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Jeri Jacquin and Jenise Jacquin
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THE BYE BYE MAN Creeps onto Bluray
Talking with Director Stacy Title
Coming to Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and director Stacy Title is a thriller that will keep you from putting your toes outside the covers with THE BYE BYE MAN.
Three college students find an old house off of campus and move in not knowing they have a tenant of another kind. An entity called The Bye Bye Man is just waiting to come out and the students, without knowing, open the supernatural door for him.
I am a fan of well done horror films and director Stacy Title has given us just that. With creepiness oozing from every frame, I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with her about where the idea came from and her vision for bringing the frights to all of us.
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Stacy, I’m so excited to talk with you today and thank you for talking the time to talk about THE BYE BYE MAN that’s on Bluray this week. I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons but the main one is that it is rare to find a female director in the horror genre.
Stacy Title: Yes, you are right, it is a rare thing.
JJ: How did you become involved in the film and I know your husband Jonathan Penner worked on the screenplay as well.
ST: I tell you that it was luck and friendship as Trevor Macy is a dear friend of mine and fan always had wanted to do something together. The script for THE BYE BYE MAN came and it really wasn’t in the shape that I wanted it to be in but there was something in it that intrigued me. My husband Jonathan and I started breaking it down and split the roles very clearly. He did most of the writing and I wanted the definition of me as the director fully realized. I’ve had people ask me if I’ve co-directed with my husband and tell them I’ve never done it before. We got the script the way we wanted and my friend Jeffrey Soros from LAMF partnering with Simon Horsman and they financed the movie. It’s really a lucky thing of having a fan and a good friend putting those pieces together. Without all of these things coming together I would never have gotten a shot at this.
JJ: What was it about the story initially that intrigued you?
ST: I loved that the Bye Bye Man can hurt you without touching you; that he can turn you on yourself by playing on your weaknesses. I thought that was really unique and original. Further, I am really interested in the idea of fear and paranoia today is a large part of our lives and that intrigued me too. You can hurt yourself by being to afraid, by being too paranoid about life. There are going to be links to the mythology that will be made available to people as well. It will explain the DNA of the movie a little more about the coins and the trains. I think people will understand even more fully what I intended.
JJ: I understand that it was based on the piece The Bridge to Body Island; did you dig further into that?
ST: That story is incredible and that’s in a book called The Presidents Vampire I believe and it has a lot of really interesting stuff. I can’t verify there were three grad students that this happened to but there was a great amount of material that was useful. One of the things is how the Bye Bye Man was murdered, that he was left on a train, his eyes burned out with coins and all the things they did to him. The book had some wonderful detail and we turned that into a movie because it wasn’t a natural movie with the work.
JJ: Is this a genre you enjoy?
ST: I love it I have to say. I’m a real horror geek. I love science fiction and fantasy as well, oh I just love all movies and genres but I do genuinely love horror. I love that feeling of being afraid and I find that interesting. I also enjoy scaring people too.
JJ: Do you think it is that rush we get knowing we will walk out of the theatre in one piece after watching a horror film?
ST: It’s so true! It’s a wish fulfillment like can I be on the edge of a cliff, fall and survive it. It’s very satisfying and makes you appreciate the world you live in. The expressions ‘enjoy each day as if it’s your last’ but a horror movie can make you believe that more.
JJ: There is nothing like that roller coaster of emotions and walking out of the film with a nervous laugh saying ‘ha! I survived!’ but inside your heart is still pounding a bit.
ST: In my bedroom in the middle of the night there was something hanging on my door and it looked like the Bye Bye Man! You see shapes and dark things that test all of those scary feelings. I also think what is fun is the community of going to see the film in a theatre.
JJ: I was so thrilled to learn that Doug Jones was playing the character of the Bye Bye Man. He does such amazing work.
ST: Yes, he is amazing and I was so thrilled that he was on our project. Have you ever met him?
JJ: Yes, I spoke to him as well for another project he did.
ST: He is the sweetest most genuine person you have ever met, such a delightful, lovely and a thoughtful person. It is so interesting that he can convert that. He completely channels the darkness for this character and how he can use his body with the smallest movement. He gets so much out of so little. He is funny, scary and brilliantly dramatic actor and I am very lucky to have gotten him.
JJ: He is just amazing.
ST: I love him.
JJ: You have a wonderful cast that comes together strong for the film. When it all came together did you think ‘yep, this is it!’?
ST: Totally, I’ve have a lot of luck in my life with casting and I’ve had great experiences with actors. I don’t know if it’s because my husband is an actor who has done television and film as well as Survivor. When I did my Oscar nominate short I had Jason Alexander and Edward Asner, with THE LAST SUPPER I had Bill Paxton and Cameron Diaz so I am very ambitious to get the best person for each part. So for THE BYE BYE MAN I was completely happy and agree with you about the cast.
