Interview by Colette Finkbiner, blogger/writer for Three Horizons Productions – July 2012
J.P. Scott says he began his passion for filmmaking as a fifth grader when he made a video book report. He was always the one in the family holding a video camera. His enjoyment of science- fiction and thrillers started young as well. According to Mr. Scott, “Growing up I was very partial to Michael Crichton and only read his books until sixth or seventh grade. I loved The Lost World and really enjoyed Prey and Timeline.” Like many emerging filmmakers today, he grew up on Spielberg and enjoyed Jaws and Jurassic Park. Mr. Scott relates a family story about seeing Jurassic Park for the first time, at the age of eight and other movies that he counts among his favorites:
“There is a good story about me seeing [Jurassic Park] with my dad for the first time in the original Cine Capri and… bolting from the theatre when the Rex attacks for the first time. I like many other movies too. I think Shawshank Redemption is about as perfect as a film can get. I have loved pretty much everything Ronny Howard has ever done.”
Still, Mr. Scott’s filmmaking trajectory was not a certain goal when he began his education at Arizona State University (ASU). He started out undecided on a major and worked through all of his general requirements when ASU began its film and media production school. At this point, he was in a position to concentrate on filmmaking classes for the remainder of his college education. He gained a great deal of his experience while in school and even had a five-week internship opportunity on the Fox show, Prison Break. That internship entailed shadowing the director during the creation process of one episode of the series.
Although Mr. Scott helped friends with their films by taking on various production roles, he quickly found that his favorite part of filmmaking was in directing and producing. He explains, “For some reason I really like pre- and post- [production]. I am a planner, and I loved producing my first film. That is something I missed when making my second feature, for which I was director only. I loved the chase of getting a good deal on equipment or finding the perfect location and working the logistics of getting everyone where they were supposed to be. I also love post-production. Post, for me, is where a movie is really made. Choose a shot and a cut. Create the right music and sweeten the sound – all this to show and tell the audience what you want them to feel. That is the end of filmmaking to me – evoking an emotion from your audience.”
As part of this new blog for Three Horizons Productions (THP), I was able to interview Mr. Scott and discuss his “Dollar Baby” film, Everything’s Eventual as well as other aspects of filmmaking. The film is Mr. Scott’s first feature and was made as his college senior project. When he was considering ideas for his film, he learned about Stephen King’s “Dollar Baby” offer, which gives students and independent filmmakers permission to adapt one of the author’s stories. Although “Dollar Baby” films can only be shown at film festivals or as part of a professional reel, the emerging filmmaker signs a brief contract and sends Mr. King one dollar.
For Mr. Scott, the “Dollar Baby” opportunity gave him the freedom to concentrate on making the movie without the usual stress of filmmaking, such as worrying about distribution and selling the movie in order to recoup investors’ money. With Everything’s Eventual, he determined that in order to tell the story properly he needed to go beyond the short film and create a feature-length piece. He researched the cost of making such a film and figured he would need to raise $30,000-$60,000. Although that amount seemed an impossible feat for a film student, he was driven to make the movie. Mr. Scott says, “I talked to anyone I could about the proper way to go about raising money.” With the aid of a prospectus used for a horror film produced by one of his ASU professors, Miguel Valenti, Mr. Scott created a 12-page prospectus of his own. He outlined “what I wanted to do and how I would make the movie.” He also described the film festivals in which he would enter the film. More importantly, he stressed that investors could not expect immediate or any monetary return on their investment in his film. He chose to highlight that it was an investment in his education and future career. He managed to raise $47,000.
Mr. Scott advises emerging filmmakers to “be professional, responsible and honest” when approaching potential investors. He says the biggest pitfall for many filmmakers is not being realistic. Occasionally, a filmmaker “will come up with a script and have huge expectations which may not pan out.” He cautions new filmmakers to remember that they are accountable to the people like cast and crew, who help to make the movie.
With all of his careful planning, Mr. Scott was able to produce a professional and well-adapted feature. The King short story, “Everything’s Eventual,” tells the first-person story of 19-year-old Dinky Earnshaw, who has been recruited by the mysterious TransCorp., for his special abilities that involve particular symbols of his own creation. Mr. Scott decided to use this story for a film adaptation because of Dinky’s connection with the Dark Tower series, which is among his favorite books. (He says The Drawing of the Three and Wizard and Glass are his favorite parts of the series.)
