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Exclusive Interview with Rusty Gorman : Part 3

Interviewed by Daniel Chia

Did the film turn out as you had originally envisioned it?

Rusty : Yes. In a lot of ways it is even better than I thought. I think the only element that isn't as strong as I would have like is that sense of place that we talked about earlier, but this movie is really all about the performances, it's about the characters, the cast made the movie. The 5 main characters, I think are just cast so well and their performances I think were tremendous. That was the make or break thing. So it turned out better than I could ever imagine. I'm excited hopefully a lot of people are able to see it. You know, this is the kind of movie that I responded to when I was a kid, when I was growing up and going to the movies. It has a certain American Graffiti type feel to it. It's high school kids and they're real, you get the real sense of what it's like to be in high school again.

Post-production took well over a year to complete. What would you say was the most difficult aspect of post-production?

Rusty : Well we had some financial hurdles, that was why it was such a lengthy process. Like I said, we left North Carolina without completing the film and there was like a 9-month gap where we had to find new finances to finish shooting the 18-19% of the script that hadn't been shot. By the time we finally got the money together and got the rest of principle photography finished, it was the end of August of 2006. So, if you do the math, it's not really a full year, but it's certainly taken probably 9 to 10 months longer than it should have, but that's due to the fact that we're an independent film.

We left North Carolina and I had 80% of the movie and I could watch the performances, I knew it was there but I knew we needed to tell the whole story. It was a nerve racking time until the rest of the finances came in. So finally when we did get the money, we had to get the actors' schedules all to work out so that they could be where we needed to be at the same time when they were all off doing other things, so that was another hurdle that we had to get over that took a little more time. We finally got everybody together out in California in August of 2006, Now if you think about it, what I was saying was we still needed to shoot a lot of the exterior day stuff and it was supposed to be set in Indiana in March, so California in August certainly isn't going to represent that, yet another hurdle that we had to overcome. But we were lucky enough to find a backlot that had been built as a mid-western Christmas set. So we used that to do a lot of our exterior days shots. I couldn't get the exact look I wanted. Some of the shots were tighter than I would have wanted because we had to hide where we were. But we got the story told and I tell you, when we wrapped that portion of shooting and I knew we had the whole thing on film, that was a huge relief. From that point forward Dan and I started cutting and I think up to the point that we locked the picture which was late November, early December of 2006, we were on a pretty normal post schedule, but then there were the holidays. We got back after the holidays and then we focused on sound and music. I know people have been waiting a long time, and trust me, I have been too. [laughs] Hopefully it's going to be worth the wait. You'll be very pleased when you see the film.

Home of the Giants opens with the Tom Petty song, "Mary Jane's Last Dance "Can you tell us why you chose that song to open your film, and how you managed to secure the rights to this song.

Rusty : When Dan Schalk and I were in the editing room, we knew we wanted to put a song behind that opening sequence. Tom Petty's song, "Mary Jane's Last Dance, " was a song that I've always liked. One of the lyrics in the song is "Indiana boys on those Indiana nights" and in the same way the opening quote sets up where the story is going to take place without putting a superimposed title up that says "Indiana," this was another way to say it with a song. The beat and feel of the song also sets a mood that works in that first scene. So we used it knowing that we probably couldn't afford it, but we used it as a temp song while we were cutting. It turns out that Dan Schalk was able to get a rough cut of the film to Tom Petty through one of Tom Petty's producers. From what I understand, Tom Petty is a bit of a film buff, and really liked the film, responded to it, and called back to say " You guys can use this song, I'll make it work for you, I know you're independent and don't have a lot of money, but I'll make it work for you." It wasn't easy, but he stood by his word, and it was a real thrill to know that someone of Tom Petty's stature responded to the work and was willing to give us his song. It's a testament to the quality of the film, and the generosity of Tom Petty.

"Home of the Giants" has some dark undertones and themes, which seems to make it quite different from most other "sports" films... is that going to be one of the greater challenges faced in trying to sell this film... that it is so much more than "just another sports movie"?

Rusty : You know, I look at this as the strength of the film because there isn't another film that you can really say, ok it's just like this one. I think it's original enough and different enough that you don't know what is going to happen next, and that to me is what keeps an audience on the edge of their seats, when they don't know what's going to happen next, when the story turns in directions they had not anticipated. I think that is one of the real strengths of Home of the Giants. But at the same time it's certainly a marketing challenge because it doesn't fit real easily into one genre, it touches on several different genres. It might not be simple to market but at the end of the day I really truly believe it will be profitable because I think it will have really strong word of mouth and the fact that like you said, it doesn't fit cleanly into one category makes people talk about it, because it's different, it's something they haven't seen before. It has some dark themes it draws from several types of films and that's what makes it unique and I think that's what people will respond to. There are a lot of commercial elements, it's a film made for a wide audience, not a small niche audience. It's something that I think deserves to find a wide audience. I think it delivers the goods.

Since this film is not a true "sports" film in the classic sense of what most expect like with "The Pride of the Yankees" or even "Hoosiers" , how would you define (or classify) "Home of the Giants"?