JJ: When it came to doing the effects for the film, how was that for you knowing that you see one thing in your head and have to create that on the screen?
ST: I think we were overly ambitious with the amount of financing we had. There are some shots that didn’t work or didn’t look good. If anything it made me realize is that I need to hold out to expand the budget in the effects area to get those things absolutely perfect. I’m very happy with a lot of what we did. There are things that are beautiful and I wouldn’t change them.
JJ: I’m glad to hear you understood what to use and what to leave out. It seems a lot of the horror films just throw everything but the kitchen sink at a film and it sort of ruins it for me. It’s a way of saying that we have to watch and accept it. I don’t think audiences are buying that anymore.
ST: I agree so much. I think there is a judiciousness that you have to have when things aren’t really perfect and accept that it has to be cut. I believe you are right that things are just shoved into films and people are expected to just let it fly and it doesn’t.
JJ: I have found in the last couple of years is that the blood and gore just don’t tell a story for me which is why I stopped watching my favorite genre for a while. You have gone back to scary and tension. You can have a little gore but give me suspense, creaks, rustling bushes!
ST: Really the feeling of something awful is about to happen and I so think that is important. The jumps are great to release a little of the tension but it’s the tension, the dread and that identifying with the characters, I think that works much better and is more important.
JJ: It’s like when Willy Wonka is watching something bad happen to one of the kids and he says, “The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!”
ST: You are hilarious <laughing> what a great metaphor.
JJ: I love the tension! <laughing> I don’t need a lot of the other stuff, just give me the feeling of body aches when I leave the theatre because I’m exhausted from the tension.
ST: When we were early humans and living day-to-day and moment-to-moment we had to listen as if our lives depended on it in the forest because something could get us. That’s that tension you are talking about, I love it.
JJ: Yes, that primal fear that knows that at a drop of the hat something could happen and we’d have no control over it. You give us that safety of not having control, it’s hard to describe.
ST: Absolutely, taking you on that ride and to the edge. We knew the last hallucination of the film was extremely important. You had to think what was happening to Sasha was happening and the dread with the running down the hall. If I hadn’t set everything up at the beginning no one would want to take that ride.
JJ: Exactly, okay, I love you
<At this point we are both laughing>
ST: I love you too! You get it; you really understand how to put that together because it’s not easy to do. I like that you understand why you like it – you’re like a shrink!
JJ: Actually I have four adult children and we all love horror films. We love that feeling of terror but feeling safe. I’m not going to lie though; my feet do not dangle over the bed at night.
ST: When you are alone at night and you sort of see something rustling around, I admit to having a little bit of fright outside the movies. I do like the movie thing because you are right, I’m safer sometimes more than real life.
JJ: I think it helps us with those little creepy moments like going from our car to the front door which is a ten-second walk but we hear things and see shadows and fumble with our keys to get in the door.
ST: That funny sound when you slam the door and then there is a funny sound coming from upstairs and now that creepy is in the house. I live in an old house that makes noise which doesn’t help.
JJ: I have a cat who thinks it’s funny to scare the daylights out of me.
ST: Does he jump out?
JJ: I have a staircase with space between the stairs and he just rubs on my ankle as I walk up. It is the creepiest feeling in the world!
ST: Oh my gawd, that is so funny!
JJ: When people see the film on Bluray which is amazing, what do you want them to take away with them?
ST: I want them to see that fear and paranoia bring you down and that it can take over your life. You have to make a choice not to let that happen. I think the concept behind THE BYE BYE MAN is that you really get lost in your fear and by living in that fear it can hurt you – especially today.
JJ: You are so right Stacy; I had an amazing time talking to you about THE BYE BYE MAN.
It was amazing having such a fantastic conversation with Stacy and I am still thrilled to have been able to chat about horror films and what makes us love it so. THE BYE BYE MAN is a fright fest that now on Bluray gives us a reason to turn off the lights, cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite hero/heroine and enjoy the ride.
Coming to Bluray from the stellar director Stacy Title and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is dark and focused THE BYE BYE MAN.
In the end – the evil behind the most unspeakable acts has a name!
EVIL HAS A NAME!
SPLIT Frightens on Bluray
Talking with Jessica Sula
Coming to Bluray next week from writer/director M. Night Shyamalan and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the thriller SPLIT.
This film tells the story of three young women who are being held captive by Kevin (James McAvoy) and his 23 different personalities. Trying to find a way to escape alive is Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia played by Jessica Sula
I had the opportunity to speak with Jessica about SPLIT, working with M. Night Shyamalan, close quarter acting and playing opposite James McAvoy.
