Dave Yohe, exudes a sense of kinetic energy that, when combined with his perceptive intellect, joviality and sense of purpose, results in the sense that he is on the path to greatness…or at least towards a passionate adventure. His short film, THE SILVER, in many ways reflects this voracious intensity and left me tantalized to see more of the story. It doesn’t surprise me that he managed to harness some help from very talented people at Skywalker Ranch for his project!
Written, directed, and produced by Dave, The Silver is a fast-paced, hard ride taking place firmly sci-fi action territory. The film starts with the protagonist, played by Lauren Palleschi, who remains unnamed in the film, alone in the desert and in the middle of a very, very bad day. She’s injured and dealing with immense adversity, including just becoming the last person alive within miles of desert. The audience is tossed in mid-adventure with Dave’s solid story-telling style to quickly orient viewers with a sense of curious excitement.
I had seen THE SILVER and met Dave at a previous festival, along with his producer and friend, Thom Spitler. The film was fantastic and when I learned it was on the line up for Other Worlds Austin, a fabulous science fiction festival, I jumped at the chance to shine a light on Dave and his work.
We met several hours before the film’s Texas premiere at Other Worlds as part of the closing film line up with ENCOUNTER and began our chat:
Diva: So, at the start of this movie, we meet the protagonist, and she’s in distress. It seems she’s been through a lot already and come a long way. Can you tell us about her?
Dave: Yeah, we jumped right in on this. The idea stems from more of a bigger story where being at your worst when the unexplainable happens and there’s no help in sight. There’s no one showing up, telling you all the answers, and [who] gives you some type of gun that can save you. It’s being at your worst, [with] no information, no help, and now you have to survive. The short is based on a feature, that we have ready.
Diva: So, you’re planning on making this a feature?
Dave: Yeah, we had it [feature length] first, but the scope of the thing, being as big as it is, we wanted to make sure we could prove we could to it. So, we kind of went all in on this to make it a hyper version of what the movie would feel like in six minutes.
Diva: And it’s a very intense six minutes!
Dave: Yeah, it’s crazy.
Diva: And as far as characters choices, something interesting that I really like is that your character is responding with anger, no fear. Tell us a little more.
Dave: The feature version is a group of twenty-somethings coming back from Vegas from a long weekend and there’s a long drive in the desert. […] That’s the beginning of this, in the middle of nowhere, driving in, and seeing things have started to happen that [she] can’t explain. And as the character goes through this, you learn as she does. There’s no outside force that guides you, to let you know what’s happening. You experience it through her shoes. […] What we’ve done in the short is show you anger, fear, and her escape is basically how the feature is going to roll, where she sees everyone of her loved ones die or get turned into a “Silver Eyed Stranger” (as what we call them), and not understand it. The movie is going to end with her basically escaping this, or maybe not.
Diva: Are there any spoilers in that you don’t want me to reveal?
Dave: No, I mean, the idea is just to do something a little different. I’ve created a lot of short films and everybody tries to stack this like huge, three-act thing. There are different ways to tell stories. I think there are different rides and journeys and escapisms that you can have, that are just as entertaining, that can also have a bigger theme, that you just absorb. I love the idea of taking a massive scope film and jumping into it. [In THE SILVER] you want more, but you’re also satisfied with the immediate release it gets you. […] You’re like “What the fuck is happening, holy shit!?” And then, it starts to kind of let go, and then we pay off, with the reveal. Then we glide you up and show you the scope of the vastness of the desert of there it takes place and the vastness of what’s happened. The idea is that you’re satisfied, but you still want more.
Diva: Adding to the atmosphere and tension is the sound design, which I know you’re really proud of. You had some fantastic help with that.
Dave: We started the project off with Simon England, who’s our extremely talented DP, who works with Dan Mindel quite a bit, who works with J.J. Abrams. The whole idea was to make this a huge scope piece to pitch to J.J. personally and go as big as we can. So the idea at the beginning was let’s finish every aspect of the film at the highest level and let’s shoot to work with Skywalker, at least let’s approach them and see. […] Before we even shot The Silver and I emailed the front door of Skywalker sound, it was info@Skywalker. I didn’t have any expectation knowing this was a blind email coming from a guy making a short film. But what I got was an email back from Jon Null, who was the head of operations at Skywalker, Academy Award Winning Jon Null. And it just blew me away that he personally wrote back. I was like “Oh shit, it’s real!” […] Just to ask, the power of asking just came through. You gotta push those walls to get there and also the content has to speak to them too. This was in their wheelhouse. He said, “How much money do you have?” and we didn’t have any. We were doing this with all favors. So I just said something like $5,000, because I thought I could crowd-source that pretty reasonably. And then I didn’t hear back from them. So I was like, well fuck it! Now, even more so, I’m going to polish this thing. I’m gonna shoot it and spend a year making this 6 to 7-minute piece look like I want it to, before I approach him again. […] Around November of 2017, I wrote Jon back. He wrote back immediately, saying “I haven’t seen this production value on screen since Duncan Jones did MOON.” It was an extremely humbling compliment. He pitched it to the guys inside and within 30-45 minutes, we already had a response from Jeremy Bowker who worked on ROGUE ONE and BIG HERO SIX. […] They couldn’t have been nicer, more positive and it was such a two-way dream. A Star Wars fan getting to go to Skywalker Ranch to mix a film is a filmmaker’s dream. It’s not just the name, it’s being able to work with the best. Having the support from them and them telling me “Dave this is awesome, whatever you do next, we’re in, we’ll help you out.” It’s everything. It’s a massive leap for me.
It’s delightful to see good people making their cinematic dreams come true, especially when we are treated to awesome sci-fi action romps like THE SILVER. Dave Yohe will continue to screen his short in the festival circuit until work begins on his feature-length project in Cyprus next year.