CA: How did you go from being a script supervisor to Directing?
JS: Well it wasn’t so easy and it wasn’t something that I planned out, my writing partner and I reached out to a few directors and that fell through. So I decided to do it myself, I stepped up to be the director because quite frankly, In standing next to directors for so many years I felt like I had really good teachers, All of a sudden I had money standing behind me and honestly when your doing a low budget film and you only have 22 days to shoot, you take what you can get and they got me. I mean honestly I dont know how else to say it, its like I didn’t plan on doing it until the very end and I am really happy I did , It was a really enjoyable experience. You realize what you know what you learned from all the years of watching.
CA: How did the story come about?
JS: A young man named Jared Kurt came to me and said I want to write a script about K-11 and I had no idea what it was. He gave me 10-15 pages of a couple of scenes and I thought wow this is pretty crazy. I did some research and found this place is real and I thought why not, this is cool, this is different, I love this. It took us about a year to write the script.
CA: That was one of the things I liked, it wasn’t a traditional story, there was some uniqueness to say the least.
JS: Yeah it’s interesting to me, because K-11 is real, its a real place and because it’s real it has a real timeline, it has structure, it has history. and what we did is we took all of those elements and made up characters and put them in there. Had a record producer, a guy thats rich, a fish out of water, a guy who absolutely does not belong in there. And took the plug out of the tub and watched the water role down the rabbit hole.
CA: Did you actually go and visit the real facility?
JS: Oh yeah on a number of occasions,
CA: How true to life is it? Obviously for dramatic purposes you’re going to have to punch up a few things
JS: Let me just say we shot this at Sybil Brand which is the woman’s jail which is closed down, but the floor plan actually mirrors Men’s County jail. So the dorm itself looks like the dorm. The only difference is the tower where the guards watch the inmates, in the real K-11 its raised up about 5 feet, our tower was on the floor., Aside from that it looks just the same and we copied the colors, the uniforms, everything, from a visual standpoint it looks like K-11, from a story standpoint we made up the story the corruption the guards. Even the color and the lighting is true, pretty accurate.
CA: For a low budget film you put in a lot of detail
JS: sometimes the truth is better than what you can make up, it has that old age, dirty grungy sound, no windows, no soft surfaces, there is an echo in there. it has such a dynamic that is unique. Plus all the lighting is overhead so you have those down angle shadows on people’s faces that are really unattractive, I thought it was great. I am a painter so it’s all about color and lighting, you want it interesting and different
CA: You hit the nail on the head with interesting and different
JS: Thanks I think?
CA: In terms of casting how did that come about? It took me a while to realize that was DB Sweeney in there.
JS: That is Awesome, I have known him quite a while, I never thought of him for this film. for me he is the classic boy next door handsome guy, and that’s not the character. He wanted this role which was great for me since casting is so important. It makes the film. But if you have actors who are just there for a paycheck especially on a small film it really shows, He brought it he stepped outside of his comfort zone in a big way and we designed his character after Hitler, it was a subtle change for him and it made a huge impact.
CA: Kate Del Castillo is big in Mexico, I wasn’t familiar with her and I wasn’t sure if she was a guy or a girl
CA: Anybody you wanted that fell through?
JS: Yes and No, Kate was the first person we cast, honestly when I met her I thought this woman is talented and so powerful, She was just the sweetest girl she was so driven, she wanted this role. You have to cast for a film like this people that embrace the characters and bring more, if they’re afraid or intimidated by the character you lost them. Originally my daughter (Kristen Stewart) attached herself to play the role of Butterfly and I thought that would have been amazing but as the years went by and you have got to remember this is six years in the making, Six years ago when my daughter was 16, 17 years old she wanted to play Butterfly really bad. We kind of altered the character to suit her. As time went buy she got really popular she was doing much bigger films. We thought it would be much better for everybody if she went and did Snow White.
CA: Was that a hard conversation?
