Your new movie The Hit
- in a few words, what is it about?
literal terms, itís about a hard-hearted hit woman who falls in love
with her suicidal mark. If you go beyond the superficial plot, itís
really about how we can be our own worst enemies as a result of the
seemingly minor choices we make.
Basic question, why
make a hitwoman the lead character of your movie? And was The
Hit at all inspired by other hitwoman flicks?
it comes to fiction, Iím drawn to murder and mayhem since it gives me an
opportunity to explore all the stuff that I couldnít and wouldnít do
in real life. Itís cathartic and also a ripe arena for comedy. But
metaphorically, I think thereís something interesting about a person who
plays God, but with cash dividends. A hitwoman is so much more fascinating
than a hitman. Men are historically more aggressive so itís less
surprising. I love a female character whoís kickass. And thereís more
curiosity about how she came to her profession. Of course, I try to answer
that rather glibly, but I think that adds to her dimensionality. I do love
the fact that thereís a whole genre of hitwoman films and television
from Prizziís Honor to Killing Eve, and Iíve seen most of them.
Unconsciously, Iím sure I was influenced. When Iím writing, however, I
let the characters tell me what theyíre going to do.
sources of inspiration when writing The
when I was writing this, my thoughts were strictly about the charactersÖ
why are they the way they are, and how does that move the story forward or
backward or to the side. On top of that, add thirty plus years of
internalized cinematic, literary and pop culture absorption that I bring
to the table.
one movie I turned to as a reference was The Mechanic with Charles
Bronson. Heís a hitman for hire and I just wanted to get a flavor of his
jobs, which, because it was the 70ís, seemed much less complicated.
original opening scene was a very elaborate poisoning at a coffee shop,
where my lead character was disguised as a barista; once she delivers the
doped java to her mark, she takes a break, despite a long line of people
waiting. She strides through the back room where the other baristas are
bound and gagged and exits out into an alley where she removes her costume
to reveal her business attire. She walks around the corner just in time to
see her mark gurgling to death on the sidewalk out front. But budget and
time precluded that. It would work for the feature.
You call The
Hit a "cromage noir" - could you at all explain that
kind of a joke. The idea is that I was blending so many different genres
together and giving homage to themÖ so if you break it down, itís a
crime-romance-comedy-noirÖ and itís also a little cheesy, so if
youíre French or French Canadian, it is like a ripe fromage (aka
cheese). Maybe itís more of a choke? [cheesy joke?]
To what extent could you actually identify with
Marcy Frumpkin in your movie? And with Norman Winter for that matter?
identify with both of them: Marcy takes her inability to value herself in
relationships and acts out in, letís say, anti-social ways. And she also
has a bad romantic track record where she wasnít able to value who she
is. Normanís a cranky guy who hates himself. Come to think of it, there
isnít a character in the film who I donít identify with. I think
Iíve been all of themÖ except maybe the guy whose car is stolenÖ
that guy is a complete jerk.
TO INTERVIEWER: Jason A. White plays the guy whose car is stolen.]
can you tell us about The Hit's
brand of comedy?
like to think it goes from slow-build to ďkitchen sinkĒ. You start off
intrigued, thereís an opening that has a bit of visual irony: the girl
scout with a gun, and then the jokes, mostly visual, start to come more
rapidly until they reach an absurd pitch (especially in the ďfalling in
loveĒ montage). Itís not freewheeling and random humor. Itís very
much on story with these two people doing what they do and that being the
source of the humor. So, it is character-based. The montage is pure parody
(though I donít think itís remotely possible to make a serious montage
anymore). I used it deliberately, complete with green screen and fake
looking background plates, as I needed to shorthand their escalating
relationship. I was playing with the convention of it.
humor is certainly not sophisticated, but Iím proud that I didnít
resort to bathroom humor, which can be hilariousÖ but can also be too
cheap, easy and unfunny if you donít build up to it, the way the
Farrelly Brothers do.
A few words about your directorial
approach to your story at hand?
was trying to be as artful as possible. Thereís an understood rule that
comedy needs to be brightly lit and should be in wide shots so you can see
the actorsí bodies and their language. And thatís mostly true,
especially if youíre working with a great physical comedian.
being said, I wanted the visuals to pop and be thematic, revealing to the
audience who these characters are. Our lead, Marcy, is deep down a lonely
person. I wanted to isolate her in shots or show how removed she is from
her own vulnerability. The times when she does share the screen (before
falling in love), the characters are either dead, about to die, or
thereís lots of space between her and them. I created a lookbook for my
DP that included Edward Hopper paintings and frames from Antonioniís Red
Desert and Godardís Contempt. Once the two leads fall in love, they come
directly toward us and then theyíre shot more classically, where
theyíre both in frame and their close ups and reverse shots. I was
hoping that it would play on the audienceís subconscious.
a director, you have to get all departments on board to enhance the theme,
and I think I fomented an atmosphere where everyone could summon up their
creativity in service to the story. Costumes and make-up, in particular,
are instrumental in helping create character arc, just watch any Hitchcock
film. My directions to them were all about Marcyís character Ė sheís
uptight in the beginning, controlled hair, gray and black clothing, but
when she falls in love, her hair becomes softer, her clothes become
lighter and floral. Itís not exactly subtle, but itís on point. And
you make the connection between her and Norman to her with his clothes.
