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“We’re Very Preoccupied with Making Personal Arthouse Features”: With Two Films in Cannes, Carson Lund and Tyler Discuss Production Company, Omnes Films

Los Capitulos Perdidos

When Filmmaker featured the startup film collective Omnes Films in our 2021 25 New Faces list, the L.A. outfit’s first two microbudget features — Jonathan Davies’ Topology of Sirens and Tyler Taormina’s Ham on Rye — had both premiered at festivals and received U.S. releases from Factory 25, its members had produced shorts and music videos, and new features were in the works. One of the few companies or collectives to land on our list over its history, Omnes impressed us with not only the quality of the films but the ambition — and optimism — evinced by a group of young filmmakers planting an arthouse flag in the relatively lonely wilds of the Los Angeles film production culture.

Now, just three years later, those new features have landed, impressively, as dual world premieres in the Cannes Director’s Fortnight section, vaulting the L.A.-based Omnes, geographically and otherwise, to a new level of visibility and acclaim. Even as they play in different tonal registers, Carson Lund’s Boston-set Eephus and Taormina’s Long Island, NY-set Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point share formal DNA — both are films with large ensemble casts, action unfolding over, about, eight hours, and with overt narrative sublimated in favor of mood, sensation and low-key metaphoric reflection.  And both films, while produced on relatively modest budgets still far above Omnes’s debuts, are aesthetically assured, inventive and with truly impressive production values. The latter is owing to the Omnes model, where the group’s filmmakers switch hit on each other’s projects. For example, Eephus director Lund shot Taormina’s film, while Taormina is a producer of Lund’s.

I caught up with the two filmmakers just before Cannes to learn absout how their conception of Omnes has changed since our 2021 profile and what’s next for a group currently riding high on the Croisette.

Filmmaker: So what is Omnes Films? Is it a company? Is it a collective? On the eve of premiering not one but two films in Cannes at Directors Fortnight, how do you see yourselves at this point?

Lund: I think company implies an LLC, which we don’t we don’t currently have.

Filmmaker: That was one of my questions! So, you don’t have an LLC?

Lund: No, not yet. We have started to talk about that. I guess, at the moment, we still see it as collective. Right, Tyler?

Taorima: Yeah, it’s a little bit more informal.

Lund: We’re a group of friends who work on each other’s passion projects. We have a Slack channel, we’re continuously in touch, talking about ideas we are developing. We have a regular team of collaborators in different roles, who short of shuttle between the films. So, yeah, it’s a long-time group of friends who are making films we can all get behind.

Filmmaker: Who specifically is in Omnes right now? Or is it not that formal?

Lund: It’s not that formal.

Taormina: It’s who shows up at all of our hangouts and when we go to have a barbecue.

Lund: I would say it’s the two of us; Mike Bosta, who is a co-writer on Eephus and producer of several projects with us; Jonathan Davies, who directed Topology of Sirens, which I shot and edited and Tyler produced; and my brother Eric, who is involved in some way in every single film. He was the production designer on Eephus. There’s Kevin Anton, who edits Tyler’s films, and Eric Berger, who writes with Tyler. Krista Minto just produced Christmas Eve in Miller’s Point, and she’s been really involved recently. It’s a kind of rotating gallery of folks. An open door, a little bit. But, you know, we’re selective.

Filmmaker: And what are the rights and responsibilities of an Omnes member? Is there an unspoken agreement that you guys will work on each other’s films? What does it mean for you to be in this collective relationship with each other?

Taormina: The unspoken relationship is not, “I scratch your back, you scratch mine,” but, “You’re making a film, that’s amazing! Let’s do it.” We just want to work on films, and we love each other’s ideas. It’s really a beautiful harmony that has allowed for so much momentum to occur between each of our films.

Lund: There’s nothing in writing. It’s just the inclination to work with each other. We like the idea of building a body of work that has certain threads, you know? You can kind of pick out the different creative influences throughout each piece.

Taormina: But we certainly don’t have like a credo or anything like that. If someone has an idea, we want to hear it. There’s such a collective mindset, in a way, and I feel like our conjoined brains are strong in the way that I’m emboldened to view things and to be creative myself.

Filmmaker: Are there films that you guys would want to do that are not Omnes films? Are the films products of your enthusiasms of the moment, or do you see a kind of aesthetic unity between the various films? Do they fall under some kind of aesthetic family?

