JANUARY 14TH played to rave reviews at the Los Angeles Action/Crime/Thriller Festival in August 2020.
Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?
La’Chris Jordan: JANUARY 14TH was inspired by my parent’s 35-year marriage. January 14th is the date of their wedding anniversary and I wanted to commemorate their life together. They were best friends who had been through heaven and hell together. But when my mother died, everything stopped. It was heartbreaking, especially for my father. He had lost not only a wife, but a life partner and a best friend. Everything came to standstill and piecing it all together again was a process. It still is. So, the film was my way of exploring grief and how we try to find a semblance of normalcy amidst the emptiness.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?
It took a little over a year. The earlier drafts had been written in 2018 and we were in pre-production in 2019. My producer, Toni Bullock, and I knew the shooting schedule was going to be tight so we over-prepared. I don’t like unnecessary confusion on set or off, so finding the right team was everything. This was also my first time directing, but I had been on enough sets (as an actor) to know what not to do, so I was extremely meticulous about every process. Plus, I’m not a “fix it in post” type person, so we had to get certain things right because there wasn’t enough money to reshoot. LOL We also hired a police technical consultant (Quincy Vidauri) to advise us on the authenticity of how an actual cop moves and operates, especially as it relates to traffic stops, which from a cop’s perspective, is one of the scariest situations he or she can be in.
3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
It’s always time and money, isn’t it? As an independent filmmaker, you don’t have a lot time for rehearsals. So, getting the final script to the actors as early as possible was important. Because of that, we didn’t lose time on set. The actors were able to dive right in, and they came super-prepared. We shot the film in two days (with Director of Photography Brian Isom) in Los Angeles with a small, but talented crew (aka The Dream Team). The cast was made up of local actors who we selected through a rigorous audition process. Chemistry between all the actors — even above any previous experience — was what we were looking for. Even the though the budget was small (15K, including marketing), we were still able to focus on capturing the soul of the story despite the limitations.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was incredible. The genuine thought, care and time the viewers took to provide feedback on our film was so humbling. It felt like what we did truly mattered. With this being my first film, their reactions and response to it meant more than they can ever know. It meant a lot and was a great motivator for me to keep striving and making more films.
Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?
You know, when we made the film, we had absolutely no idea the story was going to be as relevant as it is today. When I wrote the script, I was simply writing a story that was on my heart as a black woman. And as you know, we’re black every day, so dealing with issues such as racism and social inequality is a way of life. It’s always present whether it’s trending in the news or not. And this is also a major point I made in the movie and one that I hope resonates with audiences. When you observe the main character (Carina), she is having to function and navigate in this new reality she finds herself in. Those on the outside of these situations (about police shootings) make it political, but we can’t understand what someone is really going through until it happens to us. We don’t see their darkest moments. We don’t see them when they are deep in the abyss and are struggling to find the light. I wanted to focus on that and still present something deep and meaningful in spite of it all.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Coalminer’s Daughter with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones. It was my mom’s favorite movie and then it became one of mine. I think we saw that movie at least 7 times together.
8. You submitted to the festival via Film Freeway. What are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?
I think Film Freeway is one of the most amazing resources for filmmakers. You can submit your film very seamlessly and because of that, you’re able to navigate this vast landscape a lot better. You’re able to research film festivals, find out what they’re looking for, and market to them properly.
9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?
Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. Most songs from the 90s. LOL
10. What is next for you? A new film?
Currently, we are still marketing and submitting January 14th to film festivals. It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least. So far this year, the film has been accepted by over 20 film festivals worldwide and received 12 awards and nominations. We anticipate more screenings for the film in the next couple of years. For 2021, there are two short films in the works. I’m also working on a new pilot and a feature.