"Suddenly, a man leaped out of his chair and said: What the hell was that?!"
David Leidy is an award winning filmmaker and experienced founder with a drive to share daring stories that challenge modern perceptions and beliefs.
Starring his wife Dasha Leidy, David's latest project Platonic is a beautiful drama-crime film about a troubled woman who finds a pregnant woman in her house. Platonic won four awards at Top Shorts in May 2019, and was described by the jury as "an impressive film that offers the audience a fascinating viewing experience, with mysterious characters and multiple plot twists." We invited David to join us for an interview. Here's his story.
David, tell us about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get into visual storytelling?
I was born in Iowa but my dad was an ag businessman so we moved a lot in my early years until we landed in Saint Louis, Missouri where I grew up.
As a young girl my mom was raised on a covert military base only recently charted on any maps as being Kwajalein Island. The island was under a few miles in width and length so she would go to the only local theater there and watch all the classics.
She was always artistic and wanted to share that with me so she showed me films such as Psycho and Battleship Potemkin and all the making of footage for films at an early age.
When I was eight I asked for a video camera I’d seen in the electronics store and for my ninth birthday my parents got it for me. From there I just began filming stuff with family, neighbors and friends.
What are some of the inspirations that you feel influenced your cinematic work?
There are so many things that have influenced and continue to influence me it would be impossible to name everything.
For our purposes, some influential filmmakers have been Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman, Roman Polanski, Jacques Rivette, Jean Pierre Melville and Alfred Hitchcock.
Vera Chytilova’s Fruit of Paradise, Coline Serreau’s La Belle Verte, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon are some other influences of mine.
That said, I am not a big believer in this idea that one only gets influenced by a few filmmakers and then viola – you have your equation for the films that person will make. It sort of oversimplifies the whole creative process.
Why did you decide to tell the story of Platonic?
My wife and I had gotten a sonogram of our daughter a few weeks before I wrote the screenplay and I heard her heartbeat for the first time. It was an ethereal moment for me but a very uncertain time.
It made me think of how when we have a child it’s like this vine spreading from a plant. Our child is a part of all these hardships, suppressions and traumas that we’ve faced in our lives. We’re supposed to act like these grown up parents who have it all figured out but we’re still just these confused little creatures trying to figure it all out with them.
Another factor was I had been reading a lot of Freud and Plato at the time. Thus I wanted to make allusions to some of these things I’d been thinking about while reading. The scene where Aubrey’s student questions her on the validity of Freudian psychology mirrors Plato’s dialogue between Socrates and his pupil Phaedrus as both discuss the topic of love and beauty in relation to reincarnation and awakening.
These layers became vital later on in creating Platonic but at the heart of it all, the confusion of where I was at in life was what sparked the idea.
Is this your first collaboration with your wife Dasha? What was it like to work together?
This was our third collaboration together and we’ve worked on another film since.
We really understand each other almost on a telepathic level. After reading Platonic for the first time she ran up to me and said “we have to make this!” I think she was the only person who immediately understood what the story was and never wavered from believing in the project throughout.
Platonic really became a spiritual journey for us both. It was four years in the making due to the nature of the story and life complications. Things such as what her role required (pregnancy), the intensive editing, our family moving from east to west coast and budgetary issues.
When we had our first screening, it was as though a weight had been removed from our lives.
What was the biggest challenge for you during the making of Platonic?
The scene where Dasha as Aubrey wakes up at the end of the film and walks toward the mirror was a one take shot that had been filmed with literally just me and her on set in our tiny apartment at the time.
That shot required nine tungsten lights; a cheap crane rig with sandbags, gaffer tape and more to prevent the rig from collapsing; dozens of gels that were burning (from overheating lights which I had to save every take); a fog machine (that had to be flipped on right before every take to accumulate enough fog throughout shot) and an eight month pregnant actress.
We did that take 40 times to get it in all one take. Dasha was a bit mad at me by the end but when she saw a few weeks later one of the final takes (the one that made it into the film) she realized it had all been worth it.
What is the most important lesson you've learned on set?
