Mark Schwab is the co-founder of indie film label Diamond in the Rough Films. Mark has been making both shorts and feature films over the course of nearly two decades. His latest film, Crisis Hotline, a story of a LGBTQ romance gone wrong with potentially deadly consequences, is now out on DVD and VOD platforms.
WorldFilmGeek took the chance to interview Schwab via e-mail about this gripping emotional film.
Mark, thank you so much for talking about Crisis Hotline. This was a gripping, emotional film that I think should be a very important film about the risks of dating apps and its impact not just on the LGBTQ community but as society as well.
Thank you so much! I was so glad you reviewed it and got into Crisis Hotline’s story because I really like the WorldFilmGeek site!
What influenced you to write the script to the film?
We (myself and Diamond in the Rough Films) had a window of opportunity to make a film and get it presented at the American Film Market. It was a very small window though so we had to get into production fast. I had made a microbudget film back in 2001 which had a similar plot and folks had always told me I should re-make it with a bigger budget. Since this was a story we could get onto the page quickly, we went with it. So I took that basic premise (guy calls a suicide hotline), updated it for today’s technology, fleshed out the characters and made it all much more complex, darker and intense.
The film’s driving point is Christian Gabriel’s Danny, who is amazing in the role! What was he like to work with?
Christian Gabriel Lopez was wonderful to work with! This was his first feature film leading role and he jumped right into it. I loved watching him really create that character (Danny) from the ground up. In real life, Christian is anything but a shy, reserved wallflower so it’s a genuine transformation. Looking back at it, Christian had a lot of pressure to come through with such a quick shooting schedule which makes his performance even more impressive. But EVERY cast member of Crisis Hotline was just terrific and brought so much to the finished project. Really generous actors, all of them.
Corey Jackson’s Simon serves as a negotiator and perhaps mediator whose character is seen at first having a humdrum night at his job, until Danny’s call comes in. We know some points about Simon’s backstory. Was there more to his character before the final film was released?
Corey and I did discuss Simon’s backstory a bit before we started shooting. Simon was a GenX gay man who was trying to give something back to his community and finding out that he was more out of touch with the struggles of the LGBTQ community than he realized. So as a new crisis hotline volunteer, he was listening to what (for him) were pretty mundane problems. But Simon is also somewhat intentionally left for the audience to pick up clues about him – keeps the audience paying attention (grin). Corey is a straight guy but very understanding of the LGBTQ community so he knew what that character needed.
How long did shooting take and were there any difficulties you faced during production?
We shot Crisis Hotline in 11 days. Which is crazy. Shooting went incredibly well mainly because of my cast and crew. My DP Dante Yore worked pure magic with so little time and there is no way Crisis Hotline would work the way it does without Dante and his crew. But nothing “difficult” happened on set. I just wish I had the budget and wherewithal to have given my cast and crew more time to REALLY shine instead of rushing them from set up to set up.
What is the message you hope to bring with the film?
I’m not sure I have a message per se. I do think dating apps can be abused by corrupt people for sociopathic ends but I’m not judging them in the film. I mainly just wanted to tell an absorbing story that viewers hadn’t seen done in this way before.
Finally, are there any new projects in the works that you can talk about?
Sure! The really cool project is a new script that my fellow Diamond in the Rough Films partner and I spent the last year writing called The Lucidrine Experiment. It’s a super fun sci-fi/thriller feature (think Inception crossed with The Cell) that is worlds different from Crisis Hotline. We are just about ready to start getting it in front of some key Hollywood producers which will give us a chance to take on a much more ambitious project.
Also, during this quarantine craziness, I’m writing a book about the making of Crisis Hotline. It will detail the process I personally went through in making the film and getting distribution for it. It’ll have, hopefully, some good information for filmmakers taking on their first feature film but I also want non-filmmakers to enjoy it so I’m keeping it as brisk and funny as I can without a ton of film tech wonkiness.
A Special Thank You goes to Mark Schwab for making this interview possible. Check out Crisis Hotline now on DVD and On Demand. For more on Diamond in the Rough Films, go to their official website.