Screamfest 2019 – ‘The Wave’ Director Gille Klabin Talks Mixing Genres (Plus Bonus Five-Star Review!)

The ever-amazing Screamfest Horror Film Festival 2019 (go to www.screamfestla.com for more details!) taking place October 8th – 17th at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres in LA at the Hollywood and Highland Center is still going strong with the frightful flicks unspooling fast and furious.  But what to do when you come across a flick that is not only utterly original but also firmly entrenches itself in your top 10 films of the year?  It’s feature time!

The film in question is part of the Screamfest 2019 festival fun this year – a genre defying little ditty not to be missed titled The Wave.  (And this one begs to be seen on the big screen folks!)  We’re celebrating its elite five-star status with not only a full glowing review below but also with a candid interview with the talented helmer of the piece Gille Klabin to provide fans more insight into everything about a flick destined to become a cult classic.  A cinematic experience you’re not likely to forget, we’re proud to shout loud and proud our love for all things The Wave – check out our coverage below!



Blending genres within a single film in a seamless way is a bit like making a detailed dish with a ton of ingredients – it requires meticulous measurement.  Some have dared to mix two or three different genres in their reach for cinematic glory, but the bold beauty of the stunning new flick titled The Wave is how it throws in almost all in a seemingly effortless desire to enhance an already moving story about life, love and morality – and succeeds.

Frank is a man with a very safe but dull life – he has a stable job as a lawyer, a wife and marriage that keeps him in check and is a responsible person at every turn.  But when he finds a loophole in an insurance policy that will help the company keep millions and his best friend Jeff offers up a night of celebration, Frank decides to forgo his mundane existence and throw caution to the wind.  He ultimately ends up at a wild house party where he meets a magnetic drug dealer named Aeolus who offers him and an equally alluring woman whom Frank connected with named Theresa something special – a mysterious hallucinogenic drug guaranteed to wash over all who take it like a wave.

To reveal anything more about the plot or events of The Wave would be a disservice to the original stunning story created by scribe Carl W. Lucas.  So detailed, so thoughtful and so rich in meaning is the tale of The Wave that it all but begs for multiple viewings.  Not that basic elements like high comedy and fantastic drug-induced trips are not present and accounted for, but Lucas wisely uses them as enticing icing on cake that’s got a lot of deep layers within.  And matching his prose is the spectacular staging by helmer Gille Klabin and it’s one damn impressive feature debut.  Showing the visual prowess of an early Tarsem Singh (think the trippy bits of The Cell!), comic timing of Kevin Smith (this flick is funny!) and the spellbinding storytelling ability of Hitchcock (one can feel when they are being led around by a mastercraftsman!), Klabin makes The Wave one wholly unique and utterly unpredictable experience that defies a singular cinematic category.  (Think The Game meets What Dreams May Come with a little Half Baked thrown in for good measure – and that’s just for openers!)

But a killer cast can make a great film extraordinary and fortunately The Wave has a crème de la crème of talent that all provide pitch perfect performances.  Justin Long as the naïve everyman Frank, Donald Faison (in by far the best turn of his career!) as his thoughtful playful buddy Jeff, Tommy Flanagan as the dark and curious party guy Aeolus, We Are What We Are alum Bill Sage as Long’s smarmy boss, Ronnie Gene Blevins as knowledgeable and unstable drug dealer Ritchie and especially the always solid Sheila Vand as the magnetic mystery woman Theresa who hooks Long’s lawyer.  All provide the film with performances that mirror the motto of the flick – unpredictability.

Hats off to all departments involved – from Aaron Grasso’s captivating camera work to Lana Wolverton’s eloquent editing – as there’s not one wrong note in the entire picture.  A unique outing that’s a must see for anyone who claims to be a cinefile, The Wave is the kind of flick serious movie fans dream will come along and upend their world – fortune favors the bold.



