Just two days away until Twin Cities Film Fest’s MN Shorts Showcase event! Today we’ve got yet another Q&A with a talented MN filmmaker whose film Classic. Becky. Party will be screening on Wednesday night (more info below).
I met first met John at the TCFF Gala in September 2017, thanks to his creative partner Jay Ness (one of the excellent camera crews who worked on my short film Hearts Want). John and Jay are the owners of CutJaw Film Co., a Minnesota-based film production company that’s done a number of short films such as Curse of the Invisible Werewolf and Bobby’s Run Off.
Check out my Q&A on his female-led comedy drama starring Rachel Weber, Larissa Gritti, and Anna Stranz, filmed entirely in Minneapolis.
Becky has arranged every detail for what’s supposed to be the perfect party. The food, the ambiance, the decor is all set, all that’s missing are the guests.
Q: What inspires you to write Classic Becky Party? The premise sounds quite personal. Was it?
Classic. Becky. Party. really came from an insecurity that a lot of people I think have which is what do you do when you throw a party and no one shows up. It has happened every time I’ve thrown any sort of party. Fortunately none of those have ever been as disastrous as Becky’s party. But it’s definitely a kind of funny kind of sad scenario that lots of people identify with. An empty party is a level of loneliness that audiences can really empathize with.
Becky is the kind of person that desperately wants everyone to think she has her shit together, so it was fun to see how much she could unravel and lower the facade she presents to those around her. Having her sisters arrive to witness her embarrassment just adds fuel to the fire.
Q: You’ve written quite a number of shorts and you often direct your own work. What’s the biggest challenge for you as a director to do that?
The biggest challenge to being both writer and director on a project is you have one less person to bounce ideas off of. Film is a collaborative medium so it’s good to have input from your cast and crew, experts in their field, so when you’re directing your own script it’s even more essential to listen to those collaborators. Of course it’s a two sided coin and there’s something incredibly liberating and fulfilling about taking an idea to the page and then taking that page to the screen.
Q: Who are some of your filmmaking influences? Specifically for dramas.
When tackling a drama I think it’s incredibly important to find moments of levity and catharsis for the audience, so any writer/director that can incorporate that balance into their work is someone that I gravitate towards.
A few filmmakers that come to mind are Billy Wilder, Mike Mills, the Coen Bros., and on the writer front definitely Greta Gerwig and Aaron Sorkin. I’m sure there are a million more, but those are the first that come to mind.
Q:Your film was set in a single location (an apt), what’s the challenges you faced in filming in one confined space like that? On the flip side, what are the main biggest strength?
The biggest challenge of a single location film is finding ways to keep the location feeling fresh. Luckily the loft we filmed in had a few distinct areas, such as the kitchen, the living room, and the dining room. This allowed us several options for us to block out the scenes in. It was also important to keep our characters moving around the space so that the audience doesn’t feel claustrophobic.
The biggest benefit of a single location though is saving on time and budget. Once we “moved in” to the space we were able to stay put for the two days it took to film. We didn’t have to worry about loading out and loading in to another location. Using a single location also brings a theatrical quality to the film. It’s a script that could easily be adapted to the stage.
Q: I love your three all-female cast. Would you tell us a bit about the casting process? Is it especially tricky since they’re playing sisters?
The casting process for this film was remarkably simple. I was familiar with the work of Rachel, Larissa, and Anna and knew instantly that they would work well as sisters. From our first pre-production meeting, it was obvious that the three of them shared a rare bond that was going to translate well to the screen. I was more interested in finding three performers that shared chemistry than three performers that looked like sisters. For me it was all about creating a believable relationship and rapport between these characters and Rachel, Larissa, and Anna were an essential part of that process.
This Is Home is screening on
Wednesday May 30th at 7:30 PM
Many filmmakers, cast and crew will be present representing their films and answering your questions.
Selected films include:
- The Great White Storm – Directed by Jon Thomas
- Deep Cover – Directed by Keith Langsdorf
- Bite the Bullet – Directed by Ryan Huang
- This is Home – Directed by Jason Schumacher
- Classic.Becky.Party – Directed by John J. Kaiser
- The Burial Plot – Directed by Chris Fletcher
- Zomburbia – Directed by Nathan Wold
- 2Bullets – Directed by Brandi Harkonen
*TCFF MEMBERS RECEIVE FREE ADMISSION!
Get your tickets! »
John is a Minneapolis, MN based screenwriter and film director and co-founder of CutJaw Film Co. His directorial debut, Bobby’s Run Off, premiered at the Twin Cities Film Festival in 2016 and has since screened in multiple film festivals and featured on filmshortage.com.
In 2017, John was awarded a Jerome Foundation Artist Grant in support of his first feature length film Only Dance Can Save Us. Slated to begin production in 2018, aiming for a 2019 release. CutJaw Film Co. is currently working on a sci-fi thriller feature film Dark Cloud, also scheduled to be released next year.
Thanks John for chatting with us!