Review Fix chats with Jeremiah Kipp who discusses his latest short-film, “Pickup,” detailing its reception in Europe and goals now that it’s a part of this year’s Soho International Film Festival.
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Review Fix: What makes this film different from some of the others you’ve done over the years?
Jeremiah Kipp: I’ve always wanted to work with New York playwrights that I admire. My dreams have always been based on collaborating with great writers and great actors. Mandy Evans, who plays Megan and was the guiding force behind making the film, set about finding a great writer and great co-star. Not necessarily famous people, but experienced talent.
It was fantastic working from a script by Jessica Blank. She’s a much-admired playwright, best known for THE EXONERATED, which had a long run in New York with terrific actors (like Tim Robbins, Brian Dennehy) and got people genuinely thinking about our justice system and those wrongfully condemned on death row. She’s fiercely political but her stories are always grounded in the people.
Jessica’s plays are based on interviews with real people and very dialogue driven, so it was fascinating to see her take on a story that was predominantly visual and spare. She didn’t pull any punches on PICKUP. When I heard other directors Mandy considered wanted to soften the male lead, I had a big reaction. “Why should this character be LIKEABLE when she could be INTERESTING?”
By presenting this woman in all her complexity, thus far audiences have regarded her with sympathy and compassion because she’s real. That’s all in Jessica’s text.
Review Fix: What was the feeling like on set? Any fun stories?
Kipp: It was a fast paced atmosphere. Quietly intense and we felt a looming pressure the whole time, not unlike the film. Every day was a new adventure.
My favorite memories are probably of 5-year-old Griffin Robert Faulkner, a remarkable young man. He would be off camera playing with toys, completely immersed in that world. And then he would come to set and commit just as much during a scene. His ability to play make believe with a total lack of self-consciousness inspired us all.
I really loved the cast, very smart and supportive and present. We did some risky dark scenes, but everyone had this great foundation of trust. Good company to keep.
Review Fix: How do you want this film to affect people?
Kipp: We hope to engage the viewer, shake them up a little, and create empathy for the character in her addiction. But when you finish a film, it is no longer yours. It belongs to the audience.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this flick?
Kipp: We wanted to tell a good, complicated story and share it with viewers open to something provocative and unnerving. So far, the festival run has been rewarding in that way.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of the Soho International Film Festival?
Kipp: It’s a wonderful fest. We screened a short called SOUND/VISION there a few years ago and it was an excellent venue, well publicized, and the filmmakers felt very taken care of. It is gratifying to return.
Review Fix: What was the reception like in Europe?
Kipp: Since the material is dark and discusses sexual addiction openly, we had a feeling the European festivals would be a little more open to the subject matter. We received a very positive response.
Review Fix: Short film production is rough, with little incentive and reward unless you’re very driven. What do you get out of the process?
Kipp: The biggest financial reward was booking a gig directing six episodes of a TV show that will air this fall on Discovery ID. That was entirely because of their seeing PICKUP and thinking our style guides matched up. Work begets work. Also, PICKUP has inspired other writer-producers and actor-producers to hire me for their jobs. I’ve already directed two more features as a result of PICKUP as a calling card. I’m glad, because I’m really proud of this short film. It was one of my best all-around experiences making a movie.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Kipp: I’m in post on a monster movie short called SLAPFACE about a rural farm boy who discovers a creature in the woods. I wrote this one, so it felt surprisingly personal. We’ll see how audiences respond.