BRIAN JUDE INTERVIEWED BY COLONEL'S CRYPT
Brian Jude defines the word "independent."
If you are an independent filmmaker in the tri-state area, chances are you have heard of Brian Jude, one of the busiest and most productive producers around under his label Dragon Rider Productions. Brian began his foray producing many musical documentaries but was introduced into the realm of horror by producing Alan Rowe Kelly's THE BLOOD SHED. He has not looked back, producing Jeremiah Kipp's short film THE POD and Susie Adriensen's upcoming UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.
The New Jersey native and new proud father took time out of his schedule to talk to the Crypt to discuss his role in these projects, what to expect from the soon to be released RAVEN'S WING, and a detailed insight on the struggles and tribulations of low budget filmmaking.
COLONEL'S CRYPT: Who are your biggest influences in filmmaking?
BRIAN JUDE: Wow, tough question, because there are so many, and for many different reasons! Obviously many of "the greats" have had influences on how I view the craft, from story to feel to look - filmmakers like Hitchcock, Scorsese, Coppola, etc. Then there's filmmakers who I admire for the sheer fun that they bring to their work - Rob Reiner, Ron Howard, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, John Waters. It's a bit more of their attitude than craft. I'm always impressed by the fact that Woody Allen has made a film a year for almost 40 years. And like many of my generation, I'm a Star Wars fan, so I have to count Lucas as an influence.
CC: How was Dragon Rider Productions formed?
Ten years ago I started writing a script based on some experiences
from my teen years, many of which had to do with my step-brother Allan,
who was three days younger than me, and our mutual friends. We were
all "metalheads." Allan was unfortunately killed in a car
accident ten days after his best friend committed suicide. For his
friend's funeral, he drew a sketch of a knight riding on top of a
dragon, flying over a castle, with the inscription, "Ride with
the dragons, my friend. One day we shall meet again." I named
the script after that quote.
CC: In 2002, you became involved with Exit 131 Productions, part of the association of Independent Filmmakers in New Jersey. How did this come about and what is your role with this organization?
The script of "Ride with The Dragons" was selected for the
2002 IFP Market, and so I looked through the materials they sent for
industry folks who were attending, and I came across the name of Allen
Chou, who was a film producer out of Edison. Since he was a Jersey-based
producer, and my film was based in Jersey, I figured I should give
him a call. I realized soon that my project wasn't a match for him,
but he told me that he was the head of the New Jersey Salon of AIVF
(the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers, which as recently
disbanded, unfortunately) and that he wanted to start a "no-budget"
production arm of the salon, as this was the time that people really
started to take to the idea of making shorts on DV as opposed to film.
CC: You just produced UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING by Susie Adriensen. What sparked your interest in this film?
Susie and I met on the set of THE BLOOD SHED though we should have
met sooner. We soon found out that we were both Broadcasting majors
at Montclair State University, though she graduated right before I
started the program, and we had many mutual friends from college.
Toward the end of the shoot, Susie asked if I'd be interested in helping
her produce the film, which she pitched to me as an improvised pseudo-documentary
about three girls who had committed a murder and start a cult. She
originally planned on giving the actors an outline and letting them
live out the story in front of the camera. The notes were so
wild that I knew I had to get involved!
CC: What was the experience working on Alan Rowe Kelly's THE BLOOD SHED?
Ah, THE BLOOD SHED! One of my fondest filmmaking memories of all time!
It was everything I expected and everything I hoped it would be -
a low-budget horror/comedy flick about a bunch of backwood Jersey
inbreds, focusing around a 40-something-year-old beast of a woman
named Beeftina Bullion who thinks she's 12, and who was played by
actor/director Alan Rowe Kelly in a pink dress that no designer in
his or her right mind would make for a man of his size! What more
do I need to say?
Actually, I need to say a bit. Alan Rowe's wonderfully demented humor was so engrossing in his script that, much like RAVEN, everyone involved totally understood it and was inspired to bring it to life. Much like a theater cast, the cast and crew of this film became a little family for a while. There was this great, loving atmosphere on set that you'd think we were shooting a BENJI movie or something, and then you'd go to set and see a cop's testicles getting crushed or squirrels being used for skeet or a child getting ripped in half. It was a little surreal, but it felt very much at home.
