In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, screenwriter Carl W. Lucas talks about the supercharged surreal comedy, The Wave, starring Justin Long and Donald Faison. Discover how The Wave producer came up with a hallucinogenic journey about self-reflection and pop philosophy.
When Frank (Justin Long) goes out on the town to celebrate an upcoming promotion, his night takes an unexpected and bizarre turn when he is dosed with a hallucinogen that alters his perception and changes his life forever.
With The Wave opening nationwide in theaters and on VOD, Carl W. Lucas discusses how the concept came along, Frank (Long)’s drug hazed journey, and crafting a plot twists within the narrative. Check out our review of The Wave as we head on over to the writer’s studio to discuss the craft of storytelling.
VILLAIN MEDIA: Tell me how the concept behind The Wave came about?
CARL W. LUCAS: Well a few years back, I had a family member pass away under very similar circumstances as the case in the film. And the effects of this decision in my family were devastating. I spent years processing the motivations of this individual who could wreak havoc with a pen stroke so callously so the script was almost waiting for me as a therapy session. I met Gille [Klabin] back in 2012 and was immediately blown away by his abilities as a visual storyteller and and began brainstorming ideas for a project that we could work together on.
It was around this time that I was reading Roger Corman’s autobiography and I stumbled across this weird little title called, The Trip, about a man who takes LSD one night at a party and changes his life. I started wondering about when the last time a psychedelic drug movie had been made and I started thinking about my own experiences with psychedelics and slowly, The Wave started taking shape.
VM: The Wave starts off with this hilarious anecdote from Frank’s past. Tell me about kickstarting the movie this way.
CWL: We wanted the movie to start off right away with some fun visuals and psychedelics, because we knew there was gonna be a period of getting to know your characters before we got to ”the good stuff.” And we wanted to launch the audience in right away because, even though the film takes place in a pseudo linear fashion, we also wanted everyone to understand that time has no meaning. And we’re gonna have a lot of fun telling this story!
The anecdote comes from some friends I knew in college who were volunteering for a sleep study and the reaction one of my friends had when he discovered the study involved taking a drug that helped stave off sleep naturally. And he bowed out because he was afraid that if he tried this drug, his body might forget how to sleep.
He admitted it was irrational, but he just couldn’t reason with his brain enough to take the chance. So, we wanted to tell a story that showcased that fear of participating in an event that could feasibly change how you view your life forever, and what it’s like take those kind of risks.
We went through several different versions of the opening monologue, but they all centered around that theme of “Frank was afraid the last time this happened.” It was all about Frank trying to get out of his comfort zone.
VM: Frank starts off very still and introverted before loosening up physically and mentally. How did the script serve as a guide for Justin Long’s character arc?
CWL: Wow! Justin really brought a lot of that energy with him and he was incredible about it. Justin and Gille sat down early, before we started shooting and went through every line in every scene. Their process created an understanding what Frank’s motivation was in each scene. And because of that, they had a detailed idea of the whole arc of his character before we ever started filming.
VM: Tell me about creating the camaraderie between Frank (Long) and Jeff (Donald Faison). Jeff has to be persuasive into getting Frank to loosen up but he also gets himself in trouble.
CWL: Justin and Donald were old friends before we ever cast them. So the camaraderie, and chemistry was evident before they ever shared a scene. I feel like the dynamic those two experience in the film is very similar to their dynamic in real life. Just probably slightly less drugs! [Laughs]
VM: I loved how The Wave kept me guessing with its plot twists. The line between Frank’s drug haze and his reality is blurred. Is it more challenging or more freeing to create these twists and turns in this type of story?
CWL: It was a real challenge because most time travel films have the simple out of “we can go back and change time.” And I decided to do it the hard way, and decide that in order for time travel to be possible, you can’t change time. Which means if you go back in time and change anything, you’re experiencing the ramification of those changes ,without even realizing you’re the cause of them; which is also a big metaphor for the overall themes of the film.
VM: How can the readers of Villain Media find The Wave?
CWL: Find us in theaters January 17th for a limited run or anywhere VOD movies are sold! Look for Blu-rays Feb. 11th! Pre- order at this link!
VM: How did The Wave change you as a storyteller?
CWL: I think if anything, it’s made me more trusting in what audiences can comprehend. I feel like a lot of films spend way too much time explaining their narratives to audiences. While I think that audiences are looking for narratives that stick with them, make them ask questions and linger for a few days. Think of it as a picture hanging in a museum.
What’s more impactful? The picture, or the little plaque hanging next to the picture explaining what it means? I think audiences are more willing to absorb the ideas you’re giving them rather than having them force fed.
VM: What are you working on now?
CWL: I’ve got another trip multiverse scoff horror comedy called Prism Lake and a classic old school western called, The Old Way. Both of which I hope to direct in the near future.
The Wave has opened nationwide in theaters and on VOD.
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Links are highlighted in bold.]