Jef Needs Ice Cream is about a guy named Jef who goes to his recently-deceased friend Brad's apartment to smoke all of his weed before his parents come to collect his things. After getting good and stoned, he realizes that Brad didn't leave any ice cream behind after his death, and now he has to brave the harsh New York City winter to find some.
6 questions with Jef Needs Ice Cream director, Dave Conte at the half-way mark.
Friday, May 5th, 2017
1Hi Dave! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make Jef Needs Ice Cream? Thanks for having me! Originally, Jef Needs Ice Cream was supposed to be an episode of a webseries I was producing in 2014 which featured the characters of Jef and Rick, as seen in the film. The webseries wasn't working for me anymore, so I decided to take what was supposed to be our flagship episode and expanded it to become a standalone short. The goal was to do something different with the stoner comedy format, opting to convey a sense of isolation, paranoia, and heightened reality without resorting to any of the usual traits of the "stoner comedy" genre, while still making the film as joke-heavy as possible. We had some visual motifs planned from the beginning (the shifting aspect ratios, for example), but a lot of the sound design choices were made as we were doing them, and the film evolved really nicely over the course of production.
2You wrote this film as well. What was your writing process like and how long did it take you to write? It didn't take too long. The process for writing Jef was pretty simple, I just tapped into my own nervousness when confronted with a late-night desire for ice cream, and how I perceive the rest of the world whenever I do so. Lots of strangers staring and passing silent judgment, technical issues, and then eventual ecstasy.
3What was the biggest challenge making this film and how did you get through it? The supermarket scene was by far the heaviest lift. We filmed it during business hours to save on having to hire security guards and extras for an overnight shoot, and as expected we had to wrestle with real shoppers doing their grocery shopping. The long one-take shot of Jef walking down the front main aisle was the most challenging, as we had to follow Jef from the store's entrance all the way to the ice cream case, while our extras stood there and stared at him the entire time. We had to do a number of takes due to customers getting in the way, but we eventually got the shot you see in the film, and it turned out pretty great. After that shot, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way!
4The commercials, TV shows and music are all pretty hilarious. I really loved the music playing in the grocery store. What's your favorite scene and what did it take to get it right? Not to beat a dead horse, but the supermarket scene is my favorite scene in the film, and I think one of my favorite scenes I've ever directed. The sheer number of moving parts for that scene was beyond anything I had done up to that point, but I'm thrilled with how it came out. We worked in a ton of little easter eggs in that scene, from the soundtrack, to what's on the displays at the self-checkout registers. Keep a close eye out, we made that scene as joke-dense as possible.
The blizzard walk scene was also a fun challenge. During the winter of 2015, we all decided that the first big snowfall of the year would be when we filmed this scene. We got lucky, and the first big snowstorm of 2015 actually shut down the whole city of New York, giving us an unprecedented opportunity to film our neighborhood without any cars or people on the street. The snow wasn't too bad, either, which made it less hellish to film in than expected.
5What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? I had enjoyed the art of watching and dissecting films for years, but I didn't get into the filmmaking game until after seeing Kill Bill Volume 1 in theaters. I remember sitting there, watching it with my sister, and saying "I want to do THAT right there." I was bowled over by Tarantino's audacity, doing whatever he saw fit to tell his story in the best way possible. In fact, the shifting aspect ratios of Jef can be traced back to Tarantino's use of it in both Kill Bill films.
6What's next? I'm currently working on my first horror film, which I hope to start filming this fall! I'm being mum on the details for now, but I'll be making announcements in the next month or so!
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. The film is about the evolution of a couple's relationship, and was shot in three different countries over the course of a decade.
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