Pandemic spawns creative movie filmed at the Malibu Lumber Yard

Darshana Huffman, as Aubree, and Reid Knapp, as Domonkos, are shown in a scene from "Life Between The Seconds." Contributed Photo

When the COVID-19 pandemic stole lives, upended education, destroyed businesses, and robbed us of precious time with friends and family, it did spark creativity for many with a newfound abundance of time.

For Dave Knapp, of Café Habana at the Malibu Lumber Yard, he found creativity but didn’t have much downtime. The general manager was working six days a week with a couple of kitchen staff, fulfilling takeout orders at the popular Malibu restaurant. 

“The phone was non-stop because we wanted to serve the public, which is great, but it became almost mind-numbing,” he said.

Knapp wanted to do “something creative to offset what was happening.” So, he dreamed up the idea for his movie “Life Between the Seconds” while bombarded with work. “If I could stop time and live between the seconds to do something else, it would be amazing, and then I could resume what I was doing” was his theme. 

“During COVID, when we’re all put on lockdown, and there’s social distancing, you cannot express yourself in an outward manner,” he said. “Because we’re wearing masks you have to go internal and you have to create things from imagination. This is the theme of the film along with taking on a false identity to find yourself because when everyone’s wearing masks they have a different identity. You don’t know who you’re talking to until they remove the mask. Metaphorically and allegorically I incorporate that in the film,” Knapp said who cites inspiration by writer/directors David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Rod Serling, and most of all the original “Star Trek” series.

In between taking orders for fish tacos, the writer, producer, and director said he would “literally write the script in between seconds.” After the script was completed he had to find a way to shoot the film in the middle of a pandemic without funding or a crew. He worked in steps, scene by scene “with whoever I could get, whatever locations I could grab” the filmmaker said. Three years of hard work have paid off with Knapp’s film previewing March 9 at the Malibu Lumber Yard, where much of it was shot.

With a colorful background prior to working in Malibu, Knapp ran nightclubs in Manhattan and was the assistant to the infamous Steve Rubell who co-owned the notorious disco Studio 54 before Knapp’s association. Knapp had only produced one film prior to “Life Between the Seconds.” 

“Really, I was a restaurant manager,” he said. “This is my big breakthrough.”

Knapp praised his filmmaking partner Denis Sobolev as a “very brilliant editor.” Originally from Ukraine “he’s a well-known director who now lives in Southern California whose mother still lives in Ukraine. Without his help I would not have been able to get it done. One of the themes ties into Ukraine as a place that is on lockdown. It all ties into the COVID thing. The movie was conceived during COVID. Many of the themes deal with that.” 

Knapp’s two sons, who also work at the restaurant, were instrumental in helping him get the film off the ground. Reid Knapp acts in a lead role. 

“I asked people who worked in the nearby stores if they would be in the film, including the night watchmen from the shopping center,” Dave Knapp said. “Everybody was close by and accessible.” 

Along with his employer Café Habana, Knapp received tremendous support from Strange Wines. Many scenes were shot in the tasting room and even at its vineyard in Lompoc. 

“They were very accommodating,” he said. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without them.”  

Incredibly, Knapp pulled off the whole film for the implausible sum of only $8,000. 

“Don’t expect Jerry Bruckheimer,” he stated. “I did the best I could and I’m very thankful for the people at Strange Wines, Café Habana and at Starlight Cinemas who have helped me. When you see it, it looks pretty good. It’s an art film. You have to think about it. It’s a bit of a puzzle.”  

“Life Between the Seconds” will be screened free of charge March 9 at 7 p.m. at the Malibu Lumber Yard. A party is scheduled at 5:30. The filmmaker encouraged everyone to dress warmly for the outdoor event.

After the screening in Malibu, the film will hit the festival circuit.

Knapp summed up his endeavor by saying, “When we have nowhere else to turn to all we have is imagination.”