My Pure Joy showed a very promising indie horror filmmaker in James Cullen Bressack, and he’s continued proving those skills when we saw his latest Hate Crime. Never at a loss for words, the filmmaker talks about what inspired the film along with his own personal experience with hate crimes.
James Cullen Bressack came to our attention from one of our readers who sent us the trailer for his film My Pure Joy. It was exciting to see the promise just in the trailer for this young filmmaker, and we interviewed him mainly to bring him to more people’s attention. That was one of the big reason why we even started Best Movies Ever; along with covering big and smaller films, we wanted to also bring to light some filmmakers who were under the radar who shouldn’t be.
Bressack is a real hustler for his films and with partner Jarret Cohen, they are able to make indie horror films on their own terms. The filmmaker counts Eli Roth as one of his horror idols, but believe me when I say Roth could learn a thing or too from this guy. His latest Hate Crime is not an easy film to watch, but it will still hold you in its grip and not let you go until the films over. As our review shows, it’s not a perfect film, but you can see how far this filmmaker has come and how much farther he’ll be going.
BEST MOVIES EVER: Were there any particular incidents that inspired your latest film Hate Crime?
JAMES CULLEN BRESSACK: There actually were. Last year I was on my way to oklahoma with business partner Jarret Cohen for a screening of MY PURE JOY. We stopped in Texas on the way there. Jarret, whom is also jewish if you couldn’t tell by the last name, was harassed at a bar we stopped at for being Jewish. The skin heads that surrounded him kept asking to see his horns and one of them had a Hitler mustache tattooed on them. Thankfully all they did was heckle, however after seeing that intolerance Jarret and I had to start writing this film.
BME: Being a Jewish man, was this a message film for you wrapped in horror?
JCB: This was a message film for me period. I wasn’t trying to create a horror film really, although the actions within the film are horrific and disturbing I was really trying to convey the message I deemed important by any means necessary. You will notice that I shy away from onscreen violence in this film, something that anyone who saw MY PURE JOY would never expect. I have very strong feelings about the subject matter within the film and it was important for me to bring awareness to people and shock them into making a change! The amount of hate and prejudice in this world is overwhelming. We need to actually be what America stands for and allow all americans to be free, not oppress them with our bigotry. Sometimes the world needs to be shocked to be able to have progress.
BME: What lessons did you learn from your last film, Pure Joy, that you were able to bring to this one?
JCB: I learned so many lessons. Really this film, in a filmmaking aspect, is everything I felt I did wrong with My Pure Joy, done right. Rehearsing with actors, cutting down post production and getting what I need in the camera, keeping to a tight script so scenes don’t drag on…. I can go on for hours haha :)
BME: Australian Rugby star Ian Roberts as Number 3 was an inspired casting choice. How did you go about reaching out to him for the role?
JCB: Ian submitted for the role and I called him for the first audition. He truly blew me away! He was head and shoulders better then everyone else. I was sold on him from the first audition. He totally understood the depth of the character. So when callbacks came around Ian was of course called back. I pulled him aside and told him to look around and see if he saw any other people that looked like they could be a three. He said no. I then explained I brought him to callbacks to have him read against everyone else but he didn’t need to audition anymore, he had the role. That was the first and only time I have ever only made someone audition for me once.
BME: You’ve definitely proven to be quite the Hollywood hustler. What lessons have you learned of what not to when trying to get funding, film festival interest, press attention and distributors?
JCB: I have been fortunate enough to have a business partner that is able to fund my films out of his own pocket and believes in me and my talents. I wish I could give advice there but I have just been lucky honestly. As for distributors, they respond really well to alot of press so the more press you can get the better! Get as many articles and exposure on your film as possible, it makes it a more valuable product. In regards to the press, the best way to do it is look up all the websites that talk about new indie horror films and reach out to them, build relationships with them, trust me almost all of them are amazing people and very friendly. Always be grateful for what they do for you to promote your film and keep in contact with them, a press release is just another press release unless they recognize the person sending it.
BME: How have distributors and film festival programmers reacted to Hate Crime?
BME: We won Best Picture and I won Best Director at the Underground Monster Carnival, however other then that I do not know. We submitted to over 50 festivals but don’t hear back from any of them until September. So for right now fingers crossed that they react well? After our festival run we will start approaching distributors.
BME: Many scenes in Hate Crime have some very long shots. How was that experience working with the actors, and what editing tricks were you able to use for the film?
JCB: I did alot of wipes to mask the edits. As it stands there are 32 cuts in the film, Some takes are very long however while others are short. I worked with the actors for over a week just choreographing the films blocking and showing them where the edits are. I also demanded a 10 take minimum from them per chunk so there are 320 takes in total lol 10 for each chunk. They were great about it and really gave everything their all. I don’t wanna give away too many tricks just because I don’t want people to be taken out of the film when watching it. However Sound is one of the most important things when masking an edit, that’s all I’m gonna say.
BME: What films in the found footage genre did you watch for inspiration for Hate Crime…and which ones helped show what not to do?
JCB: I was very inspired by films like Rec and Amateur Porn Star Killer as well as some inspiration from August Underground. I have alot of respect for those films. One thing that always bothered me about found footage was the fact that there were visible edits and music within them. It never quite made sense to me. If it was truly found footage, who took the time to edit and score the film?
BME: How have people reacted to the film since there’s been so many shooting crimes recently that are similar to your story in that they’re senseless and seem to be motivated by a hatred that is directed at particular groups?
JCB: I think this just further proves the importance of the message of the film. I feel horrible that these things occur in life and feel horrible for the families that have been put through losses due to others hate. Building awareness is important. News stories always allow people to be detached because they hear about it and go “That can’t happen to me” or “That doesn’t effect me” But showing them this and putting them in this first person look at this horrible act really hits home I think.
BME: In Hate Crime, it begins to feel more like the intruders are less about hate than wanting to just fuck things up and hurt people. Was that also part of your intent to show that many times hate crimes are motivated more by people who are looking for an excuse just to do violence?
JCB: That definitely was. The whole reason why they are there begins to fade and the violence takes over. People who have it in them to do horrible things always search for excuses to commit violence. They blame films, or hate, or books or even music for what they do. But let me ask you this, if these things really cause violence then why is it that more comedy films come out in theatres per year and we don’t see anyone getting any funnier? Exactly my point. If someone has this awful tendency towards violence in their nature then its there, they just search for a reason to indulge it.
BME: You’ve got a lot of projects in the works. What can you tell us about all of them?
JCB: Well, I am directing a higher budget horror film that I wrote Called PERNICIOUS in January. We shoot in thailand. It is very unique to thailand and is going to be something very special I think. I also wrote a Script called AUTEUR with JD Fairman and that film is being directed by Cameron Romero. in addition to that I will be Directing DANCING WITH RIP, a biopic in the vein of ZODIAC based on the real serial killer THE GRIM SLEEPER. That will be my first true departure from horror. Lastly I have Theatre of the Deranged II coming out, with my segment UNMIMELY DEMISE in it.