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Jessica, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, it’s a real pleasure.
Jessica Sula: Thank you Jeri, I’m so glad you wanted to talk about the film with me.
JJ: My daughter who writes with me and I absolutely are in love with this movie.
JS: That’s so great, really?
JJ: We think it is the freakiest, twisted, messed up, original films we’ve seen in a long time.
JS: That’s really amazing, that’s so cool, and it is actually. When you are in it you don’t think of it like that but it’s true. When I saw it all put together I thought ‘oh man!’
JJ: It’s like – what have we done!
JS: Absolutely, it’s not something I’ve seen before either so I do agree with you on that.
JJ: When you first saw the script what was your impression of it. I’m sure reading it is different than seeing it done.
JS: It was after I got the part is when I got the script because it was all really very top secret. When I was reading it tried to imagine the scenes because I wanted to know what was going to happen on the next page. I read it in a really short space of time. I’ve never been involved in this genre and it’s M. Night Shyamalan! It was exciting although I didn’t realize how he was going to shoot it which made it even more exciting to see it in a theatre.
JJ: Tell me a little bit about your thoughts when you read what your role was going to be.
JS: I thought oh man….her fate! I was a little bit nervous about how Marcia was going to come across in a survival situation. She is with these two girls who seem very proactive in how we get out. I was worried because I wanted Marcia to have a voice but when we started shooting and talking with Night, it was very much apparent that it was going to be a serious journey for all of them. I thought I was going to be one of those girls who disaster was going to happen to at the hands of James McAvoy. It was kind of funny; I think I laughed a little about it.
JJ: It’s interesting when you said, ‘I was talking with Night’ about your role. Do you know how many people will never say that in their life – ever?
JS: I know! It’s actually quite surreal. You become close especially in the close quarters for the entire shoot and when you leave and start refer to it later I don’t even think about it. He is somebody that always thinks through every shot because what he wants is very particular. It was cool to collaborate with him.
JJ: When Shyamalan does a film he is so in depth about the story and the characters. Did you feel like he has everyone’s role down pat?
JS: A little bit yes because he has it mapped out in his mind already. He is so specific in what he wants. He also will break things down for you if you have a question about a scene or something a character is doing. That is quite nice, especially when you are in a high emotional state and your character is going through trauma.
JJ: Speaking of severe trauma, how long did it take you to get over all this?
JS: It’s more like the energy that goes into it and understanding that the circumstances are frightening, beyond frightening. Just kidnappings in general pop up on the news and it’s strange to be aware of it. When you are in that emotional state everyday and heightened, it was a matter of being tired once it was finished. I went back home after we were done and I just slept.
JJ: You were probably really hyper sensitive to it all because, as you said, the close quarters and the energy.
JS: We talked about scenes and what the characters were going through and no comparison to real life but you do start thinking about it all. There is the thought of not getting out of a real situation like this and that did scare me a bit.
JJ: After seeing SPLIT I didn’t want to be around anywhere dark, forests, and weird areas so I hear you.
JS: We would all talk about that too!
JJ: You are basically in a film, the three of you, with one guy that is many people. Working with James McAvoy in a role like I’ve never seen before, how was that for you?
JS: There were moments where we were watching him and couldn’t believe we were on the same set. He would go through all these changes was amazing. He is a fantastic actor and a lovely person, to get through a subject like this and to work with someone who is going through emotional extremes; he was so kind and made us laugh all the time. He was also really generous, charming and a pure joy to work with. On film when you see it all cut together and he scared me because he was someone I didn’t recognize.
JJ: The first glimpse I had of hearing about the film and I thought ‘no way that is him!’
JS: He is brilliant.
JJ: When you were talking about working in close quarters, the only way I can describe how I felt watching it was that your character was confined in a confined space. Was as difficult to shoot as it was to watch?
JS: It had its technical challenges with moving around and figuring things out. When we were all in one room it was very cramped and it worked. I think it helped drive the scene I think. It was intensely shot with everyone feeling it because of the confined space. I mean your sweating and wanting to get out of there and so I think it adds to the intensity quite nicely.
JJ: That intensity is almost another character in the film.
JS: Very much so, I think Night proves that very well.
JJ: All of you also created that very well and what this cast put together truly does work wonderfully.
JS: That is so lovely for you to say Jeri, thank you. You don’t think about those things when you are working.
JJ: I think Night has his own genre because his films aren’t horror yet they are, they are not gory yet they are – what ever goes on in that mind of his is some serious business.
JS: We are lucky he is the director.
