Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Featured Artist Interview - Jered Becker

Matt and I watch a significant amount of movies recommended by Jered and I haven't regretted watching one yet. He and his team including director Nick Brown won Best Picture for the 2015 Down to the Wire contest as well as Best Cinematography and Best Actor. Jered grew up on a farm north west of Wichita and moved here to attend WSU. His fascination with getting things right and keeping balance have coalesced into a unique lens with which he makes film.

A: As far as I know you're the movie guy; what makes movies something you want to do versus music or any other endeavor?
J: It taps into something that I've been obsessed with my whole life. The movie thing has always been an interest, but all of this has just started coming out of me for the last year or two. Before that I went to WSU and was a musician. Everything I've learned from music has just helped me. Reading plays has helped isolate some priorities of writing cinema for me, which is funny because cinema hasn't even been on that stage since the late 90s. My mom had a unique filter. She’d let me watch Stand By Me, which is like a Stephen King coming of age story with leeches and they find a body. I saw that in like 1st grade, but even when Tarantino hit the scene she didn't even have to see that to say no. My aunt, who's an art teacher - a huge influence for me - she would bring over movies like From Dusk Til Dawn, which I didn't get to see but I remember listening to my brother and my aunt talking about how awesome these movies were from the top of my stairs. With Pulp Fiction it wasn't the sexiness, it was really the heroin overdose scene that made my mom not let me watch it - and that's it. Well, maybe the sodomy part too! Ha! I mean I remember watching all these great movies with my Aunt, like -”The Fisher King” and What Dreams May Come, I watched that so much when I was like 12. It's kind of sad that the special effects don't hold up, but seeing Robin Williams in those kinds of roles now is just amazing. Suffering the duality of everything has'd to have something to do with it.

A: What has been the biggest take away from the filter your mom gave you and doing music that has translated to making film?
J: Because she let me watch some r rated movies but not others, I did a lot of inner examination about what that meant and why movies were rated differently. I think it was a very healthy way of being raised. I'm in a position now where I'm in this writing room where no one gets to see what I'm working on, and it may be that way potentially for years to come. As a filmmaker you reserve the right while you're doing it to do things that maybe aren't supposed to happen, but you feel absolutely confident they should. But you have to know the rules first. It's like, how do you do what you want to do with absolutely nothing? Who are you telling the story for? That is my first thing. My problem with a lot of stuff is that no one is taking real chances, they stick to the rules. Or they're either going balls to the wall with insanity for novel randomness or for humor's sake or praise, or having recognizable people in their movies, but like, no one is taking the chance. I'm not saying they should be out there getting hurt. There should just be a time where you put yourself out there without knowing if it's going to happen or not. I think my weakness is having to really force these pass/fail parameters on myself, but not knowing when to take those parameter/training wheels on/off. Its like a deep sea diving suit for exploring ideas.Not many things force us to take that risk in real life.

A:The way that you see movies and the way you do movies, what do you think your strengths are?
J:All of this is just coming to me in the last like year or two, but my feeling is that when you get to thinking one way or the other you have to pull yourself back and reevaluate what you're doing. Learning to read the room, or read your audience is a huge part of it. I don't think I'm Mister Social, but telling stories to people about just random things that happen without them getting 'ugh' is a skill that I, with practice, I've been able to get a handle on. I mean, I've told the story about my arm getting broken so many damn times and each time I tell it, the story is for someone different. While the 'da-da-da-' of each thing that progresses the story is the same, the telling is different based on them. 

A: How does forming ideas and keeping your audience in mind affect your final product?
J: You can teeter on this worrying about too much about what people think. I've learned that I'm not as dissimilar to people as I thought and I'm not as similar either. Once you start getting too far off on one track or another you have to bring it back. That happens to be one of the few strategies I have, and one of the things I'm good at is balancing: bringing the too eccentric back down and the too safe up. For me, making movies is like an exercise in world peace. It of course never happens, perfection only exists on paper. However, each new project allows you to reevaluate your own eccentricities about how to communicate with different types of people. When you're collaborating on a movie you've got the director who like, it's his vision, or whatever and then you've got everyone from the camera people, to the people making the costumes -it's no one's one thing and it's not for them, the people making it, even if it starts out that way. There's a push/pull, and a give/take. If you're gonna be the director you should have all the answers, but never have to state them directly. Good concepts exist in 3d - its what makes a band “swing”, not that they’re playing on 2 and 4 but that the group is toeing a line just that’s stretching just beyond our expectations - audience and player- enough to keep us holding on but not totally lost. I've realized a weird element of  human physics is that if you go way over in one direction you'll end up on the opposite side eventually.  Finding balance and playing the Devil's Advocate, and learning how to keep it all together is something that my partner Nick Brown has said must be my purpose in life.
A: With this being something that is relatively new to you, in action at least, what do you think you've learned about making movies that never occurred to you before you started really getting to know how the process works?

