7 questions with Black Swell director, writer, Jake Honig, David Rysdahl at the half-way mark.
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
1Hey Jake! Thanks for being a part of our festival. First, what was the initial seed that inspired you to make Black Swell? (David Rysdahl answered this question because he wrote it)
The initial spark for the movie was a conversation I had when I was home a few Christmas's ago in rural Minnesota. I went out to a local bar and randomly saw a friend from high school. I sat with him and he told me about his life in an animated yet really depressing way. He was deeply in debt and working for a job he hated and incredibly lonely, but he said all these things in this upbeat manner. We had to beers and then he left. Three months later I dreamed he was about to kill himself. I woke up at 3 in the morning and went on Facebook where I wrote him a long message about how I knew this might sound weird and I knew we hadn't talked much but that he's a good person and shouldn't kill himself, if that's what he was about to do. He wrote back the next day with the single phrase, "stop doing drugs Dave." Anyway, he became the impetus for my character in the script - the guy next door.
2I really like the script which was written by David Rysdahl (who also co-stars in the film). How did you find the script, how do you know David, and what was it about the script that made you want to direct it? David and I met on a friend's movie a while ago. He approached me out of the blue with a script and asked if I was interested in helping him make it. In these situations you often find yourself reading a terrible script wondering how to politely say no, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to read this one. It was so simple and straightforward and was the perfect scope for a short film, a story that can only exists in 8 minutes. You don't feel like you're being cheated out of a bigger story, yet there's enough character development to make you feel like you ate a whole sandwich. I hope that metaphor makes sense.
3How were you able to get Richard Kind to be your lead actor? How did you two meet and what was it like working together? We cold called his manager and told her we love him. He liked the script, so he met us at a diner on the Upper West Side to interrogate us and see if we were worthy of his talent, a test I suppose we passed. It's crazy to work with an actor of his caliber (especially one with such an extensive theater background) because he just nailed one take after another, which meant the majority of time on set wasn't spent just making a performance "passable" but deciding which direction to take the scene in, knowing our lead actor could literally do anything.
4I laughed out loud when Mr. Fennimore lays down on his bed, determined to kill himself, and then that hardcore music starts blasting from the next room. I love it when you can find comedy in even the most tragic of situations. What are your thoughts on riding that line between comedy and drama? The shot you're talking about is actually one of my favorites in the film because it's just so honest -- this guy is bigger than his bed and all the way at the bottom of the frame and you can tell exactly how he feels about the music. We tried not to peg any individual moment as "funny" or "dramatic" because that can make it feel artificial. Instead we just approached everything as truthfully as possible, thinking about who is experiencing what and how they feel about it in that moment.
5What's the film that made you want to become a filmmaker? The honest answer is either My Cousin Vinny or Clue, which are actually directed by the same guy. They're so funny and stupid and don't take themselves too seriously. There's nothing worse than a movie that thinks it's important.
6Today it seems many people are so preoccupied with themselves that they can't empathize or have the capacity to care about what others are going through. Was this a conscious point you were trying to address in the film? Definitely -- the movie is about a missed connection which is why the ending so heartbreaking. It's not that Mr. Fennimore is an asshole, he's just not listening. And for a totally understandable reason. If he knew why Jordan was there things may have turned out much differently. I don't think the film has any grand overarching moral like "make sure you're nice to everyone because maybe they're about to kill themselves." It just explores a moment where two people should have connected but didn't, which happens all the time. Sometimes it's nice to reflect!
7What's next? I am finishing post on a short comedy about the post office and David's busy writing a feature he plans to shoot very soon. All cool stuff, I promise.
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.
Share this film
Please share Black Swell with your friends and help this filmmaker win!