A Brief Interview with Christopher Jason Bell

Christopher Jason Bell ( T  he Winds That Scatter ) will be reading at  The Difficult to Name Reading Series on Sat. Oct 25 . 

Christopher Jason Bell (The Winds That Scatter) will be reading at The Difficult to Name Reading Series on Sat. Oct 25

RS: You're currently in post-production on your first feature film, "The Winds That Scatter," which you wrote, directed and edited. What advice do you have for filmmakers looking to get started?

CB: Just do it. Do something. A short is good practice and you can be successful with it (via festivals, online), but to be honest, I feel that there are a vast amount of them and they're not exactly taken seriously by many (a few jerks have gone on record pleading with students to not make them anymore). Generally, aspiring filmmakers watch features, and whether consciously or not, those films you love are inspiring you and giving shape to those script ideas in your head. It's hard to apply that knowledge to the short form as it's really its own beast, and aside from "learning how to be on a set" and practicing directing, I don't know what else you can learn from it. Doing a feature isn't easy, but it's much more possible to do these days than it ever was, and I think when all is said and done, you can do more with a feature than with a short.

That said, none of it is easy, and I'd never tell you not to make a movie--short or otherwise. Do it! Figure out what you have at your disposal (through friends/family) that's both interesting and something you rarely see on film--that goes for locations, actors, etc. You can do something for peanuts and it'll look great and it may help you make the next one by attracting actors, producers, investors and the like.

This is advice for micro-budget endeavors. The traditional route is still available for you to go through, but other roads are way more accessible now and absolutely worth cruising down. 

Watch all different kinds of films, even ones that don't align with your taste. 

What influenced the script that you're reading from Saturday night, "Montgomery"?

Early Nagisa Oshima and Werner Herzog (especially, obviously, "Even Dwarfs Started Small") because there's really nothing like them--experimental, incredibly forward thinking work that was constantly playing with narrative and form. I go back to Thomas Pynchon and now William Gaddis: dense, "difficult" writers, but their ability to combine the highbrow and lowbrow often yields an exhilarating air about their writing. I also have a very thick history with video games, particularly RPGs, and they've already made plenty of appearances in my films. This time I wanted to take a little bit more from the writing and direction of the games themselves, specifically looking at the terse, sometimes shoddy translations that lead to terrifically odd moments and atmospheres. Since video games require some form of audience participation to be experienced (and can never fully exist without that), I wanted to play with that idea of "control" as well.

"Montgomery" is more comedic than your recent output. Any particular reason for the change in approach?

This is a weird question coming from Ryan Sartor, a man with whom I have written a dozen comedic screenplays, not to mention one that we're slowly working on now. (Editor's Note: This is all true.)

If anything, "Montgomery" is much weirder than anything I've ever written and I've been collecting ideas for it for a couple of years now. I want to say that it's more difficult because I'm essentially creating a fake world with its own rules, but all scripts come with their own seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I did figure that this was a bit of a challenge to do, so I wanted to really rough myself up. Also, I like to joke around, but I generally can't stand when I read back the solo-haunt comedy scripts that I've written. They're dreadful.

So I want to work on that so that it happens less often. Give a little smile.