you in the last moments of your life. No matter what the value you placed on being successful as a writer, director, or in Hollywood, in general. The film strikes people in difference ways, and loneliness is a very dangerous thing for most people. It was a heavy subject. But, it was a something we thought we would try to bring something to, and shed light on.”
Having played Victor Lord Jr. on One Life and countless motion picture and television roles, Trevor said he certainly does gravitate to a certain kind of role: “They don’t need to be dark, but screwed up. It could also be a light-hearted character who doesn’t understand what he is doing. I kind of like playing anyone who is kind of messed up. “ And speaking of roles, St. John is about to be seen in the brand new series Containment for the CW come mid television season, “I don’t know the premiere date, but shooting in Atlanta had been a ball. We have a great cast, great directors, and a great executive producer in Julie Plec. I do play an investigative reporter/blogger, and it is such an intriguing story.”
As to the opportunity to display their talents at the festival and this film that they are most proud of, Trevor related: “I think it is a great avenue for filmmakers and actors who feel they need to do something and get their stuff out there. That is kind of where Michael and I were. We were saying, ‘Why are we waiting around to make something? Yes, we can’t make a feature, but we can make something. So, let’s do something. Who knows what that will generate?’”
Michael added: “We are overwhelmed. This is only our second festival. When you hear about the thousands of films that are submitted for this from 30 something counties, we feel so fortunate. We saw some really good films here. When I see those I go, ‘Wow! We should have really made more of an effort!’ (Laughs) I watched the credits go by on these films and there were like 200 people in them. I go, ‘Wow, well we only have six!’” (Laughs)
Fans can view the trailer for Ultraviolent below! Then let us know, would you like to see the short made into a full length motion picture? What did you think of these two talented gents comments about each other, and the emotionally riveting short film? Does the trailer and Michael and Trevor’s thoughts on their collaboration make you want to see more from the former stars of OLTL? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!