This ethereal head-scratcher concerns a widow whose author-husband’s death is shrouded in mystery. As her dreams awake into more dreams, she seeks help from a sleep specialist, but matters only grow more confusing and creepy. See elliottlester.com.
This is a haunting tale of dreams within dreams. What inspired you to tell it?
It all began with Jack Olsen’s script. He had written a unique story regarding perception and what we believe to be real. The challenge was how to make each layer of the multiple realities fit into one cohesive story centered around one central character. The dream aspect afforded the movie a visual style that could break convention. Since, in a dream anything is possible and there are no rules. Often, movies transcend when they step outside of what we come to expect from them. Sleepwalker was that inspiration.
Were there other movies in this sort of genre that you drew from?
I try not to look at movie for inspiration, since that has a way of diluting the overall vision I have for the movie. However, the movies that spoke to Sleepwalker were The Machinist (directed by Brad Anderson), Christopher Nolan’s seminal work on Memento, and David Cronenberg’s Dreamscape.
Are there specific challenges in captivating the audience and keeping them attentive when telling a story that messes so much with time, space, and reality?
Our cinema experience is changing as our attention spans seem to get shorter and shorter. Sleepwalker is a slow burn and you have to allow yourself to be taken on that journey. You have to be absorbed and not look at your phone, which I know is a near on impossibility. I try to make the story as visually arresting as possible and, in doing so, keep the camera moving, keep the pace engaging, and keep the audience asking, “What is going on?” I hope we pulled it off.
How are your sleep patterns?
I sleep like a baby.
Do you think that some people may be stuck in this sort of cyclical experience?
There is a condition we looked at. It’s very rare. The subject does not know whether they are dreaming or not. Most people dream lucidly and are aware they are dreaming. For the rare few that don’t, it can be torturous. You are caught in the same cycle going over and over again. The brain has no way of knowing what is and is not real. It can be agony.
What do you hope will happen with the film?
I hope people enjoy the movie, that they take respite from all the superhero tentpoles that are out there on a weekly basis. There is a place for all sorts of stories. Ultimately, having as many people seeing it as possible and forgetting what’s going on outside in the real world for 90 minutes.
What is your next project?
The Darren Aronofsky-produced movie Aftermath is set to be released this year by Lionsgate. I also have Thirst with HBO films, that is being produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It is a story that centers around the worldwide water crisis we are facing.