10 questions with The Burden of My Company director, Ericson Just at the half-way mark.
Saturday, April 23rd, 2016
1Hi Ericson! Thank you so much for being a part of our Spring festival! First, although it might be obvious once you see the film, what was the initial seed that made you want to make this film? At the time I was hanging out with a great group of people and we had a really interesting dynamic that I wanted to showcase. I'd also seen a handful of mumble core films that were "the voice of a generation" and didn't completely relate to them. I hadn't seen any movie touch on the type of issues and relationship I was seeing in my generation and wanted to find out if brining those up would connect with anybody.
2This film is essentially about the birth of itself. It's sort of like 8 1/2 or Adaptation. I love films like that but I imagine it must have been a struggle to get to the point where you realize you're making a movie about what led up to you making a movie. Did that decision come easily or did you have doubts? Honestly that was probably the easiest, most natural part of the script for me. My sense of humor is exceptionally self-aware, sometimes to a fault, and making a movie that essentially reveals itself as a movie half way through the film seemed like a fun way to play with the audiences perception of the narratives validity.
My only reservation was about making another "film about film-making and how people think their lives are worth making a movie about". Everyone and their mom either has a web-series or a pilot that starts this way, especially in LA, but I figured if I was ever going to do it I might as well do it now and at the very least try to play with it in a unique way that matched my sensibilities.
3The dialogue in this film is so good! You co-wrote this film with two other people who act in the film (Andrew Harwood and Allen T. Duarte). How did the three of you work together? Thank you! Dialogue has always been a very important thing to me in movies. I love how characters can reveal so much about themselves and their perspectives through the way they talk and what they say. Film really is a visual medium, but I often feel like people overlook how much can be revealed by a line of dialogue.
A lot of the script is recreations of conversations or moments I remember having with my friends with a hint of my own perspective laced in while the rest are simply conversations I'd had in my head.
Clearly I worked very closely with Andrew and Allen in making choices about what their own characters might say or do in a moment. Almost all of Allen's lines are improvised while Andrew just rewrote his lines in each draft to be more accurate to what he'd say in that moment.
4You star in this film as well as direct, how are you able to judge your performance? What are the challenges of directing yourself and how did you do it? There's always an initial fear when playing yourself that you're going to fall into caricature and look like an unaware ass (at least, there should be, if you're not even worried a little you're probably looking like one) but there's also a freedom to knowing that whatever you're doing: you're being you. So in a way it took off some of the pressure of having to create a whole new character.
Plus, if anything, it made it easier playing myself having two close friends on set to call me on it if I wasn’t acting like it. In fact, almost everyone we have in the movie knows me on some personal level and the only comment I ever got about my performance was how accurate it is to how I am in real life (for better or worse).
5It looks like you guys had a lot of fun making this film. What scene was the most fun to shoot? That party scene hands down ended up being the most sensationally fun scene to shoot (despite being the most dreaded). We had finally caught a stride with our filming, I had shown some rough scenes to Allen and Andrew which excited them and having extra people on set actually made things a lot more fun since we had more hands on deck to alleviate the — dare I say — burden of making a no budget film and it was the first time the three of us got to stand in front of the camera all together and live in the scene.
Plus, we're complete and total hams and having an audience to give us immediate feedback really jacked up the level of energy everyone was bringing to the table.
6This is your first feature film. How did you know you were ready for a feature? What prepared you? I mean, are we ever really ready? I just decided to do it and stuck to that commitment.
I had done a few shorts before this to make sure I wasn't a complete hack and to get an idea what it would be like running the show with a low budget and hardly any crew but at the end of the day I wanted to make something that really challenged my endurance to see a project through. I just figured: go for it. If it sucked I could remake it. At the very least, I'd learn a lot (and I did).
7In the film it says you went to film school. Is that true? If so, what was your experience like at film school and would you recommend it to aspiring filmmakers? Does it? I must have been lying, sort of? I never made it past one semester in two different film schools. I am not one who thrives in an institutional setting. You couldn't even teach me how to fold a pizza box as a kid, I'd cover my ears and figure it out myself.
But that’s me. Allen, Andrew, and the other characters who served as inspiration for this film all went to Full Sail together and already had an incredible camaraderie long before I showed up to the scene.
The hardest thing I think for most artists to give other artists is advice on how to master their craft since anyone who finally finds even a modicum of success realizes how personal the path is in actuality. When it comes to film school, I think I agree with most of the advice I hear from the people in the industry I respect: It’s great for networking but in the end you learn the most by doing the work — just make a film.
8What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? Ugh… what an embarrassing question to answer... if there was a film that got me into the idea of working as a Director it was — oddly enough — listening to the commentary track of "Cruel Intentions" (yeah I know, what a choice, but it was my favorite movie at 13). It was Roger Kumble’s first movie and I loved how he articulated the joys and struggles of the process. It was the first commentary I'd ever heard and I must have listened to it at least a dozen times. It made me realize how much of filmmaking is really just problem solving in the form of story telling and that revelation excited me.
9Can you share a war story from the shoot? Hah! Making your first production on a budget that is literally under a thousand dollars and that mostly consists of enrolling friends into holding a camera or watching an audio meter over doing whatever they’d normally do on the weekend is pretty much a war from start to finish but it get’s even stickier when you’re making a movie that is almost unrecognizably close to real life and involves the personal stories of those said friends.
If there were any significant battles during production it was over what Andrew and Allen felt comfortable sharing about their own lives in the film. No one wanted to be seen smoking weed in the movie even if it was a prop. I was supposed to be seen half naked in the opening scene to make it even more awkward for the characters and the audience but even just the moment I went to sit on the toilet was a small battle.
Though one of the biggest battles during production was probably when Allen's electricity got shut down (by no fault of his own) and in an attempt to make lemonade out of lemons I eagerly tried to convince him to add it as a sub-plot to the movie which he was so uncomfortable by and against he literally broke a table in anger.
10What's next? A lot of stuff is in the pipeline at various stages.
In a fit of creative momentum I immediately wrote and directed a web-series as soon as we premiered “Burden” and am planning on premiering that in the middle of the year after the spring festival circuit is complete and I’m currently working on getting funding for the next feature with the intention of starting production next year.
I've been getting a lot more acting roles since the film premiered, which is great. I just started production as the lead with a talented new director whose helming his first feature-length production and there's talks of me working with another director I'm particularly fond of in the near future.
The intention was to focus this year on acting since, at heart, I'm a performer above all else but in truth I get creatively antsy very quickly and I'm already looking into writing and producing another directorial project by the middle of the year.
About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
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