Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Adam Stilwell: I grew up in the woods of Montana in a house that my father built with his friends. The forest was my playground. My Dad was a janitor at the local college and my Mom had to work days at JC Penney’s. We got by and were very happy. It seems like whatever struggle my parents were going through out in the real world, it never really showed up out in the woods, where we lived. We were poor money-wise, but I grew up in a very rich place. I never missed a meal, but more importantly I grew up in one of the most free and creatively stimulating environments imaginable. I was exposed to very limited media, a fuzzy copy of Star Wars that my Father’s friend recorded off the television and an occasional trip to town where I was allowed to rent one film. I almost always picked LABYRINTH. Most of my time was spent creating my own stories on the sides of cliff’s with my garage sale assortment of G.I. Joe, He Man and Star Wars characters. My roots are there, in the forest, exploring and telling stories.
“All the little victories in the world, often don’t add up to cash money. And in this business, there’s a lot of “possibility” AKA things that might happen. That could happen. [My parents] have had to get used to that just like I and everyone else in my life has had to.”
Adam Stilwell, Filmmaker, THE TRIANGLE
Film Courage: Which of your parents do you resemble most?
Adam: Wow. I’ve actually never thought about that. This seems like an impossible question. I think it’s a testament to them that I don’t have an answer. They both instilled a lot in me. Mostly to work hard and dream. My Mom was a singer and my Dad was a philosopher, but those weren’t the jobs that they got paid for. I guess, that was their job for me. I don’t even know which one I physically look more like. Haha. TIE.
Film Courage: Are your parents supportive of a creative path?
Adam: Oh yes. Absolutely. It’s not always easy. It’s been a long journey. An extreme amount of, “it’s just around the bend.” Success, I mean. All the little victories in the world, often don’t add up to cash money. And in this business, there’s a lot of “possibility” AKA things that might happen. That could happen. They had to get used to that just like I and everyone else in my life has had to. But, they know why I’m here. They know I’m all in. I think they’re proud of that.
Film Courage: If your high school yearbook read ‘Adam Stilwell, Most Likely To……?’
Adam: High school was a blast, but I didn’t really stand out in any one category. Maybe at the very, very last moment, it could have been “Become A Rock Star.” I know at that point, that’s what I would have wanted it to say.
Film Courage: Did you go to film school?
Adam: No, I didn’t. It never came up. I always just made stuff. Started with home video cameras. In-camera editing turned into connecting two VCR’s and splicing between the them. In the mid 2000’s digital video cameras became available for a reasonable price at Costco and we found Adobe Premiere. Then, we really got brave. Adam Pitman, David Blair (fellow Directors of THE TRIANGLE) and I decided to make a full blown horror feature on the streets of North Hollywood. And we just did it. That learning experience, like every film after, was priceless. I’d have loved to go to film school. Honestly, I would still love that experience. But, yeah. No.
Film Courage: Do you still live in Montana?
Adam: I live in Los Angeles. It’s become a second home. But, there’s something about growing up in Montana that will never quite let you go. It will always be home to us mountain kids. My parents and much of my family and friends live up there. One of the main goals of my film career is to build a bridge between LA and MT. My ideal life would be some sort of “here and there” situation. It’s definitely a place to dream. A place where a lot of my stories live.
Film Courage: When and why did you move to Los Angeles?
Adam: I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to be an artist. I had friends up the Southern California coast and figured I should just head down there in my car. The classic couch-hopping and sleeping in your car, starving artist in L.A. scenario. Yeah. That was me once, too. And if it happened again, I wouldn’t mind. Back then, L.A. was a very intimidating beast. A monster of sorts. But the longer I’m here, the more people I meet who also slept in their cars. We’re sticking it out together. And we’re making shit. L.A. is an exciting place now.
Film Courage: Where did the name “Stilly” come from?
Adam: Too many Adam’s! Haha. Seriously though, there’s always been too many Adam’s. Take a look at the four man film crew we took out to shoot THE TRIANGLE: Adam Stilwell, Adam Cotton, Adam Pitman and David Blair. Do the math. I’m Stilly.
Film Courage: When was the last time you went home to visit?
Adam: I went up to see my parents. My Dad wanted me to go with them to a concert. The Mission Mountain Wood Band. It was pure joy. Montana wood music. Real country stuff that feels like it came off the wind. When we got home we put on a PBS special about the band. They were this great group, notorious for throwing giant Woodstock-like parties/concerts/keggers up in Montana and the Northwest. They caught a little fire in the mid 70’s, took off to New York and flirted with stardom. Drinking good beer and talking about the good old days, when my parents and their friends used to dance and party with the band overtook the latter half of the film where the band talked about it’s difficulties and how it’s run at fame dissolved. I was enjoying the juxtaposition of both stories coming at me at once, and I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that those old beauties were still getting on stage and giving people chills hours earlier. I know for a fact that they were, because I had chills myself on several occasions. In hindsight, art isn’t always the fun parts. But, the fun parts are magic. I live for that.
