Department of Theatre and Film
A Telephone Conversation with Filmmaker Travis Cook
by Kyle Whited
While many filmmakers his age are just getting started working the film industry, writer/director/producer Travis Cook has already made a mark. Only 23-years-old, Cook has sold distribution and broadcast rights to the television network Logo for his short film, 5 Telephone Conversations. His film has also appeared in many film festivals including Palm Springs International Shorts Festival, Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and Newfest in New York.
Exploring the interactions between two men on an internet dating website, 5 Telephone Conversations is a narrative film that follows John and Korey as they attempt to make a connection through a series of telephone conversations. Describing the film as “an unconventional yet touching love story about finding your counterpart in a technologically isolated world,” Cook’s film arose from his personal experiences with internet dating. To view his film now visit http://www.logoonline.com/shows/events/short_films/all_films.jhtml or look for it on the television station, Logo.
Cook’s latest film, Next Exit, Main Street, is a documentary that explores the lives of various Americans throughout the country during a 40-day, cross-country road trip. Interviewing an array of people with different backgrounds throughout the country (including a stop in Toledo!), the film’s mission statement suggests that “Americans are not tied together by political identity, geographical location or belief systems but primarily by love, hope and dreams—universal truths.” Premiering March 29, 2008 at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, the film will expand to other film festivals in April. For more information on his film visit www.nextexitmovie.com.
With the premiere of Next Exit, Main Street in less than a week and Logo’s constant streaming of 5 Telephone Conversations, Travis Cook was more than happy to discuss his films and his filmmaking advice with a student. After all, just a few years ago, he was a student himself.
What are the themes of 5 Telephone Conversations?
I think the main theme of my short film is isolation. In an ironic way, the more ‘connected’ we have become through technology and the internet, the more closed off we have become from each other. So I think 5 Telephone Conversations looks at how hard it can be to find romance considering the hurdles of technology.
How would you describe this film stylistically?
I felt the only way to truly capture the story of these two characters was through split screen and multiple frames of video. Each of the five scenes starts and ends with the beginning and end of each phone call, so the audience is restricted by what they see and know. But at the same time, because you never look away from either of the two characters, you really get to see how flawed and insecure both of them are.
How long did it take for you to make 5 Telephone Conversations?
I made 5 Telephone Conversations my senior year of film school at Loyola Marymount Univ. as my thesis film project, so I technically made it in one semester. We shot in 2 and a half days, but I had to re-shoot Korey’s side of the 4th phone call cause we didn’t have a usable take of his portion of the scene that timed with John’s side of the scene--which is why his hair is slightly longer in that scene.
What drew you to the subject and themes?
I have done my fair share of Internet dating, so I wanted to share that experience with an audience. I also think it is fascinating to have a romantic movie where the two leads never meet in person and yet you’re still able to see each character grow and become a better person due to that interaction
Who would you like to see this film? What would you like these audiences to get out of the film?
I want anyone and everyone to see what I make. For 5 Phone Conversations, I want the subject matter of Internet dating (and gay internet dating, for that matter) to be de-mystified. I also just want to tell a good story.
What was your distribution process for the film?
I mostly followed the festival route for my short film. I premiered at the Palm Springs International Shorts Fest. From there, I got into the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and then Newfest in New York. Executives at Logo and here! Networks saw my film there and they both made offers to pick up the US Distribution Broadcast Rights. I ended up going with Logo.
What is the status of Next Exit, Main Street? What festivals are premiering the film?
After two years of intense work, Next Exit, Main Street is finally done. We are going to premiere at the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival next Saturday. Then, the week after that we are at the Wisconsin Film Festival and the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival. And then later on in April, we’re showing at the DeReel Film Festival in Australia
What are you working on next?
I’m currently doing lots of writing with my writing partner. Also, my friend is currently finishing up work on a separate feature documentary, and we’ve met and discussed collaborating on mockumentary together.
What advice would you give to student filmmakers?
Having just finished film school in 2006, it seems weird to give other film students advice, but I’ll share advice that I got in film school that was really helpful. I was told to write and make “what you know.” Whether it’s from experience or just a topic you’re passionate about, I believe audiences really respond to personal stories. And it also helps to define who you are as a filmmaker.
For more information on Travis Cook, visit his website at http://www.travis-cook.com
John Turner (Mick de Lint ) in 5 Telephone Conversations