JS: No not at all, it was better for K-11 at that point, she was too big for K-11, It wouldn’t have been a Kristen Stewart movie, It’s still a Goran Visnjic Film, You know what I mean. She would have been number four on the call sheet. When we found Portia DoubleDay it was sort of kismet. Portia came to the table with all this enthusiasm, She cut off her hair, she had this long blond hair and she cut it off for us and tied it up kind of crazy and stepped into that role so easily, she did an amazing job and she was really fun to work with. I sometimes wonder how it would have been working with Kristen in that role, It’s such a sensitive role, mother daughter it would have been a strange dynamic, As much as I would love to work with my daughter one day I think we all made the right decision.
CA: Yeah that might be tough; filming a rape scene with your daughter and Tiny might not be the easiest thing.
JS: no but it’s funny Portia and Tiny became really good friends and because of their relationship they would laugh between takes they weren’t intimidated they were able to take it to a much darker place, its sometimes difficult to do those kind of scenes but when the actors are not afraid of the material and they are friends of one another. it makes everyone much more at ease. It wasn’t even a closed set. It was ok now we are going to do this, No worries it’s just another scene and then you take it out and edit the movie and you say wow that was really intense. It didn’t feel like it on the set.
CA: It had a nice airy feeling on the set?
JS: We knew it was working but because of the laughter between takes it really wasn’t a big deal. we were working so quickly. You shoot a movie in 22 days you have a lot on your plate. So you don’t have a lot of time to sit around and labor how it feels. We had 46 people in one room and we had to choreograph these scenes so that one blended into the next and they didn’t look like scenes, but like a big ballet that was choreographed.
CA: It’s one thing dealing with an entire prison
JS: Exactly you have no walls so where do you go? One thing that helped was we shot in Continuity. The hair, the makeup the wardrobe didn’t change. You were able to shoot in order to give the actors a foundation to stand on.
CA: How did Jason Mewes come to the project?
JS: Jason is a really good friend of mine and I wanted to use him, I wanted to work with him. The goal was to show everyone that he is not just a goofy comedian that he is a very good actor, a dramatic actor. Unfortunately some of his stuff got cut because of time. I do think that Jason really pulled it off it was a really good character for him.
CA: It seemed like a lot of the characters not only played against type but they pulled it off.
JS: Jason’s a really good friend of mine we have been friends for a long time and I thought how great to work with your friends and for me it’s a big movie this little move for me is a big movie and it had a lot of challenges a lot of hardships that went along with it. I feel like the casting director Pam Dixon helped me make a lot of good choices, it’s all about casting.
CA: How did it turn out compared to how you anticipated it turning out?
JS: Well, it’s interesting we had a whole opening we shot that shows Raymond how he got into trouble and all that stuff, we decided to throw it away because I didn’t think we needed it. Very much like Cuckoo’s Nest when Jack Nicholson arrives they take the handcuffs off of him and you don’t know why he is there and you don’t need to know. So on that line we decided to start him in the jail, it’s about K-11 it’s not about Raymond Saxx then you find out about the character when he finds out.
CA: Is it true that you have wolves as pets?
JS: HAHA yes its true, I rescue them.
CA: Where do you rescue a wolf from?
JS: From people that can’t handle them, why do you want one?
CA: No I thought it was the coolest thing. When I was young I wanted a monkey and a wolf, Are they domesticated?
JS: They are socialized, I am a tamer, I love them, they come in and out of a doggie door and they live on my property and in my house. It’s very cool.
CA: What’s your next project?
JS: I like edgy films, and have a couple in development, one is a supernatural thriller that starts out in Ancient China, Its about a temple that gets unearthed. It gets deconstructed then reconstructed in the United States along with its residents from 2010 B.C that’s kind of cool, There is another one I want to do with gangs and drugs that takes place in the 70’s in New York, Italians vs the Irish and its all kids. I am kind of excited. Right now you right the scripts and you throw it out to the universe and see what sticks. It takes a long time K-11 is 6 years now, it takes a long time for independent film makers to rev up and get funding. Were hoping to close that gap with a modicum of success from K-11
CA: Was getting distribution hard?
JS: No it actually wasn’t, were with Breaking Glass for domestic distribution and now we are opening up March 15th in 15 cities.
CA: Is it going to be on VOD as well?