in ,

Fantastic Fest 2023: A Talk With Writer/Director Francis Galluppi On The Last Stop In Yuma County

Image courtesy of Prodigy PR

After viewing The Last Stop in Yuma County at Fantastic Fest I had the absolute honor to sit down and talk with writer/director Francis Galluppi. It’s a great conversation with some fun insight behind the process of bringing this project together and we talk about just how great of a person Richard Brake is. Catch this film wherever you can because it’s a doozy! A big thanks to Francis Galluppi and also to Prodigy PR for setting it up.

Brendan Jesus: Thank you for taking the time to sit down and chat, I greatly appreciate it. With this being your directorial feature debut how did you approach this project? Your short films High Desert Hell and The Gemini Project are absolutely fantastic and I feel like those two projects were a stylistic build-up to The Last Stop in Yuma County. So how did you approach your very first feature film?

Francis Galluppi: First I’ll say thank you for watching my short films, that’s awesome. I wrote those two scripts based on the locations we had access to. High Desert Hell was my friend Scott’s desert house. I went there and knew I could make something there. The same thing with The Gemini Project, my friend had a cabin in Oregon so we got in our tour van and hauled up to Oregon. I took the same approach with Last Stop, I knew we were going to make something on a small budget with not a lot of time. Going into it I knew I had to write something contained to one room. I love movies like Rope and Dial M For Murder, I wanted to try and tackle something like that. I found Four Aces in Lancaster, went there, and took a bunch of photos. From there I kind of drew an overhead of the diner and started crafting the script specifically off the location. I knew if we could stay close to home and be primarily in one location then maybe we can pull something off. 

BJ: You definitely did pull it off. You have such an excellent cast, a dream cast really for a debut feature film. I mean Jocelin Donahue! I love getting to see her in things. Was this a typical casting process? Did anyone just fall into your lap? 

Francis Galluppi: It was a pretty unusual process. Most of these people I had in mind when writing the script. And same thing man, I love Jocelin. I’m a huge House of the Devil fan. Basically, I just wrote everybody really personal letters, then jumped on Zoom with them and somehow f*ckin’ convinced them to do the movie! Aside from two people in the movie, who were cast off tape, everyone else was just saying, “I’m a huge fan, I know you could do this, I love your work,” and I got really really lucky. After about halfway through casting when we had Jim, Jocelin, and Rich—actually Rich was the first person to read the script and signed on years before it was made. Once we had that I just kept pushing our luck. At one point I was like, “What if we get Barbara Crampton?” “Well, I don’t know if she’ll be a receptionist…” “But we’ve been getting really lucky, can we try?” The only people I really found and cast off tape were Ryan Masson and Connor Paolo, who are also incredible and I want to work with them on every movie now. So basically I would just say I got really really lucky! And I also had a great casting director who was able to get them these letters and set up the Zooms. 

BJ: You seem like a pretty chipper person, but your work, shorts and Last Stop, they feel pretty nihilistic. I mean The Gemini Project literally starts with a wildfire! Is that something that you are purposefully looking for in your work? Or is that just sort of how they end up naturally with your writing style?

Francis Galluppi: I think it’s just a natural sensibility, I have a really f*cked up sense of humor. I don’t think it’s in me to write a happy ending. I just can’t man! You’re right I tend to be a pretty happy person, but when it comes to storytelling…the demons come out. There’s so much f*cking, I hate this word, content that’s out that’s pissing people off–make polarizing films! Not everyone’s going to like it, but, yeah, it’s just a natural thing with me. I don’t notice it, but like you said you watched my short films, and even my friends who know me tell me all of my stuff is really bleak. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll take it I guess!”

BJ: Piggybacking off that a little bit. When I was watching Last Stop it almost felt like I was, you know, that cliche lobster in a pot of boiling water where every few minutes you’re turning the temperature up a little bit more so I don’t notice. And then it gets to the point where I’m like, “Oh, I’m boiling now.” Is there anything you do while writing to create that atmosphere? Or is that, also, just naturally how you write? 

Francis Galluppi: I watch a lot of movies and would say I’m a student of Hitchcock. Anytime I’m watching a Hitchcock movie I’m focused on what he’s showing and what he’s not showing, and how he builds tension that way. So when you sit down and write you don’t think about that, but you’ve watched so many movies and it inherently comes out like that. You have to trust yourself that it’s going to work. Look at the sugar in the coffee sequence, on the page I don’t know if it comes across as suspenseful as it does on screen. It’s about crafting the shots thinking about what do we show and what do we not show to build the tension.

Sybil and Miles practice with their newly acquired gun
Image courtesy of Prodigy PR

BJ: Stories along the lines of Last Stop can sometimes come off, and I am not saying yours is, as a Tarantino copycat. But there’s something special between your screenplay and your directing style. It is very unique. I know you touched a bit on your inspirations but were there any direct inspirations for Last Stop?

Francis Galluppi: Yeah, I mentioned Hitchcock. Hitchcock is always in the back of my mind in terms of suspense. I wanted to do a throwback to 70s cinema so Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah, and stuff like that that feels really gritty. That’s where my head was in terms of visual aesthetics. Also noir. I f*cking love film noir, I’ve really looked at Last Stop more as a film noir more than anything. Thankfully some people have watched it and said it’s a noir. It felt like when I was making it more people referred to it as a Western. Just the sort of moral struggle with the knife salesman has the sensibilities of a film noir. I would say, and I love Tarantino for sure, but I definitely didn’t have him in mind while making this. It was more along the lines of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. 

BJ: The character of Beau is incredibly well-written and absolutely terrifying. He definitely makes this, well I don’t know if you’d consider any of this horror, but the addition of Beau’s character makes it feel like a horror film. How did you find the process of crafting Beau as the lead antagonist to directing Richard Brake in an absolutely transcending performance?

Francis Galluppi: That’s actually a funny story man and it will be a long-winded answer. Rich was the first person to read the script. Our EP James [Claeys} had a loose connection to Rich. So he read it and called me, and we talked for a couple of hours. My original bio on Beau was a blue-collar worker who’s sort of in over his head and putting on this mask of being a villain, when he’s really just a blue-collar worker but gets in too deep. We talked about that and it made sense to us. We did a table read and it hit me that I was wrong. I realized Beau needs to be scary as fuck. He needs to make the stakes feel real. I had to call Rich and tell him but didn’t want him to feel like he’s played this character before. He texted me the same day, it was a really weird coincidence. He had the same epiphany as me. We got on a call and I was like, “Ah man I need to talk to you,” and Rich was like, “No I need to talk to you! You go first.” I said, “I’ve been thinking about this character and I think I’m all wrong. I think you need to be really f*cking scary in this thing.” Rich said, “I was calling you for the same reason.” So we were both on the same page. From there we both really understood that he needed to be terrifying to make the stakes feel real, but also calm, collected, and in control. He needed to have those moments of losing control but also have the ability to pull it back in. Rich is just brilliant and so thoughtful. And just the sweetest guy ever. I hope I get the opportunity to work with him more.

BJ: I will say I think this is in my top three favorite performances of Richard Brake. If this is what we’re seeing from you in your debut feature film, then I know we’re going to be in good hands for quite some time. 

Francis Galluppi: That means a lot man. Thank you. 

Again, a huge thanks to Francis Galluppi for taking the time to talk about The Last Stop in Yuma County. Catch this film wherever you see it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

John poses on top of his crumb catcher

Fantastic Fest 2023: Crumb Catcher Cleans Up Nicely

Three people sitting outdoors

Fantastic Fest 2023: Mushrooms Will Keep You Guessing Until the Very End