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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Jeremy LaLonde - Origins Of An Indie Film Director



We clamor to movie theaters, pre-set our favorite cable prime movie channel, or we head off to our favorite video store to purchase a copy of the new release of our favorite film. The directors of these films have become house hold names, some of them even garnering a place in the annals of "Trivial Pursuit© ".

They all had to start somewhere, but often times we don't know the origins of their journey not just as film makers, but story tellers. They were all at one time "young someones" who had a story that they wanted to tell and a specific way in which they wanted to tell it. George Lucas, most notably know for "Star Wars", created his first film an independent documentary called, "The Rain People".

George Lucas on the set of  "The Rain People with Francis Ford Coppola
Peter Jackson, the brilliant mind that brought "The Lord of The Rings Trilogy" to life, made an indie piece called "Bad Taste" as his first film with a $20.00 hand made steadi-cam.

Peter Jackson being interviewed on his film "Bad Taste"
Sam Raimi, who helped bring Spiderman to life from the comic pages to the big screen, cut his teeth on a 30 minute short titled "Within The Woods", which was later evolved into "The Evil Dead".

Sam Raimi on the set of Within the Woods
Spike Lee, what can I say?! This man is a BEAST! (which translates into he's extremely talented) Spike's first film to truly gain critical acclaim, was Malcom X. Spikes first film was....come on say it with me, that's right, "She's Gotta Have It".

Spike Lee in a promo shot for She's Gotta Have It.
M. Night Shyamalan, who I'm very proud to say makes his home in the Philadelphia area, made his presence known within the film industry with "The Sixth Sense". M.N.S's first film was titled "Praying With Anger"; he also starred in the film.

M. Night Shyamalan directed and starred in indie film Praying With Anger
Steven McQueen who is best known as the visionary behind Oscar winning film "12 Years A Slave", a film that still has me reeling, expressed himself first in a indie project called "Bear".

Steven McQueen in his first indie film "Bear"
Those of you that know me, know that when somethings piques my interest I dig in with both feet. I'll scour the internet for hours trying to familiarize myself with object du'jour. A few month's ago I literally fell into love with a show called "Lost Girl". Now, that being said I don't know ANYONE who's seen this show and hasn't fallen head-over-heels in love with actor Kris Holden-Ried, who play the character of Dyson. Well, one thing led to another, and after several cups of coffee and almost just as many hours on the internet I thought I had seen everything KHR.

It wasn't until I caught a tweet that said two of his films where now available for purchase, "The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard", and "Sex After Kids". So I did what any warm blooded fan would do. I bought them! After watching both films I was in love again, but this time with the films themselves. Both of them ebb and flow so smoothly between slightly *ahem* adult humor, to moments so poignant, that you find yourself with almost not time to dry your tears of laughter before you're shedding tears of another kind.

So it stands to reason that I wanted to get to know Indie Film director Jeremy LaLonde a little bit better. After a bit of stalking on Twitter, mostly harmless *wink*, I decided to approach Jeremy with the idea of an interview. Thank goodness he said yes.

I want to thank Merja Mansner @merma72 on Twitter for submitting a fan question. Love you Girl!

Merja Asks: What was the main reason you wanted to become a film maker?

JL - I’ve been a storyteller all my life.  When I was four I’d make little picture books and I had this awesome teacher that would laminate them for me.  I was always writing when I was a kid.  I had notebooks full of ongoing stories, characters.  I’d play by myself for hours with my toys, constructing a story for them as I went along.  I had a uncle with a massive film collection, and so I would borrow a dozen movies at a time, and my parents didn’t really audit what I was watching, so I watched everything - I literally could not get enough.  In high school I got involved in the drama program big time and acted, wrote and directed plays and had my own theatre company in the summer where I’d do original scripts that myself and a friend co-wrote.  And at one point I knew I had to make a conscious choice for a medium to focus on - and I chose film for a variety of reasons - mostly, I think, because it had the less limitations on it as an art form.  I mean, I’m a storyteller largely because I have no other skills - this is what I live and breath and love. 


PC- I fell in love with your films after stumbling across the film "The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard", and I went on to watch "Sex After Kids"; both incredible films. If you had to choose a singular favorite moment from each film what would it be and why?



JL - Yikes!  Favourite? It’s  impossible; and, if I answered this five minutes from now I’d likely make a different choice.  I almost want to be a jerk and not answer this, ‘cause it’s really hard to choose - there’s a bit of Sophie’s choice wrapped up in that question… In Paul Shepard I think the “fluffer” scene and also the break-up scene make me particularly happy ‘cause…. because they were both difficult to do, for different reasons - and I’m ultimately just happy that they work.  For Sex After Kids… damn… I’m going to be a jerk on this one and say I just can’t choose. 



