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An Interview with Jeremy Gimenez, Director of Final Heat

by Michael Haberfelner

May 2024

Jeremy Gimenez on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Final Heat - in a few words, what's it about?


It's about a family with shared trauma, that reconciles through the heightened stakes of sports. Specifically functional fitness, where the goal of the game is literally to push to "failure." That kind of pressure, physically, psychologically, spiritually... reveals a person. I've always been fascinated by the ways in which sports reveal character. What's the truth of a person? It's often the opposite of what they project, and a lot of times, how they perceive themselves. Final Heat forces our team to confront their truths, so that maybe they can re-define themselves. I think there's an idea that ultimately, redemption must spill outside the contained arena of the ring/gym, and into the messier realm of life. The real accomplishments happen out there, with others, as a team.


With Final Heat being set in the functional fitness scene, is that at all a world you're personally familiar with?


We actually were developing a tennis movie (as former pro and D1 level players) and wanted to get ahead of the ball by training to get back in playing shape. At the time, I actually hadn't been doing anything fitness-related for years. But Brad was a coach at a crossfit gym, Crossfit Hollywood, and convinced me to try to it, and we struck a partnership deal with the gym to train there and promote both our movie and their gym. Well, pretty soon we were training every day and I started to feel like I was coming back into my physical self, sort of remembering what it felt like to be an athlete, and to feel like, oh yeah, this is who I am. I loved the competition aspect of it. I loved having a goal. But most of all I loved just showing up every single day, getting a tiny bit better, and being anchored towards progress every time I got out of bed in the morning. And now, I wasn't just training alongside of Brad, but the entire gym, who became great friends and surrogate teammates. And the story organically evolved from there, we thought we were making a tennis movie but now we were living a story about self-rediscovery, and it came out on the page.


Oh, and we did compete in the Open for a couple years, and at couple local crossfit competitions. Let's not discuss the results. It's hard out there! Instead, I'll point out that we had two athletes in the movie, Maddy Curley and David Page, who did make it all the way to the Crossfit Games.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Final Heat?


Even though the film was primarily set in the main gym location, the nature of the story, with its sports competition arc, was pretty expansive and high budget. Since we didn't have that, I was looking for ways to enhance the scope. I borrowed a trick from the first movie I produced Know Thy Enemy, where paparazzi and videographers are constantly recording an aspiring musical artist, and we bounce around in cinematic format to give it a dynamic, wide, energy. The "found footage" aspect also gives us a more raw, intimate close up with our people, and this being a movie that wanted to get very personal, I thought it would help. So I looked at lot of films and shows that used hybrid formats and zoom lenses, like End of Watch, Southland, Friday Night Lights. Ultimately we wanted to maintain picture quality as high as possible, and to pull off the zooms with quality, it would've taken us out of our bracket. But we retained the essence and of course the mixed media. That specifically, was a piece where I just wanted us to capture anything we could, the more candid the better, we could figure it out later. Let's mash it all together.


Storywise and tonally, the TV show Bloodline, with its unspoken family history and tension, was a big inspiration. As well as the rivalry between brothers/friends in Brothers and believe it or not, Lost. Laugh if you need to. And you can't beat the regret element of The Wrestler, the fraught psychology of Black Swan, and of course, a whole host of things from Warrior.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


We actually had a pretty unique development process. Like I said, we didn't have much of a budget, but we had big ideas. So our workaround was to make a webseries, 10 episodes of 10 minutes each. A linear story, with a feature arc, broken up, but essentially a feature. Only after we finished it did we look at it and realize, hey, this cuts together as a feature. But I think we backdoored our way into making a series of little self contained beats, with high stakes every few minutes. Definitely a lesson I'll use going forward. Aside from that, my lens into directing is primarily acting and story-based. I knew we had a primary location. I also had a core group of actors who I'd worked with for years and were good friends with. We spoke a shorthand sort of language. It was a big luxury. So I focused on taking my ensemble, and using the box as a proverbial sandbox, giving them a lot of freedom to come up with ideas, to improv, and knowing that I was also acting alongside them, making it even a more play space. I'd like to think that our relationship was more collegial than directorial. My goal was to make it feel as real in the space as possible, so we could just live in it.