J:  Nick deserves praise here. He was the first one when I came to him with an idea just said “Okay, do you have a shot list?” “No.” “Do you have a storyboard, script?” “I could!” And then I went to him about a day or so later with a couple panel pages to shoot and then “Judy” was shot. He puts roadblocks in front of me every step of the way and its not something to get upset over, but to conquer, and I can actually communicate with the more educated fellows in the medium because of that.

One thing you see in movies all the time is where the character is giving this grand speech and then the camera turns and you realize they've been speaking into a mirror the entire time. The thing is everyone is doing it. As humans we do it constantly, it's just no one is documenting it. A filmmaker takes, what for any normal person would be, say, like when you think of the perfect 'well fuck you too' line after you've already finished an argument - a filmmaker takes this instance and distills it to perfection and then documents it. It's instinctual for most people. But not everyone documents it. My thing is I want to cater to the audience. If you're at a party telling a story, who are you telling the story for? You're telling it for them, for the audience who just wants to see that character make the decision that they themselves would want - on their best day - to make. The characters and audience of course don't always get their fantasy ending realized, it's not about the happy ending or giving the audience exactly what they want. When working on a contest like Down to the Wire or sometimes even with doing music it may start out with several personal stories or ideas from the group that are connected and everyone has come to the conclusion that each one of those things were meaningful. This is when balance comes in. And then when each story is reduced to only it's symbolism and is placed in a unique order the narrative or path taken becomes something that each human being must go through in their life. The story isn't about my idea or any one person's idea - it becomes a unique telling of everyone's experience, guided through one intense interpretation.

A: How has turning your focus from being a musician to filmmaker changed things for you?
J: In my early to late twenties when I moved here I had a good period of time to straighten somethings out for myself. Getting up early, straight A's, eating well - like chicken and veggies, oatmeal for breakfast- I had a schedule, the wheels were turning. Then about 5 years ago my dad was killed in a car crash. I didn't get along with my dad at that point and time, for lots of reasons, I mean - we're the opposite in ideology but our strategies are the same. There's nothing I could do about it - about how I left things or whatever. No matter how I wanted to feel about it, there wasn't anything I could do. Suddenly it was no longer about asking a girl what kind of music she liked, it was no longer about that. It was based on their experiences - are they from a farm, a city - it was more important stuff and that's what happened for me with music. It became about finding people who wanted to do things that were serious, rather than for the scene - that ideology change - finding monogamy in people to do things creatively with. Instead of just having a one night stand situation with some musicians where the first hour is just some guys who haven't seen each other in four months getting reacquainted with each other and the next hour is more of the same thing.

 The irony of my odyssey in all this - his death and my creativity-is that when I was 13 my dad told me he had this dream that I was spreading the word of god, which who knows what that even means - though his idea was something at the time I wanted nothing to do with - nothing at all. Yet, here I am in own way through making these films exercising my own version of that - by how I work with people - of my own sort of brand of spirituality. In a way he was right, in a way that's exactly what I'm doing. Though not being able to show him indirectly, this is the definition of human tragedy. And it is such a subjective thing to say, it’s like film in that statement means something different upon every re-examination. If a movie doesn’t have that character, it may not need to exist.

A: Through your unique lens - the filter your mother has given you, your father's death, and the way you grew up - how is that coming through, or does it even come through, in your current projects?
J: I always thought I was into dark shit, weird shit, and I'm now in this space with people who are completely normal that allow me to explore some of these weirder things without judgement. It's like you can run full tilt in a direction you thought was completely opposite to yourself, only to find that you've arrived on the other side of your original self looking across the fence. It seemed like when I was younger the more visually loud someone was the more interesting I thought they were and it turns out the payoff isn't ever actually there. You don't want the girl with the blue hair. You think you do, but you really don't. So being able to bring these weird ideas into this group and then developing a balance between my lens, my ideas, and their lens, their ideas has been helpful in reestablishing the foundation I lost since getting into that rut five years ago - I have to consciously be aware of maintaining and striving for that balance.

You can find out more about Jered Becker and his current projects by following his YouTube Channel and connecting with him via Facebook.  Have a question or want to say hello? Leave a comment and let us know what you think about creativity and finding balance.

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