JJ: When people watch the film on Bluray, what would you like them to know about the film that they wouldn’t otherwise know?
JS: That’s a really good question. I would have to say that I really love everything about the way it was shot, every frame is amazing. I think what was done was really smart.
JJ: Do get more into it and be aware of the surroundings just like the characters had to for the entire film.
JS: Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. I think it’s something that I love from watching thrillers like Hitchcock. Focus on James and everything that he does.
JJ: I don’t think that will be a problem – my daughter has a thing for James, even if his 23 characters are seriously unhinged.
JS: Everyone does, everyone loves James.
JJ: Thank you so much Jessica for your time and for talking about the film and your experience with SPLIT.
I have a horror genre in my own home theatre library and SPLIT will have a special spot on the shelf. Turing our own fears inside out, this film will have you talking long after it is over. James McAvoy leads Sula, Richardson and Taylor-Joy in a cast that gives our spines a reason to shiver and stay out of dark places.
On Bluray this Tuesday from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is a thriller that will leave you breathless – just like a good thriller should! Director M. Night Shyamalan is back in the business of giving us all the shivers with SPLIT.
FOX Brings High Tech to Crime with the Series APB: Speaking with Star Ernie Hudson
On Fox Monday nights following 24: Legacy is the new police drama filled with everything high tech with APB.
The series tells the story of the Chicago Police Department and crime, shootings, corruption and under funding. Gideon Reeves played by Justin Kirk decides to help with technology and to help the police force rethink dealing with crime.
Wanting to make the 13th District the best, he enlists the help of Detective Theresa Murphy played by Natalie Martinez. She sees the potential of the technology Gideon wants to bring. Adding to the team is Officer Nicholas Brandt played by Taylor Handley and Tasha Goss played by Tamberla Perry.
It is a very skeptical Captain Ned Conrad who is willing to do anything to help the community that is being hit hardest by crime. The role of the Captain is played by none other than the amazingly talented Ernie Hudson.
Hudson, a graduate from Yale School of Drama, began his career in the 1970’s dividing his time between film and television. Most of us came to know more of his work after his smash role in the 1984 film GHOSTBUSTERS and were thrilled at his return for a cameo in the 2016 retelling of GHOSTBUSTERS.
Hudson is keeping busy recently with his appearances on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, the Epix series Graves with Nick Nolte and the high anticipated return of Twin Peaks. Now adding APB to his list of good work I had the opportunity to speak with him about the show and how his character evolved.
Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking to me today, I am actually more excited than you know.
Ernie Hudson: Why thank you.
JJ: It must be said that in our home we are huge GHOSTBUSTERS fans and, of course, we use lines from the characters in everyday conversation. The line we take from Zeddmore is ‘that’s a big Twinkie’.
EH: That’s so funny and it is so great that after all these years people have made that film so iconic. I hear things like that all the time and it really does mean a lot to me to know so thank you.
JJ: You are in a new series called APB on Fox playing the role of Captain Ned Conrad; tell me about this television project?
EH: When I got the script I thought it was such a different take on this genre for television. I was really intrigued by the stories and what part Conrad had to play. The way technology is brought into police work is something needed and I think everyone should have made available to them. I think the technology is something that is very much needed in law enforcement and can really help greatly. I’ve watched this show come together in such an amazing way.
JJ: It’s interesting because it’s rare to hear someone say we need more technology, I’m so use to hearing that we need less.
EH: Well, we need less when I’m having dinner with someone and they pull out their cell phone! I think technology can cut to the truth of things ultimately. It’s a double edge sword like every advancement; it can be either really good or really bad. Of course technology in the hands of the wrong people can be bad. I think it can make things simpler and I love on the show that we use the app that people feel they can connect immediately. I think the things that technology can do can make us more honest and it can be something for the better.
JJ: So you have this very interesting cast to work with and I see Captain Conrad as a bit of a father figure to the young officers. Does it feel a bit like that for your character?
EH: Yes, it really does because I have kids as well and I see how kids are into their toys and gadgets and it is part of their world. At the same time you want the young officers to know that someone is there for them. Also, there is a reason my character brings this old way of doing things because there is a protocol and it’s important that it’s understood. I also recognize that they have a different approach but it has to be set up because the Captain is preparing to turn things over to the group. They need to be aware of certain things before he does that, especially Gideon who has some issues. My character can’t let them use run amuck and do what ever they want without realizing that there are consequences. I think that’s how I see it anyway.
JJ: I see how you are trying to guide them with the technology, everyone has their own issue. I love when you rein them in and give them a shot of realism when they get too far.
EH: Good, I’m hoping the fans will see that as well and it can be seen in future episodes as well. I think we can’t write off the young people because they are coming through. We want to be able to share with them, connect with them and get as well as give respect. We want to make sure everyone is in a good place before they kick us out of the way.