When they meet, theyíre both symphonies of gray, black, and white.
Itís their outlook on life, until they get together, then their outfits
Do talk about The
Hit's cast, and why exactly these people?
hedged my bets. I didnít have a lot of experience directing actors, but
I knew most all of these folks and thought if I could work with friends,
it wouldnít be so awkward if I didnít know what I was doing. But more
importantly, I knew I could rely on their abilities.
met Hilary Barraford (Marcy) [Hilary
Barraford interview - click here] through friends a few years back and was struck at her
projected strength. I knew she was prolific, but I was always disappointed
to see that she was not centerstage in her feature films. When I was
writing, I envisioned her as the lead and I thought this would be a fun
opportunity to showcase her talents as well as giving me the chance to
work with her.
Matthew Rochelau (Norman) I knew tangentially from my years studying improv. He has this
look that cuts so many ways Ė sitcom dad/everyman/sad sack/potential
psycho killer Ė and the skill to switch in and out of those characters
seamlessly. Plus, heís a good contrast to Hilary.
Craig Cackowski (Client) was one of my improv instructors and heís a genius improviser
himself. Heís been on so many different TV shows, including Veep and
Curb Your Enthusiasm. I knew he would bring a lot to his role. Iím sad
that I didnít use him more or highlight his talents. I actually cut out
a small bit of business that he did that was hilarious, but I am ruthless
ex-boyfriend is another actor I did improv with, and I also cast one of my
best friends and her husband, neither of whom are professional actors, in
separate roles, because I knew they could deliver. It was a dream to work
with all of them, especially with little to no rehearsal. It was a rare
instance to have more than three takes and then, it was only because I was
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
felt like I was high. I was so happy to be there and working with a great
crew and great actors. If
anything, I was probably the most superfluous person on set. I definitely
had a one-way love affair with my DP, Ilya. I say one-way, because heís
intensely focused on the camera and lighting to get the best-looking shot.
His work and inventiveness was brilliant. Though Iíd storyboarded the
entire thing with my very crude drawings, there was one scene I stumbled
over because it had to convey so much information. Ilya came up with a
brilliant one-shot solution and itís my favorite one in the filmÖ when
Norman walks down the street.
crammed a lot into three days. It was ambitious, what with eleven
locations. I know I made many mistakes, but for a first directorial
effort, I think my team and I accomplished what we set out to do.
$64-question of course, where can The
Hit be seen?
Right now itís
available at https://www.lashortsfest.com/comedy-program3
or at https://youtu.be/q1VI8-E6fCk Ė still part of
but you can thumbs up or thumbs down it or write a comment and I can see
whoís seen it.
currently doing the festival circuit before I try to sell it to one of the
many potential streaming outlets.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of The
very bittersweet that I finished the film and the pandemic hit which
precludes my being able to see it with an audience. On one level, it saves
me from breaking out in flop sweat during the screening, but, too, I
donít get to hear if and when people are laughing, which is incredibly
helpful for a comedy writer and director.
terms of audience feedback, well, friends, family and acquaintances seem
to like it Ė they think itís very indicative of me as a person, which
I take as a compliment. But I got a great review from you and very nice
review from another on-line publication. I meant it to be entertaining and
cinematicÖ I think it succeeds on those two levels. If I made a perfect
film, or thought I did, Iíd have to kill myself. I mean, where do you go
Any future projects you'd like to
gearing up for my next short, which is a family mystery (a fystery? Or a
firstery?). A young girl discovers her cat has been murdered and realizes
one of her immediate family members did it; now she has to figure out who
and why. I think everything I write is ultimately comedyÖ even the
have a couple of features Iím rewriting and a TV-series Iím pitching,
based on a childrenís book character that I created. So, thatís some
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
training I got was sitting in movie theaters from age six til the
pandemic. My parents made the mistake of taking me to the Old Post Office
Cinema in East Hampton, New York to see a
Marx Brothers movie, and I was
hooked from then on. I was a devotee of all sorts of movies, especially
the international arthouse ones that played the great revival houses that
used to populate New York City. I still remember double features Ė like
Knife in the Water and Les Diaboliques (at Carnegie Hall
and Blithe Spirit and Kind Hearts and
Coronets (at the Regency). [The
latter film definitely informed The
Hit in its somewhat cavalier attitude
studied English and Film Theory in college, where I co-founded a
filmmaking club, though I only made one Super 8mm movie at the time. After
school, I went into production, working as a PA on low-budget movies and
an occasional TV-show. I ended up being an apprentice sound editor on a
horror film, back when you edited on a Steenbeck. I took a job in script
development, as writing was always my interest, but moved from there into
Documentary Programming at HBO. I kept taking jobs that were time
consuming and parallel to what I actually wanted to do. After moving from
New York to Austin, TX, then out to LA, I managed to get some writing work
in advertising and on TV. I got to work with people I never imagined I
would work with, but not being the creator of any of the shows is, in the
long run, kind of frustrating. So I dove into something bite-sized wherein
I could be the one who makes the ultimate decisions. Creating The
been so incredibly fulfilling. But like many a drug, it has left me
wanting to do more. Now Iíve got to work like hell to make that happen
and Iím game for it.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The
wrote and co-wrote a couple of shorts, and I directed a no-budget music
video, which had me throwing cooked and sauced spaghetti at the band. When
I put the camera down, they threw it back at me. I also co-wrote a feature
that had both Eric Roberts and Seymour Cassell in it. I was not the
progenitor of that film. I came in to try to clean it up.
