Interview with Filmmaker Jamie Duneier (OUR FATHER)

OUR FATHER played to rave reviews at the October 2020 ROMANCE Film Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

It was a very specific moment actually. I remember being on the east side of Los Angeles waiting to go see a friend’s play as part of the IAMA theater company and one of my best friends, who is an accomplished Sundance Lab filmmaker and I have immense respect for, took me aside on the curb, looked me in the eyes and as if it was some kind of “intervention,” he said… “it’s time for you to make a short film.” He went on, essentially saying, “It’s time to not make excuses and just jump in. It’s scary because making a film is messy. You have to put yourself out there and bring people together and make something happen with no promise of it all working out in the end, but life is too short and no one is going to give you the chance to direct until you give yourself the chance to direct. Now is the moment so just know you can handle it and that you’ll do great.” That was the kick in the pants I needed. And it was messy. But also super organic because I chose the route of not resisting the film having a life of its own. But working with the flow of what it was “wanting” to be. I think, being in my thirties, I had a little bit more patience in the process of making the film than I would have had in my twenties.

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

Three years about. After my conversation with my friend outside the theater, I went home and wrote a first draft of the script, more or less. I knew instinctively that I wanted the short to be a pivotal scene from a larger story I could go on to direct as a feature one day. But I lost an actress for the role of Darlene early on in the process and when that happened, I “pressed pause.” I wanted it to become clear to me who else would be good for the role. It was too important to rush with casting in a film like this. One where I was looking to showcase directing the actor, and character development. I also wanted it to be someone I already knew and had a shorthand with. And then I went to see a holiday-themed play about 6 months later, written and directed by Leslye Headland. And Mel Stephens, someone I had already known for over a decade, was part of the ensemble cast and her performance was just riveting. A revelation. When she said yes, I knew the short was back on. I reached out to Mark Wolper. He was still in to produce. And thank god because I never could have done this without him. And from there, we were off to the races again. We were locked in with Tim Peper and crew about 6 months from when Mel signed on. And then Mel and Tim and I rehearsed once a week, for about 6 months. Once we shot the film, it took another 7 months to edit the film and complete it for festival submissions. Let’s just say, I didn’t rush the process, but, looking back, I am so glad we shot it when we did and no later. Phew!

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

(1) Sad-funny. (2) Honest. Does that count as two words? I’ve never been the best of the rule followers.

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

The weather! Actually if you do a search in Google for “Jamie Duneier” and “Los Angeles Times” you’ll see an article come up that I was interviewed for… while stranded on the PCH with our crew during the biggest storm of the season! We almost canceled the shoot but instead, at the last second, I decided to shoot through it. We had to change quickly between shooting out on the rocks and shooting in the car based on when the rain was coming down and when it wasn’t. We also had to add a third day of shooting a week later just to finish what we didn’t get. We shot the third day in Westwood Rec Park on the basketball court, after getting permission from the Director of the park who happened to be an acquaintance of mine, and we recreated the environment of the set to match what we shot up at Mugu Rock at the Ventura County line. I don’t want to give away too much of the magic, but we had the best crew. The best spirits, smiling even while shooting in the downpour, and clearing their schedules of an unexpected day of reshoots we managed to pull off right before my actor had to shave his beard for a big audition. This is what I mean, by the way, of having to roll with the punches. If the film “wants” to be made, the metaphorical “Matrix spoon” will bend to help you see it through to the end. As a matter of speaking. My gratitude is unending that we got the final product we did. In no small part to the free sound mix/edit, ADR and sound design we got from my producer’s friends at Smart Post Sound.

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

Honestly, joy filled my heart. I would say I felt heard, but the truth is I felt “felt.” It was amazing to see that the mood and tone and story of the film resonated with the audience. It was clear they really got it and appreciated all that went into attempting to deliver a nuanced yet moving experience. I will be smiling for a long time thanks to that love-filled video. Thank you.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

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

It was inspired by personal experience but updated the story from the 90s to present day in a way that would allow it to hopefully live “outside of time.” I also felt like changing the characters and the era would allow me some personal separation from the real story. The details of the real life story are somewhat private and I’d rather not get too much into to protect the people it involves.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

It’s a tie between Mrs. Doubtfire, Jurassic Park and Devil Wears Prada.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Efficient!

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

James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James.”

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Right now my screenwriting career takes up most of my time. I am currently developing a musical comedy feature film for director Oran Zegman and a pitch for a tv show adaptation of a new novel with Josephson Entertainment attached to produce. I am also writing a new original pilot on spec, and another feature film with a producer with a deal at Netflix. I do have the story for the feature film of OUR FATHER in my head, and hope to direct the full length movie one day. I would also love to have the chance to make another short film once we’re on the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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