The Webs We Weave: An Interview with Nash Edgerton

The short films of Nash Edgerton exist on the border of overlapping genres, cinematic categorizations simultaneously flexing their muscles to subvert audience expectations. One of the founding members of Australian collective “Blue Tongue Films”, Edgerton is a jack of all trades – director, actor, editor, and long time stuntman for Hollywood. His short films are hyper kinetic in the most potent sense, consistently driven in one direction by fast paced editing and impressive stunt work. But each packs a different kind of tonal wallop, whether it’s the devastating karmic ending in Spider or the tragically horrific metamorphosis in Fuel.

Edgerton’s debut feature film The Square, a contorted Neo-noir that twists everyday characters into dangerous psychological knots, exists in a collective quicksand box where deception and murder seem to organically spring from the best of intentions. The Square is now touring the United States after being a smash hit in his native Australia. I sat down with Nash Edgerton after a screenings of his short film Spider and The Square to discuss genre, the production process, and his future endeavors.

GLENN HEATH, JR: Many of your short films, from Loaded to Lucky, all contain an incredible amount of forward momentum in the narrative, no matter if it’s during chase scenes or dialogue driven moments. This stems not only from your fast paced editing but extreme physicality in the stunt work. Why was this approach so important to you as a young filmmaker?

NASH EDGERTON:I always liked the idea of movement and rhythm and I felt like filming it in that way gives the audience a sense of what those characters are experiencing. For me filmmaking is such a visual medium, I didn’t want it to be just about talking. I wanted to try and tell stories visually.

GHJ: Especially in the short film format, where you don’t have a lot of time to achieve this goal. There’s a real difference between your short films and THE SQUARE.

NE: With The Square, the story lent itself to a slower build, and if someone barraged you in that way for 90 minutes it would be quite hard to take. I set out with The Square to create a whirlpool effect, I mean to me Ray’s character is drowning, and I want to make it feel like it’s slowly creeping up on him and eventually his life starts spiraling out of control, and I wanted that feeling to come out in the film as more and more people get involved. Continue reading

Interview: John Kastner, dir. LIFE WITH MURDER

– John Kastner joined me for a great conversation after introducing his staggering documentary LIFE WITH MURDER for the last time at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival. We discussed at great length his thematic interests, the evolution of documentary, and the complex human conflicts at the heart of his film.

GLENN HEATH JR.: I wanted to begin talking about how you got into making documentaries and what specifically drew you to making non-fiction films.

JOHN KASTNER: I was a professional actor from the time I was 8 years old and that’s all I ever wanted to be. I wanted to be Sir. Laurence Olivier. I was doing a lot of acting and when I was 18, I got a call asking if I would be interested in substituting in an associate producer’s job in television for Screen Gems. I did this for three months as a lark and the guy I worked with was a very big American producer who decided I was a producer/director and not an actor. I wasn’t that interested but I drifted into it. I did every kind of television – quiz shows, children’s shows, comedies. I was in front of the camera, hosting, acting, and directing, writing. Then the best thing of all I got hired by the Current Affairs department of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation doing documentaries and discovered the drama of the real life was in many ways was even better than the drama I had spent my life doing as an actor.

GHJ: How did you first get involved with LIFE WITH MURDER and your subjects, The Jenkins Family? What dramatic elements interested you as a filmmaker?

JK: I’ve done a lot of films about criminals over the past 25 years and I’m fascinated with the personal relationships of criminals, with their families, girlfriends, and so on. I made a film in the mid 1980’s called THE LIFER AND THR LADY, one called PRISON MOTHER, PRISON DAUGHTER, and one called ROMANCE WITH THE RAPIST. I was in the middle of making a film at the same prison that LIFE WAS MURDER was set, in the same unit, with the same prison guard. That one was called MONSTER IN THE FAMILY and it was the opposite of LIFE WITH MURDER. It’s about a guy who gets no support from his family and his mother leads a national campaign against him. While I was making this film, Mason Jenkins was in the same unit and appeared in a little cameo role. I got to know him but wasn’t interested in his story because at that time his case was under appeal and you couldn’t discuss it anyways. But I got to know him and his parents, and then I heard rumblings through the grape vine that Mason was telling people he knew more about what had happened the night his sister was murdered. So I began talking with him in early 2008, and I said to him, listen why don’t we do a film about this. I had known him and the family since 2005 so all the relationships had been set up. It was one of those remarkable things where we rolled from one story on to the next.
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Interview: Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, dirs. THE TWO ESCOBARS

– I had the opportunity to interview directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist after a screening of their latest documentary THE TWO ESCOBARS at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival. Here’s our conversation covering among other things the complexities of non-fiction storytelling, the negative stereotypes hounding modern-day Colombia, and how family, soccer, and filmmaking overlap.

GLENN HEATH JR.: Can you briefly describe your background/experiences with Colombia before making THE TWO ESCOBARS? How, if at all, did your vision of the country and its people change throughout the course of the production?

JEFF AND MICHAEL: After finishing FAVELA RISING in Brazil, (Jeff) connected with (Michael), who had been living in Mexico running a theatre company, and we decided to work together on a film project. A Colombian friend had told us about the recent massacre in the self-proclaimed “Peace Community” in the Urabá region of Colombia. Having an ongoing interest in inspirational stories of communities coming together and producing innovative and sustainable models of development, we were intrigued by the Peace Community and appalled to learn about the recent atrocities. Soon thereafter, we traveled to Colombia and met with a number of the key figures involved in the founding of the community and the outgoing struggle for justice in the region.

While developing THE SCRIBE OF URABÁ (the story of the Peace Community in Urabá), we were approached by ESPN Films, who had just launched the 30 for 30 Anniversary Series: 30 documentary films by 30 different filmmakers, each focusing on an event illustrating the interaction of sports and society in the last 30 years. We connected with a friend, Nick Sprague, a former soccer player and longtime fan of the Colombian National Team, and the original concept behind THE TWO ESCOBARS was formed. Continue reading