HISCOX FILMMAKER Q&A: SUBURBAN COWBOY
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film? Why did you want to tell this story?
The film is based on real events that I shaped with a friend who was imprisoned multiple times for drug violations. I knew I wanted to make a dark, gritty film that was set in a world few people know intimately; a film that was raw yet real.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
They are all from New York. For the most part they are all suburbanites. We hang out in the same bars and clubs, have hopes and dreams and mannerisms shaped by our NY upbringing, but beyond that… these are people that chose a very different path in life.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
The relationship between the lead and his girlfriend. At first she was window dressing, a facet of his journey. It was during table reads that it became obvious their relationship was the journey. He has to go through these awful events to finally realize what matters most to him. So we went back and stripped a lot of other elements away. It’s still not the main story, but their relationship is really what the film is about.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
We were making a micro-budget film with a lot of characters and a lot of locations. Our DP (Jakob Lofberg) wanted us to add rain to what was already going to be our hardest scene – a long tracking shot that actually combined 4 scenes. It was immediately attractive from a creative standpoint, but money and time are always tight. We sat down two days before that shoot, ran over the numbers and schedule… and finally just said – yes, let’s go for it. The plan was to shoot it dry until we got it and spend the rest of the time, if any, with the rain towers on. Our Line Producer (Jason Calabro) did an amazing job putting the pieces together last minute. It took 13 tries just to get the dry version right. But it also enabled us to practice the move that many times. It still took 14 tries for us to get it… but when we did it was really gratifying. All the credit to Jakob for pushing and even putting his own money up to help cover the extra costs.
Were there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
Although I live my life pursuing creative endeavors, which essentially throws caution to the wind everyday, I am extremely calculated about those endeavors. We put a lot of effort in pre-production to make sure we were able to move nimbly during production. You face risks every day when you make a film, but we always had a plan for pick-ups or inserts while we adjusted. We were so efficient that our 17 day shooting schedule was cut down to 16. There was very little that knocked us off course. Mostly location issues, or a featured extra not showing up. The best way to embrace risk is hiring the right people. Everyone in the cast and crew bought into our process and that went a long way.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
The story influenced our visual style for the most part. From the moment I sat down to outline I knew the visual style I wanted to embrace… something a bit dirtier, with a camera that was never locked down and no establishing shots. Initially I thought I would do this film for even less money than we spent. I set out to write something that I could do in that style, but that actually called for it – rather than the other way around. Fortunately I had a collaborator in Dragan who saw the same film.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
I don’t think I’m saving the world and in the grand scheme of things there are not many risks in making this film and telling this story.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screenwriting or film producing?
Just keep going. I have a strong resume and MFA in Film Producing from USC. It doesn’t matter. You will get told no repeatedly. No one will believe in you. No one will give you the time of day. No one will want to give you a dollar… Until someone does. If this is really what you want to do with your life, then you have to be willing to sacrifice greatly.