JJ: How do you see your character moving forward?
EH: What was important to me, especially as the setting is in Chicago, we know they have issues that no one can understand. I don’t think there is any way to understand what is going on there. My character still lives in the community that is served by the police department. So in addition to him wanting to be a good law enforcement officer he also recognizes in a very real way some of the issues that are not working in his neighborhood. He also has the double edged sword in that he works for the police but also has children that have to live in this world. There is a reason why he wants it to work and a reason why he wants to be open to technology. For me as an African-American actor is the humanity of who he is as a human being. We only have a sense of that now and more will be written as the writers become more and more aware of who this guy is. We have an episode where he says criminals are criminals and we need to talk to these guys because of the damage they do but the Captain goes out of his comfort zone to try something different in handling them.
JJ: But he always lets it be known that this is ‘my town’, but he says it in such a deep and respectful way. You get it that he’s not going to tolerate much.
EH: I would love to see that approach taken by a lot of other people. I mean it is ours and we should claim it. We should not just excuse it and let it slide but instead say no. I think for a lot of African-Americans who left the old neighborhoods and moved on we still need to go back and say ‘this is my neighborhood’. There are people still there that are working for the ones who are left behind that we need to support with either our presence or money or whatever we can do. This is our country and we need to claim it in a very personal way that we don’t write off whole sections thinking they deserve it. I think it is personal and I think we need to claim all of it. The problem is when you have the inside group it creates these outside groups and it happens when we want to make one better or demonize the other. The reality is that it is all ours and we need to be there for each other.
Certain things are just not acceptable.
JJ: I really understand that, I’ve lived in California most of my life and there are areas where I feel there has been a mental fence built with an X on it saying ‘don’t go there’.
EH: Exactly, sometimes they just say it and don’t try to hide it at all. It’s as if the people that live there don’t deserve something extra and I say no. I think somehow we have got to find a way to make all of us feeling we have a better chance at life. I mean you can screw it up but at least if you try you have a chance; that is the American dream for me. To say these kids are never going to have jobs and even if they play by the rules there is nothing for them makes no sense. I don’t play any game that I don’t think I can win. I became an actor because I said ‘I can do this’. Unless we can be free to do that then we all lose.
JJ: Well put and I think your character just came through a bit.
EH: See, I’m bring me to the role and that’s important. I’ve done shows where I’ve portrayed different characters that have nothing to do with me personally but with APB I do think it’s personal.
JJ: I can honestly say in the years I’ve been doing this that I’ve heard even a few say that a role is personal to them.
EH: I think we sometimes want to separate it. The character isn’t me of course but the character is definitely personal.
JJ: Because your role wasn’t specifically defined yet, do you think the writers let you create him?
EH: I think they were open to letting me show them what this character was. While we were there I had a cousin who was shot and see, that’s personal. You can’t come to Chicago and not know that you are making a statement about people in a place we are all impacted by. You have to take it seriously. You can’t just throw out stuff, you have to bring integrity to the writing and that’s important. I think being true and honest, it matters; especially now it matters.
JJ: There is a sadness, a heavy heartedness in Chicago.
EH: Yes, it’s deep in the spirit. We need to find a way to lift our spirits because this is us and I believe technology can help us do it.
JJ: Your show definitely has a lot to offer in the way of technology. One of the episodes the officers use a submarine and I can’t recall that in a police drama before either. More firsts for your show!
EH: They don’t use anything on the show that isn’t truly available. I want it to be available to the public and not just to corporations or wealthy people.
JJ: I’m hoping that comes through and that people get that about your show. Although your show does have a hacker of the technology and that character just gives me the skeevies.
EH: Yes, we do! You will have to watch the last two episodes of the season to find out how that all works out.
JJ: I am so honored to have talked to you today and thank you for continuing to bring amazing characters for us to enjoy. Congratulations on APB!
EH: Thank you Jeri. I appreciate that so much.
It must be said that talking to an actor I have enjoyed for years is such a thrill for me but talking to an actor whose work I’ve admired is a privilege. Ernie Hudson is such an actor who is a strong character in the new television series APB.
APB follows 24: Legacy Monday nights on FOX at 9 pm PT/ET, 8 pm CT. ABP is in its 11th week with the final episode of its first season on Monday, April 24.
In the end – police work isn’t rocket science, it’s harder!
Netflix Brings a Soldiers View in the Original Film SAND CASTLE
Coming to Netflix on April 21st from screenwriter Chris Roessner, Treehouse Pictures along with director Fernando Coimbra comes a look at the people and place that carry the realities of war with SAND CASTLE.
