This is Day Two of a three-day Q&A series on the Eugene International Film Festival (EIFF). Each interview will feature insight from a different perspective on the process of film-making. Today’s perspective is producing.
In The Weather Outside, Max finds himself separated from his family on Christmas Eve. He comes to the conclusion that his wife has left him and taken their children along with her. One year after the disappearance, he begins to discover that he might have one last risky chance to get them back.
Director, producer, cinematographer, writer and editor Jason Freeman brings his fourth film to the EIFF. Wearing so many hats on a film seems like it would be a challenging endeavor. But according to Freeman, he enjoys all aspects of film-making behind the camera — no matter the challenges each of them bring.
EDN: How did you learn about the Eugene International Film Festival? What made it a good venue for your film?
Freeman: I’ve been paying attention to the EIFF for a few years now. Eugene is a great city for a festival and I love the variety of films they show each year. Very eclectic, and that’s a good thing. I look forward to sharing The Weather Outside with everyone at the fest.
EDN: You are the director, writer, producer, editor and cinematographer on this film. Is there one aspect that challenges you more than the others? Which do you find the most enjoyable?
Freeman: Yes, well, I co-produced the film with my brother Todd and Lara Cuddy. I also share the cinematography hat with my brother Todd. I think the most challenging role for me is also the most enjoyable, and that’s the writing. It’s the creation, starting with that blank page, and I think that’s a great responsibility.
EDN: Your film seems like a heavy drama set during the holidays. Did you make a conscience effort to create that juxtaposition of pain with joy?
Freeman: Absolutely. Christmas is filled with so many emotions, from when you’re a kid on up. It’s about family and loved ones, so that can be a great feeling or a dark one, depending on where you’re at in life. It just works for the story, and it’s also great for the atmosphere of the film.
EDN: When you’re producing something that, compared to Hollywood films, has a limited budget, do you find the process of making the film more difficult?
Freeman: Film-making is difficult no matter what the budget is. To make a good film, no matter the budget, is an even greater challenge. The basic responsibilities are the same, whether its budgeting, scheduling — you name it. But if you’re serious about it, then the stakes are always high, 5 grand or 5 million.
EDN: Do limited resources create a more creative environment?
Freeman: You have to be creative in ways you might not have to be with a big budget. I find that exciting, solving those problems and continuing on. A lot of times something better than what was originally planned happens because of difficult situations. As long as people don’t start spinning out of control when problems arise. Panic is definitely not a friend of creativity.
EDN: Having produced all of your films, has the process gotten easier with each film or is it a new set of challenges each time?
Freeman: It gets easier with experience, but even more importantly than that, it gets easier when you surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. I have learned so much over the course of the past few years just from the people by my side. The challenges are always familiar but it’s exciting to see what shape they are going to take next.
EDN: In your experience, which is harder, making the actual film or selling it to distributors and producers?
Freeman: If the focus from day one is making the best possible film then the rest should take care of itself. Of course, that’s not always the case, so finding distribution is obviously difficult. I try and focus on the things within my control.
EDN: Producing seems to focus more on the business side while directing and writing obviously is focused on the film and the artform. Do you find it difficult to juggle such contrasting aspects of the filmmaking business?
Freeman: No, and this goes back to something I said a second ago about being surrounded by people smarter than me. I am admittedly not a numbers guy, but I understand the complexities of the business side and respect them.
EDN: How important is the producer’s role in a film?
Freeman: Simply put, it can be the difference between a production that is organized, creative and collaborative, or a production that is miserable and filled with anxiety from Day One. Very important, to say the least.
EDN: What do you want people to take away from your film?
Freeman: I have always liked the thought of an audience thinking about the film on the drive home, or at a restaurant or a bar, discussing it with family or friends. Nothing huge, just resonant enough to remain with you for an hour or two after the lights go up. That’s always a goal of mine, with anything I work on. As far as specifics go, well, that’s what the good conversation is hopefully about for people after the film.
The Weather Outside will make its world premiere at the EIFF on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 pm at the Regal Theater at Valley River Center. For more information about the EIFF, visit the festival website.