When Russ Pond was a boy, he played around with an 8mm camera and made home movies with his brother.
That’s how the story goes for so many other filmmakers, but his story took an unusual detour – into the world of Corporate America – which is why he’s only now starting to make movies as an adult. His first feature effort, Fissure, is currently playing the festival circuit – it’ll be at AFI Dallas at the end of March – and this Euless resident appears to have found his calling. The soft-spoken, bespectacled Pond, who turns 43 this week, had few thoughts of becoming a filmmaker while growing up. He graduated from UT-Austin with an engineering degree. “My father was a professional photographer,” he said. “He encouraged me and my brother to go into something stable.” He spent the techno boom of the 1990s working at Uniden and Nokia in the field of technical marketing, figuring out how to get the designers of high-tech electronic gadgets and the consumers of those gadgets to speak the same language. He also started producing trade show videos, promos, and commercials for those companies. This phase of his life proved to be excellent training for his new career. “My background means I’m all about preparation,” he said. “It helped me bring in Fissure on schedule and under budget.”
He won’t disclose exact figures for Fissure, though he classifies it under the industry term of “SAG low-budget,” which is under $1 million. The money came from a single investor, Shawn Goff, a personal friend of Pond’s who met the director by attending the same church. Through the web site of Goff’s production company, Top Pup Media (he got the name off a shirt that his young son happened to be wearing), he asked for DELETE submissions and selected Nicholas Turner’s entry for Fissure from a field of 450. “After I read the first 20 pages, I was wondering, ‘What the heck is going on?’ and I was totally hooked,” he said of the good-looking cop thriller, which stars James McDonald as a troubled detective who discovers rifts in time and space while responding to a domestic disturbance call. “I thought if I can translate that same air of mystery to the film, the audience will be hooked, too.” The 18-day shoot took place in east Dallas and the Mid-Cities. “We shot three days in my own house,” he remembered with a laugh. “We’ll never do that again!”
Pond is gearing up to promote the film at AFI Dallas, where he and McDonald will have breakfast with two fans who register at the movie’s web site. In the meantime, he’s eager to start work on the next project for Top Pup, whose stated mission is to bring movies with redemptive messages to large audiences. A self-described non-denominational Christian, he discusses his faith in depth on his personal web site at www.russpond.com. However, Fissure contains no direct references to religion, and Pond is determined to make a difference through entertaining rather than preaching. “Leaving Las Vegas is a dark, negative film that still has a redemptive ending,” he said. “I’d rather see an R-rated truth than a G-rated lie.”