For those of you who don’t know, Antiquities is an upcoming film that stars Andrew J. West and Ashley Greene. We watched the film a month or so ago and published our review on site. We followed that up with interviews with Andrew J. West; the director, writer, and producer, Daniel Campbell; and promotional words from Ashley Greene. Now we have another interview for you all, this time with the co-writer Graham Gordy, who also stars in the film.
The film follows Walt (played by Andrew J. West) who has returned to his hometown of Arkansas as his father has passed away and he wants to find out more about who he was and what he did. Walt takes on his father’s last job at an antique store where he comes across an assortment of quirky co-workers and falls for Ashley Greene’s character, Ellie.
It was previously a short film by Daniel Campbell, and it’s the short film that made Graham Gordy jump onto this project to create a full-length feature. He is the co-writer and producer of the film and we were lucky enough to ask him some questions for an exclusive interview, all about Antiquities.
Hi Graham, how are you today? What have you been up to?
I’m doing great. It’s been a very busy year so far and it always seems like things coalesce in waves. I helped out with True Detective’s new season which will air early next year, helped with a show called $1 which will premiere at the end of August, and I am writing a couple of things for FX right now, which I hope to get to announce soon. Most of all, though, I’m very excited about what’s happening with this fun, little passion project, Antiquities.
You co-wrote, and you star in the upcoming film Antiquities; can you tell us more about it?
This is Daniel’s film, first and foremost. I really feel like more of a creative midwife or doula for the process. Daniel made a great little short film called “Antiquities” years and years ago. It’s how we met, honestly. I saw it at the Little Rock Film Festival and just immediately recognized how much talent this guy had. There’s a lot of directing talent in the world, but there aren’t that many directors who can direct funny. And when I say “funny,” I mostly mean funny to me. Daniel and I have the same sense of humor, and that’s what made this process an absolute joy.
Your co-writer was Daniel Campbell. How did you two meet, and how did this concept come about?
Daniel had made his short film and we became fast friends. I certainly was in no way established, but Daniel asked for my thoughts/help on turning the short into a feature script. At first, I was just getting together because I liked the guy and liked his film and wanted to offer whatever advice I could, but the more we started talking about it, the more we realized how similar our stories were and the more married to the whole project I became.
The short film was a great meet-cute set at an antique shop, and it was funny and wry and very much what Daniel does so well. The narrative was mostly about a guy getting up the courage to ask a girl out, which we see play out to a degree in the Walt/Ellie storyline in the feature. But as we started talking about a narrative to sustain an hour and a half or more, I started to ask Daniel a lot of questions. Why an antique mall? Why these characters? Who are they based on? I quickly learned that we had a lot in common.
Born and raised in Arkansas, yes, but also both of our fathers died about the same time in our lives (our early 20s). We started talking about the things left behind when people die. How we were in many ways too young to really get into all the questions we wanted to ask our fathers before they passed away, and so we’re left to excavate the objects they left behind and try to piece together a story of their lives from those things.
Suddenly, an antique shop made a whole lot of sense. But would a movie that mixes the kinds of jokes and comedy we love and some genuine mourning…would that work in the same movie? We didn’t know, but we were certain that’s the way we wanted to go. Then we wanted to build out this ensemble of characters and find the controlling idea for all of these characters. What is it that links these people? What kind of people love to live in a bucolic little town like this? What kind of people spend their lives at estate sales and working in an antique mall? Then we realized that the thing they should all have in common is that, in one way or another, they are living in the past, and that their arcs should be to move out of that somehow and be changed, even slightly, by the end.
What was he like to co-write with?
It was pure joy. It wasn’t work, at all. It was getting together every day and making each other laugh.
In the film, you play Jimmy Lee, can you tell us more about the character such as who he is as a person?
Jimmy Lee is based on a guy from the community I grew up in. A guy I loved so, so much and was one of the funniest characters I’ve ever met. The closeted southern man who has an oddly close but troubled relationship with his mother or father is a strangely common, but I’d never seen a version of that guy in movies or TV. This was kind of a homage to him.
What role does Jimmy Lee play in the film?
Jimmy Lee owns a Christmas themed booth in the antique mall. He is the most extreme in many ways of the “living in the past” aspect of the movie because he refuses to sell anything. What you learn as the movie goes along is that he has built an exact replica of a Christmas in his childhood and wants to live in it with his dog Maxine, hence refusing to sell anything or allowing anything to get out of place.
What similarities and differences do you and Jimmy Lee have?
Well, I certainly sympathize with Jimmy Lee, and I am him in certain ways. I guess we all are. He’s just an extreme version of our tendency to indulge in nostalgia and resist change as much as we possibly can. Whether you want change or not, change will come for you, even if you embed yourself in a self-made bunker of your memory. In terms of differences? My dogs are larger and I wear fewer cardigans.
The film had its world premiere on Saturday, June 16, at Dances With Films what was that like and how was the reaction?
I was out of town for another project and missed all the fun, but from all I heard from Daniel and other friends, producers, etc. that were there, it exceeded expectations. I was really happy to hear that. We never assumed this film was going to be a festival darling. It’s not dark or political. But it is earnest and sweet and, we hope, funny, and we knew our bread and butter was going to be in front of an audience. You sometimes don’t know the difference between “funny to you” and “funny”, so was a huge relief to hear that it played so well.
What was it like filming Antiquities?
