Interview with Filmmaker Jordan Ellis (CROSSING OVER THE DARK)

CROSSING OVER THE DARK played to rave reviews at the June 2021 BLACK & WHITE Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

The film was an idea that was on the shelf for years after I had graduated from college. It was loosely inspired by personal family events that had experienced death. This was during an uneasy time of self-recovering in my life. That is vaguely a common theme in my film work, a kind of grim outlook on tough subjects in life and how to overcome them. When I first started film school, I produced two shorts that bore some similarities to it, involving themes of love and death and the technical aspect in switching from black-and-white to color.

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

We shot the film for only two days…just two days of production. Preproduction essentially took longer than the shoot itself, mainly trying to assemble the right cast and crew together, saving up on money, and collecting the insurance to manage a real hospital. We filmed a 4K Sony A7S Mark II with only two lenses, an 85mm and 50mm. But all together, the film, including post-production, took about a year-and-a-half to make. The general budget for the short was about $1,000.00.

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

I would say, “experimental” is one word to describe it because my crew and I utilized many unconventional methods in developing the film. You can tell, I’m not the so-called atypical Hollywood director. And if I had to include a second word, I would use a phrase instead, “quickening of the heart,” or to make it easier to follow, allow the audience to undergo some kind of “experience,” some kind of human emotion that speaks to them. I think the audience reaction that I received proves that as it evokes some kind of experience they presumably had themselves, involving love or death.

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

Trying not to make this look like a pretentious turkey. I think if you want to produce a good film that speaks to the heart, you constantly run into the challenge of what people react to the most or finding your target audience. It’s seeing what festivals would actually take it and gaining some kind of critical reaction out of it. It’s always a fear if people will like your work or not.

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

I believe what surprised me the most is that every one of the commentators understood what film literacy actually is. I was flattered by most of the comments too. It was enjoyable. Everyone had a different opinion of what the film meant for them, emotionally. That is the tremendous thing about art, and it should be subjective to those who can cling to a diverse view of what this is about.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Movies have enthralled me since I was a little kid, watching Disney films constantly on VHS, like Fantasia (1940), Aladdin (1992), Mary Poppins (1964), the Pixar films, and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) that are nonetheless my favorites. When I transitioned into my teenage years, my immense love for the cinema only matured when I was exposed to foreign-language films (Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Svankmajer, Akira Kurosawa, and Hayao Miyazaki) and the works of Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. This became a revelation for me, understanding that film itself can be something more than just mainstream. It was that and being exposed to the arts, especially photography, when I lived in Phoenix and Richmond. That’s when I decided to become a filmmaker. Even now I was the kid that loved playing Playstation, binge-watched Adult Swim (ATHF and Boondocks are my favs), and enjoyed reading the Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series. I’m that much of a geek.

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

Wow. This is an extremely thorny question for a filmmaker to barely answer. As a kid, I was always hooked on the Star Wars films. But the films that speak the most to me, involving the human condition: Seven Samurai (1954), Stalker (1979), Winter Light (1963) Wings of Desire (1987), or even 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). And if I had picked the most underappreciated pictures, William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977) or Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (2008), nihilism at its finest. But that doesn’t halt me from watching bad movies, including ones that are so poorly made that they are masterpieces, like The Room (2003)…I blame Mystery Science Theater 3000 for that, especially being a fan of that show.

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

So far my short is doing extremely well at festivals and gaining some kind of recognition for my efforts. I heartily recommend any filmmaker, especially who is more talented than I am, to submit their film on this platform. But as a word of caution, I would explore what festivals are the most reliable and not falling for guidelines that can be somewhat biased in what kind of films they genuinely want…also save up your money for submission.

9. What is your favorite meal?

I would say Asian food. I love sushi or Thai noodles…yum.

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

I have two projects in the works. The biggest one will be rock opera, my producer and I are still in the pre-production stages and most likely will not shoot until next year or the year after. But as of now, I’m working as a grip for two films I’ll be helping out for next month. I’m also writing a script for a horror film. As far as personal projects, my goal is to get another short done by the end of this year or the start of 2022. We’ll see how it goes.

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