Interview with Jon Watts

Me: Kids and violence — your film presumably combines the two. What are the challenges involved in making a dark tale with underage kids, and how did you deal with them?

Watts: The kids were having a blast the whole time, so the biggest challenge was trying to get an honest and consistent performance. ​The finished film is hopefully very intense, but most of the time the actual shooting was silly in the way that technical shoots can often be – the kids are staring at a tennis ball, a PA is rocking the car, I’m trapped in the backseat with a monitor. The cussing was a much bigger issue. Saying the f-word when you’re ten is a really big deal!

Me: Your film is described as a “minimalist thriller.” Could you discuss what makes it so, and how you used the resources and tools you had to make a gripping movie?

Watts: ​To me it was about focusing on the logic and mechanics of the situation and letting that drive the style of the film. Two kids steal a sheriff’s cruiser, the sheriff wants it back but is stranded out in the middle of nowhere. How is he going to get it back? ​To him that’s all that matters, so that’s all that matters to the film. There’s no time for anything else. It’s like a Melville film.

Me: How did you find the child actors, and what specific qualities were you looking for?

Watts: ​We had a great casting director and looked at kids from all over the U.S. ​I was looking for a combination of toughness, thoughtfulness and naturalism. You had to feel like these kids were truly thinking their way through the situations — albeit with a 10-year-old’s logic. We actually didn’t cast James and Hayes for the specific roles, I just liked the two of them the most. So we cast them, flew them out to Colorado, did some rehearsals, and I assigned the roles two days before we started shooting.

We also shot in my hometown, five minutes from where I grew up, so there was a really specific look I had in mind. James had a much cooler haircut when he landed so we had to shave his head, give him the military cut.

Me: What’s your favorite adult movie about kids?

Watts: Empire of the Sun. No one is better than Spielberg when it comes to capturing the feeling about what it’s like being a kid — the fear, the excitement, the wonder. So many other directors just project adult ideas and personality back onto kids, but with Spielberg it feels true.

Me: How has your continued commercial and short form work informed your feature film directing?

Watts: There is zero influence. Deep character work with guys like Kevin and Shea, long complicated masters – you don’t get to do that on a commercial. But one great skill you do pick up is how to prep. Every detail — from casting to wardrobe to props — has to be approved by a crazy corporate hierarchy weeks before you shoot. So I’m very organized. I did a previz for the whole movie.

Me: It’s recently been reported that you’re on the short list to direct the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. Is that true?

Watts: Fingers crossed.

Me: I can’t help but notice the tattoo sticking out of your shirt there… is that the red and blue of Spider-Man?

Watts: Yeah, you got you me. Here, let me unbutton the top two buttons here. That’s Spider-Man himself.

Me: How long have you had that? It looks kinda sore. It’s it pretty new?

Watts: Yeah I really wanted to make myself stand out in the field, trying to vie for the job as helmer of the next Spider-Man movie. And at the same time I’d been looking for something, an idea for a tattoo to be a cover-over of something I’d gotten when I was a lot younger. It just seemed like the perfect time to do something bold. So yeah, I got a Spider-Man tattoo on my chest. Spider-Man is awesome.

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Interview with Colin Treverow

Me: This is really cool. 

Colin Trevorrow: You remember this stuff. You were there. That’s all the same graphics, same footage that we had up on the wall.

Me: That is cool. Very cool. I think this is like the third or fourth time I’ve talked to you about this movie.

Colin Trevorrow:  It’s been a long two and a half years as we’ve been through so much together.

Me: First off, before I talk Jurassic World, I hate to be annoying blogger person that sounds like he’s trying to get a scoop or whatever but I’m a huge fan of Flight of the Navigator. So I have to ask you what’s going on with that? 

Colin Trevorrow:  You know, I haven’t thought about it for quite… Derek and I did a draft of that and it was just one of those things that I don’t know if they’re still developing it. I know they were thinking of doing it for a while and I wonder if the priorities of Disney have just changed or evolved. You know, that was pre, Marvel expanding universe, pre Star Wars. There’s a lot of things that have changed over there. So I don’t know what’s going on with that one. I know that I probably only if at all I only have one more make a movie from my childhood card to play. So I may hold it.

Me: What was your unique take on that since it sounds like it’s maybe not happening?

Colin Trevorrow:  It was about brothers. I remember what the themes of it were. It was, maybe we didn’t change it enough. I found actually that movie to be, that movie didn’t make a lot of money. It’s something that we loved ’cause we saw it at a certain time, but I found a lot of the elements in that movie to be pretty great. And we made it a little that we got off the planet a little bit and we made it different in scope. And in the end, it was about those brothers. But I honestly it was so much has happened since then that I’d have to go back and look at what we did.

Me: Yeah, you’ve been on this for a while.

Colin Trevorrow: Yeah.

