Your new movie Dirty Books
- in a few words, what is it about?
about a teenager who runs his high school newspaper, but quickly rebels
against the ďsystemĒ when heís told theyíre going to be changing it
into an online blog. And so, he goes to fairly drastic measures to try and
keep the paper relevant and alive.
Print versus blog - your own take, your preferences?
For news purposes, online is just so much easier. I donít buy a newspaper
and heck I think most people donít, and I donít fault anyone for it.
But there is a great joy in holding something tangible. When I read books,
I do so with a physical copy. I know itís more efficient and practical
to have a Kindle or Nook but thereís something about holding the real
thing, similar to the feeling of a vinyl record. So I guess it depends.
were your sources of inspirations when writing Dirty
Books? And is any of this based on personal experience?
Ian Everhart and I are huge Wes Anderson fans, something we bonded over freshman year
of college, and when we first started writing this script we thought of Rushmore
primarily. Yet, over time we began to make it more our own and try not to
rip off Wes completely. Thereís also just something so interesting about
having the story take place in high school; a time when students can have
so much passion but still fight against those who are, quite often,
ultimately trying to help them. Itís an odd time in our lives and itís
fun to shine a light on it. I donít miss high school really, but itís
can you tell us about your co-writer Ian Everhart, and what was your
and I used to do a fair amount of writing together. We would stay up late
and swap the laptop back and forth, taking turns as the scribe. After a
few weeks we finished Dirty Books
and, like typical film kids, thought it was pure gold.
We were actually going to make it that
summer but plans got in the way, therefore delaying the project. This
used to upset me until I realized, many moons later; thank goodness we
didnít do it (we would not have been prepared). Flash-forward to the
spring of 2015 Ė our Los Angeles internships are ending and we have one
last summer to ourselves before ďadult lifeĒ happens. One day, Ian
suggests that we could use this last summer to finally film our freshman
script. But I was very hesitant until Matt Rindini [Matt
Rindini interview - click here] (who was also living
with us) convinced me to really think on it. One thing led to another and
I eventually ďcavedĒ. We read the script and realized it would need a
lot of work (I think we ended up doing about eight rewrites) but we got it
done and finally felt it was time to tell our story.
Do talk about your directorial
approach to your story at hand!
is often lonely but I tend to choose it over directing because when I
direct I basically lose my mind. Iím a very anxious person and when a
movie is in my care, my stress levels only gets worse (my insomnia rises
as well). Yet, despite all that, I love it. We all do. Itís why we deal
with such long hours, and often with little reward. Luckily with each
movie I learn how to relax and keep my composure better, and this movie
was easier communication-wise with just a three-person crew. Yes it meant
taking on multiple roles but Iíve also known Matt and Ian for years, so
thereís a trust factor. As a director I like to stick to the script best
I can but itís also easy for me to change lines once we start filming a
scene because, in the end, we all want what works best. And it definitely
helps when Iíve been a part of the writing process beforehand.
What can you tell us
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
got so lucky with Noah Bailey, and Iím not just saying that to be nice. When we
were casting for the film, Ian sent an email to his old theater teacher
who sent us a list of top candidates to play the role. Noah was on the
list with the caveat; he might be a bit young. Regardless, when he sent in
his audition we couldnít believe how well he understood and portrayed
this character. We had to cast him and he was so excited to be on board.
He was there every single day of filming and I think his commitment and
acting abilities will take him quite far, truly.
had also put out a casting call online, which is how we found Timothy J. Cox; he
was actually our first audition for Dr. Bradley. His sides were very
engaging and I remember thinking, is it jumping the gun to already say
this guyís got it? We quickly emailed Tim and told him to hang tight
because he was in our highest consideration. Soon after that we alerted
him he had the part. Tim is extremely easy-going and, like us, wonít
stop talking about movies. He is a true gentleman, on and off the camera.
my younger brother Isaiah in the role of Owens might seem like nepotism
but there was more to it than that. We were having a hard time finding the
right person for this character, but sometimes the answer is closer than
you think. Iíve acted with Isaiah ever since I was about ten, and
weíve slept in the same room since he was practically born, therefore I
knew he could pull it off. Even so, he still filmed an audition to help
prove himself to Matt and Ian. Also, Isaiah and I are often on the same
wavelength mentally and that comes in handy when making films.
some reason we had a huge influx of audition tapes for Charlotte, fifteen
or so (which to us, and our small movies, is a lot). Thus, it was the
toughest call to make because we kept narrowing it down as more videos
kept coming in. We were considering one person and then immediately
thinking someone else was better, but then when we watched Ansley Bergís tape
there was just something there. I know, how clichť. Everyone says that
about casting, but itís true! Matt had met Ansley, and her friend Amy
(who was an extra in
during a casting call in Boston, and he told them both to audition. Iím
very glad he did because Ansley adds such a punch to this prominently male
cast that itíd be hard to imagine the story without her. When she
arrived on set, all smiles, and began her first line, we knew we had made
a great call. And many others who auditioned still got speaking and
non-speaking extra roles.
Books takes place mostly in a high school - so where was it
filmed, and what were the advantages and challenges filming there, and how
did you get the location, actually?
shot most of the non-school footage in Pittsfield, where Ian lives (even
using his familyís house as Davidís home). But when it came time to
film the high school scenes we needed a school that would trust us to
wander their halls primarily unsupervised, and so I turned to my mother
for help. She is a teacher at Greenfield Middle School, so she could vouch
for the small cast and crew. Not to mention, I used to substitute teach
there for a handful of years so the faculty knows me personally too. We
talked it out with the custodial staff, the principal, and the
administration and they were quite happy to help. The challenges came with
the fact that we had little power once inside the school. If the janitors
were working on the second floor with loud fans and floor cleaners, we
couldnít ask them to move; we had to adapt and press on. But, despite
each hurdle, we found a way to make it all work and Iím extremely proud
of how it all looks. I mean, itís a real school and that helps the
aesthetic of the film all the more.
