• UO Creative Grant: Samuel Michael Casebolt

    It may have taken Samuel Casebolt only one day to pitch his idea for our UO Creative Grant, but he's been working on the concept for years. Here we speak with the artist about his background in film, his love of the great unknown, and the plot for his winning concept, Hell's Belles, up today on his Kickstarter!

    Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background!
    My name is Samuel Michael Casebolt and I live in Oakland, CA, working in downtown San Francisco as a display artist for Urban Outfitters. I have worked as a production designer for a couple of feature films by Ben Wolfinsohn, one of which, called High School Record, made it into the Sundance Film Festival in 2005. I've also produced and directed four other features, a music video for The Mae Shi, and the short Goodbye Sun, which I released in 2012.

    Where did you go to school?
    I went to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, CA. and got a Bachelors Degree in Fine Art. I worked in many mediums including painting, drawing, and sculpture, and was showing in galleries around L.A. almost once a month for a while. 



    How did you get involved in filmmaking?
    Although I was making so much art, I honestly felt a bit limited. Films just seemed more visceral and really had the power to move me. While it is true that art and film are meant to convey different types of things to a viewer, I never felt that way standing in a gallery and I really wanted to. I began making skateboard videos and abstract art videos with semi-plots on a camcorder and editing on betacam cassettes. Over time, my films began having more and more story driven premises, although I still feel like film is another extension of the art I've always done. In fact, I always make paintings to prepare for and capture the tone of my films.

    So, tell us about the UO Creative Grant contest!
    I have been working on the concept for the film Hell's Belles for five or six years and was finishing another film, Goodbye Sun, which is kind of a sequel to Hell's Belles. When UO announced that they were giving a grant to someone who needed funding for a project, I was all over it. I had the concept fairly fleshed out and the thought occurred to me to make a trailer for a crowd-sourcing campaign to raise money for the feature film. I'm not sure if it was intentional, but Urban Outfitters announced the contest on a Tuesday and required submissions by THAT Friday! My first thought was, "Forget it. That's not enough time." But I realized, "This is what everyone else will think, too, which might give me a better chance!"

    With this in mind, I made a video proposal in one night, sent it in, and ended up winning! I received $1500 and three weeks paid time off, which paid for most of the wardrobe, props, travel, and food for actors. Everyone else donated their time and efforts for the project, which was amazing! I spent the three weeks off editing, organizing and shooting scenes for the trailer.  


    What is Hell's Belles about?
    Set in the 1970s, Hell's Belles is a mockumentary about the 4444 Cult, which consisted of four women that had left society to live in the desert and then disappeared. The women had attempted to control reality with their minds in a series of exercises or "spells" to manifest objects and life forms, travel through space and time, and possibly transcend the physical realm altogether. Evidence of their abilities, which they believed all humans are capable of, was found in the form of photographs, film reels and other various objects, locked in a trunk on the bottom of the ocean. In Hell's Belles, scientists and other experts analyze the footage and eyewitness accounts of terrifying encounters in the desert, leading the filmmaker to take an expedition to the desert to find the church.


    What inspired you?
    I was inspired by regular trips to Joshua Tree National Park with friends. It's easy to come up with crazy stories when you are surrounded by interesting people in that environment. It would be harder to come up with a boring idea there. I am totally fascinated with physics and science and how it could be used to explain the mysteries of existence, which is partially what this film is attempting to do. I have also been inspired by UFO and Bigfoot documentaries as a kid, most specifically in this case by a film called Overlords of the UFO ( I love their dead serious delivery of "facts" about UFOs that are just silly at times, but still intriguing to watch).



    What are your…

    Top five films of all time?
    This is a really difficult question to answer because there are so many films that I put in the flawless category, which don't get sorted from best to worst. They are untouchable, but I think lovability is as important as the avant garde. There is something to be said for a film that can make you love a character, whether it's a Disney film or a Criterion Collection film.  The Shining, Rushmore, Pulp Fiction, American Graffiti, and Boogie Nights stand out to me as films that have a lot of both.

    Top five actors?
    Sorry I can't choose five: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Samuel L. Jackson.

    What do you want to do in your future? Do you plan on continuing with film? 
    I have several films at various stages of production and will continue to find ways to make them happen one way or another because I just feel the need to. I have a haunted house story, a horror film, and a short about the origin of mermaids. I love the challenge of making my thoughts become reality. It's something I am really passionate about. 



    When does Hell's Belles come out? Give us all the details!
    I don't have a release date for Hell's Belles the feature. I will have to make a plan for shooting once I know what the budget will be. Possibly as far off as 2016.

    What's the number one reason we should watch your film?
    It will be pretty funny.


    Make sure to check out Samuel's Kickstarter page to help make this film happen!