“I envy filmmakers that have it figured out, like “I’m going to make 2 short films and that’s going to build toward my first feature.” More power to that person. For real. I guess I’d say, just decide what you want to make and give it a shot. Look at a path someone has taken to get to where you want to be. Adapt the things you like. And go…”
Adam Stilwell, Filmmaker, THE TRIANGLE
Adam: Yes. I’m in an LA band called P L a N E T S with Adam Cotton who did the sound and original score for THE TRIANGLE. In essence, the film is kind of like our second album. A project that we made together after our first record, “TheDarkWoods.” Working with the band and writing music with Cotton is an incredible outlet. Our shows are more like punk rock theater, with dancers, special FX and storylines throughout the performance, so each show and each step with the band is an exercise in producing, directing and writing. It’s kept me fresh and given me an appetite to create that I’m very grateful for. Music has always been neck and neck with telling stories for me. There’s really no in-between there. Those are the things that I do. I could name bands or composers that inspire me, but then I’d never stop. The next film may center around P L a N E T S and we have a new album already written that we’re set to record for that project. So, at the moment, I’m currently obsessed with those songs. But, my playlist right now is a lot of New Order, Siouxsie and The Banshees, early goth and dark wave mixed up with retro horror radio commercials, John Carpenter themes and 80’s crowd pleasers like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. I never had an eighties phase until recently. It’s getting me excited to record the album. OH! And Ministry’s “For Sympathy.” Every song on that record has a horror theme inside of it. I’m moderately obsessed.
Film Courage: What was your first short film? How many shorts did you make before you felt ready for a feature? What’s your advice to other filmmakers on this process?
Adam: When we made “Homicidal Maniac” at my house when we were 12, we didn’t know what a short film was. We were making a movie. To be honest, the only real short I ever made was in 2010 after having completed two feature films. It indeed was the first film where I stepped up to Co-Direct, and my focus was to try and tell a story with as little dialogue as possible. It forced me to show, rather than tell. I envy filmmakers that have it figured out, like “I’m going to make 2 short films and that’s going to build toward my first feature.” More power to that person. For real. I guess I’d say, just decide what you want to make and give it a shot. Look at a path someone has taken to get to where you want to be. Adapt the things you like. And go. Most sh*t you make is sh*t you HAVE to make.
Watch the film on iTunes here!
Film Courage: In 2004/2005 you made Roulette with two other writer/directors. Since the film touches on choice, what is your take on choice? When it comes to being talented but stopping because ‘no one has appreciated my art,’ – stopping or continuing?
Adam: Keep going.
Adam: Moviemaker Magazine. It’s often been my film school. They work hard to stay current, even ahead of the game. I appreciate that. I’m an independent filmmaker, so the money hasn’t come in yet and the books I find myself reading are older volumes (without the updates). Technology is moving fast, which means filmmaking is moving fast. So, yeah, magazines, blogs, etc. Robert Rodriquez’s “Rebel Without A Crew” will always be a source I return to. If I ever had to just say, “Yeah. What he said.” He’s the guy and that’s the book.
Film Courage: What is more important to you, challenge or comfort and why? In keeping with one of the conversations of your latest film THE TRIANGLE, when do you find yourself getting too comfortable, what do you do to shake things up?
Adam: Make more things. To be honest, I feel like I’m constantly working towards comfort. But, comfort for me is grabbing the box of Red Stripe for the party rather than the Tecate. It’s a difference of, like, five bucks. So, if we can all be drinking Tecate and making shit we never thought that we could, I’ll take that every time.
Film Courage: What inspired the story for THE TRIANGLE?
Adam: The people in it. Every person you see and even a few that you don’t see had a hand in steering this ship. I just got the lucky job of making sure that we ended up somewhere.
Born and raised in Northwest Montana, filmmaker Adam Stilwell is a storyteller who flirts with the dark side. The producer turned Director is known for two genre features shot in his home state, ‘The Sighting’ (2015) called “The scariest Bigfoot movie ever” by Rotten Tomatoes which he co-wrote and produced and his reality-bending directorial debut ‘The Triangle’ (2016) distributed to North America by 108 Media Corps.
ABOUT THE TRIANGLE
Three filmmakers receive an unsettling postcard from an estranged friend living in a secluded commune. The filmmakers take their cameras into the wilderness of Montana to document the mysterious inner workings of the group. On their disconcerting road to self-sufficiency, witnessing something more shocking than they ever imagined.
Cast: Andrew Rizzo, Lee Rizzo, Brick Patrick, Nathaniel Peterson, Ciara Rose Griffin, John Budge, Nicholas Daue
Crew: Adam Stilwell, David Blair, Nathaniel Peterson, Adam Pitman, Andrew Rizzo
Running time: 94 Minutes
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