Filmmaker Dallas Morgan is the man behind “Sightings,” a supernatural thriller with a science-fiction edge that focuses on a sheriff who finds himself investigating a number of odd deaths on a ranch in Texas. Dallas was inspired to become a filmmaker after watching “Jurassic Park” in the 1990s and credits Stephen Spielberg as being a major influence.

The founder and owner of studio BrighterMoon as well as a Director and writer, Dallas works with his actress wife and has big aspirations for their future as well as the future of the film company that they started together.

In a recent and exclusive interview, Dallas Morgan discussed the latest film, it’s characters, his feelings about its impending release in November of 2017, the entertainment industry, and more.

Movie making, scenes, and characters

Meagan Meehan (MM): What inspired you to become a filmmaker, how did you land the big break, and when did “Sightings” come into the picture?

Dallas Morgan (DM): When my brother and I were kids, we rented a VHS tape from blockbuster that was a documentary on the making of “Jurassic Park” hosted by James Earl Jones. That was the first time I saw behind the scenes footage on the making of a movie. I always look back to watching that as really being the moment that I knew I wanted to play make-believe for a living and capture it on film.

That being said, I’m not sure that I’ve had any type of “big break.” When I can write a script and just make a few phone calls to get a movie funded and greenlit, then I will feel like I’ve had a break and “made it.” However, I know there are even plenty of A-list directors that can struggle to get a movie greenlit.

As per “Sightings,” my wife — Tahlia Morgan who plays Hannah Mayfield in the movie — and I wanted to produce a feature film together; something that she could star in and I could direct.

Through family connections, we were given access to this 200-acre ranch outside of Austin, Texas, so I started developing stories that could be set there. One day, a buddy of mine sent me a news clip of a guy in the backwoods of North Carolina claiming to have seen a Bigfoot, and my friend said, “You should make a movie about Bigfoot.” I initially shrugged it off because I felt like Sasquatch had been done before.

But when I thought of a unique origin story for the creature. I started doing research and discovered this is an actual theory. So, then I got excited about the idea. From there it was about crafting characters that could be the central part of the story and figuring out how their relationships could change as a result of these extraordinary events.

MM: Can you tell us a little bit about some of the folks that appear in the picture?

DM: I am so proud of our cast and the work they did. As I said, Tahlia who plays Hannah, is my wife. She helped produce the film. So, from the beginning, we knew she would be playing that role and I was able to write her character with that in mind. Then there’s Boo Arnold, who plays the main character, Tom.

He really did a great job of communicating so much despite really not having a ton of dialogue. Rawn Erickson II who plays crazy Uncle Rickey was a lot of fun to work with. I think out of the entire cast he probably required the least direction. Anytime we ran a scene, he pretty much nailed the delivery and tone I was hoping for right away. Jason J. Lewis is a long-time friend of mine, so it was a lot of fun for us to get to work together finally. I could seriously talk about every cast member — Stephanie Drapeau, Kevin Sizemore, Dante Basco, Pia Inca — because they all did a great job!

MM: How do you feel about its impending release this November and are you nervous about anything?

DM: I am so ready for it to be released.

I hope as many people as possible see it. As for nerves, I mostly get nervous when I think about the economic and business side of everything. Our investors have supported this film from the get-go, and I want to be able to reward them for the risk they took in backing this project. Plus, I want to make more films — and it is much more difficult to get another one off the ground if your track record shows a loss. That being said - so far people seem to really like the movie, so if positive word-of-mouth continues then we should have no problem recouping the budget and going into profit.

MM: What scenes and characters in "Sightings" most appeal to you and why?

DM: The scene that is most satisfying for me to watch really is the final climax.

