Logline: When David takes his girlfriend Amy to his family lake house for a romantic getaway weekend, he is haunted by the ghosts of his overbearing parents who can't stand Amy and want to break them up.
Length: 10 minutes
Director: Max Rissman
Producer: Max Rissman, Adel Morales, Donna Conforti, Paul Rissman
Writer: Max Rissman
Key cast: Alex Carmine, Cali Moore, Marietta LaFarge, George Peck, Addison Hays
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists):
Made in association with: NYU graduate film school
Release date: 4/10/2016
Where can I watch it? It will screen at Dances With Films on June 8th at 5:00 pm.
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! I made this film because I am constantly haunted by a little voice in the back of my head that says every decision I have ever made and ever will make is wrong. This film is my attempt to grapple with my own feelings of self-doubt and insecurity, and explore how we can only conquer our inner demons when we allow others to help us fight them.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This film is an unconventional ghost story, combining comedy and horror elements to tell a story with universal themes. If you have ever felt haunted by a little voice in your head that undermines and second-guesses your decisions, and you feel like you are the only person who has it that bad, this film will hopefully make you feel a little less alone. Hopefully it will also make you laugh a couple of times too.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
As I mentioned above, this film is about insecurity and self-doubt. The ghosts are metaphors for the little voice in your head that second-guesses everything you do. I have experienced this voice all my life, as I’m sure many of us do, but it wasn’t until after I had written several drafts of the script and was already planning on making the film that I got to experience it in a relationship context.
I was in a relationship that I was unsure about, and I kept going back and forth in my mind about whether it was right for me or not. It was really torture. I realized that this experience was helping me better understand the turmoil that my protagonist was going through, and I tried to incorporate as many of my personal feelings as possible in the next rewrite of the script.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The original germ of the idea emerged out of practical concerns. After I got accepted into NYU graduate film school, I immediately started brainstorming ideas for short films. My parents own a spooky old house near a big beautiful cemetery in Massachusetts, and so I started thinking of stories I could tell that would make use of these locations. Naturally, a ghost story came to mind, but since I am a comedy guy I decided to make the ghosts annoying parents instead o trying to make another paranormal activity or something like that.
What arose out of practical concerns, however, became a highly personal story that I worked on for two and a half years. I developed the script for about two years, and with the help of my friends and professors got it to a place that I was happy with. I shot it over a three-day weekend last summer, and was blessed to have the greatest cast and crew imaginable.
Editing is always a challenging and unpredictable process, kind of like writing and directing the film all over again, and at a certain point you need to say “This is my film, and it’s time to stop editing and share it with others now.” Now whenever I watch it all I can see are the things I wish I could change, but from what I can gather, nearly every filmmaker feels that way when watching their films.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The film premiered in April at the Sarasota Film Festival, and I was really pleased with how it was received. There’s no better feeling than having strangers come up to you and tell you their favorite parts in your movie. I showed it to my friends and family as well, and they told me they enjoy it, but it’s one thing to hear it from people who already know and love you, and it’s another to hear that you’ve made a total stranger laugh or think. Every audience is different, and I’m excited to screen it for more audiences and hear all sorts of reactions and responses.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
One issue that was brought up when I screened it for my family was that some of them had issues with the pacing. When you are editing your own project you have to rely exclusively on your gut to tell you when scenes are lagging or are too quick, and after working on it for months it is difficult to preserve your perspective. I edited it to the point that my instinct told me it was playing at the best pace possible.
Some of the feedback I received, however, was that it was too fast paced in some parts, and I see that they have a valid point. In the future I plan on hiring an editor, since it helps to have a collaborator to help you maintain your perspective, and to conduct test screenings in order to identify pacing and other types of issues before the completion of the film.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
All filmmakers make movies to share their perspective and worldview with others, and so the more people who are aware of the film, the more possibilities for sharing one’s experience with an audience, and the more we feel that our efforts are worth it.
In the internet age, the possibilities for strangers to stumble upon our work and get something out of the viewing are endless, and so it is thrilling to think that anyone could stumble upon the film and be influenced by my work.
In submitting my film on the festival circuit, my primary goal is to connect with other filmmakers and potential fans to celebrate films, and to make new friends, and for the same reasons I hope to increase the visibility of my film through online publicity.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I am more interested in finding people who are interested in my body of work and want to spread the word about it than I am in selling this particular film. I intend to create content for as long as I am alive, and so this is just one building block in a library of work I hope to create.
As a filmmaker, if I can create a fan base of people interested in my work that will follow me from project to project, I will be more satisfied and successful than if I am able to sell or distribute a single short film.
Thus, at this point in my career, I would be more interested in connecting with producers, film festival directors and journalists, who are more interested in amplifying the message of a filmmaker and investing in future work than immediately selling the current product. Of course, if I received an offer from a distributor, sales agent or any other type of buyer I would be ecstatic, but with short films that is an extremely rare scenario.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
If I could make a few people laugh and reflect on their own life experiences and how the film pertains to them I will be happy.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Who are your ghosts and what do they haunt you about?
Would you like to add anything else?
Check out my website maxrissman.com to watch all of my other films and see what my top 5 favorite movies are.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently working on a webseries titled Root for the Villain, which takes place in a Marvel-esque world and is about a parole officer who works with B-list supervillains, trying to reintegrate them into society after they are released from prison. I am in the writing and fundraising stage, and hope to have it completed by the summer of 2017.