Rusty : Well it has more thriller elements and there's a heist that takes place. Sports is really a backdrop, it's one of the things that motivates character behavior and certainly at the end it becomes a very important part of the plot but it's not really a sports film. It's a coming of age story, it's a buddy film and it's a high school film about relationships. There are a lot of elements, a lot of laughs in the film, some real good scares and a lot of suspense and tension. So it's a ride, you know, it takes you on a fun ride.

Definitely, because the reactions to the May 9th pre-release screening of Home of the Giants have been overwhelmingly positive, both from the industry as well as from the fans. Were you pleased by the event? What were your impressions of that evening?

Rusty : Oh yeah, I was very happy with the result. Being in a theatre with a large audience and hearing them react …they laughed at the right moments, they jumped at the right moments. I saw the film working, the audience responding to the film in the way that we had intended for them to respond, and that was absolutely thrilling. Then afterwards, the overwhelming response was just how great the performances were. The responses that I heard were just how people loved the performances of our main characters, and that's really what it's all about from a directing standpoint. 90% is about casting it properly and then getting the performances. I think that's where we did our best work, that's our strong suit.

Can you speak about any plans for the distribution of this film both domestically and internationally... there are so many international fans all clamouring for information about if this film will make it to their country . I'm from Singapore, and then we have fans as far away as the Netherlands, it's really amazing, the call for this film. Is there anything that you can say at this current time that will give us some hope that it will reach our shores?

Rusty : I can't say too much at this point in time, because we are really right in the middle of it. The film is screening several times at Cannes, starting this Saturday ( May 19th 2007 ) , Conquistador Worldwide Entertainment is representing the film there. There is a lot of interest for the film here in the USA, domestically. We're waiting for some details to work themselves out, but I have high hopes. I have high hopes that the film will find a wide audience both here in the USA, and also internationally.

Home of the Giants was your first feature film as the writer and director, what did you learn or gain from the experience that you were not aware before all of this process began?

Rusty : Wow, it's a huge learning experience. The details that go into making a film, from costumes, to makeup, to hair, to the production design, there is such a huge array of details that you have to be aware of as a director, and you have to put a lot of thought into each one of these areas. My focus being the writer also was always on the story, and the cast, and the performance. As the process went forward, I realized that I had to think about details such as what each character was wearing, their hair, their make-up, all these details that I hadn't put a lot of thought into prior to preproduction. You realize that the one thing you always want more of is time. Once you start making a film, you are always up against the clock, especially in an independent situation, when resources are scarce, and you are running on adrenaline and you don't need a lot of sleep, you just learn that you have to take advantage of every hour. Every hour is precious once the crew is hired and you are working. It's a large group of people who work on the film, and everyone has an agenda, everyone is working for different reasons, and you'll find a few people through the process who put the film first. As director, my overall job is to keep the story as my number one priority. Everything needs to be done to serve that story. Through the process, there were a few people who I found also got that, and put the story first above their own specific job, and when you find individuals like that, they help you elevate the material. You realize how important some of the key crew positions are to the success of the film.

Could you let us know who some of those special individuals are, and let us know in what ways they helped you to elevate your story and film?

Rusty : The one person I owe the most to, and who was there with me from the beginning is Dan Schalk. Dan is one of the producers and also the picture editor. Dan is a storyteller, he's a filmmaker, and Dan always put what was best for the film ahead of his own agenda. I can't say enough about the contributions Dan made throughout the process. Home of the Giants would never have happened without him. My first AD, Bettina Godi was another superstar. She anticipates problems and helps solve them, no matter what department, or what issue. She has no fear of speaking up and telling it like it is. Her honesty and her integrity were crucial in getting the job done right. Also, my DP, Rodney Taylor. He's a filmmaker, he puts the story first. He understands the whole process, and his experience was invaluable. He's also a true artist, and I owe a lot to Rodney, he has a very even temperament, and his cool disposition helped keep me calm when things got chaotic.

Each director has their own unique voice when telling a story, how would you define your voice?

Rusty : Hmm, that's a very interesting question. Well for me it's about making the audience believe that these people and events on film are taking place in real life, it's true to life. Like the humor created in the film comes from the characters, it's not slapstick stuff, it comes from real human interaction and behavior. That was always my focus, to make every moment truthful and believable and so, I would say, hopefully, the distinct thing about my work is that it is very, very truthful and at the same time entertaining.

Do you have any projects currently in development, any new projects pending?

Rusty : Yeah there are a couple of scripts that I have written with my partner Jon Felson that are in development. One is titled "Drone" which is supposed to be pretty close to getting the greenlight. Another is titled "Food of the Gods" based on the H.G. Well's novel. And I'm working on a couple of other projects in Chicago with some other filmmakers and I'm reading some scripts for potential directing work.

What genre of film would you like to explore in the future?

Rusty : Well , as we discussed earlier, Home of the Giants has several different genres within it, the thriller aspect has always intrigued me at the same time buddy stories, coming of age stories, character based humor, those types of stories are what I'm drawn to so, those areas are what most interest me. But I'm open to all types of stories, it's really about a good story, if it's a war story or a love story, or a story that takes place some time in the future or it's set in some historical period, if the story works, if we care about the characters and if we have empathy for them and their struggles, that's what's going to draw me to the story. It's all about the story.

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