That your greatest gift can also be your greatest curse. Perfectionism and ambition can be a utility but knowing how to harness them and when to let projects be done is key. Always gauge when to compromise and let go.
Platonic won these awards for the May 2019: Best Supporting Actress, Best Crime Film and Best Editing. It also won an Honorable Mention for Best Original Story.
In your opinion, what are the ingredients for creating a good crime drama like Platonic?
Well Platonic is sort of an unconventional crime drama because it blends a lot of elements from various genres together.
The general ingredients though are usually provoking your viewers to wonder how and why somebody will or did commit a crime and about the interrelated mystery. Cracking the case becomes about solving the motives caused by often past events.
In Platonic the crime elements are somewhat of a red herring to what the story is really about. The mystery becomes solved so to speak not in solving the crime as in most crime stories but more so resolved by unravelling Aubrey’s psyche and troubled past in order to understand the nature of the crime and events that follow.
Some people prefer to have all the elements neatly packaged than what something like Platonic presents but the main thing is that viewers want to piece together some sort of mystery/crime and that variables you present lace back together in a way that solves or resolves things by the end.
What are some of the reactions you received from audiences so far? Do they match your expectations so far?
Because of the story’s challenging nature, there were screenings where there was a reflective silence at the end. To my surprise though there were also screenings where viewers gave avid ovations. A few times people ran up to me after saying how much they were blown away by it.
My favorite reaction was one that happened on opening night at Laemmle Noho 7 here in Los Angeles. When the credits faded out, a man leaped out of his chair to face a random person next to him, grabbed him by both shoulders to shake him fervently and said “what the hell was that?! It was brilliant but – what was it?! What did we just see?!”
I only know this because the “random person” shaken was the composer Ezra Reich. When the man saw Ezra’s cool reaction he asked “did you make the film?” Ezra replied “I composed the music. You should ask the director what it meant.” A few minutes later in a Q&A, he did.
What do you do in between productions?
Anything I can to make money aside from current projects I am looking to bring into production.
Currently I am script doctoring and ghostwriting, graphic designing posters, editing trailers and acting reels and directing ads and music videos.
What are your short term and long term career goals?
I’m a notorious jinxer so I usually avoid discussing my plans publicly unless things are already flowing a bit for them.
In short, I am amid working on some feature screenplays and books hoping to get them a bit more funding before press releasing anything.
If anybody would like to reach out for details please contact me at my email at the end of this interview.
What's next for Platonic and what's next for you? Tell us about Dark Orchid and other new projects you're developing.
Platonic was always seen as a stepping stone for getting bigger productions off the ground.
My latest short film Dark Orchid over Platonic feels like a project that has much more potential to be made into a feature. The composer I always work with Ezra Reich and I had discussed making a mythological fantasy feature shot in Sequoia National Park after my wife, daughter, our friends and I had recently visited.
Before writing anything, Ezra sent over some songs I had never heard of such as Oasis by Kitosis and Oh of Pleasure by Roy Lynch to spark ideas. Dasha then found this competition called Collaborative Filmmakers Challenge where filmmakers meet, connect and collaborate with other filmmakers to make a short film in two weeks and so we basically signed up to make a proof of concept called Dark Orchid for the fantasy feature.
I am pleased with the end result and look forward to releasing it to the world and doing the festival circuit with it soon.
Would you like to add anything?
Thank you to anybody who read this far and anybody else who read or saw anything else of mine.
If anybody is looking to represent a screenwriter or director with a bold original vision, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am currently seeking representation and am happy to provide any samples, screenplays or information necessary.
Anybody else please check me out on my website (davidleidy.com) or at any of the other links below.
Platonic will be streaming on Vimeo soon (link below) so if anybody is reading has not seen the film they should check it out.
Personal – davidleidy.com
Instagram – @PalmVine (instagram.com/palmvine)
Facebook – facebook.com/leidyfilm
Vimeo – vimeo.com/davidleidy
Platonic streaming – vimeo.com/ondemand/plato
(DISCOUNT CODE: CAVE1123)
(It reads that Preorder ended August 12 but the film won’t be all uploaded and ready to watch and download until realistically a couple more months. The preorder discount will still be valid until the videos are uploaded.)