The film tells the story of Private Matt Ocre (Nicholas Hoult), a young man who intended to serve in the reserves to pay for college. When September 11th occurs, he hurts himself hopefully to be sent home.
Instead, he is sent back to his regiment to catch up with Sgt. Chutzky (Glen Powell), Cpt. Enzo (Neil Brown, Jr.), Sgt. Burton (Beau Knapp) and squad leader Sgt. Harper (Logan Marshall-Green). Learning they are all to be sent to Baghdad, Ocre comes in close contact with insurgents and after a firefight moves into an abandoned palace.
After a few months, Pvt. Ocre and the other soldiers will be sent to Baqubah where a water station has been damaged. Their mission is to delivery water to the local residents and find a way to fix the pumping station.
They arrive to the greeting of Special Forces Cpt. Syverson (Henry Cavill) who tells them the villagers don’t want them there and that the danger surrounding them is very real. With a tanker truck to retrieve the water, almost immediately their nerves are tested when dealing with a truck that is eager to run up on them on the dirt road.
Arriving at the pumping station, it is clear that this is not an ordinary fix-it job. Cpt. Syverson and Sgt. Harper meet with the local Sheik (Salim Daw) to ask for help in getting the station up and running. His reply is since Americans destroyed it, they should fix it.
Disheartened by the Sheiks lack of help, the soldier return to retrieving water in the tank. On the way back they are hit by insurgents and the tanker is shot up. Explaining why there is no water to the residents become tumultuous at best. The local school teacher Kadeer (Navid Naghaban) tells Pvt. Ocre that they are asking for help from the wrong people.
Harper tells Syverson about his conversation with Kadeer and believes he is the key to getting help to repair the station. The next day Kadeer shows up with his brother Arif (Nabil Elouahabi) who is an engineer and now they are working together.
Celebrating that night their success in reaching the villagers, it is only met with horror in the morning. Arif tells the soldiers where they can find insurgents and a raid turns up wounded to the platoon. Returning to the pumping station, Pvt. Ocre is more determined to get the job done. They are almost finished until a bomb explodes.
Back in Baghdad, Pvt. Ocre meets with Lt. Anthony, Sgt. Major MacGregor (Tommy Flanagan) and Sgt. Harper to discover that plans have been made about his future.
Chris Roessner is the screenwriter for the film SAND CASTLE. A former soldier who served for six years, he was based in Iraq for twelve months with the 4th Infantry Division which is part of a Civil Affairs unit. He says of his work, “Our job was to interact with the locals; the cliché is ‘win the hearts and minds of the people’.
After leaving the army, Roessner attended USC in their film school writing Sand Castle his final semester. I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Chris to learn about his time in the service, the need to write the script and how long it took to complete.
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Chris, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about SAND CASTLE and, of course I wanted to say thank you for your service.
Chris Roessner: Hi Jeri, thank you, that’s very kind of you, I appreciate that.
JJ: I am a military mom and my son also served three tours of duty in Iraq.
CR: Well, then please tell him thank you for his service as well and give him a nice firm handshake from me.
JJ: Absolutely, I wanted to tell you that there are a couple of scenes in the film that reminded me exactly of pictures he had shown me, especially the scene inside the palace.
CR: I feel like every young teen that came through that palace thought the same thing, take a picture of it and sliding down the banister.
JJ: I read the notes and it said you were taking from your experiences during the time there, how deep did you go with that? Is it extremely close to being autobiographical?
CR: I went as deep as humanly possible until it hurt a just a little too much. I would say that what is authentic and what I cared about most is the way I portrayed the American soldiers and how I portrayed the Iraqi people. That’s what I cared most about more than anything. I feel that I hit that goal and I feel like the actors hit that goal. Some of the events were lifted from my experience but it was more important to me that the feeling of being at war was translated. Even if that meant I had to change and fictionalize some things. When I sat down to think about it I asked myself what is the feeling of war in one sentence. What would that feel like? I came up with the feeling of pushing a rock up a hill and watching it roll back down. I wanted to portray that feeling. This film is not about a singular mission with success or failure; it’s about the feeling of being at war risking your life, dying, being hurt, and your friends being hurt or killed and for the soul purpose of taking this giant ship and shifting it half a degree. That’s the feeling of war and I don’t think I’ve seen that fictionalized in cinema before. Again, even if the events aren’t entirely true, I think they are truer than true if that makes sense.
JJ: One thing that just really intrigued me is that you wanted to portray the truth of the Iraqi people. I have to go with that because when I was watching the film I don’t think I’ve seen that before in films about the Iraqi war.
