Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Interview with Jenny Lasko Producer of "Abed" and "Low End."

"Abed" screens Thursday, October 18th at 8 pm
"Low End" screens Friday October 19th at 7:30 pm

I hear you have an inspiring story about how you got started in the West Michigan film scene. Tell me about that?

Inspiring if you consider beating your head against a brick wall for a few years....then yes! It started with theater in High School. Nope....wait scratch that. It started with hammering away at stuff in my grandpa's garage when I was wee lass. Living in Sidney, MI with my mom grandparents and uncles. Over the years being completely immersed in super talented folks that could build anything. It was nice. Tools. Making stuff. High School theater was not a dream of being on stage, but being on the sides acting as puppet master of lights, sounds, props, sets, and wrangling talent. We called them actors, not puppets. Hundreds of hours of work for a few seconds, moments, and minutes. 

Too indecisive for college, and too afraid of the size of the world for the European backpacking journey, and still clinging to the tom boy side...I took a long detour in life that kinda got me back to theater operating a spot light at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va. Another stop in Texas, then back to Michigan for the family. It seemed like doing something you're passionate about should be easier....but that may have been from watching too many movies. It sucked butt trying to convince anyone that I could design and build anything but a pot roast and compose a cute email in corporate america. I have worked way too many jobs. Most of them revolved around writing and building. (Some plumbing, too....but that was mostly for the crack.)

After lots of amazing people convincing me to keep pushing and constantly pointing me in directions of ideas--many of which seemed more suited for them, than me....eh, hem--I landed at (mine). It was actually at Thriller!Chiller! 2010 when (Daniel E.) Falicki screened “GR30K” (Winner of The BoomStick! Award! in 2010), that I decided to pull my creative self up by the boot straps. I talked my mom into going, as I usually do for these sort of things, just to show her what could’ve been. Instead, it turned into a “what will be”. It was real people on stage. Real work, terrible stories, long hours, and none of it without sacrifice. Keep the union dues, I wanted this—and it seemed accessible.

What is/are your gift(s) as a filmmaker? Don't be shy because after all you have played a pivotal role in bringing to life two of the top films on the Michigan film scene.

Frankinsence. Whiskey. Myrrh. 

I live close to the Meanwhile Bar. All talented people seem to be there once a week. So, if I am there 5 days a week, I will find everyone I ever needed for any sort of project, adventure, etc. There are no TVs, so I don't have to talk over the visual distraction.

Um....enough jokes. I am blue collar, West Michigan, yankee, patriotic American chick. Anti-union. Work needs to be done, do it. I do not favor job titles and resumes. What do you know? What do you want to do? What ideas do you have? How can that make things better? Resources transcend money. Sometimes things just need someone around that makes great jokes. Sometimes people want the chance to be on set and get outta the house, and they are fine with cleaning up at the end of the day. Or they miss their daughter and want to help by bringing a crock pot of chicken and rice soup with mini-sub sandwiches individually wrapped...(Thank you, MOM!). Don't say "no" to help.

What do you find the most challenging in producing a film (locations, technology, finance, people issues, post production marketing, etc) and give me an example of a unique choice you made to help solve one of those problems?

Making everyone happy.

It really sucks to see some hardworking and talented people so upset and frustrated that they are ready to give up. Technology is easy. When you realize what ("Abed" lead actor Daniel E.) Falicki does? All other stuff seems easy, and trivial.

Finance is a pain....but, most of the folks I know at "this level" of film making have days jobs. Locations.....I hate to admit it, but this is my favorite part. Some businesses are itching for the chance to advertise. Sometimes the least desired place turns out to add the most value on screen. 

Post-Production Marketing.....really is tough. It seems easy to feel "done" when someone says, "Picture wrap." That is a lie. An illusion. There is stuff to clean up. Equipment damage. Audio work. Editing. Paperwork...and I want to be proven wrong....but there is always at least one more shot needed. 
Then? A screenable film. I cannot think of too many people that watch a final version without noticing something wrong. The worst is not properly crediting someone. Each of the milestones are AWESOME points of accomplishment...but not done. 

