Director Christopher Piñero On ‘A Dark Place’ And Working With Luke Baines

In this interview with Close-up Culture, director Christopher Piñero talks about his new thriller, A Dark Place.

Named Best Thriller at the 2018 Manhattan Film Festival, A Dark Place follows Alex (played by Luke Baines), a twenty-something struggling to put his life back together after mistakes and a reckless past render his job search hopeless. Just when things are looking up, Alex discovers a secret that sends him into a self-destructive downward spiral, bringing his two best friends down with him.

A Dark Place will be released on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand August 13. 

Q:Can you give us a taste of ‘A Dark Place’ and what audiences can expect?

A: It’s a character driven thriller that will take you on an emotional roller coaster with many twists and turns. Hitchcock inspired suspense and a unique lead character that blurs the lines of good and bad.

Q: What interested you about following a character going through a downward spiral as dark as Alex’s?

A: I wanted to explore what it would take to push someone to their breaking point. I didn’t want him to be a two dimensional character. My goal was to get the audience to relate and empathize with him on some level so when he makes decisions, they’re more conflicted about how they feel.

Q: What mental space were you in while writing this story? Was it a fairly normal writing process or was it a draining process?

A: It took about a year for the story to form into what we see on screen. It was draining at times because I would spend months looking at the script, not knowing exactly what it was lacking. I made one change and it completely opened up the story. It’s one of those things you feel in your gut and know this story is ready to be brought to life.

Q: The relationship between Alex and his pregnant partner Theresa (played by Jazlyn Yoder) is also a key part of the story. Can you tell us about their interactions and what this responsible – a partner and child – means for Alex’s spiral?

A: Alex wants nothing more than to rectify himself to Theresa, but their relationship has been so poisoned by resentment that it’s hard for Theresa to see any light at the end of their tunnel. She won’t even allow Alex the opportunity to prove himself because she is so worried he will fail her again. This leaves Alex trapped between his past and what he wants for the future.

Q: Why did you feel Luke Baines was the right fit for Alex and capable of taking us on this dark journey?

A: He was the only actor I saw that I felt really understood all the dimensions, good and bad, of Alex. I remember meeting him in person and being a little shocked with the fact that he was worlds different from his depiction of Alex and spoke with an Australian accent. He truly is able to transform.

Christopher Piñero and Luke Baines on the set of ‘A Dark Place’

Q: What did Luke bring to the character and, more generally, this project?

A: When preparing for the role, Luke asked me a lot of tough questions regarding Alex and his life off screen. Answering those questions helped us both to understand the story on an even deeper level. He was dedicated to knowing Alex’s trajectory and what he should be feeling at all times.

Q: This was your debut feature. How was the shoot and the overall experience? Any notable challenges or stories to tell us about?

A: It was probably the most demanding thing I’ve ever done in my life. We shot this in twelve days, and on occasion we were shooting eleven pages a day. The schedule was relentless and going from a thirteen page short, to a hundred page feature was a lot tougher than I expected.

As far as notable challenges, we had a picture car that we used on day one that was supposed to be used again the following week. Turns out, the day we needed the car, the owner informed us that the car was repossessed. Luckily in the eleventh hour my producer, David, found a replacement car that looked close enough to what we had. After all that trouble, I wound up cutting that scene with the original picture car.

Q: ‘A Dark Place’ was named Best Thriller at the Manhattan Film Festival last year. Have you had any notable audience responses to ‘A Dark Place’?

A: We were nominated for eight awards at the Hoboken International Film Festival, winning best editing and best supporting actor, Jay Eftimoski.

Q: What are your hopes for the film?

A: Just to have distribution at this level, and allowing it to be seen across the country, is very exciting and to me. My hope is that the audience is gripped by these characters’ journeys and are entertained along the way.

Q: What is next for you? Is ‘A Dark Place’ a good indicator of the films you want to make?

A: Yes, I found that suspense is what I’m good at now, and I want to stick to my strengths for the time being.

I actually just completed my next script, Rosemont Forest, and I’ll be looking to shoot that next. It’s a coming of age thriller with elements of horror, set in the nineties. However, I do look forward to exploring many different genres in the future. 

A Dark Place will be released on Digital, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand August 13. 

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