Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jedrzej Jonasz on "Low Budget"

What was your filmmaking background before beginning Low Budget?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: I studied film at Queen's University in Canada and graduated in 2000. Since then I have been working in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles on many different productions in just as many different roles. After making a few short films I started getting into long-form projects by directing the World War 2 documentary Against The Odds: Resistance in Nazi Concentration Camps.

My comedy production background came from working at a company called Trailervision ("Trailers for movies that should exist") [ ] in Toronto and directing a humorous reality series for Toronto One.

What was the inspiration for the story?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: The style of Low Budget was inspired by the work of Christopher Guest, with films such as This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting For Guffman. But the inspiration for the story itself came from a film I co-directed in film school called Where The Change Is, which was also a mockumentary about filmmakers, but in Where The Change Is, they were making a documentary about the 1999-2000 year change as an excuse to travel across Canada for a millennium party in Vancouver.

Why did you decide to do it in a 'mockumentary' fashion?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: The mockumentary style seemed most appropriate for this type of story where it was important to document the process the characters when through during the film. Plus, due to our inherent low budget, it is often easier to shoot a mockumentary with a smaller crew, lack of permits and basic equipment.

What obstacles did you overcome to make the film?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: The downside to shooting a mockumentary is that you end up with a lot more footage than in a regular narrative, so this means that your post-production is much more complex and can take a lot longer. We had a lot of great footage and spent a month just going through it and seeing how it would alter and shape our story.

Fortunately, with such ubiquitous access to editing systems, like Final Cut Pro (which is what we used), you can take a lot more time with editing and not rack up a huge bill... as long as you have financially flexible editors :)

How have audiences responded to the film?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: Low Budget is clearly a film industry insider movie and the audiences that have enjoyed it the most are filmmakers, film students, actors, artists and film enthusiasts. It's strikes a particular chord with those audiences as they can easily relate to what drives Jason and Jaye, even if they are caricatures.

Traditionally, film industry movies do not appeal to a mass audience and if popular, develop more of a cult following. This is why we have decided to pursue this method of online self-distribution where we can much more specifically target our core audience. That said, there has been a great response to the film from 'regular' audiences when screened in large groups. For some reason, non-film individuals can watch the film by themselves and not really be that into it, and then watch it again with a crowd and love it.

What was your favorite part of the process on Low Budget?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: The on-set production was my favorite part of the process. As the actors did a lot of improv on set, everyday was filled with constant laughter from the cast and crew. And because the script and production process was very flexible and we didn't have to answer to any studio execs, we had an enormous amount of creative freedom to experiment and take advantage of real-life situations around us.

What did you learn making this film that you'll take to subsequent projects?

JEDRZEJ JONASZ: Well, I guess the two main things I learned during Low Budget are somewhat contradictory. On one side we would have benefited from spending more time on the script in pre-production and working out some weak story issues before we went on set.

On the other side, we found that allowing the actors to improv and be spontaneous was invaluable and added elements to the story we could have never come up with ourselves. I guess a good balance of those two ideas is what I will be aiming for in my next projects.

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