One of the most common questions I get after a screening of one of my films is “what films were you watching you made this?” I also get “who is your favorite director” a lot. The worst question is “what’s your favorite movie?” I refuse to answer that question and be locked into a “favorite movie” for the rest of my life.
But “what was I watching” when I developed a certain project is, in my opinion, a much more helpful question for aspiring filmmakers and fans of a certain project. A while back I wrote about the films that helped influence The Newest Pledge; the answer was basically Revenge of the Nerds and slew of other mainstream and college comedies. Truth is that I was 22 years old when I began developing that project and college-life is what I knew. The idea of me being an adult seemed as anomalous as a fraternity raising a baby.
Bridge and Tunnel continued my struggle to come to terms with the notion of adulthood, but instead of setting this story on a college campus I set the story in Long Island, where I grew up. Once again, it was what I knew so I went with it. That’s just what I do. If I knew what it was like to live in Prussia or on the Moon then maybe the story would take place in one of those places.
My goal while writing Bridge and Tunnel was to show life, or at least my own, how it really is: exasperating, comical, dejected, happy, relaxed, apprehensive, and at times absurd. I think we can all relate. Nobody I know has a life with only one tone, so why should a piece of art that I make set in my version of the real world?
I tried not to draw influence or style from other film’s or filmmaker’s because most of the film is based on my own life one way or another. Some events happened to me, while others occurred in my head. Some events also happened to people I know well enough to write about but were told from my own psychological perspective to give the film continuity in its voice.
That said, I didn’t reinvent the wheel while making this thing, and I didn’t lock myself in a monastery while writing it either. I studied all of Whit Stillman’s filmography because of its common theme of life in your twenties; I went as far as to cast Ryan Metcalf as one of the main characters in this film because I saw him in Stillman’s 2012 release, Damsels in Distress. I’ve always like Richard Linklater movies, and SubUrbia was the sort of project that I watched to study what he did while depicting similar themes, but I didn’t cast anyone from that film. I also watched more of NBC’s Friends than I ever had growing up because of the earlier episodes ensemble portrayal of life in your twenties. If I could have cast someone from that show I’m not sure who I would have gone with. Maybe Ross’ dad. I saw him in something recently, but I can’t remember what. I think it was something I saw on Netflix.
I also watched a lot more French New Wave films than I had while preparing for projects past. Before this comes off as sounding pretentious, I’m not lumping Bridge and Tunnel into the same category as films from the French New Wave movement, but if you’re wondering what I was watching while developing this project I’d be dishonest if I didn’t mention Hiroshima Mon Amour. One of my goals for Bridge and Tunnel was to have it shift in tone the way the best French New Wave films did, almost as if you’re pulling a Muhammad Ali “rope a dope” on your audience (if you don’t know what that means then you’re either a film geek or a lady with little interest in sports and you need to google it pronto).
Finally, I did watch other independent films shot on Long Island. My favorite film of this group is Steve Buscemi’s 1996 directorial debut, Trees Lounge, which was also shot in Valley Stream, New York, where I attended elementary school and lived from 1988 (age two) to 1999 (age twelve). What I particularly liked about Trees Lounge and Edward Burns’ 1998 film No Looking Back was how Long Island was portrayed as both beautiful and weathered. Both films are a lot like Bruce Springsteen songs; I think Bridge and Tunnel has a lot of Darkness on the Edge of Town in it, but it’s probably more The Wild, The Innocent, The E Street Shuffle. With No Looking Back I think Burns tried to make a visual Born to Run. Jon Bon Jovi was in it, so maybe he was going for a visual Slippery When Wet though with the whole waitress and car guy angle.
Getting back on track…
That should answer the questions of “what I was watching” while making this particular film. Hopefully it’s nothing like any of those movies and completely different. Either way I hope you give it a chance and I hope something about it sticks with you.
And remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question, just cranky people like me who don’t get enough sleep.
Jason Michael Brescia
January 28, 2014 9:52 P.M EST