Starring a radio DJ whose girlfriend leaves him on the same day the world appears to be ending, The Last Broadcast is a bittersweet and mysterious study of lost love and apocalypse directed by Santa Barbara-based Jason Hallows, whose The Other Astronaut wooed critics at last year’s film fest. Amidst love letters, coyote hunting, and exploding Mervyn’s stores, the film features an awesome soundtrack, painting a somber, thoughtful mood to the whole project. He recently answered a few of my questions via email.
How’d this storyline develop?
This story features three things that I love:
1) I love radio. Not modern radio but the radio I listened to growing up. When radio seemed exciting and fun because you just never knew what was coming up next or what the deejay was going to say next. It seemed unscripted and sort of wild.
2) Graveyard shifts. I worked them for years. The world is just different at 3:45 a.m.. It’s more exciting, romantic, and dangerous.
3) A heartbreak. I love writing sad stories. I’m not sure why really. I’m not that sad of a person but I love sad songs and sad movies. There are horror fans, action fans, and then me, the sad movie fan.
Do you have any radio background?
I co-hosted a show out at KCSB for about 4.5 years. It was called Face The Music. We played mostly garage, punk, rock, and outlaw country.
How’d you develop the soundtrack?
My friend, collaborator and director of photography, Aron Ives turned me on to a singer-songwriter a few years ago named Harlan T. Bobo. Harlan had some albums out on Aron’s brother’s Memphis record label, Goner Records. The second I heard Harlan’s first album I was hooked. He writes some amazingly sad and beautiful songs. So when I started writing this script I would put on Harlan’s music and listen to it while I wrote. It was a definite inspiration. The band LIMES that I use a few times in the short are also a great band on the Goner Label. Then the Frank Black song at the end of the short is just a song that I’ve loved since it came out. I’m actually a bigger Frank Black/Frank Black and the Catholics fan that I am a Pixies fan and when I was looking for a song that summed up the feelings of the main character of the film, I just couldn’t find a better one.
Where’d you film it?
It was shot in the KJUC studio out at KCSB. We shot it over two late evenings. We’d start around 7 p.m. and end around 2 or 3 in the morning.
Who’s the actor? He’s pretty solid for a one role job.
Craig Welzbacher. Craig is an actor down in L.A. and is one of my dearest friends and a great actor. He’s always up for shooting something and he always comes prepared and with his game face on. He takes it very seriously, which is nice because he doesn’t get paid to work with me and he puts in tons of time and brings a lot to the table. I always know that if I ask Craig to be in a film that he is all in no matter the size of the role or what he has to do.
Do you see the need for more airing of personal love sagas on the air?
I’m not sure about that but I do think that radio in general needs a serious reevaluation. It just isn’t radio anymore. There is nothing dangerous or exiting about it. Every deejay sounds the same. There is no personality to radio anymore. With the exception of KCSB and community stations like it and some of the shows on satellite radio.
It’s like a metaphorical world falling apart for the DJ due to his love life while actual world seems to be falling apart. Was that your intent, playing those ideas off each other?
It was my intent. I love that idea. The idea that the ending of a great love, even if it is one that has grown old, is still world ending — but with a bit of grace and a stiff upper lip the dust will settle and everything will be just fine. A lyric from a Frank Black song called “When Will Happiness Find Me Again: ran through my head many times while writing the story:
She picked up the phone /
The bombs were deployed /
The people they groaned /
The world was destroyed.
Coyote hunting? Have you ever done such a thing?
Man, I should probably lie and say no. I grew up in Arizona and when my friends and I were out of high school but not yet of drinking age there was this brief time where we would drive our trucks out to the desert and just hang out and shoot at things all night long. One time we were goofing off in a 24 hour WalMart buying ammunition and we came across a vermin caller that replicated the sound of an injured rabbit. I never heard of a vermin call and it was inexpensive so we bought it and tried it. It worked, but the coyotes never came very close and we never shot at them. We just wanted to see if we could get them to surround the truck but they never did. We were just dumb kids.
Mervyn’s is a victim of your movie. When was the last time you shopped there?
I couldn’t even tell you, but I love of an abandoned, old Mervyn’s getting blown up by space debris. It makes me chuckle every time.
Who did special effects?
My other collaborator, Matt Perez, and I do the special effects for the most part. I love adding small bits of special effects to my short films. I just love special effects. I love saying, “I want all these buildings to be removed and for it to look like there is a small town’s lights twinkling in the distance and then some shooting star like things fall from the sky and start blowing things up, but we only have a budget of $50 bucks” — and then going and making that happen.
When are you doing a feature length film?
I get asked that quite a bit and I feel ready to do one now. It’s a strange thing because we almost made a feature about eight years ago and it fell through and looking back I’m glad that it did because it would have been horrible. At that point I only had one, mostly horrible, short film under my belt and it would have shown in the making of a feature. Having never gone to film school, the last seven years have been instrumental in becoming a better director and filmmaker. Not to say that I’m awesome. I mean, I’m still learning and studying. But I do have a few features screenplays now that are very interesting to me and I look forward to making one of them in the near future and premiering it at the SBIFF and then after that I’m going to retire from filmmaking all together and go get a graveyard radio deejay job someplace.
The Last Broadcast screens as part of the Santa Barbara Shorts I collection on Wednesday, February 1, 2 p.m. at the Lobero Theater and again on Thursday, February 2, 10:40 a.m. at the Metro 4.