William Eubank, director and co-writer of the new science-fiction film “The Signal,” is a camera guy.
He worked for Panavision before becoming a cinematographer. Before that, his late grandfather was a cinematographer for the U.S. Navy. Eubank says they used to see each other every year at the Sundance Film Festival, since Eubank attended for work and his grandfather lived nearby.
Eubanks’ grandfather died a year before “The Signal” made it into the festival.
“I miss him a bunch,” he said during a recent visit to The City. “I never saw any of his films. He would do a lot of high-speed stuff on G-Force footage. He bragged about flying under the Golden Gate Bridge and filming it.”
Less dangerous, but more mysterious, “The Signal” begins with three college-aged teens taking a road trip through Nevada, chasing a sinister hacker.
Though their speech in the movie doesn’t reveal it, two of the three lead actors are not American. Brenton Thwaites is from Australia, and Olivia Cooke is from England.
“Olivia has such a beautiful accent, that I thought maybe I’d let her be an exchange student, but I was worried that it would make one of them slip,” says Eubank. “They had different ways of dealing with it. Brenton goes into that mode for a month. After work, he’s still speaking in an American accent. Olivia turns it on for the take.”
Eubank also cast character actress Lin Shaye, best known as the psychic in the “Insidious” films. She plays a slightly off-kilter woman who tries to help the heroes.
“She brought so much to that character,” says Eubank. “She wore these little red cowboy boots that you never even see.”
And casting Laurence Fishburne, Eubank says, came with a number of great stories about the making of “Apocalypse Now.”
Eubank made the difficult decision to hire a cinematographer, rather than do the job himself. Many people he interviewed went on the defensive, afraid that he would try to invade their territory.
David Lanzenberg won the job after he said, “I know you’re a cinematographer and I’m really excited to put our heads together on this.”
“He’s a great human being. I saved a message he left on my phone, saying ‘I miss you, and I miss the war!’” says Eubank. He agrees with the sentiment: “Making a film is like being hung over. It’s glamorous from the outside, but you can’t say you’re tired because you’re getting to do what you dreamed of.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp, Laurence Fishburne
Written by William Eubank, David Frigerio, Carlyle Eubank
Directed by William Eubank
Running time 1 hour, 35 minutes