Chris Eska Promotes Film at Flatland Film Festival

He shot his thesis story in Japan for film school at the University of California, Los Angeles; one of his films has won an independent spirit award; and he’s currently promoting his newest movie across the world. Only one question comes to my mind when I look at this man’s life, ‘What am I doing with mine?’

Meet Chris Eska, writer, director, and genius of films in the indie world. He also showed his new film, “The Retrieval,” in Lubbock last week to kick off the  Flatland Film Festival at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts.

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It’s hard to believe Eska grew up in a small town south of Austin with only 100 people inhabiting the place. Eska said originally he went to Rice University in Houston during the mid 90’s to follow in his father’s footsteps, but nothing could prepare him for what he would discover along the way.

“My dad’s a small town doctor,” said Eska. “I was pre-med and my roommate and I, for an easy A class, took one of the only film production classes offered. We fell in love with it. We were waking up at 5 a.m. on Saturdays with all of this old equipment. I decided to go to UCLA film school directly out of Rice. I spent a few years there off and on.”

Eska said moving to Los Angeles was an interesting experience. He said it was difficult for him to adjust after coming from a Rice, which is a private university.

My view before the Flatland Film Festival began at LHUCA.

My view before the Flatland Film Festival began at LHUCA.

Eska said he ended up taking a year off from school and decided to travel throughout Southeast Asia, China, and India. He said he spent four months in Japan and made a lot of friends while being overseas. Eska said when he decided to return to UCLA, he had to make his thesis film in order to graduate. He said at the time he had more friends in Tokyo than LA, so he decided to shoot a 30-minute short film on the streets of Tokyo. Eska said that was an exciting moment for him because it was the first film at UCLA to be shot on video and not film during that time.

Eska said his first feature film was “August Evening.” He said the indie film cost around $35,000, and what the budget lacked, it made up for in success. Eska said in order to get the funds for the film in the first place he decided to sell his car in LA and ask his sister and father for the rest of the money.

“We ended up winning a $50,000 cash prize. It won the independent spirit award at the Oscars for Indies.”

So now that Eska has gained such a following with his first film, he is hopeful the same response will follow with “The Retrieval.” He said he started showing the film at SXSW film festival in Austin and is currently traveling with the film to promote it at more festivals. He said he got back from Belgium last Tuesday, then he will go to Houston after Lubbock, and then he planned on traveling to Europe to show the film.

Eska said the new film is based on life decisions. “The Retrieval” is based on the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation. He said in his mind the film is portraying the year 1886 in either late November or early December. Eska said the area of where the cast and crew shot was supposed to resemble Petersburg, Va., but they shot in Texas.

Chris Eska talks about his most recent film, "The Retrieval" at the Flatland Film Festival.

Chris Eska talks about his most recent film, “The Retrieval” at the Flatland Film Festival.

Eska said for this specific film he really wanted his audience to feel emotion while watching it. He seemed hopeful that it would make such an impact that it might make people think about the lesson of the movie.

“It’s all about the story, that’s where we can have an edge,” he said. “We’re trying to do something that studio films can’t. They’re too lost in the money and commercial liability of their product. It’s so rare that I watch Hollywood films. I’ll be fascinated and I’ll be excited but I feel like the story gets lost.”

Eska said for “The Retrieval” and for his previous works he focuses on segregated families. He said it’s more than connecting with one’s kind and blood, instead it’s more about the importance of reaching out and trying to make connections in an isolated world. He said the film also focuses on the characters reevaluating their paths in life to see if what they are doing is really best for them, or if they’re simply following societal norms.

“What I try and do is find a setting of a character that is going to highlight these emotions and bring them out,” said Eska. “And for me the chaos of war and the aftermath of slavery in isolated locations, they all force a character to make difficult decisions and reach out and make connections.”

I personally saw the “The Retrieval” on the opening night of the Flatland Film Festival, and I have to say it was one of the best indie films I have ever seen. Every time I describe it to someone, the first descriptive word that comes to my mind is ‘raw.’ I don’t think I’ve ever felt so many emotions at once while watching a movie.

After viewing this film I wanted to tell whoever I ran into to watch it, because I know they wouldn’t regret it. For the first time in a long time, the story was the focus, an art that Eska said many production studios have lost.

To learn more about the Flatland Film Festival or The Retrieval look here.

And to view a preview of the “The Retrieval” look below.

Alicia Keene covered the event for MCTV:

Click here to see the rest of the Oct. 23 MCTV Weekday Update.

About Lauren Estlinbaum

Entertainment Director    —    Journalism major, Class of 2014
Lauren Estlinbaum grew up in Pearland, Texas, south of Houston (go Texans). She is a journalism major with a minor in apparel design. Lauren would like to work for either a fashion or lifestyle publication post-graduation. As she likes to say, she considers fashion magazines survival guides.

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