“The short answer is that GETTING OVER s a feature-length documentary about my father, a lifelong heroin addict who died of AIDS back in 1997. The longer answer is that it’s not only about my dad, but about my need to get to know my father better. I used to say often, and it’s repeated in the film, that I could count on both hands the number of times I saw my father when he was alive. I didn’t know him very much growing up, so the film became the means to learn more about him, his addiction, and how and why heroin became such an overriding factor in both his life and death. I was very lucky to have a series of video interviews my uncle did with my dad before he died, and it was those videos that served as the foundation for the film.” — Jason Charnick on GETTING OVER which screens at SxSW 2018.
Congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
Yes! This my first time ever in Austin, and I’m very much looking forward to it! I’ll be attending all three of our scheduled screenings, and am very excited to share it with a wider audience, and to talk about it afterwards!
So how did you get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
It’s actually funny how I ended up in the entertainment industry, as I grew up always wanting to be a lawyer! No doubt due in part to my father’s decades-long run through the criminal justice system. But I ended up taking a few cinema studies classes in college, and through some wonderfully talented people I met while in school, I shifted gears and ended up moving to LA from NYC back in 1999 to give it a shot as an editor.
From 2006-2016, before I left to work on Getting Over full-time, I worked my way up to Post Supervisor at Framework Studio, a branded content and production company in Culver City. While there, I had my hands on many different high-profile projects including promos for Straight Outta Compton, Jurassic World, NBC’s The Voice, and many, many more!
How did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
Since the film is about me and my family, you can say the project has been gestating for almost 40 years now, but to limit it to the actual production of the film, we started with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in 2012. We hit our goal, and raised a modest amount which was able to fund returning to New York City for the majority of shooting, along with enough to rent some equipment and pay my editor. I was lucky to find such a talented editor in Sharon Rutter, who was invaluable in deciphering the original interviews with my dad and crafting the overall storyline of the film. My co-producer Nathan Oliver was also an indispensable member of the team, sacrificing his time and effort to shoot in New York, and work on the film’s structure, while also starting a family of his own.
We had a follow-up Indiegogo campaign in 2015, supported by our fiscal sponsor, From The Heart Productions, which gave us the funds to continue post-production, while I tried to handle as much of the finishing process as possible. It’s been a series of stops and starts over the last 6 years, as I also met, fell in love with, and married my lovely wife Paige during this time, and was also holding down full time work. Being a post-production professional really helped though, because when we finally ran out of money from our crowdfunding campaigns, I was able to crack the projects open myself and get my hands dirty, which is something I’ve always loved to do.
We finished everything up this past October, and have been submitting to festivals furiously since then!
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?
The easy answer is lots and lots of coffee. I’m a nocturnal cat by nature, so a lot of the finishing done on the film was just me, my computer, and my coffee mug, during many furious overnight sessions. The thought that my family’s story could somehow, someday help another family’s struggle with addiction was a powerful motivator as well, of course.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
The biggest challenge with Getting Over is of course inexorably tied in with the most rewarding. It took me well over a decade to find the courage to simply watch the video interviews with my dad. I had a box of these tapes at the back of my closet over the course of 2 coasts, 6 apartments, and 15 years, and I never had the guts to watch them until 2011-12. And had I not watched them at exactly that time, I might not have been in the position to pursue a feature-length project about it. But I powered through all 17 hours, transcribed them myself, and came out the other side knowing more about my father in death than I probably ever would have in life. And to that end, rewarding is an understatement!
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
Director of Photography? What’s that? To be serious though, our film doesn’t have a DP per se, as both my co-producer Nathan Oliver and I wore those hats at differing times throughout production. Mainly due to budget constraints. I’m sure if we had more at our disposal, we could have pursued bringing a qualified DP on board. We shot with a wide array of cameras too. A lot of our New York footage was shot on a Sony EX1 and a Canon T1i. I also shot my confessional scenes with an now-ancient Canon HV20 HDV camera. Gotta make do with what you have! Like the time our EX1 malfunctioned during a pivotal scene at my father’s childhood apartment, and we had to shoot the majority of it with my iPhone!
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
This is an easy one. I’m most looking forward to sharing the film with an audience that might not have ever had the chance to see it otherwise. And to have the opportunity to discuss with them afterwards is a very exciting proposition!
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
We’ve submitted to about 50 festivals overall so far, and are waiting to hear back on about 40 of them. We don’t have any additional screenings lined up as of yet, but we expect to hear from a lot of festivals after SXSW wraps. We are also still pursuing some distribution leads, but barring that, there are so many avenues open now for self-distribution, that we’re confident the film will continue to have an audience long after our run on the festival circuit has finished up.
If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
My initial thought would be that I’d love to show the movie at either the Angelika or the Film Forum in New York City, two legendary locations for film in my hometown. But after thinking about it a bit, I’d also LOVE to show it at my childhood theater, where I spent a lot of time watching movies as a kid. It’s an old theater that used to be called Movieland in Yonkers, just north of the Bronx, but it’s since been revitalized as an Alamo Drafthouse. And since our world premiere is at the Alamo RItz in Austin, it makes perfect sense to screen it someday at another Drafthouse near my old neighborhood!
What would you say to someone who was being disruptive through a movie?
Sssssssh! Never underestimate the power of a well-timed shush to get people in line!
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
Do your own thing, whatever it may be, but DO IT. The power of filmmaking is literally in the palm of everyone’s hand now, no one has an excuse anymore. If you have a story to tell, and you’re driven to tell it, do so, really, by any means necessary. Don’t let money be a factor. Pull your phone out of your pocket and just do what you dig. And you won’t have anyone to answer to except yourself.
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?
For an independent filmmaker, I’ve been to surprising few festivals in my life. So I’m just going to have to go with GoodFellas as my all-time favorite movie. I saw it at the aforementioned Movieland when I was a kid, and it was one of the first movies I can remember seeing where the director’s voice just screams at you through the screen. It opened my eyes to a possible career in the movies, and since Martin Scorsese just exudes everything I love about New York City, it was a natural fit, and no movie since has been able to knock it off my perch at number 1!
Be sure to follow GETTING OVER online at www.gettingoverfilm.com!
This and many other films are screening at SxSW 2018. For full showtime information and more, visit www.sxsw.com/film.