Beside Myself

This film has been a bumpy ride for all of us.  Re-shooting  alone is a heck of a thing for a short, but reshooting  it with the kind of anxiety we had (weather!) and admittedly a number of things that could have been better prepared, and the ways that the script intersects with my personal life that I’m still unpacking, led to an experience that took a lot out of us, and this may show you why it’s taken me so long to get around to writing about it.

The screenplay for this film is about 5 pages.  Writing it took me six months.  Balancing the needs of a coherent narrative against my desire to make a movie that was dreamlike and “outside time” while also trying to keep it as short as possible, made it probably the hardest of my scripts to write, and more than anything else I’ve done so far, I had to mess up, rewrite, rearrange and whittle-down until I had (and I can say this without feeling egotistical) the exact little gem I was after.  I almost didn’t want to make it into a film, the screenplay by itself felt so self-contained to me that the idea of filming it seemed like a kind of betrayal, but of course it had to be filmed.  It was a visual story, and there was no other way for the seed I planted to grow.

To do this I was blessed with an amazing cast and crew.  Our great cinematographer, Tom Ciaburri, was so on his game throughout the making of the film that I started calling him “Eagle Eye” to myself.  He really knows the mood and tone that I’m going for, and cares deeply about serving the story, so every shot we planned was carefully designed for real emotional impact, rather than to just look pretty.  If I had a central tenant to my beliefs about directing, that would be it, serve the story and create emotional impact.  That would also seem to be Tom’s central belief about camerawork, and I’m deeply grateful to him for that.

A huge thanks also to my long-time friend and partner in crime for this little company, Alex Sylvester.  He’s been so patient as a producer, the quality of the film being his top priority at all times. He went through so many difficulties and jumped through so many hoops to make this re-shoot possible.  Alex and I have been working together for as long as we’ve been doing films, but if his faith in me would ever falter it would’ve been on this project, but it didn’t (well hardly at all), he pushed forward, and made it possible against all odds (as corny as that sounds) for me to make the film I wanted to.  He also helped me structure the script to keep it from being to free-floaty.  Anyway, pal, thanks.  You’ve been really indispensable.  Then again, you always are.

I would be making a real mistake if I didn’t give a shout-out to our wonderful young leads, Jack Lindsey (Sam) and Peyton Pich (Janie).  These kids were everything I could have hoped for and more.  They were both so perceptive and took direction better than most adults I’ve worked with.  I was amazed by their shared talent to express deep and full feelings in just the tiniest gestures, like only the best actors can do, and by the depth of their understanding of the essence of this project.   Thank you guys so much for bringing all that kindness, humor and enthusiasm to the making of this film, I won’t forget it.

Huge thanks to our entire crew.  I can’t name you guys all here, but rest assured, your contributions were essential and are deeply appreciated.  The guys in the trenches like you are the ones who make any movies possible.  Thanks so much!

Lastly, this is a very personal film for me, so I’d like to take a minute to thank people who were not technically involved in it’s making, but who’s belief me and the project gave me the guts I needed to go on with it.  Many, many thanks to my dear friends Stephen Bosch, Emily Ross, and Xoe Amer for being some of my biggest artistic boosters, and especially to Xoe for suggesting that I change the bullying scenes I had in early drafts.  Also, endless love and thanks to my parents, Allen and Jill Johnson, for always encouraging their son to pursue his crazy dream of making films, and thanks to my good friend and colleague Andy Akada, for helping me make Janie a more fully-formed character.

Thanks, most of all, to the main inspiration for this movie, my twin brother Sam.  I know you’re out there, bro, making sure I’m OK, and I want you to know that wherever you are, I love you.

– Ben Johnson


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