Carson: I certainly think they do, and, at the moment, I think whatever we make we want to attach the name to it. I think [Omnes] also comes from a place of understanding branding, frankly, and how important that is in culture. My brother, he creates posters and press materials for us, and he works at an agency. I work at an agency as a day job, so we’re aware of this aspect of film culture. Even just how much you hear people talk about A24 — people who never previously considered themselves cinephiles are like, “I love A24 films.” That’s a limited viewpoint, but, at the same time, people are becoming aware of collectives. Not like A24 is anything like us, but we do see [Omnes] as putting a stamp on [our work], and over time it will grow and confer upon it a certain quality, sensibility or vision. And, yeah, I do think there’s a little bit of an aesthetic similarity. Maybe a preference for patient editing rhythms. We haven’t made any films that are handheld-driven, which is, I think, sort of the standard of so much American independent cinema, going back to Cassavetes, even. All of that is not to say that we wouldn’t branch out, or change our approach, but there are certain similarities that we have discussed. Tyler, you use the words “cultural decay.”

Taormina: That is, for some reason, prevalent in all the movies we have made, including Lorena Alvarado’s film [Los Capítulos Perdidos], that we produced and that will be premiering this year, and the film by French-American director Alexandra Simpson, which hopefully will also premiere this year.

Lund: We’ve been kind of hesitant to create a manifesto. We don’t want anything too dogmatic because we want to be fluid and open to different kinds of expression. At the same time, they are very personal projects, I would say, and they have a certain formal command.

Taormina: A formal approach is highly valued from the beginning.

Lund: Yes. The visual, sonic and editorial ideas are very much a part of each project in the beginning. These are not writerly films, and we’re not interested, per se, in graduating to episodic TV comedy. We’re very preoccupied with making personal arthouse features. That’s kind of our metier at the moment and will remain so. And we’re happy to keep expanding as we see fit, even beyond America, as we already have with Lorena’s film, if there’s a certain kinship we can connect to. But it’s not like there’s a committee where we all sit down at a big table and make a vote on what gets in and what gets it. It’s more casual than that.

Filmmaker: Are there disagreements?

Lund: No, so far it’s very harmonious because we’re friends.

Taormina: And we all share a certain cinephilia and watch just ungodly amounts of movies. I think it’s important to say that we’re all inspired by filmmakers of the past, but we are involved in the conversation of modern cinema, which is exciting. I believe that modern cinema is still being driven and directed by Asian cinema, and I think we all acknowledge that and are inspired by that conversation. Would you agree with that, Carson?

Lund: That it’s a guiding force in modern cinema? You’re thinking of people like Apitichatpong [Weerasthekul]?

Taormina: Of course. He, I think, is one example that inspires everyone. [He’s] in all of the [Omnes] films, every one of them.

Lund: There’s an emphasis on atmosphere and mood that we really value —

Taormina: — like the Taiwanese New Wave.

Lund: Yeah, so we’re trying to find a way to bring these aesthetics and structuring ideas to very intimately American ideas that we are more conscious of [because of] the way we’ve grown up. We want to try to implement these ideas into stories that feel new. Also, most of us have been musicians at some point in our lives. We were in bands. I am still kind of in a band. It’s not very active, but we still record music. Tyler, you kind of stopped.

Taormina: I’m writing songs for a musical that maybe I’ll make someday.

Lund: Amazing! But what I wanted to get at is that there’s a musical influence in all of our work, even if there’s not a lot of score. We all think musically because we have so much history making music. John Davies is a music supervisor and pulls in a lot of far-flung influences. Tyler, your films are like jukebox films, at times. I did the score for Eephus with my brother, which is minimal, but important. Our love for music doesn’t mean that we want to load our films with music, it just means that I think we all have a sense of tempo and rhythm and melody, and I think that all informs filmmaking as well.

Taormina: In place of traditional plot.

Lund: Yeah, the way that films are musical — movements through different sections of feeling.

Filmmaker: This takes me back to the ’80s and early ’90s, when DIY culture coming out of punk bands and labels and zines inspired independent film production.

Lund: Matt Grady of Factory 25 is very much an Omnes supporter, and he is a big fan of that world, too.

Filmmaker: And I believe that Factory 25 is a reference to Factory Records, which famously didn’t have contracts with its artists.

Lund: So our lack of contracts at Omnes is a fitting continuation! [laughs]

Taormina: A lack of irony, that’s pretty important for us too. I think we’re all pretty genuine people, and we have a shared thing that brings us very close together. And if we find those films, it’s so exciting that we could use this name to bring them up, we can create a sort of a movement that we value in this cinema.

Filmmaker: Carson, you mentioned A24. Were there other companies, or production collectives, that were inspirational in any way?

Lund: I should stress that I didn’t mean to say that we were inspired by A24.

Filmmaker: I get it, but over the years Filmmaker has covered companies like Parts and Labor, Borderline Films —

Lund: — and Memory.