CC: I heard that the shooting was a lot of fun. Any fond memories from the set?
Every day was chock full of
them! Seeing "Beeftina" for the first time was quite a site!
Brian Juergens' talent for ad-libbing made for many an off-camera
chuckle from the crew. Then there was the 30-degree day where Susie
was in her little shirt & shorts, snuggling under a gigundo kerosene
heater with a sound blanket, meanwhile the script calls for a hot
day in which a character wipes the sweat off his brow. Rachel Gordon
and I got to stand in for cast members for some effects shots - she
had her legs sawed off and I had my ear was pulled off with a pair
of pliers - that was 30 minutes of make-up time, 15 minutes on set,
20 minutes in the shower and at least two cycles for my clothes in
the washing machine for less than 30 frames of screen time, and I
loved every part of it! I also drove my red minivan in one of the
opening shots, which we also used as a dolly in the opening scene.
CC: The DVD for THE BLOOD SHED is due out in September. What role do you have in the extra features on the disc?
Before we began shooting, my friend and occasional collaborator Craig
Schiavone offered his services as a still photographer for any films
I might do. I invited him to come to set, but I knew we already had
a handful of other photographers already coming regularly - something
most filmmakers routinely overlook, and we had an abundance, and I
cannot stress the value of that! So I told Craig to bring along a
video camera as well, thinking some behind-the-scene shots would be
useful as well. Eventually we ended up with nearly 30 hours of behind-the-scenes
and in-studio interview footage, which I directed and Craig, Alan
Rowe and I produced into a featurette for the DVD.
CC: You also produced Jeremiah Kipp's THE POD. Are there any differences working on a feature like THE BLOOD SHED and a short film like THE POD?
Oddly enough, for these two particular films, not so much! THE BLOOD
SHED was originally intended to be a short, part of a three-film anthology,
so it was scheduled like a short. We had 12 scheduled shooting days,
which I think we ended up paring down to ten days, but ended up with
enough footage for a feature. THE POD had six shooting days, with
a few extra re-shoot days, so the schedule was smaller, the cast was
smaller, but the crew was about the same size. Other than almost everything
being a little smaller, production of THE POD was very similar to
that of THE BLOOD SHED.
CC: How did you become involved with THE POD?
I had known Jeremiah and Carl for many years through a mutual friend,
but we never really worked together. Jeremiah called me one day out
of the blue, told me he was doing this film that Carl had written,
and asked if I'd help produce it. I said, "With my schedule,
I should say no, but knowing me, I'm going to say yes." And that's
what I did!
CC: What would you say are the biggest challenges of being an independent producer?
What else? Money! There's never enough of it, but that's also where
the challenges can inspire the art of creative solutions! For example,
on "The Blood Shed," we shot in a photo studio in Paterson,
New Jersey, and in the constant battle to find a good and cost-effective
place to get lunch for the cast and crew, we found a great little
Spanish restaurant that was able to sell us an abundance of great
food, with a good variety, for about $5-$6 a head. The same food in
New York would have cost much more. The first few jobs I had in film
were doing craft service, and I learned early on the value of taking
care of your crew. You want to give them every comfort you can without
blowing your budget.
CC: In addition to horror films, you have produced and directed several live concert films. What is it about concert films that make you draw certain attention to them?
I've always been a fan of music. When I was four years old, I'd have
my mom's headphones on, listening to The White Album, or Tommy by
The Who or the original recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. I was
a choir and band geek all throughout school, and actually started
college as a music major, and I belong to a national music fraternity,
Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. In my college Broadcasting classes, I tended
to gravitate toward entertainment-based projects, including one multi-camera
live studio performance of an acoustic band.
2006, DCT had a strong summer season with nine shows, and a few other
shows in the fall and winter, spanning musical genres from rock to
jazz to blues to country to classical. We approach both our video
and audio quality with the utmost professionalism, which is rare to
find on the web these days. DCT is now my full-time day job. This
year we're planning full summer & fall seasons, plus we have three
podcasts in the works. "The Official Digital Cafe Tour Podcast"
will feature DCT news & updates, Clips of the Week, and behind-the-scenes
interivews & documentary clips for a segment we call Broaden Your
Band. Then there's a podcast called Broaden Your Band:Room 2, with
Friday's Child enigmatic guitarist "The Professor" Don Regan
giving beginner, intermediate and advanced guitar lessons. Finally,
there's Broaden Your Band: Music Law with DCT partner/law professor
CC: What are the key aspects you look for in a script to draw interest in producing them?
