“I’d say my style is sort of a combination between more conventional filmmaking styles and more wild, fantastic approaches,” says Coats.
Chris Coats’ latest short film Good Boy begins with an indiscriminate coin toss, but there is little that is random about his style of filmmaking.
From shot lists, to blocking action sequences, or preparing actors for emotionally difficult scenes like two men kissing or crying, Coats is a director who doesn’t like to leave anything to chance.
“I create shot lists as much as possible so I have a plan. I often deviate from this but if I don’t have a map then I’ll get totally scatterbrained with everything else that’s happening,” said Coats, a graduate of The Masses, the LA-based collective of filmmakers set up by the late Heath Ledger, his mate Matt Amato and creative partner Jon Ramos.
Good Boy, which was released last year, explores themes such as family ties, masculinity, fear and how some men are unable to deal with the unfamiliar.
The story is about Caleb and Macon, two old friends from high school who reunite to celebrate Macon’s return home from military service, but are forced to confront a terrible incident surrounding the disappearance of Caleb’s brother Eli many years ago.
Stylistic, beautiful and technically proficient, Good Boy demonstrates Coats’ directing skills while showing his mettle as a writer able to create worlds and make a statement at the same time. By using flashbacks, Coats is able to tell both the past and present stories, interwoven as each narrative builds to a final interlinked revelation.
“I’d say my style is sort of a combination between more conventional filmmaking styles and more wild, fantastic approaches,” he says.
Coats likes to create a relaxed shooting environment, with minimal distractions and a zen-like atmosphere.
“I like to put on some music in the morning and at lunch to get a real relaxed vibe going,” he says. ” I want everyone to be relaxed and feeling good which in turn I think makes them more focused and energetic when it comes to the work.”
He cites the Coen Brothers as influences. Coats created a mood book for his crew that heavily referenced the framework of No Country For Old Men. “The compositions in that film are so simple and beautiful and yet still have some much weight to them. The lighting in that film also feels so natural. We had very little lighting on our set because of budget but I think it was a blessing. ”
He also counts the eclectic styles of Terry Gilliam and Paul Thomas Anderson as forerunners for his approach.
“I love to move the camera in bizarre, dynamic ways”, says Coats, but added that sticking to conventional stationary shots or over the shoulder reverse set ups are often required.
“It all depends on what the story calls for and how I want the film to feel”, he says.