Making ‘SWALLOW’ — Entry #1


“Anyone who has ever been privileged to direct a film also knows that, although it can be like trying to write ‘War and Peace’ in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling.”
— Stanley Kubrick – DGA D.W. Griffith Award video acceptance speech (1998).

My name is Justin D. Hilliard and I am a filmmaker. I LOVE FILMMAKING. I’ve been drawing since the age of 2, telling stories since the age of 5, and have always wanted to be a filmmaker. Film is a collaborative art form that is dependent on several of the most powerful mediums available to us, all meshing together to create the final product. Writing a screenplay isn’t an easy task. Seeing that script through pre-production and into production is even more difficult. Shaping those pieces into a final film that is not only watchable, but may even have potential to sell, is near impossible.

(Hopefully not to detract from the two upcoming Kubrick quotes, I’m going to sneak in a quote by Walt Disney — “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”)

I’m officially knee-deep in pre-production on my fourth feature film, “SWALLOW” (also writer/director/producer of the relationship drama “Wednesday,” the dark drama/comedy “The Other Side of Paradise” and the currently “filming” documentary about the independent film landscape “3 Thumbs Up”). “SWALLOW” is a bittersweet, lyrical sci-fi drama that examines the complexities of relationships in the near future, some real and some artificial. I’ve partnered with It’s Just Movies to bring you a behind-the-scenes weekly column that will follow the film “SWALLOW,” chronicling my take on pre-production, production, post and distribution.

This marks my first foray into both journalism and sci-fi. And while I’ve always loved to write, it’s a joy to have this opportunity to create sort of a “companion piece” to “SWALLOW,” “3 Thumbs Up” and “The Other Side of Paradise” as a representation of TRUE INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING. With our documentary, “3 Thumbs Up,” we took our feature “The Other Side of Paradise” on the road, throwing several promo screenings, all leading up to our limited NYC theatrical release. Along the way, we interviewed several other filmmakers and many independents trying to make their way in the current economic climate. Although the feature doc will primarily focus on the indie film topics, we will also have an episodic series cut that will branch off and detail some of the other incredible independents we met on our trip (ranging from small businesses to distillery owners, from a hall of fame wrestler to struggling street artists — we captured the still existent “American Dream.” It’s alive and we can’t wait to share it with you). Within the doc, we will also cover the entire behind the scenes of “SWALLOW,” even including this column. The meaning and purpose is to really show true transparency and openly share the ups and downs, successes and pitfalls of being an independent filmmaker.

“The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. If it can be written or thought, it can be filmed.”
Stanley Kubrick – Halliwell’s Filmgoer’s and Video Viewer’s Companion (1988).

“SWALLOW” is a very human film that is anchored by the strengths and weaknesses of its core characters. It’s a drama set in the near future; however, its emotional resonance is timeless. There will be sci-fi elements, but never glitz or glam just to be showy. I hope this unique perspective revolutionizes the indie sci-fi genre. The film should blur the lines between past, present, and future when it comes to the beauty, simplicity, and potential danger of being human. No matter how far technology advances, there will always be those simple truths/meanings, those life-altering/shattering choices, and the eternal battle of heart and mind within man. The setting is in the near future — the concept is simply “love” — the result will be an emotional rollercoaster and it will truly be an experience.

At the moment, I’m still in the scripting phase; however, a few of the lead and supporting roles have been cast. We plan to approach some names (not necessarily A-list, but household names) for two of the male lead roles. The two female leads have gone to the talented and stunning Tina Rodriguez (from “Inglourious Basterds”) and the brilliant and beautiful Arianne Martin (of “The Other Side of Paradise,” “Red Victoria,” and my lovely wife and collaborator). Brandi Price, Frank Mosley, Julie Meise, Susana Gibb and Andrew Sensenig have filled a few of the supporting roles.

We will continue with pre-production and casting, covering every bit of it in this column. Also, visit our “SWALLOW” facebook fan page and become a fan for the latest updates. (We also have fan pages for ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ and ‘3 Thumbs Up’ – follow the fun!)

Our goal is to find and build our audience early on and have an extraordinary film that we can present to them at the end. Future entries may not be as long, they may have some fun poll questions, and I plan on spotlighting some independent film pioneers out there that are fightin’ the good fight. This is true independent filmmaking and I’m thrilled to share my experience with you. Hope you enjoy the column … and here is to the final Kubrick quote:

“I don’t like doing interviews. There is always the problem of being misquoted or, what’s even worse, of being quoted exactly.”
— Stanley Kubrick from “Kubrick on Barry Lyndon: An interview with Michel Ciment” (1982).

. . .

“Making SWALLOW” — a weekly column exclusive to It’s Just Movies — will follow the film from pre-production through distribution.

Justin D. Hilliard is a writer/director/producer and co-founder of Striped Socks Productions. He attended the University of Texas at Arlington and received his BFA in Film – Cum Laude in 2004. His previous films are “The Other Side of Paradise,” “3 Thumbs Up Doc” and “Wednesday.”

Websites:,,,, Each of the films also have fan pages on Facebook.

16 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Dani #

    This series is off to a great start. Looking forward to reading more!

  2. 2

    This is a great idea for a column. I will look forward to reading it each week.

  3. 3

    …and as an add-on POLL QUESTION…

    I personally love 2001 & Solaris…how about you?

  4. Mo GB #

    I enjoyed this. Nice job. (And you can’t go wrong with Star Wars.)

  5. 5

    I’m excited to read more!

  6. Robb #

    This should be fun. And 2001 is the best space movie of all time.

  7. 7

    Can’t wait to read this.

  8. Josue #

    I am defenitely intrigued and interested in following the weekly progression of the project. It is a priviledge to be able to hear first hand from those involved. Thank you so much!

    My favorite SciFi movie is Transfor….just kidding, I love Star Wars! Yet, although a comedy as well as scifi, I must give it up to Back to the Future!

  9. H Solo #

    It will be a lot of fun to see the movie after all of the stories!

  10. danstan #

    This sounds pretty interesting! I’m excited to see what your minds are brewing.

  11. Disco #

    That documentary sounds great. How will the column be included? (Oh, and for the space movie … I’ll take “The Empire Strikes Back.”)

  12. Don #

    Sounds great!

  13. 13

    You did such an amazing and nuanced job on TOSOP and can’t wait to see Swallow!

  14. 14

    Brilliant, Justin! Hats off!

  15. smokey the bandit #

    Great series!

  16. Marsha #

    I just heard about this series. I’m excited to go back and read it.