PC - In TUWOPS, the ending quite frankly blew my mind. What was the impetus for the ending?



SPOILER ALERT!  Well, it’s a film with a lot of talking, so there’s something nice about ending it silently.  It’s also a film about modern relationships and people have different feelings than they did a generation ago, so I think it’s nice to let people bring their own feelings to a film like this and how it ends.  Some people come up and tell me that they’re glad that Paul and Sam didn’t get together in the end, and others say “I wish I could have heard him proposing to her.” So clearly it means different things to different people, which makes me happy - that was the goal and it turned out well.  



PC - My favorite character in Sex After Kids was Vanessa, played by Amanda Brugel. Amanda actually won an award for this role right? Tell me about working with her?



JL - Amanda won the ACTRA Award for it - which is pretty impressive for a little film like ours, especially given some of the amazing people she was up against.  There was no political reason for us winning the award other than Amanda gave an amazing performance and she deserved to be recognized - and in a way I think represents a pretty outstanding cast in general.  I had an open door policy with this film and encourage the actors, especially those who were parents, to volunteer their own stories and experiences to the film and so there’s a lot of Amanda in the part of Vanessa.  She really wanted to be real in it and tell her ego to 
“eff off ”.  



PC - I'm going to throw in two questions for all of the Kris Holden-Reid fans out there! LOL! In Sex After Kids Kris' first scene was a doozy! Lots of skin there, tell us about that day of shooting.



JL - That day… well we shot that scene in the condo that Kris was living in at the time, and as you can imagine we kept the crew in the room pretty minimal.  Kris and Christine had previously worked together so that always helps.  It’s interesting, there are a lot of sex scenes in the film, but I never really treated them like sex scenes - none of them are overly sexy - really we worked hard to make them work as honest and comedic.  Kris is so great in the film, and what I love about it is that I think it really captures him as a person.



PC - In TUWOPS, Kris' plays the title character Paul. The evolution of Paul was beautifully executed by KHR. Did both of you collaborate on the character or did you have a very clear vision of where you wanted the character to go before casting?



JL - I spent a lot of time work-shopping that script, and that’s the project I met Kris on.  We offered him the role and that was about it.  Kris brought this really boyish enthusiasm to it and made Paul loveable despite his obvious flaws.  No small challenge.  I’m really proud of his work in that film.  



PC - Tell us about "Bastards", the new short film that you're working on.



JL - Bastards is all finished now - we shot it last November and it was the opening night short at the Canadian Film Festival back in March.  We’re not doing a whole lot of festivals with it mostly just because the intention was always to use it to pitch the concept as a TV series, so we’re just in the early stages of that.  It’s about an aging rock star who finds out he’s dying and invites his illegitimate children to live with him with the promise of making one of them his heir.  We had a great cast (including Julian Richings, Ennis Esmer, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Paul Amos, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Suresh John, Maya Lowe, & Andrew Lewis), which if we can make it into a series, I’m hoping we can retain.  So stay tuned for more news on that.  We have a full length pilot we’ve shot, but eventually a nine minute version will be up on the BravoFACT website, which was the amazing organization that made it possible for us to make the film.



PC - After having the opportunity to view "Bastards", and knowing that your goal is to shop it around as a pilot, tell us how different it will be to have so much more time to round out your characters than the typical 90-120 minutes of a film?




JL - Television is sort of the granddaddy of character based storytelling, so I’m looking forward to having that opportunity if we can get the series going.  I’m also a firm believer of not having a lot of filler, so for me the challenge will be keeping the arc for the characters on track.  That said, television is more honest in terms of how slowly people change - it’s more honest in a sense.  That and it’s hard for me to get excited about a series idea unless I can see several seasons ahead in the story and know that it’s got room to grow and ways to keep it fresh and exciting.  So many series blow their wad on the first season.  I’m sure it’ll evolve and change, but I’ve got a pretty strong idea already what the story of Jack Cage and his Bastards will be. 


PC - Let's talk fans! You, your films, your actors, all of you have a so many really cool fans. What do you like most about your fans?



JL - I don’t think I’d be doing this interview without them, really.  I can’t speak for my actors, but the success of my projects has a lot to do with the word of mouth garnered by the fans of the projects.  I’m really fortunate to live in a time where you can connect easily with the people who support your work.  The simple answer would be that, my favourite thing is that they exist and that they care.  But really, my favourite thing is a selfish one - it’s knowing that the work connects with people, and that makes all the challenges worth it.