CR: Not at all and I am as proud of that as anything else in this movie. Our job was unique but you learn early on that you can not be successful unless you have the inclusion of the Iraqi people – you just can’t. You need interpreters, you need informants and you need people joining the police force or join the Iraqi military so you can train them. To me, if you are going to make a war film you have to find out what is unique about that particular war. How was the Iraq war different from Vietnam? How was Vietnam different than World War II? For me the center of all of this is that you must work with the local population to be successful. They may get hurt and you feel that emotionally, when you get hurt they feel that emotionally. Your goal is one in the same.
JJ: I’m so glad you put it that way. I think that it is something important; you have to get into a mindset in order for things to work together.
CR: Yes, I think that’s what I learned in my Iraq experience and what I hope the audience learns is that it takes courage to remain empathetic. There are things that happen that are beyond your wildest imaginings, it takes real courage to maintain your value set. It takes real courage to maintain empathy. I feel like that is something getting lost in our culture. Since returning home I feel like people see empathy as a weakness and the opposite is true. It takes real courage to remain empathetic and indeed it’s the only way to win wars like this or even change the tide. We have to remain true to our values and our empathy even in the face of very difficult circumstances.
JJ: When did you decide that you wanted to make this film?
CR: I knew that I wanted to make a film about the Iraq war and I can remember the exact moment it happened. When I was 19 and I was in the presidential palace in Tikrit, Iraq and I was on watch all night in case there was an emergency of some kind. What that usually means is that you are up all night watching movies which is what I did. I put Oliver Stone’s movie PLATOON into the DVD player at about three in the morning. As I watched it and it was over I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I wanted to try to make a film that was as emotional as that one because I had never seen anything like it. It took me seven years to actually sit down and write it but I think that moment in the palace at 3 in the morning was the start of this whole journey.
JJ: You said it took seven years to put it together, was that due to the writing process for you?
CR: Actually I didn’t try to sit down and write it until I was twenty-seven. I think the seven year gap after returning from Iraq and sitting down to write it was me not knowing, again, why I would make this film. I didn’t want to sit down and write just anything. That question of what makes this war different and what were my experiences different took me seven years to answer those questions. I was 20 when I got back and had all this stuff in my brain, all these experiences and I was confused. I did a lot of work on myself just like anybody else. I kind of needed to be a kid a little bit because I missed this whole portion of my life with college and the like. I think I just needed that much time to get a little bit of distance so when I did sit down to write it, it wouldn’t hurt so bad. I need that amount of distance from it.
JJ: That actually was what I was going to ask about the process, you kind of have to find your place again to write something like this.
CR: Absolutely, you have to find a new sense of purpose. When you are in the military your purpose is very clear and very defined. You are what I call a single function device and have a clear goal on a day to day basis. You are pointed in a direction and that’s where you go. After living that way for several years and come home at 20 or 21 and that’s gone, you have to find that purpose again. It’s a tough adjustment.
JJ: When that time passed, is there something that said inside you to get this done?
CR: Yes, it was Christmas break in 2011-12 and I was in California going to college and I couldn’t afford to go home for Christmas. I was feeling a little off anyway and thought I’d sit down and write something. I wrote the first draft in three weeks all through Christmas break. I kind of dumped it all out and it was enough for me to recognize that it felt right. It felt like this is what I needed to do. That three week period was exhilarating but then the hard work began. I was ready to do that hard work and felt emotionally fortified like I knew I could do this and come out the other side.
JJ: Tell me what your next step was once the script was written?
CR: Well, I was very lucky because when I finished the script I gave it to a friend of mine who worked for Mark Gordon who is one of the Executive Producers on this film. He produced SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and is a really great guy. He read it on a Friday night and by Sunday night of that same weekend my whole life changed. The script was passed around Hollywood very quickly and Mark called me Sunday night and said, ‘This is good but not good enough. I’m going to help make it good and help get this thing made’. It was ten years of not making any money, struggling, getting eviction notices to my life changing.
JJ: When people are watching the story, what would you like them to take away from the film?
CR: A couple of things, first, that we were only successful when working alongside the Iraqi people, that is very important to know. Second, the actors in the film were cast because they were good actors but also because they looked the right age. The average age of a person in Iraq was 20 maybe 22. It’s important that people recognize that. I would say those two things are most important. I would also hope that if their humanity is touched a bit that they realize that patriotism is a very active thing. It is not a bumper sticker or crying every time you hear the national anthem. You have to make sure that the young men and women you serve are taken care of by affording education and affording healthcare. People should consider how to involve themselves in these causes otherwise it is not patriotic. You have to be passionate and involve yourself actively!
