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“They say when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. I wish it were that simple.”

With those first words of dialogue begins the intense 92-minute indie film VOLITION, a mind-bending, cerebral science-fiction thriller. The story centers around Jack, a man afflicted with clairvoyance, who tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. Co-written and co-produced by brothers Ryan W. Smith and Tony Dean Smith, VOLITION is being released today (July 10, 2020) on Apple TV, Prime Video and other digital platforms. 

Films with Friends: A Creative Synergy

The role of Jack is played by Adrian Glynn McMorran, known for roles in major motion pictures such as The Revenant, and appearances in well-known genre TV series such as Supernatural and Arrow. What makes an actor like McMorran do a turn in an independent film? For one thing, it helps to be friends with the filmmakers.

“The Smith Brothers are old friends of mine. I went to school with them,” McMorran explains. “Professionally, we’ve always liked working with each other.”

Previous work they’ve done includes the video for “Seven or Eight Days,” a music video that McMorran, who is a musician as well as an actor, made with Tony Dean Smith acting as director in 2011. “The character I play in the video is a precursor to James,” McMorran explains. “It lives in a similar stylistic world — psychological and kind of gritty. Making it was an awesome experience for both of us.” 

By the way, the video for “Seven or Eight Days” is well worth watching, both for the moody vocals and musical arrangement, as well as the fun of seeing some of the same stylistic film elements being played out here as you’ll see in VOLITION.

Acting on an Indie Set

Indie filmmaking is a uniquely demanding and rewarding process at all levels. While VOLITION had the advantage of private financing, shooting the film still involved all the challenges that come with doing things independently.

From an actor’s perspective, McMorran says everyone behind the scenes and in front of the camera alike brought a level of professionalism and commitment that made the film come together. It was, like a lot of indies, a fast shoot, a wild ride. 

“We moved so quickly, taking 17 days to shoot,” he says. “We were flying through scenes. Everyone had to work in a higher gear.”

The tight timing meant doing a lot of lengthy night shoots, which is never easy on a crew. It was absolutely exhausting – mostly night shoots. “It was absolutely exhausting,” says McMorran. “It was also amazing as an actor to just have to mentally drop into the (next) scene that quickly. It was such a learning experience.”

Indie Filming Means the Unexpected

Of course, what movie making situation would be complete without a few behind-the-scenes surprises? McMorran remembers a moment that captures that clandestine night shooting perfectly.

“One night we were driving around getting footage, and I was covered in fake blood, and a cop stopped us. Of course, as soon as they found out we were filming a sci-fi movie, they totally nerded out. They even ended up escorting us as we drove. We still laugh about that,” he says.

The laughter, in fact, is one of the aspects that makes filming with the Smith Brothers so memorable for McMorran. “They’re two of the driest humor guys I know, the straightest faces, the driest humor,” he says. “Because we were working on this emotionally and physically intense project (VOLITION), it was great that they were laid back, calm and funny guys.”

What’s Next

VOLITION has had impressive success to date, winning awards and wowing audiences at numerous film festivals, including the coveted BEST FEATURE at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival. Now, VOLITION promises audiences a tightly-wound puzzle of a ride through video on demand streaming options.

And while many acting projects are on hold this summer, McMorran is keeping busy making music. His new acoustic album Ghostlight Sessions dropped this last month, and is well worth a listen.

Check out the trailer for VOLITION.


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