Next for those looking for a little post flick insight (AKA read this Q&A AFTER you see the flick film fans!) and some much desired stories and details from the man who helmed The Wave welcome….


Could you shed light on where the genesis of The Wave came from for writer Carl Lucas and what was your reaction upon reading his script?

Gille Klabin: I started off doing a lot of music videos and Carl Lucas was dating a friend of mine Lana Wolverton who is actually the editor of The Wave.  He had seen one of my videos and he had liked my visual style and he asked me if I wanted to do a short film with him.  I was really keen to do it, but at the same time I was doing my first video ever for the electronic artist Steve Aoki.  The project came out really cool and Carl saw that and he was like, ‘I wanna produce something that you direct yourself.’  So he was like, ‘I’m going to write something based on a story that I’m trying to process and also based on the idea of something I know you can pull off with your background of VFX and tricks.’  So he wrote The Wave as a way to process the problems he was dealing with.  The Lt. Warren character, the firefighter, is based on Carl’s actual cousin.  So this is a firefighter who at thirty-seven died of a sudden heart attack and the insurance lawyer went through all his old medical records and found that he had taken pills for heart murmur four years prior and then taken himself off the pill because he was basically becoming drowsy and risking the lives of his colleagues.  So the lawyer did exactly what you see in the movie – claimed his death was a suicide because he wasn’t taking these pills.  So Carl wanted to process the real person behind such a heinous decision and tie that into a lot of the philosophical discourse that he and I had about the psychedelic experience or about the process of human consciousness and the theories of consequences of your actions.  So he wrote the script and he sent it to me.  I’d been asked to do feature films before but I guess I’d always been presented a script that I was like it would be nice if my first film didn’t reek of first film.  I didn’t want to make a movie that had a bunch of excuses where people are like, ‘yeah, but it’s low budget’, ‘it’s your first film’, ‘you’re just trying out.’  And The Wave felt like…it was just such joy to read something that was so muddled in genre with so many different elements but not any one thing.  You can’t say this is a horror, this is a comedy, this is an adventure movie – you can’t even say this is a drug movie.  It all just lives in the middle of that Venn diagram of a ton of things that are near and dear to my heart.

You boldly blend comedy, fantasy, romance, poignant drama and even elements of a drug trip flick – kind of a mix of The Game, What Dreams May Come and Half Baked – all seamlessly.  How did you balance all of the above?

GK: (Laughs) I’m incredibly flattered you feel that way!  I think so much of it is true of any life – we’re not usually in a genre flick, we’re just in a situation.  Really you’re grounded by Frank, by Justin Long’s impenetrable performance – he gave us a real person.  For me just from a stylistic point of view we had a very idealistic almost childish endeavor in this film in that we were just trying to make everything the best we possibly could.  So every time we were approached with the mood of a scene or the staging of action it was just about manipulating the audiences’ emotions the way we wanted to take them on the ride.

Your cast and their respective performances are amazing – wanted to go into more detail on a few.  Justin Long is perfectly cast as a naïve corporate yuppie, much like Keanu Reeves was in the original Matrix – what convinced you he was the guy?

GK: I’ve always been a fan of his.  His name was offered up early on and at first just seemed like such a lofty goal.  Right off the bat we were like let’s not try with Justin long because there’s no way we’re going to get him, so that name was nixed at the start.  And then after several years of batting names around his name was offered up again by his agent and they offered it as a realistic thing.  Two weeks prior to that I was watching that Kevin Smith movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno and I watched Justin plays a gay porn star at a high school reunion and it’s a role that anybody would have gone ham on.  And I’m watching him on screen and he was stealing the show playing a gay porn star in a Kevin Smith movie.  I remember being so blown away that someone could take something so trite and make it so engaging and so deep and real – he used every frame he had on screen.  So when his name got sent to my email and I saw it up there I was like there has to be some universal signpost here.

Donald Faison has always been funny but here it’s more real and toned down for one fantastic performance – what kind of work did you two do together on his character?

