Interview: Jason Brown – Nightfur
Jason Brown sheds some light behind his quirky indie film, Nightfur (review), which he wrote and directed. Not only does he tell us how he got the drummer from “Band of Horses” to act in his film but also how they may be rich next time they go back to North Carolina.
Nightfur has a pretty unique premise, where did the idea for the film come from?
We wanted to create a movie that reflected the mystery of existence both symbolically and stylistically. I am fascinated by the fact that so much is unknown about our existence in the grand scheme of things. When developing the screenplay, I knew that I wanted to offer viewers something different. I found that, for this project, I was more inspired as a director to explore a New Wave road rather than follow more traditional methods of storytelling. I suppose that is a major freedom and advantage when creating an ultra low budget feature. The idea for the film came from some of my favorite topics; science & technology versus nature, physical versus metaphysical, order versus anarchy. I created the characters to represent these types of opposites and was interested in seeing how they interacted when presented with an unexplained phenomenon. In life, things “just happen” and we adjust organically to them. To me, Nightfur is shrouded in mystery – in more ways than one. This is reflective of our existence. Much like a flashlight in a dark room. Ok, enough of this artsy talk!
How many days did you spend filming?
Because Nightfur was made on an indie budget, what was the biggest challenge in terms of lack of money?
We had to cut a lot of corners – in fact we may have cut all the corners, resulting in a round movie. A key goal in my mind was to complete the picture — no matter what. Jeter and I made hefty sacrifices all along the way in order to bring the project to completion. It was very much like origami in the sense of not knowing exactly how it would all appear in its final form. The biggest sacrifice was having to squeeze the entire shoot into 9 days. It was necessary to complete in that time frame due to many other aspects of corner cutting. More time would have have allowed more careful execution of scenes, but would have been beyond our means. We moved incredibly fast. It was very much like driving with a blindfold on, which I suppose was an ultimate test of artistic instinct. Our shooting schedule was rock solid, designed to be as lean and as fast as possible. Luckily, when unforseen events derailed our schedule, we were able to swap scenes and days without losing too much. Even after all of the sacrifices, I feel that we were lucky to be able to create the film from a fine art stand point rather than having commercial confines. It goes without saying that theatrical sale of any picture relies heavily on actor fan base or media hype, which is a luxury this type of film seldom sees. With a larger budget, you can put together a more enticing package for buyers.
Do you have a favorite scene from the film?
My favorite scene, I’d have to say, is the interior of the attic when Helen pays frank a visit and they discuss Judy and the Zither. It is simple, but beautiful to me. Being shot late in our shoot, I feel that the scene captures a moment when those two actors were in their best frame of mind – truly becoming the characters and, for a moment, putting aside the of tough times we were having behind the scenes.
Describe the casting process for this film.
We put out casting notices in several publications, but ultimately found our actors from a pool of friends as opposed to casting sessions. My producing partner, Jeter, turned out to be a perfect fit for Frank as he already knew the character better than anyone. Jana saved the day by stepping in as Helen when our first actor had a baby and became unavailable for the role. Creighton joined the production as John Moon by way of our Producer, Jeter. He was perfect for the role and went above and beyond by helping build the Dr. Roberts lab set! He was a huge help and inspiration all along the way. We spoke with local theater groups and schools to find the smaller roles in the film.
Band of Horses are a pretty big indie band, how did you not only get to use them as part of your soundtrack, but act in your film?
Jeter is an old friend of Creighton’s and recalled that he expressed an interest in being part of a film. He had the perfect personality and look for the recluse character of John Moon. The fact that he was in Band Of Horses was secondary, but their music was on our wish list. We lucked out that the band was into the vibe of the film and wanted to be a part of the soundtrack. Creighton is by far one of the best team players I’ve ever worked with. He was truly dedicated to the role and we couldn’t have done it without him. I am very inspired by all of the music in our film and feel that it compliments the themes and visuals perfectly. We had some amazing groups involved with the music; The Parson Redheads, The Stevenson Ranch Davidians, Lucy Langlas, and Black Nile.
Any interesting tidbits you can share with us about film?
We were chased off of someone’s land by shotgun. Our van almost slid into a 20 foot ravine, but we were able to drag the vehicle out by chains. I had to shoot the film myself after our DP backed out one week before the shoot. We discovered GOLD deep in North Carolina and plan to go back to mine it someday. The generator almost exploded and started shooting out blue flames. The camera was smashed to the ground when the jib arm was left unattended – we had to use gaff tape to secure the camera for the rest of the shoot. It was nine days of non-stop “rolling with the punches”, but we were determined to get the movie finished. We truly were in the trenches of filmmaking.
How did you get into film, did you go to film school?
I attended NCSA (North Carolina School Of The Arts) and met Jeter while studying directing around 1999. I soon began a career in Los Angeles working on major studio films. Most recently Tron: Legacy and Captain America. A world where a single concept design could feasibly cost more than the entire budget of Nightfur. I feel lucky to have worked for and learned from some of my childhood behind-the-scenes heroes.
Tell me about the advertising process and how successful you think getting your film out there is.
We are in negotiations with a major distributor right now. Over the past few months I have been self distributing in support of indie video stores though my own company. Being a very D.I.Y. project, we have extremely limited advertising capabilities but have been doing the best we can via the internet and industry connections. Only time will tell how successful our efforts will be.
What film directors do you look up to the most?
Fellini, Spielberg, Hughes, Hitchcock, Cohen Brothers, Zemeckis, and many more!
Who came first, the band or the film and how did you decide on the name?
The film came first. I have always played music and was forming a new project at the time. We didn’t have a name and everyone seemed to like “Nightfur” for the imagery it created. I thought it would be fun to try and make both projects reflect each other and have common stylistic traits.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
Yes, many! I am working on my next feature film which will take things to a whole new and exciting level.