Your new movie High Note
- in a few words, what is it about?
High Note is an indie,
druggie, dramedy, musical.
Note is a wild mix of heist movie, stoner comedy, social drama and
whatnot - so how did you come up with this blend, and was this intended
from the get-go or did it grow naturally?
came up with the idea of High Note
in my kitchen talking with my younger
brother, Jacob, and my DP, Carl Billington. I had written some
scripts before. But nothing was getting picked up. So we
wanted to come up with an idea for a script that we could shoot for next
to nothing. I had the storyline for the movie and started talking
about it. And we came up with High Note. I started writing
the script right away. And I would let my wife, Lindsay, read and
react as I was writing. She also plays Charlotte and was the
of inspiration when writing High
Note, and is any of this based on personal party experiences?
The music in the
basement is based off a night with a friend in Reno, NV. We showed
up to a friend of a friend's place. They ended up playing music
for us all night. That gave me the bare bones for a story.
can you tell us about High
Note's co-writer and co-director Jacob Royce Gustafson (any
relation by the way), and what was your collaboration like, both during
writing and the shoot?
Jacob is my younger
brother. He went to film school at UC-Santa Cruz. I couldn't
have made the movie without his help. He knows just about
everything about making a movie. Carl also went to film school in
Washington. Before the collaboration between the 3 of us, all I
had done was write scripts.
Note, your characters break out into song several times - so how
did this come about, and do talk about the songs in the film for a bit!
I wanted to write a
movie that was different, weird. Not mainstream. I didn't
want to make a movie that everyone, or even the majority, like or even
get. And I thought that playing music and singing live would add
some authenticity. The songs... Well, we had a singer/songwriter picked out and they had about 6 months to write them before
shooting. But they backed out with 3 months left. So, I took
it upon myself to write some songs. I have no musical background.
The rap was written by Tyler Roy Roberts, who plays Chris. My
sisters, Amy and Jenny also helped write a song. As well as
helped with the set, wardrobe, shoot schedule, Amy did the majority of
editing for this movie and our next. The song Minnesota Lullaby is for
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
This is my directorial
debut. And I definitely was a bit timid at the start of filming.
But luckily I had a great group of actors who could carry the script.
I felt like by the end of shooting I had found a good flow working and
talking indivually with each actor and actress. And our second
movie, Beyond the Shadows, was much smoother in relaying to the cast
what I wanted and why.
talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
Most of the cast were
friends with Jacob, Carl, or my sister Jenny. We had shot a teaser
1 year prior to filming in order to raise money on a fund sharing site.
And the few other actors we didn't know found us on Facebook or were
friends of the cast in the Seattle area. Tyler Roy Roberts plays
Chris. Tyler is just so talented. He is an amazing
actor and also will come to me with ideas. And most often his
ideas are better than mine and we use them. His ability and
professionalism really set the tone for the entire cast. Kennedy
Stinson plays Jocelyn. She found us on Facebook. She was
totally committed to the role; the day before filming started I picked
her up on the side of the road, hitch hiking. She was hitch hiking
just to know what it was like in real life. Method actress.
And just a terrific voice. She was nominated for Best Actress at a
film festival in Las Vegas. Sam Olive, a first timer, plays Otis.
And he dove right in. He lived with Tyler. Knew Jacob and
Carl well. My wife, Lindsay, was the acting coach. She
worked closely with Sam to develop that character. Erik Nash plays
Cliff. Erik is great friends with Jacob. We shot the teaser
at his house in the woods. Erik really did a great job with the
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The shoot was hectic and
fast and just a whole lot of fun. We took over the house of a
friend, who cameos as Jesus. We had a real tight shoot schedule.
So we shot in the rain, wind, cold, whatever. Everyone was just
excited to be a part of it and that made everything easier.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of High
The reception seems
pretty split. But, like I said, I didn't make a movie for the
masses. We got nominated for 5 awards in Vegas and were up for
Best Picture at film festivals there, and in Pennsylvania and England.
And we're going to make an online list for Best Stoner movies of
2019 made by the great Steve Bloom of High Times fame.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
We are currently
shopping our second movie, Beyond the Shadows, for distribution.
It's a horror/ dramedy that touches on Native American genocide. We used
a lot of the same actors from High Note. Including Tyler and Sam.
Plus 5 of the supporting actors and actresses. We are also in the
process of finding funding for the development of our 3rd and 4th
scripts. Hope to shoot one of them in the Spring or next Fall.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I just love writing.
I love movies. So I started writing scripts. I had no formal
training. I probably had so many small, technical errors with my
early scripts. But I just wanted to tell a story.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to High Note?
Just scripts. 5
scripts before I wrote High Note.
would you describe yourself as a director?
I just lucked into
working with some very talented people. They are the ones that
made High Note special.
who inspire you?
Tony Scott, tons and tons more.
Your favourite movies?
True Romance, City of God, Melancholia, Searching for Bobby Fisher.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Not that they are bad,
but I don't go crazy for all the superhero movies.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
High Note on Facebook:
... and available to watch on Amazon Prime. Our company Great Gus
Productions is on Facebook and Twitter.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Just a big thank you to
you for the review and to my cast and crew and family that made this
dream come true.
for the interview!