warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Sneak Peek At Upcoming Film “Leave”

Whitney Bratton |
July 23, 2011 | 12:54 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

At the Q&A (from left) Rick Gomez, Bettina Tendler O’Mara, Michael Hagerty, Frank John Hughes, Austin Wintory, Bryan Cranston
At the Q&A (from left) Rick Gomez, Bettina Tendler O’Mara, Michael Hagerty, Frank John Hughes, Austin Wintory, Bryan Cranston
This Thursday, University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts hosted a screening of one of Hollywood’s newest independent films, a psychological thriller titled “Leave.”  The screening was immediately followed by a Q & A session with the filmmakers and lead actors.  “Leave” has been picking up awards since it began the festival circuit back in March, including stops at the Jacob Burns Film Center, VisionFest in Tribeca, Waterfront in Michigan, the Newport Beach Film Fest and Gasparilla in Florida.

The plot of “Leave” follows successful novelist Henry Harper as he struggles to make sense of a violent nightmare that he has been having every night for the past six months.  At his therapist’s suggestion, he sets off on a road trip out to his remote vacation house in the badlands outside Los Angeles.  Along the way he encounters a stranger who not only somehow knows things about Henry’s past, but also may be the only one able to help him deal with his future.

Watching “Leave” is a little bit like getting thrown into a card game without anyone telling you what game you’re playing or what the rules are.  You pick it up little by little as you go, and the payoff at the end makes it all worth the effort. 

The inspiration for the film was hatched during a discussion about a reoccurring dream “Band of Brothers” actor Frank John Hughes had experienced over the course of his life.  He and co-lead Rick Gomez began developing the story, using the idea of a road trip to bring the story to life. 

“You get to explore subjects that you don’t really get to explore much otherwise,” Gomez told the audience at the Q & A.  “You have to have enormous trust in the people you’re working with in order for a film like this to work,”

The two brought in director Robert Celestrino ("Yonkers Joe") and began to develop the script.  The strength of the writing attracted other veteran film actors including Ron Livingston ("Office Space"), M.C. Gainey ("Lost"), Vinessa Shaw ("Hills Have Eyes") and Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad").

Also in attendance at the screening was composer and USC alum Austin Wintory, who offered insight into the score of the film and how it related to the unfolding of events on screen.

“We worked hard.  I’ve never worked this hard on a score….  It was very, very collaborative, in the most amazing way.  Even the smallest cue could give away the ending and change the audience experience in an instant.”

The film deals with several heavy subjects: the way fear affects how we perceive reality, the importance of relationships in dealing with trauma and the necessity of understanding the connection between attachment and suffering.  It challenges the audience both cognitively and emotionally, and is the kind of film that unveils new layers of meaning with each viewing.

For more information on “Leave” and to see a trailer, visit the official site here, or visit their Facebook page to catch the next screening.

Reach Whitney Bratton here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.