We had a terrific movie in Thriller! Chiller! year one called “Zombie Honeymoon” (Winner of Best Feature Thriller! Chiller! 2006) and it literally was about two young lovers whose lives were torn apart by one of them becoming the undead. It was heartbreakingly beautiful love story in the zombie horror genre. It's nice to see things come back around to this type of story with another Thriller! Chiller! alumni, Ryan Lieske, ("Clean Break," "Down to Sleep") and his new film “Abed.” “Abed” may have had some particular challenges due to its graphic content. Tell me about some of the battles you've fought to get it made and/or screened and why you feel the story was important to embrace and help get made?

Um....I didn't get the love story part of it. Not in the beginning. If this is a love story it is really creepy. I thought it was tad feminist, which made me bite the bait on this film. As a single woman, and maybe I am wrong....any notion of love that resurrects the dead? Early signs of a restraining order. Maybe through a clairvoyant friend of the court we could work things out. 

As for the graphic content??? Oh my. It was a constant giggle fest of pre-production planning. We had a lot of discussions of stuff that never even made it on screen. Some of it I am still sad about...but some say the movie is sick enough already. Ryan and I had both discussed a few more things that we never got to. It was winter. We were filming in a house with no heat. We lucked out on weather more times that any production will ever be allowed ever again. Dan puts his body through more misery than any other actor I know. (Lead actress Rachel Finan) Rachel was exceptional to work with and extremely consistent in being patient and awesome. 

After meeting Beth Massie, (author of the short story that the short film is based on),  it was an honor to put a story of hers onto screen, regardless of the take on it. 

Hmm. Love story? Really?

“Low End” is the story of a young girl who is not only locked in the prison of her mind when her voice is silenced by accidental deafness, but also becomes a prisoner in her own home when she finds herself trapped inside with a menacing threat. It's terrifically produced movie. What drew you to want to make this movie? The story, the chance to collaborate with a particular cast and crew, or something else entirely?

(Thriller! Chiller! alumni, co-director and co-writer Scott Baisden) Scott knew I wanted to do more set design, decorating, building stuff. We worked together on K. Gorlitz's "Sunlight for the Wild". That was the first project that anyone asked me to build anything. I made her dolly, and a bar top mount of liquor bottles. So, Scott asked me to help on this. In some ways, they credit me more than they should. It was their idea, writing, directing, and vision. I was just facilitating. Scott and Todd (Lewis, co-director, co-writer) were awesome to work with. A perfect balance of cinematic tradition and unconventional approach. They cast the film with people that were too easy to work with, and found a location that was perfect. I was just there as a tie breaking point of view on things, and to fatten up the scenes/shots with detail.

THIS is what drew me to it. They talked about doing a silent film. That means my job was extremely important. Telling as much about the story and character visually. Great training for me to learn how to do that. I like the chracter of Eve. I like the relationship with her mother. Besides the fact that detours into a horrific situation, stepping back, and adding a coming-of-age twist, and layering it with some symbolism of the story vs reality. I wanted to somehow give "props" (pun intended) to my Mom and Grandma. I dress the set with things from my own childhood. A quilt my Grandma made, and blanket my mom crocheted, and picture for my Mom and Dad I made when I was young. Of course it seems easy to grab stuff from home, but some of these items I really had to dig for. Some of the photographs on the wall were ones I took for various reasons. They are in the film, too. Its easiest with the consideration of copyrights, but also lets me give a little note on screen to people that matter. This tradition will continue.

Ultimately, this is Scott and Todd's. They put together an awesome project, that took a lot of turns through filming and post-production. I hope anyone that wants to get into anything film related gets ahold of them to help on one of their projects. (Meaning.....they NEED to always be making more!)