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2005, 113m, drama, film-noir, mystery
Firecracker is a bold and shocking true-to-life tale of murder in small town Kansas. Set against the stark beauty of Middle America, this astonishing story of abuse, suffering and denial reveals dreams of escape. The inevitable confrontation unleashes the truth concealed behind the pleasant façade of small-town U.S.A.
WINNER: Special Jury Award - Roger Ebert's Best Films of the Year
Produced by: Steve Balderson
Cast: Karen Black, Mike Patton, Susan Traylor, Jane Wiedlin, Kathlene Wilhoite
10 questions with Firecracker director, Steve Balderson at the half-way mark.
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016
1Hi Steve! Thanks for being a part of our 2016 Summer Film Festival. First, what was the initial seed that made you want to make Firecracker? The murder happened right down the street from where I grew up. My dad was really young when it happened, but my Aunt Sandra was 18, and she remembered a lot of it. In fact, she was one of the people standing on the alley when they dug up the body! In the making-of documentary "Wamego: Making Movies Anywere" (which anybody can watch for free at this link: http://www.dikenga.com/#!wamego/cee2), you hear more about my investigation into the real crime and my interviews with the witnesses.
2I read that this actual event took place in the town you grew up and so you decided to shoot there as well. How important was it for you to shoot in the actual town and house where these events took place? It was really incredible to be able to film everything where it actually happened. There was a magical and haunting feeling as we re-created the events in the same place. Energy like that lingers in the wood, the floors, in the room. It was really intense some days.
3You wrote the script for this film as well. What was the toughest aspect of writing this film and how long did it take you to complete? Nothing about it was tough, per se, but it required a lot of research and months of interviews with the people who were there at the time - including the real-life Jimmy.
4Karen Black gives two incredible performances in this film and some say it's her finest work. She unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Could you remember her for us and tell us a little bit what it was like working with her? Working with Karen was outstanding. I loved her in the DAY OF THE LOCUST and the original GREAT GATSBY and NASHVILLE and FIVE EASY PIECES and even in Rob Zombie's HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES. She's a true pro and it's sad to have her gone. We also got to work together in my women in prison film STUCK! and she inspired the film I directed in Mexico called EL GANZO which opens theatrically in LA on Sept 9th.
5I absolutely loved the opening shot of this film. I thought it was such a powerful way to start the film off. What's your favorite scene and what did it take to get it? Thank you! I love the opening too.
The hardest shot to get was when Jimmy carries David down the hallway. I designed it to look exactly like Michelangelo's Pieta. But the actor playing Jimmy is very tiny. And Mike patton (who plays David) is a grown, muscular, man. Jimmy couldn't carry him longer than a few seconds, and Mike had to hold his body in a really uncomfortable way in order for it to look like the Pieta - but eventually on like the 20th take we got it.
6The colors and cinematography in this film are insane. What was it like working with Jonah Torreano and how did you do figure out the look for this film? Jonah was a great DP but the color saturation was all me, which was done in the post process. Our colorist was really apprehensive about pushing it to the limit, but after I forced him to shut up and just do it, he did it, and now it's perfectly dripping from the screen.
7Roger Ebert reviewed this film before he passed away and gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars. What was that experience like? Reading Ebert's review - which was basically a full-page love letter in the Chicago Sun-Times - was monumental. I was in a taxi, having just landed in Chicago on my way to the show. FIRECRACKER was the opening night film for the Chicago Underground Film festival, and all of that at once was exhilarating.
8You've been making films for a while now, what are your thoughts on the current state of indie film distribution and indie filmmaking in general? I think it's a great time to be making films, and now with the endless platforms for distribution it's only getting more exciting. I think the fact that it costs less invites so much crap being made, that it's polluting the environment for the rest of us who respect our craft. And when it turns into millions and millions of black market films, it's even harder to stand out. So my advice in that regard is to make something unique, and different - something which will stand out from the crowd.
9What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? Oh, hell, I don't know. STAR WARS. I started making home movie type films when I was like 10. but I didn't start my professional film career until I was a teenager in the late 90s.
10What's next? I have 3 new features coming out this fall. ELVIS LIVES! airs on Mark Cuban's AXS TV on August 16. HELL TOWN, the soap opera horror festival hit, comes out on iTunes, Google Play, vudu, etc., on August 23. And EL GANZO opens at the Arena Cinema on Sept. 9. I'm also directing a few other films over the course of the next year. It's a wild time!
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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