We described ‘To Jennifer’ as “a film which covers obsession, voyeurism and ponders how modern life seems like it is seen through the lens of a smart phone”; it made a lot of sense to grab some of the precious time of director James Cullen Bressack and ask him a few questions about the movie and life in the biz.
ISCFC: Hello James, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘To Jennifer’ and felt that it was your strongest effort to date. How did the initial idea for the film first come about?
Thank you! I truly appreciate that. This is a tricky question to answer, because essentially the initial idea was the twist, and I don’t want to give that away, But what I will say is i wanted to make a film that was 90% a comedy, to lull an audience into security before having a big turn at the end. In my first film ‘MY PURE JOY’, I tried to splice in buddy comedy with horror and I feel like it didn’t work, so I wanted to try again and get it right this time.
What challenges faced you when shooting the film on an iPhone 5?
Honestly, the same challenges that you face while shooting with any other camera, although the Video doesn’t transfer from the iphone 5 to the computer as easily and it’s hard to open in final cut. Also occasionally the camera would flex and Maure on its own.
Are we all in danger of turning into voyeurs in the internet age?
I believe we are. I was just having a conversation about this yesterday, but my generation I think would find it near impossible to go an entire month without internet or cell phones. It would be like the dark ages! We have adapted and come accustomed to these appliances as a part of everyday life. I almost sometimes look at my phone, because it has google in it, as an extension of my brain, holding all the facts my mind can’t on its own.
You’ve stated in previous interviews that your all-time favorite film is ‘Oldboy’, what are your hopes for the upcoming remake?
I honestly am not planning on watching the remake, I am not a fan of the filmmaker or remakes and don’t want to ruin my favorite film for myself. If the reviews are AMAZING, I might reconsider.
We covered ‘Hate Crime’ last year, and complimented the acting performances. Was there any reluctance shown from the actors about dealing with the strong subject matter and the experience of acting out such shocking violence?
All of my actors that ended up in the film were VERY dedicated and fine with all of the content and violence; they understood the importance of the message that was being conveyed within the film and the symbolism of each act of violence. However, there were cast members that dropped out of the film in the early stages that had to be replaced, and there were people that stormed out of the audition rooms after reading the sides.
A great deal of your films cover the threat that is right on our doorstep; our friends, our neighbours, about how those people we know and trust can worryingly harbour the darkest secrets – when you read the news this a familiar and scary part of the societies in which we live in, but in cinema the local danger is sometimes ignored, particularly in the horror genre. Why do you think this is?
I feel like people don’t always like to be reminded how scary the world we live in today is, but as a horror filmmaker, it is my job to play on the fears of my audience. The world around us is scary. Horrible things happen every day. I don’t need to create monsters, when there are monsters that live just a few houses down from any given person. Even that thought, or paranoia, that’s what I like to play into when making a film – Reality. I also find it a lot of fun to dive into the mind of a monster and find out how the think, how they work. It really helps the process with my actors as well.
You are very hands on with the audition process. What are you looking for when it comes to picking leading males and scream queens?
I am very obsessive about who I work with as an actor or actress. Any of the actors I have worked with in the past will tell you I am an actor’s director. I spend days upon days, hours upon hours, discussing character, who this person is, how they feel when they wake up in the morning, what makes them tick, and everything that is off the page, not just on it. I also dive deep into the motivation of each and every word and action the character does. To do this I need to know I can spend that much time around an actor or actress, that I really connect with them on that mental level, and that they are able to put in the time and work for me that I will require. I also tend to do, what I am told is a Fincher-esque amount of takes per angle on set to help build performances as well.
Storytelling is something that is important to you as a director. Outside of cinema, what storytellers do you most admire?
I am a huge fan of Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, Shakespeare, and Rampo.
What can we expect from ‘Pernicious’?
‘Pernicious’ is going to be my first Supernatural horror film. It is also my favorite script I have worked on thus far. The film also happens to be more commercial an effort then my films in the vein of ‘HATE CRIME’. It’s more tame, yet equally as frightening, just in a different way. I am excited to see what everyone think of it, because I will be pouring myself into it for 3 months straight in Thailand! It’s going to be an exciting and intense film, I guarantee it.
Summer is here, the time of the year traditionally set aside for the release of the big budget blockbuster. What would you say your favourite blockbuster was from the last few years?
The last Harry Potter movie. I was a big fan of the books. 🙂