SlingShot: An Interview with Director Paul Lazarus

SlingShot is a feature documentary following famed inventor Dean Kamen’s journey into solving the world’s water crisis with his revolutionary water distillation machine. It was released in 2014 and is director Paul Lazarus’ first documentary feature.  Wheelhouse was thrilled to work with Paul on the trailer for this engaging documentary.

Paul Lazarus is a director, writer and producer based in Los Angeles.   He has directed a diverse range of projects in theater, television and film – his work in primetime TV series includes:  “Ugly Betty,”  “Pretty Little Liars,” “Melrose Place” and “Friends.”

Continue reading for our full interview with Paul.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.09.19 PM (2)WH: What drew you to the mission of providing clean water around the globe?

PL: Well, what drew me to it was Dean Kamen’s work. I really didn’t know much about water in those days. As I got deeper and deeper involved with the movie, I started to understand just how huge this crisis was and it became more and more important for me to keep going to finish the picture. I really felt that this is one of the greatest challenges that we face. The combination of his innovative genius, and the wide span of the problem, really inspired me.

WH: What was it like approaching Dean Kamen to do the film?

PL: I’ve known him for over 30 years. I met him through my father when he was working on retooling the technology of kidney dialysis. It turned out my father was the person Dean most spoke to in the development of that technology so he introduced us. He actually saw a play that I directed.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.08.25 PM (2)I’ve made numerous short documentaries with him about what his work- like his Segway device or his first robotics competition, which I’ve been involved with for almost 20 years. In 2006, he told me he was going to work on the world’s water crisis and had come up with this technology that can clean any form of water. I really thought that this going to be potentially the most important thing he would ever tackle so I asked him if he would let me turn the camera on. Luckily he agreed.

WH: What is it about the trailer that made it effective for the goals of the movie

PL: What makes it really effective is that it echoes the movie in that it’s not just any one thing. When you look at the trailer you can’t just say “Oh this is just a water picture”. It’s not just a water movie. It’s not just a movie on Dean Kamen. It’s not just a personal movie. This is a movie that is about water as an issue and a potential solution; you’ve got so many different dimensions. Everybody who looks at the trailer kind of comes away with the same feeling that they come away from the movie- it’s inspirational and it’s entertaining. It’s both about this very eccentric and powerful human being Dean Kamen and it clearly deals with the world’s water crisis.

Somehow, in two and a half minutes, the trailer conveys the scope of the movie. People who see it are very taken with it because they go ‘Wow, that’s covering a lot of stuff’. And we say ‘Yeah, the movie covers a lot of stuff so the trailer had to’. I think the success of the trailer is that it succeeds in capturing the essential nature of the movie – that SlingShot is both an engaging biography of this indomitable man and a look at his solution to the world’s water challenges.  SlingShot is a really tough movie to convey in a short piece.  I really love the trailer and Wheelhouse did an incredible job and hung in there with us.  It was a challenging and extremely satisfying collaboration.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 1.07.38 PM (2)Jeremy: We all loved working on Slingshot and we’re thrilled that Paul came to us for the trailer.  We’ve had a chance to work on some really important documentaries and we felt that this was a continuation of that tradition.   Also, Paul was really great to work with. He had some great ideas for the trailer and really came to us with a vision and a strategy. Some of our clients have very specific ideas for the trailer; others leave it up to us to get it there. We’re comfortable in both scenarios. Paul certainly was a case where he brought a lot of great thoughts and ideas to the table. Sometimes it was more just sparks of ideas that helped us get inside his head more. Other times, it was actual short promos that he and his staff had created that really pushed us to understand the best way to market the film.  For us, everything helps.  Making a trailer is always challenging. It’s tough tough collaborative creative work. So, anything that can help us discover the best approach is great.  Paul’s materials also forced us out of our comfort zone a bit, which also a good thing in this kind of creative work.  All in all, his involvement really made a difference between a trailer that just presents the film and one that makes you want to see the film.  We’re really happy with the final version and proud of the collaboration.

See SlingShot in select theaters this summer, and check out their website for more information.

Written by Hanna Utkin.