Honestly, it was pure joy. Part of that was that I was getting to act and that Daniel and the other producers took care of me in that regard by letting me be an actor on my acting days and a producer on my non-acting days. Part of that was also that I had just come off of projects and sets that I loved, but whose subject matter was pretty dour. To get to come to work and play dress-up and just have fun with people like Andrew [J. West], and Michaela [Watkins], and Ashley [Greene], and Michael Gladis, and Roger Scott, and also with Daniel and the other producers and crew…it was so rewarding. And while we were making it on a shoestring and there are always practical issues that come up during a production, I barely remember any of those because it was much more like summer camp than a job.
How did it differ filming this film over your previous acting credits on films and TV series?
This project has always been romance, not finance. There’s the whole “one for them/one for me” approach to doing these projects. Usually, it’s “three for them/one for me”. And it’s hard not to fall in love with anything you’re a part of otherwise it’s probably going to be pretty terrible. But this was exactly the film we wanted to make and on our own terms. Hopefully, that proves to be a good thing.
It was directed by Daniel Campbell, what’s he like as a director?
Like I said before, there are no shortage of talented directors, but it’s rare to find one that’s so funny, and one that has an opportunity to jump straight to larger, commercial film. Daniel wants to do something that’s true to himself, but he also wants to entertain, which is also true to himself. For it being his first feature and working with some old pros, I never once saw him frazzled or overwhelmed. He seemed to be having as good a time as I was.
What was it like to work alongside the other actors and actresses, namely Andrew J. West (Walt), Ashley Greene (Ellie), Michaela Watkins (Dolores Jr.), Mary Steenburgen (Dr. Margot), and Michael Gladis (Delaney)?
These guys are all gold. They are true pros. With Andrew, he brings so much of his wry personality to it. He’s playing the consummate straight man in this, but in the way of so many great comedic straight men, he’s got gears. He’s doing the hardest work because he’s the prism through which you’re seeing this world and his reactions are the reminders that, hey, this is not normal. Ashley was fantastic and I’m so glad this role gave her the opportunity to show the world just how much range she has. She’s damn funny and still manages to steal your heart. Mary just hits home runs in everything she does and this is no exception. I’ve loved her work my whole life and have been proud to tout her as a fellow Arkansan. She did us such a great favor by being in this. Michaela is a revelation in anything and everything she does. Genuinely one of my favorite people to see on any screen anywhere. And her dynamic with Delaney (Michael Gladis) is fantastic. About a week into the shoot, I really just wanted to see the Dolores Jr. and Delaney show, probably best as just a camera running 24/7 capturing their life together.
Do you have any specific memories whilst being on set? Did anything funny happen, or something you didn’t expect?
One night we were shooting at the Arkansas State Fair (for the scene when Walt and Ellie sneak into the fair and she puts him on the ride) and we got there as they were closing down for the night. Ashley apparently loves scary rides and there was this whirling vomit machine that was still going. I don’t know the name of it but if you google search “deadly fair accident,” I have no doubt this ride would be your number one hit. No one would ride it with her, so, attempting to be a good producer, I agreed. I don’t mind scary rides so much, but it feels different when you’re at the fair and the dude has put it together in minutes with a socket wrench. …That was a really difficult few minutes for me.
What was it like acting in Arkansas?
Well, it’s my home so I was thrilled. I’m used to being on production somewhere a day’s flight from my house, but I could get to work in 15 minutes. It was beautiful. And, for it being August, it was a really nice one. There were hot days, but Arkansas put on a pretty good show for our guests.
How would you describe this film? Why should people go and watch it?
I guess the most official classification would be an ensemble comedy with heart. But I think, and hope, the audience will be surprised by how far it goes in both directions. How funny it is in most moments and how surprisingly touching it is in others.
Looking back over your career to date, what has been your highlight?
There are new highlights all the time. I’ve been trying to write for almost two decades. For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m getting the hang of it and, lately, it’s been an embarrassment of riches, but I can’t overstate how much of a JOY it was to do this little film. I started in the theater and Antiquities felt like a bunch of people you love coming together to put on a show. Daniel and the whole cast and crew kept that spirit throughout. Making movies and TV shows are almost always fun. It’s a ridiculous way to make a living. Whether people like this movie or not, and I think they will, I’ll always chalk this up as one of my favorite experiences. We managed to get through the whole thing with none of the pains and all the joys.
You’re probably best known for being the co-creator, co-writer, and executive producer on the TV series Quarry. What was it like being a part of that project?
Yeah, I’m really proud of that show. My friend Michael and I worked really hard on that and it was a great education for both of us. I’m still a little heartbroken that we don’t get to keep on writing those characters, but sometimes shows end that have nothing to do with the shows themselves. I was glad to get that opportunity, though, and it certainly helped prepare me for this, as well as future projects.
Back to Antiquities, how excited are you for people to see the film? What do you think people will get out of the film when they see it?
This movie was made for people to enjoy. It wasn’t made for us to gain street cred and as an indie comedy with a cast full of people, it’s the antithesis of awards bait. We knew that going in. Our best hope for this is that an audience will be surprised by how much they laugh, as well as how much they’re touched by this movie. We wanted to make a movie about loss that doesn’t shy away from its subject matter, but also doesn’t feel like a movie about loss. Our primary goal was always to entertain people and make them laugh. If there’s a residual feeling that change in our lives is inevitable and can ultimately be beneficial, that’s gravy.
And, finally, do you have a message for your fans?
My fans? Yes, absolutely. If they’re out there, they should let me know that I have fans!
Thank you, Graham Gordy, for taking the time out to answer our questions, we are totally a fan of yours and there’s bound to be a host more out there, especially after they’ve seen this film. We look forward to seeing where your career takes you next.
Antiquities has yet to be fully released, but you can check out our film review. It has been screened at film festivals and the upcoming screening is at Fayetteville Film Fest on September 21, 2018.