Tomorrow night, Film Society of Lincoln Center will kick off our monthly Indie Night series with a screening of Mark Jackson's debut feature Without, which won him the "Someone to Watch" prize at this year's Independent Spirit Awards.
Joslyn (a spellbinding Joslyn Jensen) is hired to take care of the elderly and nearly catatonic Frank (Ron Carrier) while his family is away. Left alone with him in a remote house in the wooded Pacific Northwest, Joslyn begins to experience strange occurences in the night that escalate as her emotional disquiet is slowly revealed. Playing with familiar horror tropes and the blurring of perception, Jackson ultimately captures the power of longing in a way few young directors have before. His bold vision and visual flare make Without a perfect inaugural entry in our ongoing series, which will showcase some of the best emerging voices in American independent cinema.
We asked Mark Jackson to answer a few questions about himself and his film by means of introduction:
Can you tell us a bit about your background as a filmmaker? How did you get started?
I studied to be a DP at Cinecittà studios in Rome. It started much earlier with my grandfather teaching me the art of people watching.
Making an independent film comes with a lot of freedom, but also its own set of obstacles and challenges. What do you see as the biggest advantages and disadvantages of how you made your film?
Advantage: Self-financing on a microbudget means no concessions need to be made with regard to content if you are realistic.
Disadvantages: Limited time to prepare and shoot. Having to be realistic, i.e. no helicopters or helicopter crashes.
When did you first have the idea for this project? Can you take us through a bit of the timeline between then and the film's completion?
I developed the film as a project that would allow me to collaborate with the unbelievably gifted Jessica Dimmock. It started with a daydream about a beautiful she-wolf and me dying of a black bear bite. About a year after the dream it premiered and about a year after that it's showing at Lincoln Center. An incredible honor.
Your film got a great reaction on the festival circuit and you picked up some impressive awards along the way (congratulations). What has it been like getting that kind of reaction?
It's been great to let it travel around without me and have its own little life and be received warmly. My favorite award was overhearing my dad reenact the final scene for my mom in the kitchen after they saw it in a theater for the first time.
Can you tell us about your process working with Joslyn Jensen and Ron Carrier?
Joslyn and I would go into a room before each scene, talk it over and come out when we were ready. It was a running dialogue. I wrote the script for her and tailored it to her unique talents. As far as Ron goes, there is not a scene in this movie where he didn't give me more than I asked for. I'm floored that someone could bring such nuance and depth to a character in a vegetative state. I'm proud of how we all worked together, trusted each other.
Indie Night is curated by Film Society Associate Program Director Scott Foundas and guest co-curated by producer Ted Hope (Martha Marcy May Marlene, Adventureland).