Filmmaker: Yes. And perhaps Borderline — Antonio Campos, Sean Durkin and Josh Mond, who has a film in ACID this year — is the most similar in that it was a company of  directors who all worked on each other’s films. I think it has just kind of petered out as everyone has gotten more and more busy on bigger projects.

Lund: Antonio’s thanked in our credits — he was very helpful for Christmas. And, yeah, now you’re getting at this conversation I’ve had recently in bars and restaurants with friends. What happens when it keeps expanding and other opportunities pop up? Let’s say another like a studio comes and asks us to make a film. Do you bring along the team? And of course, I think the hope would be to bring along the team. But I don’t think any of us are super precious about, you know, “It has to always be this way.”

Taormina: I want to say one thing, which is that I think we recognize that we’re making pretty anti-commercial films for the most part. I think Eephus and Christmas have great commercial potential, but the collective effort really is also a reaction to what we value in cinema, and it’s not easy to promulgate this kind of moviemaking.

Lund: There’s a reason we’re both premiering in Europe. The kind of films we’re making we’re not seeing in America maybe as much right now. They may have a more European flavor, but, again, they’re very American at the same time. I guess American themes, European aesthetics, in a broad sense.

Filmmaker: That again takes me back to the early ’90s, when James Schamus and Ted Hope started Good Machine, and there was a lot more dialogue with Europe. As a producer, one of the first festivals I went to was Rotterdam to pitch a movie at the Cinemart. And now there’s the Berlin Talent Campus, the Biennale College Cinema and other various different international forums. Are you guys tapped into any of those networks? Are you looking outside the U.S. in the development and financing phase, or are these European festivals just where the films are landing?

Lund: At the moment, I don’t think we follow those established institutional support systems, to be honest. We’ve been trying to find our own way. On Ham on Rye, we had no connections. We were starting off very green, finding a way to make it on our own with whatever we could scrounge up financially. And now we’ve kind of taken a little bit of a different route, but we’re still looking for angel investors in America and unorthodox avenues to financing. Maybe now there’ll be more avenues opening up with these Fortnight premieres.

Filmmaker: When you talk to angel investors, are you discussing slates or is it pretty film-by-film?

Lund: Each project has been taken and pitched on its own terms. I think eventually we’d like to consider a different model where it’s maybe multi-film investment if we feel we have enough ready to be developed. But so far it’s been film-by-film, and we’ve targeted people who the subject matter would appeal to. In the case of Eephus, I found some EPs who are huge Red Sox fans, work in the Boston business world and hadn’t invested in a film before. We are trying to think outside of the Hollywood world, knowing that these films have unconventional structures and rhythms. And we haven’t had major star power, although we have Michael Cera and a few names sprinkled in Miller’s Point. We’ve had to rely on ingenuity, I guess, in terms of finding ways to get these films made.

Filmmaker: What’s next for Omnes? Do you have thoughts on what the company should be going in two years, in five years, or is it just more of a free-flowing state?

Lund: Free-flowing. Definitely free-flowing. I certainly have things I’m working on, some in the short-term and some more long-term ideas. I know you do too, Tyler.

Taormina: More imminently, we have three new filmmakers who will be unveiling themselves with three new movies.

Filmmaker: Can you tell me a bit more about those?

Taormina: Lorena Alvarado’s debut is called Los Capítulos Perdidos, and it is going to be premiering this year, although we can’t say where yet. It’s a look at a notorious bookseller in Venezuela, whose bookstore closed and now he just collects hundreds of thousands of books in some warehouse. All he does with his time is look up books from people who die, from their estate. It’s [about] him and his mother, whose memory is failing her. It’s a beautiful movie. And then there is No Sleep Till, which is the debut film of Alexandra Simpson, a Floridian-French director. It’s a beautiful, atmospheric film about a coastal Floridian town threatened by an impending hurricane and those who refuse to heed the mandatory evacuation orders. And the third one [Raccoon] is from our guy, Mike Bosta.

Lund: He wrote the script, and it’s very funny, a dark comedy kind in the key of After Hours, about a businessman going on a trip to a dental convention that’s sort of inspired by some of his dad’s experiences selling ad space for dental magazines. It [takes place] in this sort of bland convention center environment, where this man is going to try and cheat on his wife. He’s trying to commit infidelity, and he keeps failing. It’s a great little ensemble piece, and it was inspired by Route One in Saugus, Massachusetts, which is sort of an access road lined by strip malls and a couple of famous family restaurants that people from the greater Boston area know pretty well. After Hours and also Cassavetes are kind of the guiding inspirations on that one, and we’re pitching it at the moment and have some attachments I shouldn’t mention yet.

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