Interview with Director Jana Stackhouse (THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP)

Jana’s short film THE MAN WHO DOESN’T SLEEP played to rave reviews at the August 2017 FEMALE Feedback Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

The minute writer and producer Adrian Morphy pitched the idea I knew it was a story we needed to tell together. Then he wrote this beautiful script with wonderfully complex character that were both in search of something. It’s a story of fulfillment and what it means to be alive.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Adrian began writing the script in August 2015, we had two months to really find the character’s voices and round out the story. We shot over four days and had the first cut within another month. We had to pause on the film as both Adrian and I were working on other projects. So we finished it in the summer of 2016.

How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Beautifully heartbreaking.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The whole process for us was incredibly rewarding, and most of it went quite quickly. Once our first cut of the film was finished life got in the way. We weren’t able to keep working on it because we were both so busy with other films. So thankfully we had a few weeks off in the summer of 2016 and made the commitment to finish The Man Who Doesn’t Sleep.

What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was thrilled that people seemed to pick up on so many of the themes and metaphors. During pre-production – and even while on set – you can become obsessed with tiny details that you think no one will ever see or understand. So when an audience member mentions the female/male gaze, or repeats a line that resonated with them, it’s such a special feeling.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Adrian Morphy gets all credit here. He had the idea that if you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with all the extra time. It started as a comedy but as he began to develop the characters and the more we talked about what both of them were missing, it turned into something a little deeper. Then we brought on these two incredible actors, Ryan O’Callahan and Camille Stopps, who brought their own perspectives and experiences that truly brought these characters to life.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s a Wonderful Life. I would watch that film every year with my mom. I can see a few parallels between that and my own films now. The protagonist who wants something bigger and thinks he’s in search of one thing, when in fact what brings him the most fulfillment is the very thing he’s trying to avoid – companionship.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the new(ish) submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I found the platform pretty user-friendly. It’s easy to see deadlines and the watchlist notifications are a great way to stay on top of submissions.

What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Well, a song I used to listen to when I was a kid and still do now is “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” performed by Willie Nelson. There’s something so haunting and beautiful about it. It’s about love, mortality and longing. I hope to capture the same emotions in the films I make.

What is next for you? A new film?

I have just completed my latest film “Away Home” which I wrote and directed. It’s a film about family, responsibility and having the chance to say goodbye. It stars Billy MacLellan (Maudie, Bellevue), Raven Stewart (Fargo, The Expanse). We’re really excited to begin the festival circuit and have audiences see these beautiful performances.

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