This Garden Party is all about marijuana, young sex, music and most importantly, Los Angeles. Writer/director Jason Freeland has crafted an intertwining tale of young people in L.A. looking to break through, escape, or just get laid.
I sat down for an interview with Freeland at the Hotel Monaco in Portland and spoke about the scene (Los Angeles and Hollywood) …
How did you get your start? I had made short films. We actually did a short film with James Gandolfini, he was going to be the star of Brown’s Requiem (Freeland's 1998 debut), but then the money fell out. I consider myself more of a director. If I wasn't pursuing directing, I don't know if I would pursue movie making. That's my passion. It's the ultimate challenge, putting everything together. If this actor's late, or if there are cars on a street, you are constantly being confronted with these decisions and I like that. And if an actor comes up with a suggestion and your answer is no, you have to figure out a way to keep them invested.
Was Garden Party an eight-year process (the time since Brown's Requiem)? No, this was a project that came out of frustration with a lot of other projects. There is a famous director named Larry Cohen and he spoke with me after Brown's Requiem and said, "You got to make another movie, that's going to be your big test." I did some adaptations, some original stuff and got close on a lot of projects ... and I had these stories. Just written stories that were interesting to me, and these stories of these characters were there, and I thought I could make an inexpensive movie of it.
What was the budget? $500,000. It started off as $200,000, but that was a little too ambitious.
The name of the film, is it taken by the Ricky Nelson song? Well, it was inspired by that. I think the song was in the movie and then I titled it, it was kind of around the same time.
That was the only cover Erik Smith sings in the film right? Yeah. The other songs are Erik's. He actually wrote them. A couple were songs he wrote in high school. It's funny, there was a review I read where this guy was talking about the song, and he didn't know it was a Ricky Nelson song.
How did you craft the intertwining lives of the characters? That was stuff we worked on a lot. Little things like when they guy says, "I'm going to pick up sushi," we went back in editing and got the close up of that scene. We tried to make it feel organic. When you are writing it, shooting it and editing it, you know that's what people are going to be talking about and that's going to be your challenge.
Some directors will watch films for ideas or inspiration, did you do that here? I didn't. I purposefully didn't.
I could see people saying it reminds them of Short Cuts, Kids or Magnolia. Short Cuts is a 3-hour movie and pretty serious. Magnolia is super-duper heavy. And Kids, actually sometime after I did this movie I watched Kids again. That whole opening when they are shooting on the street is great. I didn't want to watch Crash. I felt like if you're making an independent film, try to do something ... nothing is original ... but try to do something that you might think is original. There's things after when you watch another movie, you think you might have used that idea.
Has anyone accidentally called it Garden State yet? Someone said something like I'm trying to live off that title or something.
Ross Peterson, to me his character is like a hybrid of Vince Vaughn and Dane Cook, is that him or the character? I think that's Ross's persona. He's mostly doing that stuff. If there is someone he doesn't know, he's in that world. I felt like we could work with it. People just love him.
Is there a bad guy in the film in your opinion? I guess on some level the older Realtor guy, but I tried to be ... I feel like that's L.A. People try to not have judgment and accept people for who they are. So what if you had some naked pictures taken of you. I mean, look at Celine Dion. She was with this guy who's her husband. He was her manager when she was a kid. And then after she's 18 she realizes she's in love with him. I mean, no one seems to have a problem with that. That's kind of how it is. And for me, we all have our opinions, but if you're entertaining me, I just want to see the characters.
Is there someone you identify the most with in the film? I try to identify with my characters all in different ways. I took playwriting in college and they always wanted to know which character was the writer. And to me, that's the hole in the piece. So I really try to not be someone and the way you do that is to identify with as many characters as possible.
How interested are you with reviews and box office numbers? As far as reviews, we've had good and bad reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you are trying to do something, people aren't all going to come along with you. The reviews I've read, they didn't necessarily agree with decisions I made, but they didn't point out something I didn't consider. With box office, I want to make more movies that don't necessarily fit in the same box. So if this works, I have more freedom.
Quick Questions with Jason Freeland
What did you have for breakfast? Oatmeal
Last album you bought? Who's Next
Favorite piece of fruit? Blueberries
Favorite recent movie? Iron-Man
Worst job? Busboy at a fancy restaurant. I got fired.
Favorite sports team? Cleveland Indians
Something you can't wait to do? Go surfing
Favorite place in the world? Home
Your weakness? Too many to list.
Your superpower of choice? Compassion
Favorite drink? Coffee
Age of first kiss? 12
Favorite childhood toy? Pinocchio
Favorite charity? My friends