PC - What are the biggest challenges of being an independent film maker?


JL - Getting people to know you made a film and that it’s available for purchase :)  The market is over-saturated and it’s often difficult to cut through the noise.  We’ve been very fortunate to have the awesome support we have.  Financing a film is difficult and its own beast, but I think getting it out into the world is a beast - especially since distribution models are constantly shifting and changing.



PC - Some of the world’s best film work to hit the big screens, as well as some of today's major directors evolved from the Indie Film Circuit. What do you find to be the best thing and the hardest thing about being an Indie Film director?



JL - The best thing, I suppose, is the freedom.  When you’re making films on the cheap people bug you a lot less, and there’s less people to answer to.  I’ve been fortunate in the two feature films I’ve made so far I’ve been able to make exactly the films I’ve wanted to.  I’m a collaborator and value others input, but it’s nice to be able to have the final say and have it all be your vision - that will change as budgets increase - but hopefully I’ll have gained some trust in people from my pass efforts.  There’s lots of difficult things - you don’t have money to throw at problems, you never have enough time, enough days, but somehow you make it work because you have to.  The most difficult is, really, just making sure people know it exists. 



  
PC - If there was one film that you could choose to re-make, what would it be and why, and who would you cast as the main characters?


JL – Arg!… I’m not good at stuff like this.  I prefer to do original stuff - there’s some books and comics I’m interested in doing as films, but those aren’t really re-makes.  I’d love to see the Harry Potter books redone as a television series - maybe a decade or so from now - though I’m not likely the person to do that… I just don’t know - I mean any films that I love I wouldn’t want to touch, so really I’d have to pick a film that had a great concept but shitty execution.  I’d love to see a version of Scott Pilgrim where the story was similar to the comics in that it takes place over a long-term relationship rather than just a week or so - I think what was really beautiful about that story got lost in that adaptation somehow… I’m not doing well at this at all… I think that if you’re going to remake something you’ve got to say something new about the idea, you need to add to the conversation.  I just can’t think of something to be honest.  Sorry!



PC - Where do you see yourself going from here?



JL - Well, I’ve got several projects that are on the go and close to getting going.  Keep an eye out for a crowd funding campaign at some point this summer - if all goes well I’ll be in production with something this fall.  And I’m developing a few things for television, which is a medium that is really exciting to me and hope to work in as a writer/director more in the near future.  



PC - Tell me one thing about you that the general public doesn't know?


JL - I’m a pretty open book, especially if you follow me on twitter (@LaLondeJeremy), I have very little pride.  I’m nerdy and obsessive compulsive about things.  I had a week hiatus recently and was caught up on everything, so I decided to teach myself how to draw.  I like mastering new skills like that and become really obsessive about it - it was like that with cooking a few years back.  I just dive into something full force for better or worse. 


PC - What was the last song that was playing on your listening device of choice?


JL - The Jason Collett re-mix of Stars’ ‘Reunion’ from the album “Do You Trust Your Friends”


PC - Favorite book?


JL - Don’t have one, really.  I don’t have a lot of spare reading time either, so if I’m reading something it’s usually because it’s for reference for something I’m working on, or if it’s to consider it for adaptation.  As a fan of writing I love Richard Stark’s Parker novels - they make me want to do a crime film one day.  I love the Walking Dead comic books.  There’s a lot of authors that I love, but there’s no one thing that I gravitate too - I love all genres and styles.  


PC - Must have snack food?

JL - If I have a plate of nachos in front of me, I’m a happy man.  


PC - What is your biggest fear?

JL - That someone finds out my biggest fear, obviously.

PC – Jeremy, if at the end of your life you could only be remembered for one thing, what would you want that to be?

JL - That I cared and didn’t half-ass anything.



UPDATE ON SEX AFTER KIDS! Sex After Kids has just been nominated for 7 Canadian Comedy Awards - Jeremy LaLonde as writer/director and for male/female performers: Zoie Palmer, Ennis Esmer, Shannon Beckner, Jay Brazeau, and Amanda Brugel.

For more information on Jeremy LaLonde's projects check out hi website  http://www.jeremylalonde.com/JLaLonde/HOME.html

You can purchase the Untitled Work of Paul Shepard (TUWOPS) and Sex With Kids on Jeremy's site. You can also purchase TUWOPS on iTunes, and Sex After Kids on Amazon.com



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