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Q&A: Logan Sandler ’11, Writer/Director of “Live Cargo”

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Logan Sandler graduated from SFTV in 2011 with a B.A. in Film Production, and three years later, while earning an M.F.A. from AFI in Film Directing, he developed his first feature film, Live Cargo. The film, which opened in NY last week and hits LA theaters Friday, April 7,  is a gripping drama about a grieving couple who retreat to a remote Bahamian island where they become entangled in a dangerous turf war between the island’s mayor and a greedy human trafficker. The film stars Dree Hemingway (Starlet), Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta), and Robert Wisdom (The Wire) and first premiered at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. It has since been in competition at the Warsaw Film Festival, Sao Paulo International Film Festival, AFI FEST and more. We chatted with Logan about his first feature film.

You wrote and directed Live Cargo, your first feature. How was the experience and what was your most memorable moment? It was exhilarating to say the least. Making a film is a voyage into the unknown (both literally and figuratively with Live Cargo) and shooting on a remote island in the Bahamas with few resources does not make the journey any easier. In order to tell this island’s story, I had let go and allow my vision to constantly evolve. I became inspired all over again by the people, place, weather and sounds the longer we were there – the local culture and our story meshing into one.

In terms of the literal voyage, a lot of the film was shot on boats and underwater. One of my most memorable moments was when I jumped off of a diving boat with world-renowned underwater cinematographer Peter Zuccarini to film our spearfishing sequences. Later that day, a big storm was coming our way – you could see it quickly coming towards us. Having to get all of the crew onto the boats, then speed back to home base racing against this Caribbean squall was a very “wow” experience.

The film tells a story about human sex trafficking. What inspired you to tell this story? In 2013, a 40-foot boat filled with Haitian migrants capsized off the shores of my hometown, an island in the Bahamas. Directly affecting my neighbors and island family, I was unable to shake that specific headline from my mind – a human trafficking tragedy leaving over thirty dead. For months I heard firsthand stories of their struggle to save the surviving stranded refugees on a nearby reef. I knew with this real life tale that I had found the heart of my first film. I was deeply touched and moved by the compassion embodied by everyone on the island who came together to help those in need. With that, I felt there was a certain awareness I wanted to bring to the subject and the Caribbean region in which incidents like this occur.

Several LMU alumni worked on the production. How was that, and how did it come about? The first producer attached to the project was Mortimer Canepa ’11, whom I met while I was a student at LMU. We both shared a passion for film, and he loved my senior thesis, All It Will Ever Be. After he saw that short, he said whenever I got around to making my first feature, he should be the first one I call. I began to develop Live Cargo as a second year fellow at AFI, and that’s when I approached Mortimer to figure out how we could get the ball rolling. I’d also met another producer on the film, current student Randy Harris, during my time at LMU, as well as a gaffer on the project, David Cronin ‘08. We’ve been friends for years, and have always known that we would try to work together. The relationships and friendships I made at LMU have truly played an integral part in my career thus far. It’s definitely comforting to have people on your team that have been with you from the beginning. I can’t stress enough how valuable they all have been!

The film premiered at Tribeca last year and you’re still on the festival circuit. What are some tips you’d like to share with filmmakers as they navigate festivals? The experience has truly been amazing. The festival organizations really take care of the filmmakers. Each country’s audience is totally different, which is exciting. I can say that from visiting these festivals, my ability to speak about the film has improved tremendously. The trick we face as filmmakers is expressing ourselves and our ideas to others. We may have a wealth of knowledge and an understanding of the film in our heads, but the goal is to be able to distill it down into something everyone can grasp and understand – clear and articulate. When you begin hitting the festival circuit you really have to make sure you are speaking about the film in the way that you want others to understand it. That said, as a filmmaker you have to understand the potential dialogue your film could generate.

A still from Live Cargo, premiering in LA on April 7th

What’s up next for you? Keep making more films and hopefully enter into the television world. I have a few exciting projects in different stages of development. Stay tuned!

Live Cargo opens this Friday in LA at the Arena Cinelounge and will be available on: iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play, Microsoft Movies & TV, Vimeo and Hoopla.