Johnny Wactor as "John" in <i>Menthol</i>
Courtesy Photo

Featuring a slow-moving trainwreck of a plotline based on the excesses of partying, Menthol is a sometimes shocking narrative analysis of cause and effect.

Is your Santa Barbara connection related to UCSB and/or Isla Vista? The party elements of this film remind me of my days there.

I never went to college, but I did visit Isla Vista once on Halloween and I can confidently say that place is my personal definition of hell on earth. I grew up in Ojai, so it’s not specific to Santa Barbara, but it’s close. There’s a lot of bored, privileged white kids in the area who don’t quite know what to do with their time after high school. I think the partying that you see is more akin to bored small towners, looking to occupy houses when people’s parents are out of town so they can get drunk. There’s always an interesting cross section of people at those kinds of parties, people from different age groups, etc. It can be fun, but for me there’s always a certain incompleteness, sadness, or desperation about them that leaves a bad taste.

Partying a bit too hard is clearly a central theme to this film. Is that something you think is prevalent in today’s college and post-college scenes? Do you hope this film makes people think twice about taking the next drink, bong load, or pill?

As Aldous Huxley said, “Man has always endured to take holidays from himself.” I don’t think the film is an indictment on “partying” as much as a look at cause and effect. People are always surprised when they are faced with the consequences of their own actions. We are quick to blame any and everything but our own choices. Maybe I’d like people to be a little more aware of what we’re doing to ourselves so we don’t all fall into the same traps. Now excuse me while I rip this bong….

The film has a very subdued hue. What did you hope to convey with that technique?

Life seems to lose some of its color when we get trapped in routines. I wanted the photography to feel distant, bored, passive. I didn’t want the camera to be having as much fun as its subjects.

Is this your first feature film? Was it hard to make the jump? What would you recommend to other filmmakers about ready to shoot a feature?

I had made a couple short films of experimental nature and, having been bit by the bug, decided to jump into a feature. My producer Nate Kamiya and I jokingly say, “If we knew how hard it was gonna be we would’ve never gotten into it.” But at the same time our naivety was the catalyst for getting it done. My advice is to not think about it too much, let whatever is stirring inside you come out, and analyze it later. Oh yeah, and shoot coverage.

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