Mr. Scott says that one of his biggest hurdles with filming Everything’s Eventual in Arizona was finding crew and equipment. He relied on word of mouth, Google and Craig’s List. He was able to find people like Steve Harrison of Audio Suite Studios. However, once the crew and equipment was in place, he found shooting easy. He used 18 separate locations such as Mesa, Scottsdale, Phoenix and the Scottsdale Airport. He cites the Phoenix Film Office as a big source of help in finding locations. Since filming Everything’s Eventual, Mr. Scott says he would film in Arizona again with the right opportunity and project. He feels that with a significant commitment to establishing facilities like sound stages, Arizona could become more competitive with other states like New Mexico. In regard to Everything’s Eventual, I asked Mr. Scott some specific questions:
How was the sound post-production experience for you?
Excellent! Greg Pilon, who also shot the film, was the editor and one of the VFX compositors. He worked tirelessly to complete this project and deserves a TON of recognition! Every one of the live computer screens we green-screened and composited with CG interfaces. Most people can’t tell.
Steve Harrison (Audio Suite) was in charge of post sound and was nearly as vital as Greg to the production. He mixed the entire film in 5.1 and included foley and ADR work at his studio. His price was unbeatable and his work incomparable to others in Arizona. He is tops when it comes to post sound in Arizona!
Finally, big thumbs up to Sid who scored most of the film, my brother John Scott scored three key scenes as well (opening and closing credits plus the “cleaners”). Sid lives on the other side of the world in the Netherlands and he was able to deliver the score in less than five weeks! All of our communication was done via IM and email believe it or not.
How did you decide on Dinky’s various symbols?
For that, thanks go to Mirko Von Berner. He is an artist and designer with a good deal of experience in the movie industry. He created 50-60 unique symbols and created Dinky’s “alphabet” for the film. Many of the symbols have specific meaning and resemblance to characters in the film. For instance there is the “sword” for Sharpton, the “third-eyed hand” is Dinky, the officer-esque symbol is for Pug. The scorpion is mine.
Is that a ‘57 Chevy outside of the bar scene?
Yes! It was a tribute to the “Low Men,” sly and evil characters that appear in several King novels.
What nominations and awards has your film received?
Everything’s Eventual was accepted into half a dozen festivals. Most notably, it won “Best Sci-Fi Feature” at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival. It also took a couple lesser awards such as awards of “merit” and “excellence” at Accolade and the Twin Rivers Media Festival respectively. I am still contacted occasionally by festivals interested in screening the film.
In fact the production value of Everything’s Eventual was so high that Stephen King, upon viewing the film, was “very impressed” and offered Mr. Scott the rare chance to release the film theatrically. Unfortunately, the film was not able to find a distribution deal that satisfied Mr. King’s contractual requirements. Yet, Mr. Scott found it a great experience and would love to adapt another King story sometime.
After the successful reception of his first feature length film and his subsequent graduation from ASU, Mr. Scott and his wife moved to Pasadena, California, in order to be “better situated to pursue a career as a director.” Less than a year later, he was contacted by a new producer for a project. On that project, Mr. Scott can only say, “It is a feature-length film and it is in the horror/thriller genre.” He also is working on his third feature, based on a central African legend, and, as he says, “It is another horror thriller genre film that will…scare you in new and exciting ways. I have discovered that it is quite fun to scare people. It doesn’t take blood to scare people.” He says he seems to be “partial to science-fiction and thriller films with a touch of horror.” He also enjoys stories based in real science with post-apocalyptic scenarios like the book, The Passage.
Finally, when I asked him what advice he could give to a new or emerging filmmaker, Mr. Scott was quick to reply that films will not just fall into your lap. He says, “Don’t wait for opportunity. At some point, a filmmaker needs to make a film. You have to go out and make it happen for yourself. I made a lot of my own opportunity.”
Three Horizons Productions is a team of independent filmmakers who want to develop, acquire, and produce multi-media projects that showcase inspirational themes, compelling stories, and provocative characters to entertain or educate international audiences. Three Horizons Productions, located in Arizona, has a global outreach.