Me: I noticed in the credits that there’s a few cameos, or at least voice cameos. [Note: this is not something most people could possibly notice when watching the film]

Colin Trevorrow:  Yeah.

Me: I was wondering if you could tell us about those and how those came about?

Colin Trevorrow: Brad [Bird] is one of them and he’s been a great mentor and friend. And he actually invited me to the set of Tomorrowland. And allowed me just to kind of watch him for a couple days. And he gave me great confidence that I at least understood what a day to day experience on a giant blockbuster movie is for a director and we both mixed up at Skywalker Ranch. And he was up there ahead of me and they were doing some pre-dubbing stuff. And I asked if he would be the guy. And I remember writing him a detailed character description of who that guy was. He worked on the tram and he lives in North Hollywood and writes screenplays at night. Yeah, I had this whole thing that I laid out as like just put that into the character. And he did it. And the other one that you’re probably referring to is me as Mr. DNA. Which again was something that happened very organically. We were–

[This is where my iPhone stopped recording for the first time in the history of me using the device to record interviews. I was able to notice this before the next question but do not have a transcript of the rest of this answer, so I’ll just tell you what he said: He recorded the voice for Mr. DNA as a scratch track, much like how animators do that for animated features. The sound guy put a few effects on his voice and it ended up sounding so close to the original that they decided not to rerecord with an actor. So while it wasn’t planned, the director has a voice cameo in the movie as Mr. DNA]

Me: The movie is a sequel and a reboot but it also is a commentary on sequels and reboots and over commercialization. Can you talk about that and did the studio ever push back on some of this meta commentary?

Colin Trevorrow:  Yes. You know, we had a lot of different themes that we wanted to address in this movie. And I really needed it to be about something for it to have a reason to exist. And how we got it past Universal I think suggests that they were policing our ideas in a way that they just weren’t. Universal was extremely supportive throughout this whole process for us to make the kind of movie we wanted to make. And in the end I think we all, you know, there’s a bit of a cynical exception and I guess it’s probably based on true stories that have come out of these filmmaking processes that there’s some kind of giant boardroom that’s making creative decisions and sending them down. And that never happened. I’m not sure if I can recall a single studio note that I got on this whole movie. And part of it was because Steven [Spielberg] has final cut. And I answer directly to him. And he and I had a creative relationship on this film that was extremely positive and one that resulted in a movie that I think takes certain creative risks that may or may not have been possible if that wasn’t the dynamic.

Me: On set you told us the story about how Steven suggested the idea for the water sequence, about how the bleachers hydraulically drop down below the tank to allow the audience to watch the dino eat the shark. I thought that was such a cool like little plus that he put on that sequence.

Colin Trevorrow: The yes and in improv terms. Yeah.

Peter Sciretta: Yeah. And I was wondering in post-production what was your experience with him? Like did he, do you have any stories of like how he affected the film?

Colin Trevorrow:  In post-production, it was really most about, mostly about cuts and my first director’s cut was 2 hours and 10 minutes. And the movie now is, 2 hours. Maybe 1:57 if you’re not counting the credits. And so that’s a very small amount of editing to go on over of course from assembly. And it was really him holding my feet to the fire and pointing out that I didn’t necessarily need every little bit of travel between one place or another. I remember there was a moment when we have a cut in the movie where it goes from a big dinosaur footprint after that scene with Bryce on the waterfall to the helmet with the scar and as the kid picks up the helmet. And it’s a good cut. And in between that there used to be a moment that’ll be on the DVD of the boys traveling together and so, you know, you don’t need this. You don’t need this. And it was like maybe 15 seconds long, 20 seconds long. And I said, no, but we won’t know how they got there. And he said, no, logic is the enemy of storytelling. And I thought was like oh God, no, that’s wrong. Like logic is crucial in storytelling. And as I thought about it more I realized what he was saying is that the audience is highly intelligent. And they will fill in those gaps and they will connect, you know, A to C without you necessarily including B. And, you know, that is that kind of thinking is what made it the movie that it is. I think it moves very well. And I think it has a propulsive intensity to it while also being very character focused and very performance based. And that I think is rare in a movie like this.

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Interview with Brian Dorton

Me: So what is TRASHOLOGY about?

Dorton: It is about a female college student that receives an assignment in film class to write a report on her favorite film genre which is trash cinema. In her research for the project she discovers a book called “Trashology” that contains three stories. The audience is then taken into each story.

How was the process of writing each story?

Basically the stories are about characters that are very trashy but really have no idea how trashy they are. I decided to created interlocking characters so that the three stories would also tell one big story with a final surprise ending.

Why did you decide to work on three stories about trashy characters? what attracts you to this “genre” if you think it is a genre.?

A character in the film actually asks that question; “Is that a genre?” …and to some it is. I love trashy southern characters that gossip, smoke cigarettes, and do hypocritical things. Normal people are boring to me. Living with normal folks is great but, watching them on TV is a real snoozefest.

