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  • Writer's pictureH. M. L. Swann

#3 PATHS: Screenwriting with Lance T. Karasti

Lance T. Karasti is a film maker based in Duluth, Minnesota. He graduated from film school in Hollywood before returning to the Midwest. Filming next to Lake Superior, in a city on a hill, Karasti's strong visual aesthetic is brought to the foreground in his films. Each one of his movies is poetically pleasing to watch while psychologically mind-bending. He is a strong supporter of the Duluth Superior Film Festival where he has shown multiple films.

"Hyper Dark" is Karasti's latest film which delves into improvisational filmmaking. For this film, Karasti plotted out a few main points and shot locations and then allowed freedom for the actors fill in the gaps. A triumph in experimental film making, "Hyper Dark" was shot in 60 frames per second.

1. What first inspired you to get into screenwriting or filmmaking?

I’ve been making movies since I was big enough to hold up my parent’s video camera. It’s the first thing I can remember doing as a child. I’ve had interest in many artistic mediums but cinema allows me to synthesize them.

2. Where or how have you studied the craft? Formally or informally?

I started learning before the existence of YouTube tutorials or most of the DIY walkthroughs that exist now. I can learned by doing. By making hundreds of really bad projects throughout my teenage years.

At age 18, I moved to Hollywood to attend the LA film school accelerated film program. I learned film theory in depth and got hands on experience directing in professional environments. Since then I’ve been deconstructing what I’ve learned and applying the experimental approach of my youth to the traditional education I received.

3. Where or when do you write? Do you have a ritual, routine, practice that you stick to? Or is it all about the inspiration?

I usually write at home and it’s either late at night or extremely early in the morning. I feel like I’m most productive at 4am and it works weather I stay up till then or wake up at that time. I think it’s helpful to write when most of the world is asleep and everything is slowed down.

When I begin work on a novel I hope to enact a daily routine, but I currently only write when I have a project I’ll be filming. I usually form a crew and plan shoot dates before a script is even done, and more recently I’ve been working with improvisation dialogue and scenes.

For this style, I only need to develop outlines. The redrafting process involves outlining many different versions of a single movie. Sometimes a version is so different it becomes a completely new project. I’ll eventually return to writing more traditional scripts but this process has been extremely beneficial for developing ideas.

4. Where do your stories come from?

I wish I had a clear answer for that. Then I could recreate the process with some consistency. Each story seems to come from a different place and each time it feels like I’m trying to find the most natural way to tell it. Like it’s something that already exists; a puzzle to be figured out.

5. How does your economic or cultural background influence your writing style?

Developing projects around what you have access too is a big part of boosting the production quality of micro budget films. My first film “Cult” was shot in the house my parents built in the country and was strongly inspired by my own experience with religion growing up. Each of my films is strongly inspired by own lived experience and designed to take advantage of whatever is available to me in my every day life.

6. What are you working on now? Has COVID affected it? What are your plans for the future?

I’m currently working on a feature film titled ‘Hel,” that I’m making on my own in quarantine. Hel was originally written and funded pre-COVID and had to be completely redeveloped when the first lock down started. It was originally a massive story about a simulated reality shutting down with a large cast that spanned over 2 years of time.

I had to figure out how to explore the same idea with just myself playing the singular protagonist in a story without other people. It was the ultimate puzzle, but the plot is not yet public. I’m shooting now and will be releasing the film in January.

After finishing work on Hel, my “simulation trilogy” will be complete. Later this winter we will shoot “Reunion,” which will continue to explore the style I’ve been developing on my previous work, but without a science fiction theme.

7. How do you balance time management between the logistics of organizing actors or writing grants versus the creative process of making the script?

The filmmaking process has a natural progression to it, so I find myself focusing on a completely different things throughout. I need to develop a film before I can start fundraising for it. Money needs to be in place before I can hire people and start shooting. The film needs to be shot before you can edit. It can feel absurd how many technical, creative, or business oriented subjects you need to be proficient in to complete a movie from beginning to end.

In order to deal with this, I design my films to be small scale in production, while being large scale in ideas. My goal is to get to a place where I can hire a team of professionals to collaborate with, allowing me to focus my energy on my own strengths.

8. Do you have any advice for future screen writers or film makers out there?

I honestly feel like I’m not in any place to give advice. Perusing a life making art has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I love everything about it. Its now I process the world around me. The only thing I can say is: If you love it, don’t stop.

Want to see more from Lance T. Karasti?

See you next Sunday for more on paths to writing!



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