Without spoiling anything — getting to see Rock Conly’s cinematography, Aaron Milus’ visual fx, the actors’ performances, and Brandon K. Verrett's score all come together to create what I think is a pretty memorable moment is very exciting. As for characters, I really like Tom. He’s the lead character and the most appealing. Hence why I made him the central character. I would assume his position as a skeptic at the beginning of the story is most likely where a lot of our viewers will be. So, my hope is that they will be able to easily put themselves in his shoes, which will make his journey and transformation that much more impactful.

MM: Which scenes were the most challenging to film, and why?

DM: Towards the end of the second act there’s a flashback scene where we see some information about what happened to Tom’s wife/Hannah’s mom. I wanted to enter that flashback practically in-camera rather than having a cut in the edit. To do that required Boo Arnold, who plays Tom, and our costume department to work together very rapidly to change his wardrobe off camera. It also meant Brittany Ingram, our production designer, had to adjust the set slightly as the camera panned away. That was challenging because it required lots of things to be happening off camera in a small amount of time, and the other actors had to stay in character the whole time. But we pulled it off and I think it’s a fun little transition.

The other scene is the entire nighttime sequence during the third act. There were a lot of reasons this all was difficult. Our grip truck got stuck in the mud this night, so we had to change the locations at the last minute. There were several practical effects taking place with blood and the creature. It included a very emotional scene for Tom as he’s trying to save his daughter’s life. There were several pages of dialogue between Tom and Rebecca. We shot at night, so lighting was a challenge. We were scheduled to shoot all of this in one overnight shoot, but ultimately we ran out of time as the sun started to come up. So, we had to shift the rest of our shooting schedule around to add in more nights to finish it There was a lot more I wanted to do with this sequence, but I’m still proud of what everyone was able to accomplish despite the challenges.

Studios, the entertainment industry, and advice

MM: What prompted you to start BrighterMoon, why did you select that name, and was it difficult to get the company off the ground?

DM: What prompted Tahlia and I to start BrighterMoon studios was so that we could produce our own material. Initially, we started by producing a digital educational show for pre-schoolers called, “Tea Time with Tayla” We’ve always wanted to be in a position where we get to decided what projects we make, and starting our own production company seemed like an obvious and necessary way to do that. "Sightings" is our first feature film under the BrighterMoon banner, but we look forward to making many more. As for the meaning behind the name, it actually has some depth to it.

Similar to the way the light of the moon is a reflection of the sun, s-u-n, we want our lives to be a reflection of the Son, S-o-n — that is Jesus the Christ. The brighter the moon is the more of the sun it is reflecting, therefore we strive to be a BrighterMoon.

MM: Do you find that working with your actress wife is beneficial to both of you from a creative standpoint?

DM: While working closely with your spouse in a creative field has plenty of challenges, overall it was a lot of fun for us. Anytime you are working with your significant other on a unified goal it can’t help but bring you closer together. I’ve never served in the military, but I can imagine how closely connected you are to your fellow soldiers after going through war together.

It bonds you in a very particular way. That’s the experience for us too. Because we’re both supporting each other in the same endeavor, we inevitably are bonded and made stronger as a unit

MM: Thus far, what have been your favorite aspects of working in the movie industry?

DM: Firstly, getting to work with so many creative, passionate, and driven people. Secondly, getting to watch a movie you worked on with an audience. This has been true no matter what my role on the film was! In ten years from now, I hope that our company, BrighterMoon, will be producing three or four Movies each year and that I will be directing one every two or three years. I’m actually writing a story now that I’m very excited about.

It’s currently untitled but deals with human pain and suffering while exploring time travel in a unique way.

MM: What advice would you offer to a person who is aspiring to enter the entertainment industry, especially as a filmmaker?

DM: It seems silly now when I think back on it, but when I graduated film school I seriously thought, “I’ll just work in various capacities on different projects and eventually someone like Universal Studios will hire me to direct.” Haha. Now I realize my goal should have been to direct as many projects as possible and get a feature under my belt as soon as I could. I would encourage everyone who wants to enter the industry as a filmmaker to really focus on creating original material and actually making stuff.