GK: To be totally candid I was pretty nervous working with actors of this level.  I had worked with some actors but never big hitters like this.  You don’t get a lot of time with these guys – they’re all busy working actors supporting lives.  I didn’t get a world of time to go rehearse with him, so what I did is I would sit down and go through the scenes line by line and just talk about the human being saying those lines.  So I’m asking Donald and asking everybody to essentially give me a human being from just these lines from the page.  So all I did was go through and line by line talk about why this person is saying it, what’s his intention, what’s his motivation and what’s he hoping to achieve.  And in that process we adapted some of the lines, we cut some out and we changed the vernacular to match more of how Donald wanted to say something or what felt more natural.  So with Donald we just wanted to make sure we were on the same page and we both agreed what Jeff was about and what he was looking to do.  But Donald showed up and he loved the character, he loved the dialogue and he loved Justin – he had worked with Justin a year prior in a play for several months.  So honestly I’d love to take some credit be like ‘I got a performance out of Donald Faison’, but Donald Faison gives YOU a performance.  He’s a pro.

Sheila Vand’s character and gaze cut through me in this and she is utterly magnetic and mesmerizing as Long’s pushing-out-of-his-comfort-zone gal – what did she bring to her character that surprised you?

GK: It’s funny we had so much trouble casting, it was so down to the last minute to get these people.  Sheila, with all honestly, her eyes.  I watched clips of her when her agent sent her name and I saw an old soul.  You look into her eyes and there’s this innate calm wisdom.  With Sheila you feel like she’s come back for the fiftieth time to wander this earth as an old sage and she brought that cool quiet confidence of somebody who’s been right many times.  You hope for that energy in a performance, but no way you could teach that.  Sheila brought that by the spade load and there was just this cool, slick, laid back but earthly power to her.

Bill Sage’s character choices always have a sinister side, but here he brings it to a more refined boardroom level – was this something he relished?

GK: Carl had worked with Bill a couple of times in some other movies and I think he was frustrated with how small of a role Bill had had in those other movies – and Bill wanted to do something bigger.  So when Carl sent him the script I think Bill read it on an airplane and landed in New York and recorded into his phone his reading of that monologue and he did it like a southern Baptist preacher.  And Carl and I sat there looking at each other being like I never thought he was from the south, but now I can’t imagine him from anywhere else!  Bill created a person – he was bringing several real people to the table and playing them as cards.

Tommy Flanagan’s captivating man of mystery Aeolus is just that – a mystery.  Care to shed some light on the character?

GK: To be completely candid I’ve shared some psychedelics with Carl and I’m often the weird foreigner offering up strange chemicals to Carl and he probably seeped a little of that into Aeolus.  But Aeolus is essentially meant to represent chaos in the universe – the weirdly intangible mysterious hurricane that is destiny and chaos mixed together.  And we needed somebody who exuded the sexual calm and charisma of somebody who is beyond the desires of your average man.  He’s just infinitely cooler than anybody can be and was very much meant to be the antithesis of Frank.  And Tommy Flanagan is about as cool as it gets as far as I’m concerned – the guy IS history.

And finally Ronnie Gene Blevins’s drug dealer makes the most poignant of wackos – what was your direction to him about the character?

GK: Again Carl had worked with him – I believe it was on the same movie that he did with Bill.  I met with Ronnie probably two years before we made the film and we just had lunch and talked about this character and we talked about essentially a misappropriated intelligence.  That this guy had the capacity to be all sorts of different dudes, all sorts of different trajectories, but within the cards that were dealt to him his mania and instability fueled by drugs is essential a misappropriation of intelligence into this very nefarious, very sinister but still smart essentially f@cked up guy.  I remember when we doing his first take when he sees Natalie at the door and goes, ‘Damn bitch, snap again!’ and he pulls up his dressing gown, his robe up to his face.  That’s not direction, that’s just Ronnie being in that moment – he just got him.