You also appear in front of the camera in Final Heat - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind from the get-go?


Yeah, in general, in writing and directing, I try to always come from a personal place, even if the events are fiction. My character was a combination of my own background and regrets I had, (heavily fictionalized), and a couple important people in my life. My dad, who's a Vietnam vet and has dealt all his life with aspects of PTSD that he's very quietly handled, and a roommate of mine at the time, who was an Iraq war vet. Just before writing this, my dad came to visit, and I watched how instantly the two hit it off, and had a such an obvious unspoken bond and shared knowledge, it really made a powerful impression on me. My roommate helped me a lot in crafting the background of my character, both on the page and later in my performance. You know, this is going to sound cliché, but I feel anytime you get to do a role where you embody people who've made such a sacrifice or have lived through such extremes, there's a sense of duty, and you try to carry that into the performance and honor them. So I hope I did. I'll also say I tried to merge those external circumstances with my own internal ones, and the details serve as a metaphor.


Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


I mentioned earlier that the primary cast were friends that I already knew and had worked with many times. Four of us were in an acting class together, and I knew what they brought so well. Specifically in Brad Benedict's case, creating the story together, we drew so much from his life, his background and really his deep vulnerabilities, I'm so grateful that he was willing to visit those deep wounds with me. And not just in the writing stage, in the rehearsals and on set. We'd find stories from his real life, and it would find its way onto the camera. I approached it that way with all my cast, again I was lucky to have people I knew very well, but it allowed us to treat everything as a sort of workshop. Even on set. We could find new things and build them out. So I tried to make each role as personal to the actor as I could, and then benefit from the organically adding as much to it as they could. It was a true ensemble.


You of course also have to talk about the fitness studio the majority of the film was shot at, and what was it like shooting there?


Crossfit Hollywood! I want to say a major thank you to first Neil Mahoney and later Andy Thompson, for being so generous with the space for quite a long time. The initial reason we started there, training, expanded dramatically, as did the time we spent there. But it was our home and as responsible for making this as anything else. When we finally started shooting, after spending so much time training there, it felt a little surreal, but it also felt incredibly safe. I remember people just helping out all around, shooting BTS, supporting us, giving us an extra bit of buzz. Again, forever grateful to Crossfit Hollywood, and the pied piper of Crossfit Hollywood, Andy Thompson.


The $64-question of course, where can Final Heat be seen?


On May 14, 2024 the film will be found on streaming platforms including Vimeo, AmazonInstant, Vudu and iTunes/AppleTV and on most cable platforms across the US & Canada. Just search On-Demand on your cable provider!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


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Absolutely. This release has given me a lot of inspiration to make a few more projects in the sports drama genre, for now. I'm working on a project slightly adjacent to my background, a TV show set in the world of beach tennis, and with tennis number one at the box office right now, thanks Challengers, I'm developing a historical epic about an iconic, but largely under the radar, tennis legend.


What got you acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?


Funnily enough I started after I shot a commercial about young athletes, as I was struggling financially to stay on the tennis tour, and looking for alternative funding means. But I fell in love with it pretty quickly, and with the mindset of training hard and immersing, I kind of dove in headfirst. I was really lucky to have a great mentor early on, Marc Durso, who was steeped in Uta Hagen technique, and he really influenced me to always make the search for truth the primary goal. That shaped my whole viewpoint towards art, and writing and filmmaking later. But yeah, I studied there, then at many other places along the way.


What made you pick up writing, producing and directing eventually, and which side of the camera do you actually prefer?


Coming from outside the mainstream of the industry, I had this idea that, as an actor, why do we have to rely on others to tell our stories? I felt like, in music, most of the musicians that I loved the most wrote their own songs. So when they sang, you felt it was even more personal. I wanted to try that with the art of acting and filmmaking. Tell your own stories and then embody them, make them as personal and truthful as possible.


Can I say which I like best? Nope. They're all intertwined to me, but all provide specific thrills.


Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?








Thanks for the interview!


© by Michael Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


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Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
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directed by
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written by
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produced by
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now streaming at


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from