It’s not every day that an Arkansas native directs a hit feature film. But that’s exactly what Daniel Campbell has done with Antiquities.
This film, which happens to be Campbell’s feature film debut as a director, is getting a theatrical release, starting this weekend, followed by a video-on-demand release on Tuesday, January 29.
AY talked to Campbell to learn more about the film and the upcoming release. Antiquities will be showing at Riverdale 10 Cinema starting Friday, January 25.
If you haven’t heard of Antiquities before, here’s a brief synopsis. Antiquities tells the story of a young man named Walt (Andrew J. West) who moves back to his father’s hometown when he learns that his dad has passed away. Taking a job at a local antique mall and living with his aunt, he sets out to learn more about his father. Walt soon meets a young woman named Ellie (Ashley Greene), and he finds himself falling for her. Walt has to navigate the relationship with Ellie, his family and begin to learn more about his father and himself.
AY: What was your background before you began directing?
Daniel Campbell: I grew up…south of Benton. I went to school and got a degree in business. I was awarded for five straight years in a row ‘Worst Businessman in the World’ – self-proclaimed. I was awful, and I had no idea what I was doing in that world. I didn’t want to do this, and then my dad passed away in a car accident, and I realized that this life is incredibly short, and I have a passion to make movies and this is what I want to do. This story is somewhat based on losing your dad or a parent. That denial that you go through and the way that you deal with that pain and grief.
Is there an autobiographical element to the film?
It’s more so pulling from the emotional bank, not so much the real story. It’s more that the emotions were very similar to what I experience. It’s a shared view of death, if that makes sense.
What was the starting point for Antiquities?
I wrote and directed the short of Antiquities. Then we got into some really good festivals with it and went around the country and won a couple of awards. At the Little Rock Film Festival, we were fortunate to have a guy approach us to fund the script. I got Graham [Gordy] on board with that. I wanted Graham and I to write it together. So Graham and I wrote for the next year. After that, we got with Gary [Newton], and he helped us raise the money…
You wrote the film with Graham Gordy. What was the writing process like?
I love Graham. He’s one of my very best friends. We’re trying to figure out what we’re going to write next. We have some options on the table, and we’re trying to find out what’s the best way to go about it. He’s fantastic, and I’ve learned so much from him. Obviously, you can’t force yourself to come up with stuff and bright ideas. You can force yourself to sit in a room, but the ideas are going to come on their own. That led to a lot of push-up contests and weird things to pass the time. But he’s a blast.
What was the process of shooting the movie like?
It was great, especially because we wanted to shoot it in Arkansas. It takes place in Arkansas, so it was pretty crucial for this thing to feel authentic in our eyes, for it to come from the state. We really felt passionate about shooting here, and everyone was so accommodating. One thing about the film world: people get burned out. We treated everyone with respect and wanted to leave a good taste in everyone’s mouth for the next time. Everyone was so supportive, and you felt like they cared about your movie as much as you do
What were your influences? What films and filmmakers impacted you?
I love John Hughes. He’s such a brilliant filmmaker, and the Coen Brothers as well. Those guys, I would never compare myself to them because they’re so incredible, but I feel like there were bits that were influenced by them. I love Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne. I love stories that are humorous but aren’t joke-filled. It’s more bizarre dialogue; the dialogue makes you laugh and not a punchline.
What was the cast and crew like?
They were incredible. I don’t know if I’ll ever direct another movie where the cast and crew were so collaborative as this one. They truly cared so much about the characters, they cared so much about the production design. Every department and every actor brought so much to the table, and they didn’t have to. It was a super small-budget film, so it easily could have been a project that a crew member or a cast member could have phoned in and get out. Ashley [Greene] and Andrew [J. West] and Michaela [Watkins] and Michael [Gladis] and Mary [Steenburgen], you could tell they were excited to be there.
How was the film’s release been going and how has it been received?
It’s been great, it really has. With a short film, if you make a short film and it’s good, people are going to review it. If it’s bad, no one cares and they won’t waste their time to give it a review. So this was a learning experience. We got some really good review. But that was the take-away as a first-time feature director…you’re not going to please everyone. And that’s difficult for someone who likes to try to please everyone. But we’ve had some really good responses from people and good reviews. It’s going to be a wider release for the public for the next few days. So far, no one’s told me I should go jump off a cliff, so that’s a positive sign. [Laughs] Why was it important to have a release in Little Rock?
I feel like there’s a strong film community and a love for the state. We wanted to show Arkansas. There’s so many great movies that show Arkansas with the poverty-stricken side, and they’re fantastic movies. But there’s not a lot films that show the whimsical world of Eureka Springs, Hot Springs and all these places that you know. As a resident and a native, you know how special this state is, and no one highlights that. At the same time, we wanted to allow the folks in the state to see it on the big screen and be proud of the state.
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Image courtesy of Antiquities Facebook page