I am Byron Conrad Erwin.
"Collaborating with other artists to make a film is stimulating. Just like with musical improvisation, one artist starts out, the next listens and adds to it, the next absorbs it and takes it even further. I am fortunate to have had those experiences under my belt and can apply them to the filmmaking process. It has given me great insight into communicating with actors and crew to make the vision of the film a reality."
An amateur filmmaker as a child, Byron Conrad Erwin moved several times growing up and spent part of his youth in Virginia. A highly praised television film, Inside Job (1989), brought him the opportunity to work with such prestigious clients as National Geographic Television and Discovery Channel. He then moved to South Carolina and became one of the most successful television commercial directors for Comcast Productions. He’s known for directing the cult film Lynch Mob starring Tony Darrow (HBO’s Sopranos) and Dolan Wilson (Walk The Line) which was released in theaters nationwide in 2009.
Erwin has received many honors during his career, including Best Director (2015), Best Cinematographer (2014, 2015) and Best Horror TV Pilot (2015) and Best Horror Feature (2016).
He approaches each project with a deep desire to dig below the surface, to find the essential truth at its core. He believes that every idea and every concept can be mined to uncover this truth. It is a universal theme that allows for the deepest possible connection between the artist and the audience. This connection is enhanced by his unique visual aesthetic that ties the senses together to create a distinctive and resonant piece.
Erwin is a hands-on director who relishes being involved in all aspects of production with an unwavering attention to detail. A textbook workaholic, He works tirelessly for every project to ensure that every aspect has been handled, from the nuts and bolts of production to each creative element, in order to ensure the highest quality standard. He is passionate about sharing his spirit and individuality through the visual medium. It is paramount for him to have a distinctive voice, one that illuminates and inspires. He thrives on the collaboration between other artists and himself and understands the importance of balancing the creative with the commercial.
He tackles each project with a mental shovel, uncovering what is hidden beneath the surface layer of the story. He believes that every idea can be carefully excavated to discover its universal theme and show its deepest connection with the audience. He uses his unique visual aesthetic to enhance this union with the storyteller and create a distinctive and resonant film.
As a young adult, Erwin was already at work in the direction of creating thrillers, sneaking away in his spare time to shoot spooky short stories. He grew up in a middle-class suburban family. He put his talent to good use by studying filmmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University. The 1988 film by Erwin, Inside Job, features the talents of local actors in Richmond. This horror thriller tells the story of grave robbers and the living dead. Surrealism influenced the film’s artistic and narrative formation. The film received positive reviews and won several awards at international festivals. In an interview about the film, Erwin says, “I really wanted to wow the audience like a magician, so we set out to make a big film, bigger than our means at the time. It was quite an undertaking, but we achieved great results with very little money.”
Erwin’s early career began with short films and hand-drawn or clay animation. They include the ambitious Awful Green Things From Outer Space and In Those Days. After working as a negative cutter at a film lab during the 90’s we see his films move to new frontiers.
A fresh approach to bigger projects with the advent of digital medium also played a crucial role in his artistic development. Moving from horror films, he began to create film projects that focused on more profound themes. His journey stands a bit unique compared to today’s landscape in that he started his career working with actual film stock versus the digital video format modern filmmakers enjoy.
“It made me very organized and disciplined about how I work with projects,” Erwin says of his humble beginning with film.
“As the director, it is my vision that is shaping the movie. It is my passion that is guiding and inspiring all of the other artists. I am the storyteller and I am telling this story through the medium of film, which means I must collaborate. I must rely on the skills and artistry of others in order to achieve my goal, so I surround myself with very talented people that share a common understanding of the art of film. I communicate my vision to actors, writers, producers, designers, cinematographers, editors and composers. My job is to not only guide, but to inspire each of these artists to do his or her best work on the film.”
“I create films in order to make an emotional connection with my audience through a story. It’s my emotional connection to the characters and the story that is my guide for every choice I make. I know the audience doesn’t care about the camera angle, lens size, framing or depth of field. They are only there for the emotional ride and they will respond to everything I put up there on that screen. My job is to stimulate that response as best as I can. I spend a lot of my time on the set with my eye glued to the viewfinder because it gives me an intimate connection to the movie and helps guide my artistic visual style.
At the core of every film is a story and it is the characters in the story that captivate, hold and take us on a journey. This fact makes the actors the most important element in my film. Every director will have their own style and I use my unique approach to deal with the complex challenge of working with actors. If I ask my actors to simply express a particular emotion in a scene, then I am asking them to focus only on the result of the action, not on the action itself. That is why I strive to cast best actors that fit the roles and give them a safe place to be stimulated creatively. Then I don’t need to direct my actors on the set, I only need to direct the characters in the story.”
Having worked with such creative talents in the past, Erwin feels that he has a unique way of communicating his vision to such as actors, musicians, cameramen and editors.
“Each artist is different. When you get to know them on a personal level, is when you make a connection. Then it is easy to talk about films and music references that stimulate them creatively. Part of my job as a director is to create a ‘vibe’ on the set that excites the cast and crew and to motivate them to feel as much passion for the film as I do. That is a special skill that you have to learn over the years. If you are confident and believe in what you do, then others will as well. I am proud to be a director of motion pictures. Even though I started at a very young age, I never lost the mysterious inspiration that drives me.”