In the idyllic upscale neighborhood of Verterra Hill, a privatized community full of manicured lawns and sprawling colonials, four strangers make a choice that sets in motion a series of events that will change their lives, the lives of some not-so-innocent homeowners and a troubled police force forever. On a road full of twists and turns each group will be forced to make a decision that will send them all careening headlong into a deadly confrontation. In a place where nothing is what it seems and no one is who they appear to be, only one thing is certain: all choices come with a price.
Gritty urban drama? No… the intense action in Tony Glazer’s riveting drama, with a dynamite ensemble cast including ‘Rent’ star Anthony Rapp and ‘SMASH’ actor Neal Bledsoe. We talked to Writer/Director Tony Glazer in anticipation of ‘Junction‘ screening at The First Time Fest, held in New York City at the renowned The Players from March 1-4, 2013.
As a “first time” filmmaker, what was the most difficult part of getting the production of ‘Junction’ completed?
To be honest, each level of making this film had specific challenges that were equal to the others in intensity – just different. Post production was particularly challenging in some ways because we made decisions in production that required additional work once we got into post that we hadn’t planned on: sound issues, color correction, etc. The one phrase that I will never again take lightly is, “Don’t worry; we’ll fix that in post.” But if I had to find one phase of the process that was the most challenging over-all it’s the question I’m most often asked which is: “Where did you find your money for the film?” Finding someone (or in our case a group of independent investors) who will believe in your vision enough to write a check is incredibly difficult. Summer Crockett Moore (my producing partner) and I went to a lot of meetings over a four year period – meeting people, talking to people, pitching them. At one point, two years in, we almost had it completely raised but then that fell through and we had to start all over again. Even though Junction operated on a modified low-budget, it’s still a significant amount of money and I feel lucky to have found a group of investors that have been this supportive and believed this much in what we were trying to do. But it’s a challenge to find those people and the only answer I have for people when they ask that question is: “Never say no to a meeting – any meeting”. It is good to meet everyone you can – all the obvious investors that normally invest in a film and when you’re through meeting those people, meet people that don’t normally invest in film but are interested in it. Eventually you’ll find the match for your project. It’s tough but possible if you keep at it.
‘Junction’ takes place in a suburban setting yet plays as something of an urban-specific issue. Why did you decide to set the film in the suburbs? Are there any similar themed films dealing with suburban life that you referenced while developing ‘Junction’?
For me, much of the film, in part, deals with the assumptions that we make – about people, about settings. The number one reason I set the film in the suburbs is that, for me, it conveyed an image of family and safety that I wanted to very slowly undermine and throw off balance. Our perceptions can follow a very predictable pattern and I wanted to call all that into question. Characters traditionally viewed as heroes would let us down, individuals traditionally viewed as caretakers would endanger someone instead. Bringing the police into this neighborhood was a decision, again, to unsettle the expectations. Law enforcement arrives in full force, and we know that because they are who they are, they will ultimately save the day. However, the more we learn about them, the more we see they have as many — if not more problems — than the individuals in the house. There are two movies that were inspirations for this film and ironically they are not films about the suburbs, but ones that take place in urban settings. The first one is ‘MEAN STREETS‘. To me this film is still one of the best films about loyalty and family. The characters are so incredibly well drawn and executed that I still get chills when I watch it. So when I approached the characters in ‘JUNCTION‘, that film was definitely an influence. The second film found its way into the script because, when I looked past the themes I was exploring, I found that I was essentially writing a story about a simple robbery gone horribly wrong and from that perspective it was impossible not to include as an influence (and ultimately reference) what is arguably the best movie about a simple robbery gone horribly wrong in American cinema: ‘DOG DAY AFTERNOON‘. I tip my hat to that film a couple times in the movie. It’s just a brilliant film and, like ‘MEAN STREETS‘, really influenced the way I approached certain character and story points.
With some heavy themes explored in the film, how did you approach the subject matter with your actors? How did you approach it as the writer?
Because of the disturbing aspects of the material, I thought it best to be very thorough and straight-forward about it both as a writer and director. I did copious research on meth abuse and the psychological aspects of it and also other subject matter (which I won’t mention here for fear of it being a spoiler). Once I had a handle on how these elements (meth abuse, psychotic breaks, etc.) and how they drove the characters, those elements dictated story. It’s cliché when writers say the story “wrote itself” but once I knew what was going on with these characters and how they behaved and what their limitations were, those elements drove the story, complicated the story, and ultimately informed it while I was writing. Once the script was completed and I met with the actors, I shared that experience with them. I gave them all my research: (books, websites, documentaries.) I told them from the beginning not to make any decisions about their characters until they had a chance to know about all the details and they really responded to that. I had incredibly smart, talented actors to work with and they took all my research and ran with it. I was also lucky enough to have producers who understood my desire to have lots of time with the actors, so we had it factored into our budget to have a full two-weeks of rehearsal before principal photography began. Even the art department got on board, so that we could rehearse some of the fights/violence on the actual set itself – days before we would shoot those scenes. When certain issues were not straight forward (on the page) I made a decision about it for myself and then worked with the actors based on that decision. For example, meth withdrawal, unlike heroin, operates on a psychological level, not merely a physical one, so it can become non-specific. You can pretty much set your clock to heroin withdrawal in terms of what’s going to happen by way of physical symptoms but with meth, because it operates psychologically, it becomes more about the person themselves, who they are, how much meth they have abused, etc. So I worked out a “number system” for the actors where we designated what each number meant to them individually and that number became the number we would refer to when we were on set. I would just say “okay, we’re at ‘number 4’ level withdrawal” and that would mean something very specific for each actor. It was an extremely helpful way to communicate with the actors that was both efficient and meaningful.
Going forward, what is your strategy in getting ‘Junction’ out to the largest possible audience?
The strategy (post festival circuit) is to get the film into a small theatrical release. Because it’s not a multiplex film, the hope is to have a limited theatrical so that we can get enough exposure to land in the “Now in Theaters” folder on Video On Demand. From there it becomes about getting the word out through strategic marketing in order to bring as much attention to the film as possible. As indie-filmmakers, we hope people find the film and the word-of-mouth kicks in. It has been amazing being on the festival circuit and winning all the awards we have so far, because that has helped a grass-roots effort begin, and I get emails and social media postings from people across the country who have seen it in the festival theatres …. And that is the best thing, I think – having the audience find your film.
What was your visual approach to filming ‘Junction’, as a director?
The initial idea was to capture a noir style look without losing the gritty realism that the subject matter in the story mandates. That was the balance I was striving for visually. Our cinematographer, Adrian Correia, and I spent many days discussing it. From there, spatial relationships were very important to me – what you could tell about someone from the distance or closeness they held towards each other. Also, the relationship of the camera itself was crucial. As the film moves on, the shots get closer and tighter in order to create a growing sense of claustrophobia and tension.
Purchase Tickets for ‘JUNCTION’ – HERE
March 1-4, 2013
THE FIRST TIME FEST
@ The Players
16 Gramercy Park
New York, NY