Chase Conner, filmmaker and director of "Less Lost" is a guerrilla filmmaker. His motion picture, now on Amazon Prime and iTunes, is a military drama 75 minutes in length and shot over a period of 18 days with a $20,000 budget and a crew of 50 people.
The film explores the fictional story of Luke (Shane Fike), a man struggling to reconnect with his family while suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). The story itself is familiar. In fact, too familiar in a country still untrained in dealing with its heroes; yet, Conner's cinematic view of recovery after the military is uncanny, perceptive, touching, and unrivaled.
“The story itself opens up a dialogue about this microcosm, the different types of people at the VA center, the conversations, and what happens when they go home,” says Conner.
Although PTSD is often difficult to detect, Conner believes the war-hero mythology often cloaks the realities faced by recovering veterans, preventing people from facing the challenges of PTSD directly.
“If you’re not angry about it, you’re not paying attention,” Conner says. According to NIH Medicine Plus, PTSD affects about 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan, and the end result can often be suicide.
Armed conflict at times, even after war itself, can be silent and cruel, and “Less Lost” paints a stark yet vibrant picture of this sad reality.
Conner graduated from Florida State University with a BFA in English Literature and went on to the University of Central Florida to do his graduate studies in Film. There, he nurtured his thirst for storytelling and learned all about guerrilla-style filmmaking, all while working as a teaching assistant.
The cinematic arts always captivated Conner and experimentation was his best friend, even before FSU or UCF at a time when MySpace was still MySpace.
“That’s how it started,” he says. “A Rebel Without a Crew, except instead of sitting around and screaming about it, I wanted to rebel from the inside out.”
After spending a year in Lake Tahoe working two jobs and trying to figure the world out, he finally decided to enroll in film school for good.
“Tahoe was good and mentally freeing. However, watching 'Half Nelson' by Ryan Fleck just breathed life back into the idea that ‘you can make it, if you’re good enough.’ Whether it is delusional or not, which I think it is, it’s still a good delusion.”
The advent of smart and mobile technologies has changed every aspect of our lives, particularly filmmaking and what it means to be a filmmaker.
“The model’s kind of shifted about what it means to be a filmmaker in terms of what you want to do with it; do you want to do filmmaking as a hobby or do you want to do it as a career and actually pay your bills with it?” Conner adds.
According to Conner, anyone going to film school should approach it as an incubation period to learn and help each other out, not an elitist race to be the greatest filmmaker out there.
The thing is, he adds, you don’t need to go to film school to be a filmmaker, but you do need to be a storyteller, and not be afraid to get lost to find yourself.
Finishing The Movie
With Florida film incentives cornered up and thousands of film students trying to become the next George Lucas, being a filmmaker is not easy, and standing out from the crowd is a wild feat.
Although “Less Lost” has received several awards, nominations, and premiered at various film festivals throughout the country, navigating the independent film scene is tougher than it looks, according to Conner.
“At first the biggest obstacle was getting the movie done,” Conner stated, adding that the most difficult part is not only finding the budget, but making it work out of necessity, which forced him to cut and rewrite many scenes on-set.
“That was a very trying time of the production because I’m trying to put the movie together and every filmmaker’s fear is not having enough money for reshoots. Then you go look at the footage, ‘ok! This is what we’ve got. Is it even watchable?'"
Then, there is the festival circuit, a monster on its own, particularly so for the independent film industry where 'filmmaking community' takes on a meaning all on its own--rather a fragmented one--where the only thing that matters is who you know, Conner says.
“The experience of putting it in front of audiences is great, but when you pay entry fees into festivals for better exposure and you get there and you’re told you have to bring people in, it feels like I could’ve just rented a theater myself,” Conner says.
At the end of the day Conner is grateful to the people who contributed to his film, which included people like Marco Cordero, Michael Farrell, William Morgan, Adam Ives, Trey Kate, Sharon Weaver, Marco Mujica, Marco DeGeorge, Robb Maus, Deya Silvernail, Dan Reid, Cris Mertens, Teddy Blass, Anthony Campanella, William Morgan, and his father, Claude Conner, among others.
“I learned a lot about my limits and how far I could push myself, physically and mentally. I learned to enjoy the process and not the idea of some final end or reward. There is no touchdown dance. I also learned that I love story telling and that I was willing to endure a hell of a lot of nonsense to get the job done,” Conner said.
1. Focus on what you as an individual can do first.
2. Learn to think critically and cultivate personal accountability.
3. There is no film program, lecture, book, hero’s mead, magic potion, or supernatural force that just makes people great filmmakers.
4. People get great at what they do by doing it.
5. There is nothing intrinsic in the universe that is the essence of “great filmmaking” that you can bottle up and sell.
6. Approach film school as an incubation period for you to figure out your voice as an artist and the best-fit role for you on a filmmaking team. It’s collaboration after all.
7. It’s not what you think; it’s how you think that is essential. Experiences can sometimes be very similar, but they are never exactly the same.
8. Every new production will bring new adventures with new obstacles to solve.