MEMBER MONDAY | Lane Michael Stanley
Lane Michael Stanley
is a filmmaker, director, and playwright currently completing his final year of a Directing MFA at the University of Texas at Austin. Learn about his world as creative in Austin and how it intersects between film, theater, and the road to recovery.
Portrait by Ashton Bennett Murphy
Let’s get right into it, tell us about yourself! Can you talk a little about your background and what ignited your interest in filmmaking? How did you find yourself in Austin, Texas?
My name is Lane Michael Stanley, and I am a filmmaker, director, and playwright currently in my third and final year of a Directing MFA at the University of Texas at Austin. I have an extensive background in theater, both as a director and playwright, and came to filmmaking as a way of uniting those two passions. I love the visual world of film and the incredible subtlety with which characters can be revealed.
My current project is a feature film called Addict Named Hal, which is based on my personal experiences living in a halfway house for drug and alcohol recovery in 2016. It has been my passion project since I began writing the screenplay in early 2017 - though I’ve also directed 11 short films in that time. I have truly been learning filmmaking with the main goal of making Addict Named Hal a reality.
You’re currently a MFA Directing Candidate and in pre-production on your first feature film. How do you balance both of these worlds?
A lot of the time I have the same question! I’ve been extremely fortunate in my program at UT. My faculty supports generative artmaking, and they include film as well as theater in that. I’m working to leverage the resources available to me at UT to make feature filmmaking more accessible in this stage of my career. Preproduction for Hal is my Director’s Studio at school this year, which means I have some undergraduate team members who are able to get course credit as well as access to space.
You are one of the founders of Cohesion Theatre Company, can you tell us a bit about the company? Additionally, You are a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and have lots of experience in playwriting. How does your involvement in theater influence you as a filmmaker?
I founded Cohesion Theatre Company in 2014 with Brad Norris with the goal of making intersectional, community-based theater. In my time there, we produced 10 mainstage shows, a 6-week city-wide staged readings festival, a Trans Voices Workshop Series, and several workshops and special projects.
In both my theater and film careers, I seek to tell character-driven stories from the margins. However, they are fully different media, and it’s been a joy learning how to build intimacy and create character in each. This is a huge generalization of course, but it seems to me that the theater world is a bit ahead of the film world in terms of social justice, representation, and the creation of safe, value-driven processes. I definitely take those values fully into my filmmaking process.
Generally speaking, when we want to learn about a film, we talk to the director. However, your feature (Addict Named Hal) was originally a one man play. You’ve taken on a variety of creative roles from director, playwright, filmmaker, producer to musician and actor. How do you think this has affected your production process with the feature?
It took me a while to figure out the right medium for this story. I wrote the one-man play “Addict Named Hal” in January 2017, just 3 months after moving out of my halfway house for drug and alcohol recovery. I had 9 months sober at that point, and going into recovery had saved my life and completely deconstructed what I thought I knew about the world.
I spent some time after that trying to write a full-length recovery play. I had many false starts, some of which I workshopped with actors, none of which felt right. Finally, Lowell Blank (now the producer of the film Addict Named Hal) asked if he could read any of the plays I’d written, and if I had considered screenwriting. He got me set up with Final Draft, and in the switch to screenwriting, I was finally able to tell the recovery story I had been itching to tell.
For this story, film works better than theater because a halfway house is defined by the constant drama created by a sea of people constantly coming in and out of the house. Life in a halfway house is extremely boring until it is utter chaos. This is something I was able to capture on screen, with a big cast and very specific sense of environment, in a way I couldn’t conjure on stage.
As a member of Austin Cinemaker Space, you have been hosting a slew of auditions and pre-production meetings. What is something that you’ve learned through the process of creating your first feature film?
A feature film definitely takes over your life! The casting process has definitely been a lot longer than I anticipated - but we’re pulling together some truly excellent actors. Our team grows by the day, and the sheer number of people involved in this film is exciting and humbling. Especially on a microbudget, we are using every favor we can think to ask and that requires fairly constant ingenuity. It’s so worth it, though!
You just launched a crowdsourced campaign with Addict Name Hal ~ congrats! This is where we ask you to tell us how the community can support the creation of this film. Okay go!
Head on over to the Addict Named Hal Kickstarter, right here! You can check out our promotional video, which includes scenes from the film with our lead actors, as well as the full mission and vision of the film, and of course, PERKS! Perks start at just $5 and include hats, keytags, digital download of the film, signed posters, consultations, and more. We have until October 10 to raise $22,000 for principal photography, and we can’t do it without your help.
“Just start making movies!”
What's a piece of advice you find of value that you could give someone new to filmmaking?
Just start making movies! I was so overwhelmed making my first film, though thankfully I had Lowell guiding me and a good friend, Paul Kruse, who volunteered to plan, shoot, and edit the film and just let me direct. In case you don’t have an angel friend like Paul, these days you can make a short film completely on your phone. There’s a huge technical barrier to film - but in the beginning, just start making them, and you’ll figure out what technical aspects you need to know as you go along.
Anything you want to shout out to the Austin creative community?
I’ve loved this town more the longer I’ve been here, and the film and theater scenes here are a big part of why (though I’m also a big fan of the queer and recovery communities in Austin). Thanks for being such a welcoming town of risk-takers and weirdos - in the best way!
You can support Lane’s feature film and follow their journey through their kickestarter & website. Stories build communities, filmmaking brings them to life!
MEMBER MONDAYS is a weekly interview series highlighting current members & alumni of the Austin School of Film + Austin Cinemaker Space community! Each week, we’ll be featuring one of our incredibly eclectic community members and take a deep dive into their work. Gaining an insight into what makes them, them.