Don S. Davis ~ Interviews

Joel Miller spent time as a studio technician and roadie for groups like Guns 'N' Roses and The Cranberries before turning to filmmaking. His first film, The Still Life, stars Jason Barry (Titanic), Rachel Miner (Bully) and Don S. Davis (Sel's note - he's from this little show you might have heard of called Stargate) in a dramatic story that asks the question: Is an artist's art really worth the reward?

Originally, Sel had contacted Joel in the hopes of possibly obtaining some promo pics of Don from this film, but Sel was pleasantly surprised when Joel volunteered to answer any questions Sel might have about the movie and Don's part. Sel would like to thank Joel for being kind enough to take a few hours of his schedule to answer questions about Don S. Davis' role in the upcoming film The Still Life.

Thanks also to Don for ok'ing Joel talking to me.

Synopsis: Artist Julian Lamont (Jason Barry) struggles to pick up the pieces of his tattered life in this poignant drama. A reclusive alcoholic, Julian creates a new art genre called Destructionism, and his works catapult him into the limelight. But as his success in the art world grows, Julian loses touch with the artist he truly desires to be, and his personal life soon tailspins out of control. Terry Moore, Rachel Miner and Don S. Davis co-star.

For more pics of Don from The Still Life click here and here.

Robert Miano, Don and Joel Miller
Q. 1. In your interview with, you mentioned a conversation about Manet [Sel's Note - Edouard Manet is a French Realist/Impressionist Painter, 1832-1883] you had with your father when you were ten years old, and also the song “God Don’t Like It” by Blind Willie McTell as helping inspire “The Still Life”. I know that you have a rather extensive career in music, but due to some family health concerns, you decided to change your career. What is your background in art?

My parents were art collectors so I have been involved in the arts since I was very little. My parents would take me to auctions on the weekends and learning about art and respecting artists was always very important in my household. Though I'm more proud of traveling extensively to see art (I think this is the best way to learn about art) I also have a degree in art history from UCSB (University of California, Santa Barbara). I can tell you that in the film I strategically posed Julian (the main character) to look like famous pieces by artists like Michaelangelo, Rodin, and David when opening specific scenes. Though I'm not sure if most of my viewers will notice, I think it helped in directing Jason and helping him understand art. We spent a fair amount of time discussing artists and their lives. I wanted Jason to understand the mentality of troubled artists ranging from Van Gogh to Yoshitoshi.  


Q2. You credited Phyllis Diller with having opened several doors to make it possible for you to make this film. Can you tell us how that came about?

Ms. Diller has been an inspirational force for me. I am humbled and awed by her. Ms. Diller's manager, Milt Suchin, submitted her for the film through Breakdown Services. Breakdown Services is a site where you can post listings for actors. It goes out to agents and managers.

Jason Barry & Don

Ms. Diller really liked the script. She told Terry Moore "that it was the best role offered to her in her entire career." I'll tell people I'm a tough gut but man that made me want to cry. Her career mesmerizes me and to say such a thing about a beginner shows what a powerful human being she is. When she said she would play Mrs. Stratford in the film, I think it gave me more strength to perceive and continue to try to get good actors. It is through the strength of people like her that supported me that I finished this film.

Q3. You had quite an ecclectic group of artists as cast members in The Still Life, including ranging from rock n' roll stars, Dizzy (Guns n’ Roses), Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), to experienced actors like Rachel Miner (Alice, Guiding Light, Sex & the City), Jason Barry (Titanic, Conspiracy of Silence), and Don Davis. How did you feel about getting all the different personalities and experiences to come together in this film?

You know I never really did feel nervous. When you surround yourself with people you feel are masters at their craft you have nothing to worry about.
Dizzy has been putting together the score and I tell you, watching him must have been like watching Mozart compose. He is a musical genius.

Don is an incredible artist by the way.  He showed me some of his work and it really blew me away.  Don told me that he wanted to do this film to support the arts but to also get to play a role that was a bit different than what he so often plays.  It may be acting but he is one scary art dealer.  He got the heart of stone thing down perfectly.  The neat thing about art and art films is that you can really do no wrong.  Open the floodgates and let people do what they like or want to do.  Chances are you won't do bad. 