JJ: Thank you so much Chris for everything – for your service and for your dedication to getting this film made. It means a lot to me not just as a writer but as a Mom, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
CR: Thank you Jeri, that means so very much to me.
SAND CASTLE is a film that experiences so much human in emotion on both sides of the Iraq war. The soldiers who come to understand they are not wanted in Iraq but have to be there to the villagers that do want help but to do so can decimate families and in between are insurgents who only want to destroy.
The cast, set and cinematography bring realism to viewers and into this important story. I am very sure that former and current military men and women will recognize the dilemmas and emotions of these characters.
Roessner has shared part of himself and that makes all the difference. For me, to make a story such as this portray so much tension, danger, anxiety, sadness and hope – this young screenwriter did not hesitate to include not only the lives of the soldiers, but the Iraqi people.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to view the film SAND CASTLE premiering on Netflix April 21st.
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GET OUT Hits Bluray and a Giveaway!
Coming to Bluray/DVD and On Demand from writer/director Jordan Peele and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is the social thriller GET OUT.
Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) are headed to visit her parents for the weekend. Unsure of how he will be received, Chris tries to have a positive attitude about the whole endeavor. His friend Rod (LilRel Howery) agrees to take care of the couples’ dog and stay in contact.
Arriving at the home of Missy (Catherine Keener) and Dean (Bradley Whitford) Armitage, their first meeting seems a good one. Chris also meets Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Jones) and housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel). He learns Missy uses hypnosis in her work and after an evening discussion believes she has hypnotized him to stop smoking.
Yet Chris can not shake the feeling that something else isn’t right around him. During a weekend gathering he meets Andrew King (Lakeith Stanfield) and realizes he knows him but not by the name. He calls Rod to share his suspicions as they turn it into joking.
Meeting the Armitage’s friends Chris speaks with Jim Hudson (Stephen Root) who says he believes the young man has an eye for the exceptional. Hudson owns a gallery and is also blind. During the gathering something happens to the man introduced as Andrew whom Chris takes as a reason to leave as soon as possible and Rose agrees.
That’s when all secrets are revealed and Chris fights for his life!
Kaluuya as Chris is an affable character who is keenly aware that there might be a problem meeting Roses’ parents, especially since she didn’t tell them he is African American. Once at the parent’s home, Kaluuya’s performance is that of a young man with great instincts who hopes he is just being over sensitive. Remember, always trust your instincts!
Williams as Rose is a young girl who is in love and wants her parents to meet the boyfriend. Trying to help Chris get past his nerves, Williams gives her character a little naïve attitude until its time not to.
Keener as Missy is just dumpy diapers from the beginning. I don’t think she smiled once actually but instead constantly giving sterns looks. Okay, so she wants what’s best for her daughter and a smoking boyfriend isn’t it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Keener in a role like this and it is absolutely creepy.
Whitford as Dean is the jolliest member of the Armitage clan. He friends Chris right away and tries to make him comfortable at their bbq. Whitford has that brilliant smile and dancing eyes which work hugely in his favor for this character. Jones as brother Jeremy is the guy most of us would think locked in a basement. He isn’t really all there. Root as Hudson seems like the normal neighbor interested in Chris’s talent and how he can help.
Henderson as Walter freaked me out immediately and then it was crazy from that moment onward. The scene between Walter and Chris cutting wood was crazy good. Gabriel as Georgina just had me staring at the screen with her robotic answers and deep stares. Stanfield as Andrew jumps right into his role and needs to rethink that outfit – seriously.
Howery as Rod is hilarious from start to finish. Worrying for his friend he comes up with scenarios that cracked me up and if you get a moment to see the deleted scenes you’ll understand even more.
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us all to experience and re-experience in our own home theatres. There are films of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.
GET OUT is a thriller that had audiences in the theatres going nuts and now you have a chance to see it for yourself or see it again! The twists and turns are unsettling as this film brought in &100 million at the box office. That should tell you what an original thriller GET OUT truly is.
The Bluray Combo Pack includes a Bluray, DVD and Digital HD with Ultra Violet, Alternate Ending with Commentary by Writer/Director Jordan Peele, Deleted Scenes with Commentary by Writer/Director Jordan Peele, and Unveiling the Horror of Get Out: Go behind the scenes for the making of GET OUT.
Also included is a Q&A Discussions with Writer/Director Jordan Peele and the Cast: Jordan Peele sits down with the cast to answer fan questions on the film hosted by Chance the Rapper, Feature Commentary with Writer/Director Jordan Peele. It is the Alternate Ending that has to be seen to be believed.
Another cool part of GET OUT is that we have a copy to give away! Email email@example.com with your name and address and a winner will be chosen at random.
In the end – just because you are invited doesn’t mean you are welcome!