What can you tell us
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot overall was very relaxed. This one was the first time we didnít
have any teachers keeping an eye on us or had to worry about a deadline,
or what grade we might get. This was just our film, to be made for our own
happiness and perhaps the pleasure of our audience. We had a three-person
crew doing a two-week shoot. As mentioned before, being a crew of three
made it easy to converse and collaborate but also extra tough because we
all took on numerous roles in order to round out a proper crew dynamic.
Still, it felt nice going back to how I used to make movies as a kid. Yes,
we had a script, proper actors, and professional audio & video, but we
kept it simple. We had no lighting, used locations we knew personally, and
made the movie for $0 (aside from food and transportation). In the end, it
was nice to film something back in my hometown, of Western Massachusetts,
as adults now.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
future projects you'd like to share?
say weíd like to do a feature by age 28, but perhaps that could happen
even sooner. Iíve been really inspired by Mark and Jay Duplass who make
movies their way. They make
their films for cheap and with their friends and family; over time, people
began to notice and theyíre still going strong and helping others get
into the business as well. They were unhappy with their lives and said
screw it; letís make a feature! That takes balls and hopefully weíve
got balls like that someday. We also always talk about our next big short
we plan to do, currently titled Geneva.
Weíre not sure if this is one year away or more like two, but itís
always there in the distance. I think itís important to take risks but
also be wary of biting off more than we can chew too early.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
think a lot of filmmakers get inspired very early on and by one of the
ďMacDaddyĒ directors like Scorsese or Kubrick, and mine was Steven
Spielberg. I would watch his stuff growing up and quickly claimed my
dadís bulky Panasonic camera to make my own videos. I was probably about
nine or ten when I started. I used my brothers and neighborhood friends as
actors, while I stayed predominantly behind the camera (because thatís
where I felt most comfortable). No script, no lighting, and even at the
beginning all editing was done in camera. It was when I finally saw The Truman Show
that I realized the kind of stuff I truly wanted to
make, having a mix of comedy, mystery, and drama. That got me into writing
more creative stuff. Later, I went to Fitchburg State University for a
concentration in film/video and it was during FSU that we created Fitch
Fort Films, and began making movies as a group. Over the years people have
come and gone, but we still keep it going even after we all graduated.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Dirty Books?
always love writing, both scripts and music. Thus, when Fitch
Fort Films does a
video I tend to be on the sound, music, or writing side of things (as well
as editing and sound editing). But my work as a director,
Dirty Books has been my first serious short film since Vinyl,
which was done in the spring of
2013. When I say serious, I donít mean the content exactly but I mean
serious in the way that itís something over five minutes, using actors
other than us mainly, making a schedule, renting equipment, etc. I was
worried to do another one of these, for my sanity, but I can already see
how much Iíve grown and learned since doing something like this just two
years ago. Vinyl, for those who are curious, can be watched here:
would you describe yourself as a director?
Iíve mentioned many times now: Iím a worrier. Meaning, if things are
going wrong, even the tiniest error, I can become short with people and
need to just walk around for a minute. Yet, thatís almost a director
trademark. Luckily with Dirty Books
that didnít really happen, but my heart rate still doesnít truly slow
down until the filming has wrapped and we go into post. Iím nervous in
the editing stage too but in a very different way, a slightly lighter
fashion. In my personal life I tend to have the mentality of a middle-aged
dad so, as I get older, maybe those two sides of me can blend together
during my filmmaking career.
who inspire you?
perhaps, but my main influence is Wes Anderson. I remember watching The
Royal Tenenbaums accidentally, not knowing the film, and just falling
in love with it. The Darjeeling
Limited is also a big favorite between my brothers and I. But I also
enjoy the works of: Paul Thomas Anderson, John Hughes, Rian Johnson, the
Duplass brothers, the Coen brothers, Christopher Nolan, Edgar Wright,
Spike Jonze, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, Richard
Curtis, John Hamburg, and Judd Apatow.
Your favourite movies?
Truman Show, Little Miss Sunshine and
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Odd I know, two have the word
sunshine and two have Jim Carrey as the lead. But I kind of think that
second part is no accident. Growing up I thought Jim was the funniest man
on the planet, but then when I watched his serious stuff I also realized
he is one of the most gifted actors dramatically too (yet, not one Oscar
nomination for the man).
and of course, films you really deplore?
We took our dad to see it on fatherís day and I apologized before the
movie was even finished.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Fort Films can be found on YouTube and Facebook:
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
(and both have been briefly talked about):
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
1. We had no
professional lighting in this movie, only natural light. We realized, with
such a small crew, that we would need to hire
a gaffer (which costs money, which we didnít have). Also, in most of our
previous films lighting is what slowed production down, due to our
limitations on the budget and personnel side. So I looked to the Duplass
brothers (yet again) for inspiration and pointed out how none of their
early features had any lighting. Sometimes to the point where you wished
they had! I didnít want to sacrifice any quality but I had a feeling we
could get the job done without a lighting team. Iím a little surprised
at how nice it looks actually.
2. The other
tough thing about making an indie film is relying on the kindness of
others to get the job done. Weíre not in a place quite yet where getting
extras is an easy thing. No cattle call or Facebook invite will actually
get people to the set. I had to individually contact every extra you see
written in our end credits. It was a long and tedious process, but a
necessary one. This part of the interview isnít about me bragging but
more about thanking all those who came out to help. We werenít able to
pay or even feed them, but they still showed up and had a good time. I
kind of owe them each a favor now.
for the interview!