Jason is going to be a very big name very quickly.  I am certain of that.  He taught me how a real actor acts.  I think Terry Moore and Don Davis will also praise his talents.  So watching people like Jason, Don, and Terry was like going to a Broadway show every day.  How could that be nerve-racking?  lol

Don Davis as Mr. Fernot, the Misunderstood (not Evil)
Art Dealer


Interview with Joel Miller ~ The Still Life

Q. 4. Why did you decide to go with Don Davis as Mr. Fernot, the art gallery director? Were you familar with his work? What "clicked" and made you think that he'd be the perfect person to play a misunderstood (as I'm not calling him Evil) Art gallery Director.

When I spoke to Don on the phone I knew he would be right. He has a very strong tone in voice and is a very sturdy character. His background as an accomplished artist was what sold me on him. I was familiar with some of Don's work but not all of it (he's done so much stuff.) Lastly, he really loved my screenplay and who could turn down praise from him?

Q. 5 From your perspective, what did Don bring to the role?

I think Don really brought out the role from the screenplay.

I actually recently just asked the same question to a small group of people that I had watch the film for feedback. I had them read the script before watching the film as well.

They all felt that Don played the character exactly as it was written as did Jason and Terry. If the script is good maybe that is a mark of fine acting?

They felt that Rachel and Holly changed their characters a bit but I personally don't mind any of the character changes. Maybe expanding on the written character is a mark of fine acting?

I can tell you that they all agreed that the combination of both made them think it was a good film. I don't think that hiring familiar faces assures any director of anything. I spent much more time than most casting directors spend hiring my performers. I was casting for about 4 months. I was very careful who I chose for each part and I didn't really worry about line memorization or showing up on time. I assumed, and was right, that that wouldn't pose a problem. No actor ever showed up late and no one didn't know their lines. We shot this film in 16 days. If an actor didn't know their lines I don't think we would have been able to shoot the film so quickly. What I did take into account was each individual's demeanor, public persona, attitude, and acting ability. I was pretty happy at the end but due to the time I spent casting I wasn't at all worried about it. I would love the opportunity to work with Don again. He is a gentleman, scholar, and brilliant actor.

Robert Miano, Grant Cramer & Don.
Gotta love that purple power tie!

Q. 6 Was everyone fairly serious on the set?

Don is a pretty funny guy. I think that we had a fair share of seriousness and joking about throughout the production. Don is a fun guy to be around but is deadly serious about his craft. Acting to him I don't think is a game. He puts a lot of time into creating his characters and takes acting very seriously I think. Before and after shooting and during lunch we joked about. When the camera was on I think the joke telling stopped. He was playing a mean guy, mean guys don't joke... Next time I'll try and get him to play a clown and we'll see what he does then. =)

Q. 7 Any embarrassing rookie director moments in filming you would care to admit? I understand that your mom is quite the caterer. [His mom pinched hit as the caterer during the filming].

You know I think I did well based on my lack of knowledge.

Jason told me that he really appreciated being able to "act." I directed people but also let them do as they wanted. I kept to our shooting schedule for the entire shoot. We never fell behind. Most productions can't do that. I think of it as I have ten characters to think about. The actors all have one.

Rachel was really helpful with suggestions about her character. We disagreed maybe once or twice but overall she was right about how Robin should act. I didn't know Terry Moore's career as well as I should have. I can definitely say I am embarrassed about that. She was one of Elia Kazan's leads [Sel's Note ~ Some of his films included such 'little known' titles of Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden, On the Waterfront] and I am a first time director. If I had known that I think I would have been a bit freaked out. I mean that is pretty intense.

But she said I did a fine job. Maybe she was acting though...

It was very hard to wear all the hats directing and producing at the same time is really difficult. While I don't know if I made any rookie mistakes I don't know if I would want to do as much as I did on this production again... it might kill me. As it was at the end of the shoot I was in bed for 4 days. I basically ran myself into the ground. I don't know if a pro would have done that to himself/herself.

Don Davis and Joel (in background)
  Joel's interview continues here.


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