How would you describe yourself as a
know a lot about cinema. And I know about story. And I know what makes me
laugh. I like when people know more about something than I do, so I can
learn from them. And I like collaboration a great deal. Itís lonely
sitting in front of my computer writing.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
and new, I can give you a laundry list: Preston
Sturges, Buster Keaton [Buster
Keaton bio - click here], Ernst Lubitsch, Anthony Mann, Luis BuŮuel, Samuel
Fuller, Tex Avery, Lynne Ramsey, Bi Gan Ė (whose film Long Dayís
Journey Into Night blew me away), Barry Jenkins, Alejandro Landes, Yorgos
Lanthimos, Catherine Breillat, David Fincher, Pedro Almodovar,
Park Chan-wookÖ I mean, I could go on. Iím really a full on film geek, trying to
make my way through the films Iíve never seen, while cozying up to the
comfort ones. It was only in the last ten years or so that I got into
westerns, of which, as a kid, I liked very few. My friend, who gets the
final thank you credit in my film, and I have a game we play: name a
director whoís made three great films in a row. Itís obviously very
subjective, but surprisingly difficult. I think Kubrick and Buster Keaton
hit the markÖ the rest are debatable.
change dramatically with mood and age. But if I were stuck on a desert
island, Iíd definitely want to laugh a lot and be absorbed in something
to forget about my troubles, so my tastes go to more nostalgic comfort
films e.g.: Love and Death (which could be an alternate title to my
short), Groundhog Day, Sherlock
Feathers, Breaking Away, The Bandwagon, Itís Always Fair
Weather, Nashville, Kind Hearts and
Coronets, Winchester í73, Rules of the Game, 2001,
The Heartbreak Kid
(1972), Let the Right One
In, The Lady Eve, Nights of Cabiria and Repo
thinking about that scenario, I doubt Iíd have electricity on a desert
island, let alone a TV, Blu-ray player, or computerÖ
... and of course, films you really
is my religion, so when I go into a theater or start to watch something on
TV, the only expectation I have is that Iím somehow changed by the movie
Ė whether itís amused, provoked, or emotionally affected. When that
doesnít happen, I used to get angry. Now I use it as a learning
experience, trying to see what that filmmaker did wrong, where the misstep
was, if there was only one. Itís very analytic but itís helpful. I
think you can learn more from a bad movie than a good one, because what
makes a good movie is magical alchemy. But itís tricky to judge a film
by seeing it only once. When I saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood the first
time, I absolutely hated itÖ but I was expecting something other than
what the movie was, which is a buddy, mood piece. I knew the acting was
good, but I was looking for plot! When I saw it the second time, I loved
being said, Iíd be happy to name check some movies I hate off the
record. But as Iím really starting out as a director, I feel like itís
bad karma to publicly denounce work by people whoíve put a lot of effort
into stuff that many people enjoy. Though I can tell you, I prefer
personal movies to tentpole blockbusters.
I admit to liking some genuinely crappy movies, like the 1967 Casino
Royale. It is a lumbering elephant of a flick, with five directors and as
many (or more) screenwriters. Tonally and storywise, itís a mess. But I
saw it as a kid, and it imprinted on me.
Your/your movie's website, social media,
can find the film and my info at: www.thejasonawhite.com
Feeling lucky ?
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Anything else you're dying to mention and
I have merely forgotten to ask?
we didnít talk about editing, which took more than the three days we
shot the movie. I told both my editor and producer that, even though it
was an eleven page script, I wanted the film to be the length of a Bugs
Bunny cartoon, which is around seven minutes. If I can impart any words of
wisdom on your readers or future comedy filmmakers, let me just say, if
you canít be funny, be brief. Thatís a credo I live by in art and in
lifeÖ though the answers to these questions seem to belie that. Iím
relying on you to edit out the dross.
Thanks for the
for your time and for really capturing the essence of what I was trying to
do with the film.