Is there any filmmaker that influences your work?

The film is a tribute to filmmaker John Waters, he was the biggest influence for the project. I am happy that many of the reviewers so far have picked up on the connection. His films have very trashy characters that find themselves in very trashy scenarios, like in “Female Trouble” or “Serial Mom”.

Any other influence you might think of? I can think of Lynch? Almodovar…in their beginnings?

I believe their films are bizarre, have off the wall characters and are filmed with an artistic approach… so, if someday I am named in the same category of these great filmmakers is will be very flattering.

How did you cast your film?

I worked with actors I had worked with in the past and got a few from internet casting sites. It was funny how many actresses were offended by the dialogue and declined. One even said that after saying the words out loud, she feared what her religious family might think. I guess the screenplay has very offensive material to some. My question is why did they show up to the audition? They received the dialogue ahead of time!

Do you think actors are more self conscious about their image than directors?

Some are, actors are usually pretty willing to expose themselves. It goes with the territory. I think any actor that isn’t willing to be somewhat exploited.. might be in the wrong industry. Directors need to be able to pull the core of an actor to the surface and help them feel comfortable.

Do you think of the audience when making your films? I mean, do you think to yourself: If I do this, people will be “WOW” and if I do that, people are going to be saying “WTF”?

Whenever I think an audience will say “WTF?” ..that is when I am sure that it needs to be in the film.

What’s your next project?

Right now I am working on “The Horror Network” and next we hope to begin filming on “Crazy Fat Ethel”. I also have 2 short films in the works.

What leads you to make shorts?

Sometimes there are good stories to tell that aren’t long enough to be a full length film. I enjoy the work and working with great people, it is just that, sometimes it comes in a smaller package.

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Interview with Melissa Balan

ME: What is Sanskriti?

Balan: Sanskriti is a feature length documentary film, titled from the ancient Sanskrit word for “culture”. Shot on four continents and five countries, the film will profile five members of what has come to be known as the Millennial Generation – the young men and women born roughly between 1980 and 2000.  It’s a completely independent film, with no major financial sponsors or film studios backing us – just a group of young recent film school graduates, undertaking a massive passion project and relying on help from our friends and family to get it done.

 

What is this documentary about?

The film is an exploration of the Millennial Generation/Generation Y and our relationship with technology. As Millennials, we’re caught in the middle. As we’ve grown and matured, so have modern technological tools, and we’ve been a part of the evolution from dial-up internet and clunky gadgets to today’s 4G Wifi and smartphones. Technology is ingrained in us – our relationship with it is said to “define” us as a generation. Sanskriti is going to try to understand what this really means, and what are the implications of this relationship. As a generation, we are more connected globally than any other generation, and to us, the world is a much smaller, much more accessible place than ever.

The way we share information, learn, build relationships, communicate, and discover the world, is with technology, and so, looking to the future, as we grow into the world leaders, where will this relationship take us?

Who are we as a generation, and what is our point of view?

The final film will be compilation of our five member’s stories, and thus, a portrait of a global generation, and a discovery of the human condition in the digital age.

 

What are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about finally meeting in person the 5 subjects that I have only known online for months. This film started as just a small idea one evening, and for the past six months, I’ve been working tirelessly to make it happen. The search for my 5 subjects was a long and challenging one, and I’ve so much enjoyed getting to know these amazing people from around the globe. I feel like I’m already friends with all of them, and the prospect of being able to visit their country and learn more about them is definitely hugely exciting.

 

What are you most freaked out?

I think I’m the most freaked out about the travel aspect of the production, which surprises me, because I’ve had such wanderlust since a young age, and consider myself a bit of a globetrotter. I’ve visited more than 10 countries on 3 continents in the past few years, and I love to travel and explore new cultures. But this is definitely the biggest project I’ve ever been involved in, and is much more than just a trip or a vacation. Our crew consists of four people including myself, and for about two and half months, we’ll be flying around the world, staying in cheap hostels, probably not getting enough sleep and definitely not enough personal space! The filming of a documentary will be a life-changing adventure for all of us, and while I’m so excited to embark on this journey, I am quite anxious about all of the unforeseen problems that I know will arise. But I have confidence in my crew and in myself, and so I trust that everything will work out fine in the end.

 

What one piece of advice do you give fellow twenty-somethings looking to go full bore after a dream?

The one piece of advice I can think of is to not be afraid to fail. This is something that I’ve been struggling with a lot on this project. It is such a huge endeavor that requires so much work, perseverance, passion, and I think a little bit of luck too. There have been many points in the last six months when I’ve been overwhelmed – how will I find people to participate? how will I find crew members? how am I going to finance this? At points I’ve been so afraid that despite all of my efforts, all of the pieces just won’t fall into place and everything will fall apart. When that happens, I force myself to remember that I can’t let fear of failure stop me from giving it everything I have.

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