There are some films where you anticipate a kiss and are utterly disappointed when it arrives, but your film delivers one of the most amazing and passionate ones ever – what’s the secret to delivering an on-screen kiss that kills?

GK: For me there are multiple elements at play here.  One, the engagement in their eyes and the senses building up to it.  Like you don’t realize how much Justin dominates that scene with facial tics.  When they’re offering up the drugs and you see him frown and she does it and you see that mental process and you’re building up the importance of that kiss in his face because you see how much Frank wants it.  Then Sheila again, her calm fluidity as she approaches him with a kiss as well, so you’re building up the value of it all.  And I wanted to be on an angle and luckily because of the transfer of the drugs it’s meant to go tongue first so you’re having two strangers, you build up this tension and the situation.  It’s the softness and the intensity of it, so it’s so tactile when you see they are coming in tongues first.  You see there’s this immediate intensely intimate engagement as they are coming in.  And I wanted to have that softness and hardness – they’re really locking lips but there’s still a delicacy to it.  And while I’m proud of how we shot it, the real thing that’s hitting your bones there is the score a track by Kirk Spencer from the UK and his music is this dark industrial sounding electronica that was just so cinematic me.  So putting in that track which I believe is called Kukco – dark, intimidating but incredibly sexually charged – and putting that drop in with the kiss when the stakes are so high, that’s to me what makes that kiss so impactful.  But that kiss is probably one of my first favorite moments in the film as well, so I’m incredibly happy that it had the impact it did.

Your visual style at times reminded me of the early work of Tarsem Singh, especially via The Cell.  Being that the film is super ambitious in terms of visual effects what did you have to do to keep the costs down and was there ever any hesitation about creating certain scenes?

GK: Wow – you are really flattering me now!  Thank you so much – I grew up idolizing Tarsem and still do.  My god The Fall and The Cell were breathtaking works of cinema to me.  So White Sands National Park for example where they have their big trip scene where they’re surrounded by white sand, all the sky is fake and the mountain range is fake – that’s made by our VFX Supervisor Patrick Lawler – but they are at White Sands.  They are on these endless picture perfect white dunes of sand and that was a huge technical undertaking.  But we prioritized it.  Everybody got up at seven, we did a three and a half hour drive down there and we shot for two and a half hours to capture that entire scene and then we drove back.  And at the top of that scene there’s a crane shot that comes down from the sky and lands in front of Frank.  So we went down there and built a thirty foot crane on the sand just so we could have this one shot.  Our Costume Assistant Jennifer Newman made that dress the day prior because we couldn’t find anything that matched the flowing ethereal quality we were chasing and she was sewing little bits of it while we were still on the drive down there.  I would sketch out make-up ideas and Catherine Lawrence our makeup artist who was a f@cking superstar, she mocked up that stuff and everyone just worked on their feet so fast.  It was moments like that – we couldn’t afford to do more.  Even the crane shot was borderline out of our budget.  My entire background is low budget music videos, so if I’m trying to make something look cool it’s gotta be a smart trick because there was just never any money to do anything.

With such a unique and bold debut what is next for you on the feature film directing table?

GK: I’ve got several films that I’m writing all in different stages.  Carl and I we have some ideas of our next jump off together – they’re usually based on the same kind of psycho spiritual realm.  So we have some ideas we’re toying around with, but I don’t have a concrete next mission because frankly my life has been focused on not being broke after five years of giving everything I had to this movie!

Well it was worth it!


Special thanks to Director Gille Klabin and the rest of The Wave team for creating a masterwork that reminds us there are still movies out there that kick ass.  (Run don’t walk to see this flick!)  The film is looking to be released January 17, 2020 from Epic Pictures nationwide in Theaters and on VOD so watch for it.  (Again with the visual prowess do yourself a favor and see this one in the theater fans!) And for all supporters of genre in general you still have time to head over to screamfestla.com as there are more thrills and chills to be had via this year’s fest – stay tuned!


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

  1. No Comments