Filmed in and around Winston-Salem under the title The Moleskin Diaries, Zach Brown’s award-winning debut feature Hard Surfaces will celebrate its East Coast premiere with a gala screening Nov. 11 at the ACE Exhibition Complex on the University of North Carolina School of the Arts campus, followed by an after-party at Meridian Restaurant, located at 411 S. Marshall St.
The indie drama stars Shawn Pyfrom (also one of the film’s producers) as Adrian, a fast-rising, hard-living celebrity photographer – replete with a glamorous girlfriend (Julia Voth, also a producer) – whose world comes undone when his estranged sister Samantha (Mariana Novak) dies and he becomes guardian to her daughter Maddy (Hannah Victoria Stock), forcing him to confront the demons of his past and present while tentatively attempting to forge a healthy future for both of them.
Brown, Pyfrom and co-star Chase Fein are scheduled to attend the screening, and Voth may join them if her schedule permits. Already, Hard Surfaces has made waves on the festival circuit, winning the Best Screenplay award at the Downtown Film Festival in Los Angeles, and the Gold Remi award for Best First Feature and Houston Film Society Critics’ Choice awards for Best Supporting Actress (Voth) and Best Young Performer (Stock) at WorldFest Houston. The film has been acquired for distribution by North of Two, www.northoftwo.com.
Brown, said the film’s writer, director, executive producer and co-star, he had two features in development, Hard Surfaces (The Moleskin Diary) and Patience, which he’d written first, “but Patience takes place in multiple cities and Hard Surfaces in just one,” he said. “I had written Hard Surfaces to take place in Winston-Salem specifically because I’d recently found out how amazing and artistic the downtown had become. I grew up in and around Winston-Salem, so it was a combination of wanting to shoot my first movie in my hometown, being able to shoot in just one location, and having a supportive artistic community.
He said it felt amazing to be shooting back home because he gets to spend time with family and visit familiar sights.
“The community was amazingly supportive,” he said. “We were also very fortunate to hire recent graduates from UNCSA as well as current students to work as interns.”
Altair Casting, based in Winston-Salem, also lent its expertise to the production, with Altair’s Phil Newsome the film’s casting director.
“Zach brought the main leads in from L.A., but the majority of extras were cast here,” Newsome said. “I, along with my assistant Amanda Hoey, also did a lot of other unofficial jobs on the film, from setting up some investor parties to helping with locations. I also have a small role as David Hill, Adrian’s attorney.”
Hard Surfaces was a wonderful opportunity on several levels, according to Newsome. “It was exciting to see the beauty of downtown Winston-Salem utilized again, also it was great to cast local actors in day-player roles and as extras. It is our hope that when people see this film, more (film) folks will realize that our area is a great place to shoot.”
As for the title change, Brown explained that herself and Voth had been talking about changing the title for a while.
“As the (screenplay) drafts went on, the diary became less and less prominent, but we were so busy with trying to get the film finished that we kept putting it off,” she said.
Newson remarked that it was driving him crazy trying to come up with a good title, but as the film neared the end of post-production he said, “we could finally relax and had the freedom to focus our thoughts toward it. Julia actually came up with Hard Surfaces, which we all loved since it evoked an actual feeling rather than an on-the-nose representation of the story.”
Looking back, “I was so incredibly fortunate to have the trust of everyone involved, despite this being my first film,” Brown said. “Everyone trusted me and let me make the movie that I wanted to make. I also really put an emphasis on allowing every single person that I hired to bring their own ideas and artistic abilities, which helped a lot with the trust. In essence, we all established early on that we’re going to need to work together to make the movie the best that it could be with what we had to work with.”
To view the trailer for Hard Surfaces (which includes some profanity), see www. vimeo.com/231508977.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. © 2017, Mark Burger.
Hard Surfaces will be screened 7 pm, Nov. 11 in the ACE Exhibition Complex, located on the main campus on UNCSA, 1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem. Tickets are $10. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.918.0902, e-mail email@example.com, or visit www.outatthemovieswinston.org/november-11th-screening-hard-surfaces-winston-salem/.