In our fast paced, easy come, easy go world of film, it is difficult to imagine having the patience and tenacity to wait years to see a film project to completion, but that is exactly what Brandon Allen Powell did for his film “Trial by Self.”
“Trial by Self” is an independent film that centers on a family who is undergoing a turbulent time as the seemingly trivial events of day-to-day life start to take a toll. At the center of the plot is a man named Tony Fisher, played by James B. Houser, once a loving father and husband, but now a self-destructive, despondent and emotionally unavailable man. His wife Keri, played by Cat Angle is desperately trying to connect with and reach her husband and daughter Sara, played by Brownwood native, Amanda Branham, avoids her home as much as possible due to the familial discord.
To add to the over-stressed family unit, everyone around the family begins to meet a violent end. The family is taken on a violent roller coaster ride to a suspenseful and thought-provoking end.
Powell wrote, directed, produced and edited the film. The title of the film, “Trial by Self,” refers to the psychological trial people put themselves on.
The road to completion of this film wasn’t always easy, as a matter of fact, Powell would face some serious set-backs during the production of this film.
Powell first knew he wanted to work within the film industry when he was in high school. He said he was mostly inspired by watching films.
“I was intrigued by it and it became a kind of obsession. Mostly, I just love films,” said Powell.
Powell said his favorite film directors include Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson, but in particular “master of suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock.
“He sort of wrote the language of film,” explained Powell.
“Trial by Self” was the first film Powell ever made, but he had no hesitation or doubt that he could handle the challenge of a full length film.
Once filming began, Powell shot nearly all of it over a span of two months, but was still in school, so he had put the project on the shelf for six months before going back to edit it. It was then that Powell realized that a large portion of the film had been inexplicably erased — he would have to reshoot it.
This caused scheduling conflicts with the actors and he had to wait another six months before he could schedule reshooting with one actor and then an additional six months to shoot with another actor. To add to the problems, Powell’s sets were actual homes and locations, many inhabited.
“We were faster with the re-shoots,” said Powell, “but, due to scheduling conflicts, we had to shoot over a long period of time.”
Obstacles slowly became a regular occurrence during Powell’s shooting process. He and a leading actress fell ill and shooting had to be postponed. Then on the final day of shooting, the location had been double booked with a Heavy Metal concert event.
After several setbacks, many people would have walked away, but Powell said he couldn’t do that.
“I have this weird flaw that once I start something, I have to finish it,” said Powell. “If I had quite, people would look at the film and nobody would want to work with me. I had to finish it if I ever wanted to make another film.”
The film was an experiment and Powell said he had learned several lessons in filming, mostly, what not to do next time. He said many directors who have been in the industry for 20 or 30 years still make mistakes. It was a learning experience.
The film that began as experimental has been good to Powell. His film has been selected to be screened at four film festivals, including The Gen Con Indy Film Festival-Indianapolis, The World Music and Film Festival and the Sunset International Film Festival-Los Angeles, where “Trial by Self” won an award for best supporting actor in a female role. More recently, it has been chosen to appear at the St. Tropez International Film Festival in the south of France. This particular festival choses only 50-60 of the best films out of thousands of submissions.
The film is also nominated for seven awards at the festival including, best film of the festival, best feature film, best lead actor for James B. Houser, best lead actress for Cat Angle, best supporting actress for Jessica Guess, best cinematography and best editing for Powell.
“A lot of compromises had to be made. I had to do away with the original vision. It was rough, but there are some good memories,” said Powell.
Powell is currently in the process of writing two screenplays, one entitled “Karis” and the other is currently untitled. He is a graduate from Brownwood High School and attended Howard Payne University where he received his degree in public relations. He is currently searching for a job, one hopefully in the film industry, but even if that doesn’t happen, Powell says he will still continue to make films.
“If I can find a job in the movie field, great, but if I have to make an independent film dead broke, I can make a better film next time than I did this time,” said Powell. “So weather I find a job through this movie or not, I’ll still make movies.”