Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bruce Reisman on "The House That Jack Built"

Where did the idea for The House That Jack Built come from?

BRUCE: I was walking through a mansion that was half-done at sunset. It was being built by a friend of mine and it felt very creepy. I thought to myself, “Hey, this is a movie… scary movie.” It was that simple. I called my writing partner, Kris, and told him the idea and together we wrote what ended up being The House That Jack Built.

What was the co-writing process like? How were duties divided up?

BRUCE: Kris Black and I write every script the same way. Rarely in the same room once we’ve both worked out the story outline together. He does a draft, then I follow him as he writes. He is good at linear story telling, I am more experienced and proficient (and he would admit it so) at dialogue. He’s great at detail and visuals. Me, I’d essentially rather write a play.

How did you fund the film?

BRUCE: We funded the movie independently from a single source, and got some extra post -production investors to finish up when it was done filming. Very simple… once the money “drops.” Getting the money is ALWAYS a nightmare on Indie movies.

What was the smartest thing you did during pre-production or production?

BRUCE: Ha, the smartest thing was really the “luckiest” thing. Gail O’Grady. Casting her early on was a really smart move but she ended up being a dynamic force behind the scenes as an uncredited producer. We had never met, but she was a huge fan of the script and Indie movies in general. When our original location fell through, Gail allowed us to shoot the movie at her home. She is a true hero and one of the great talents and “mensches” of the business. We have remained good friends.

The dumbest?

BRUCE: Well, I made several dumb moves, but who doesn’t in movie making? It’s impossible to be smart all of the time. I should never, ever, have allowed my money people to force me into using a particular actor in the movie. The decision snow-balled into a situation that lingered on and on and on. It was the single costliest decision I made, not artistically, just financially.

How did the movie change during the editing process?

BRUCE: Wow. Do you have a week? Again, I was bamboozled into starting with an editor I had no chemistry with, and who, basically, had no respect for me as a director; even though he had NEVER produced or directed a movie on his own and I had been in the business for 40 years. It was unpleasant for both of us, I think… just two very different people. But I did trust him for a short while, and then when I saw the cut we had done together, I wanted to shoot myself. And I share the blame for not telling him exactly what I wanted and that it was his job to tell MY story.

So, when I went to finish the post at another studio, I found a new editor, a kid just starting out, named Sevan Markoosian. HE was a Godsend. We actually started from scratch, found a lot of footage the previous editor may or may not have buried from me, and assembled the movie as if it were the first time doing so. It was fun, magical, and worth every bit of extra time and money; and believe me, it cost me… it cost me my guts. But the movie turned out to be very close to my original vision and I’m very proud of it.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you can take to other projects?

BRUCE: Get enough money for post-production before you start.

If you are the director, meet as many Cinematographers as possible. Pick one who has your best interests at heart and who respects you. My cameraman was enormously gifted, but I don’t think he or I would ever want to be on the same set together again.

Get the money… all of it. And when you open your LLC account, make sure it takes (2) signatures to write a check or to make a withdrawal. Sounds simple, but when you are caught up in the excitement of getting your movie funded, the obvious just floats by.

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