Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jason Christopher on "Nobody Gets Out Alive"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Nobody Gets Out Alive?

 JASON: I always filmed stuff when I was a kid. I don't have those Super 8 Spielberg stories, but I got those Handy Cam stories, ha.

 My producer Deven Lobascio and I did this movie that was called BarRats when I was like 10 and he was like 8 haha. I was obsessed with Mallrats. My parents were cool and let me watch whatever I wanted pretty much besides the nudity...had to close the eyes for that. I filmed a few movies with friends and my brother around the neighborhood.

I did my first serious thing when I was 17. My film study teacher asked me to submit a video for a film festival, cause I took the class seriously. Turned it in and I got sent to the guidance counselor and expelled from school for making things too ahead of my time and too violent. My brother who plays the main character in it shoots himself at the end and blood sprays everywhere -- it was awesome.

When I was like 20, I think, I made this pretty cool short that I did all seriously. Then reunited with Deven and we made this no budget flick called The Pendant, people really dug it. We sold out the local theater 187 seats and turned away 200 people. It was a great feeling, so after that Deven asked if I had any scripts. That script was called Down The Road (original title of Nobody Gets Out Alive). Now that flick has three names people know it by, so annoying: Originally Down The Road; other territories: Punishment; and in the US: Nobody Gets Out Alive.

Where did the idea come from and what was your process for working on  the script?

JASON: I always wanted to write a script, a throwback to those 70's and 80's genre horror flicks. They're the only kind I watched when I was a kid. Unfortunately, I was born in '87 so I didn't get to see them first hand. They're the only ones that stuck with me until Scream came out.

It wasn't until my father died from a freak accident when I was 17 that I was like all right...I'm going to personally kill someone myself (from anger) or I'm going to write a script. I wrote the first draft when I was 17 years old (2005) and it went through drafts all the way up to filming in 2010.

Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for recouping your costs?

JASON: My producer found a majority of the money. I found some of the budget. We had investor meetings and stuff and a lot of them fell out. Only one came through and gave a nice bit.

We were stuck for a bit then we did the unexpected...we asked our family. It was so crazy how easy it was to get the rest of the budget from our family members. I thought it was going to be really hard because I don't come from a rich family or anything like that but the people we asked they were so for it and more. It was amazing.

I definitely recommend other people to try that for their first flick. My family understood this is the only thing I was good at though, haha.

What camera did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

JASON: We used the Red Camera for camera A and camera B was the Canon 7D. Unfortunately, I'll probably never get to make a movie shooting on film. I love the look of film. Digital cameras leave this milky look. There's only a couple flicks I know that were shot on a Red and don't look milky. I didn't want that with ours.

I threw a ton of grain on the flick, really set you back more to that 70's and 80's vibe I was going for. It's really cool though in post. There'd be some moments on set where the DP was like, just punch in closer in editing if you want a tighter shot. I was like, get the hell out of here. But in post I tried it and with the resolution those cameras have, you could never even tell.

Did the movie change much in the editing process, and if so, how?

JASON: The original cut of the movie was like 87 minutes long and we shrunk it down to 78 minutes for the final cut. Some scenes just dragged on or didn't really fit with the tone of the flick.

I edit my own stuff too and I used to be a control freak about nobody else helping me edit. I'm an idiot and my color corrector who is also a great editor did another cut, making things sharper, switching some things, and I couldn't be happier. He'll definitely be my editing partner from here on out. We share the same taste in a lot of things and it's just really great to have another eye.

How did you find distribution for the movie and what was that process like?

JASON: We knew we had to get the money back to the investors, family or not, not paying someone back is the absolutely worst.

I wanted to tour the movie first. Nowadays YOU yourself have to build an audience. The system isn't how it used to be. I didn't want to just start looking for a distributor right away. We toured the flick to I think, close to 20 film festivals. Nothing big but they're film festivals with a small audience...even if two people watched it, that's two more people who know about the flick.

Deven and I won two best feature awards, I won a best director award, and actor Brian Gallagher (who plays the villain Hunter Isth) got a best actor award. Those things would've never happened if we went straight to a distributor.

We wanted to build buzz first. We sent it to a few distributors and just never heard back. We got a sales rep and that was another smart move. They sold the movie to 12 Germany? If we didn't have a sales rep that would've never happened. It was funny though, our US distributor we have now was one company that never got back to us, but when our sales reps sent it they got right back to them. Companies seem to take you more seriously if you have one. So far they have me smiling.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

JASON: The smartest thing was getting as much as I could've with the access I had. I couldn't get into college so I went to movies. I went with my gut instinct. I went with my eye. I learned so much though.

The dumbest thing I did was not be too demanding. I'm such a down to earth dude and like to make everything fun in the long run, but when filming this flick, it was the first legit thing I ever did, so I was too nice. I got screwed for some shots I wanted and stuff. On the next flick, that's not happening.

I always felt that the no budget flick I did with Deven was our high school movie, Nobody Gets Out Alive is our college movie, and the next one is going to be the first movie. Does that make sense?

Sure. And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

JASON: I learned about being responsible, being organized, and being planned. If you don't have those things, you're going to fail a ton. Those are crucial.

This job is also perfect for people who can do more than 12 things at once, haha. My mind is always spinning and happy I have that body skill to get done a ton of things at once.

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