First of all, I look for feasibility. If a writer has written something
outlandish and has no idea how to shoot it or pay for it, like if
Scene 1 is "EXT. ALIEN PLANET BATTLEFIELD
- NIGHT," I'll probably turn
it down. Then I'll look to see if it's well-written, if the story
grabs me, or if I can see the film in my head and I say, "Yes,
that's a movie I want to see!" The script doesn't have to be
perfect for me to get on board, but if it isn't, I'll work with the
writer and/or director (if they are not one in the same) to get them
to make the script the best it can be. Usually the collaboration is
very helpful and results in great projects, but there have been some
projects that couldn't get off the ground because of some artistic
differences between me and other people involved.
Anything you can say about THE LAST DAYS
OF FRANK WHYTE, which is in post production?
Yes! My running joke is that this film was originally made as part
of the 48-Month
Film Festival, but we were disqualified because we couldn't meet the
deadline. In all seriousness, though, this is one of the films where
collaboration paid off big time. Franklin Correa approached me with
several projects, and they were all pretty good, but one short about
a drug dealer trying to avenge his partner's death really intrigued
me. Frank sent me a first rough draft, and he and I worked together
to flesh out the story, give it an arc, etc. We were both happy with
wrote the main character with him in mind, so he played the lead.
His friend Chiko Mendez was cast to play the friend, Boogie. As I
mentioned earlier, my wife's cousin Julian Altbuch was cast as the
villain, and we auditioned a child actor named Aron Briskin, on recommendation
from my friend Jodi Etra, who was Aron's teacher at the time. I brought
on a D.P. named Evan Langston, with whom I'd worked on another film
I produced called "Cruel to be Kind," plus I recruited several
crew members from Exit 131, such as Bill Clemis, JD Hartman, Tom Wieschenberg,
Craig Clark, Lynda Lane and my long-time editor and friend Steve Maio.
(Steve edited "A Taste of Better Days," the Friday's Child
concert video, and is the Senior Video Editor for Digital Cafe Tour.)
Filmmaker Jason Allentoff was on board as A.D. for the first day of
the shoot, and my Dragon Rider partner Richard Legon stepped in on
Day 2. JD brought his nephew Eric Simnor on as a best boy, and Lynda
brought on Erik Labrador, whose make-up effects were so great, someone
called the cops on us because they thought Chiko Mendez had actually
been shot! Martin Cole was our sound mixer, and my friends Laura Leuter
and Belinda Connolly were P.A.'s.
Part of the reason why the film has taken so long to complete goes back to my challenge about money. When you can't pay someone, you're at the mercy of their schedule, and if they have a lot of paying gigs, your project has to wait. A rough cut was made a few months after we wrapped, and we screened it at a wrap party. It still needed music, and I've gone through several composers who couldn't quite commit to the project for various reasons. There's also a tremendous amount of tedious image correction that has already been done by Craig Schiavone which has given the film an amazing look, and there's just a little more to do, but again, there's schedule factors, as we've both had a hard time putting our paying projects aside and try to get together. There's a little bit of sound effects work that needs to be done as well, and then we can release it.
CC: Where do you see the horror genre in five years?
I really can't say. The genre has had its own life, it's own culture,
actually, for so long. I don't ever see that going away, but I can't
say how much it will grow either. Then again, these days there are
more filmmakers, as the technology is always getting cheaper and the
internet is becoming a better vehicle of distribution every day. These
days, a filmmaker can make a film into an electornic file, distribute
it on the net for downloading to a mobile player that can be hooked
up to a large-screen TV, and there's no longer a need for DVD's! So
that fact alone could be a major boost to the genre, but I'm just
making an educated guess here.
BJ: Well, Scott, I
appreciate the opportunity to share! Many of the things I'm doing involve
the internet, so I think the best thing for me to do is to leave you
with some great links to check out. Enjoy!