by Jason Whyte
BABYSITTER - At SxSW 2015
"BABYSITTER is about a kid in the middle of his parents custody battle who sparks a love affair with his babysitter. It's a screwed-up MARY POPPINS." Director Morgan Krantz on BABYSITTER which is screening at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?
Yes! I have been to Austin but never SXSW. I will definitely be at every Babysitter screening, along with the rest of the cast and crew!
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?
I was born and raised in LA. I'm a self-taught filmmaker and never did film school. Instead, I worked on sets starting when I was 16. I wasn't even legal to hire and actually got fired from the TV show THE CLOSER once they found out I was under 18. I held positions in almost every department of film sets and was getting burnt out at my old age of 19, pissed off that I never had time to write. So I started acting, which allowed me to have more time to focus on filmmaking. My trajectory has been pretty traditional; music videos, then shorts, now a feature. My web-series NEUROTICA was very successful online and I just sold that to Endemol USA and we're gonna develop it into an even bigger web-series, with the hopes of getting it on TV. BABYSITTER is my first feature.
How did your feature come together?
Once I wrote it casting was key. We had a great time finding the right actors working with our casting directors, Danielle Aufiero and Amber Horn. We probably auditioned hundreds of actors for all the roles. I believe in the casting process and even as an actor myself, I enjoy it. Just because someone is an awesome actor doesn't necessarily mean they're right for this specific role.
What was your process in getting BABYSITTER together?.
BABYSITTER is the first feature for a lot of us, for the producer, cinematographer, composer, costume designer and lots of cast too.
My producer Luke Baybak was so instrumental and this movie could not have happened without him. He is also one of my best friends, so we had a lot of fun... and fights! The director-producer dynamic can be tense, but maybe it should be tense. The director should always be pushing against the limits of money and time and it's the producer's thankless job to control those things. A good producer like Luke really wants the movie to have everything it needs, so it can be frustrating... but we made it through. Luke has been my partner every step of the way and a sounding board on every single decision. It's amazing that this is his first feature, given everything he pulled off.
Max and Daniele were fantastic. Max has amazing subtlety, especially for a teenager, because he is just a highly intelligent person. He's got great taste, which shows in his acting choices. He grew up on camera, so he's had time to adjust to the Hollywood thing and develop himself as a full human being. He is absolutely nothing like his character in this film; it's a complete fabrication, which people find hard to believe. I don't think there's anything Max can't do in the future.
Daniele Watts is a creature of the cinema. She reminds me of Klaus Kinski, I don't know why exactly, but she finds intensity in the text and is very physical about it, she puts her whole self into moments. I never once saw her make a false move in a scene. Daniele and I also started discussing her character from an early stage. It was a tough character for me to understand, even though I wrote it. She was very elusive on the page. I also felt self-conscious about writing a black woman character but Daniele really liberated me from this notion, encouraged me to keep it weird and provocative and specific.
Eli Born, my cinematographer, is someone I chased down to do this movie. I was a huge fan of his music video work and I knew him a little bit. Eli's not just a director of photography. He's a whiz with the technology of his craft, but what I really love about him is his sensitivity. Most of the movie is handheld and Eli operated camera himself. He would play these scenes with the actors; in fact, I considered him one of the performers. You can see his openness in the camerawork, the way he tunes into what the actors are giving and moves with them.
Josh Grondin, my composer, this was his first feature too. I'm going to be very jealous when other directors start knocking down his door. I don't make music, so I have very little vocabulary to communicate with him on the songs. But Josh was able to interpret my explanations of scenes and craft these incredible pieces which add so much to the movie. It would be a different film without him.
What was your most significant challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?
Everything was a challenge! The most interesting one was probably in the editing bay, figuring out how to craft a story with so many lead characters. I didn't realize how difficult it is to tell an ensemble story until I was doing it. That shit is HARD! I overcame it with nothing more than pure persistence. I would just try ten million things in the editing until one of them stuck. Ida Rodriguez-Joglar, who came in at the end to finish with me, was very helpful. I learned a lot from her about focusing story. She would often say "I don't care about that right now" when I would suggest cutting to someone or something which wasn't absolutely necessary. She insisted that every cut serve a function and have an emotional context.
If you had to pick a single favorite moment out of the entire production, what would it be? The moment where you thought "I had something"?
There's a sequence in the film where Daniele Watts is wearing this maids outfit; I mean, look, when you put an African-American actress in a maids outfit and your film isn't about slavery, you think to yourself "This is either going to be amazing, or people are going to fucking hate me." But I just loved that we were taking the risk without knowing if it would play well. It excited me.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee?
Coffee and cigs, all day every day. But you must counter-act with lots of water and B-vitamins. And if you burn out on coffee, give your stomach a break with a big hot cup of Yerba Matte.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?
I am just excited for people to see this film and I'm very proud of it. Aside from that, I am looking forward to seeing all the other films! I haven't had a movie marathon in months. We only finished the movie six days before our premiere! I'm starved for some good movie-watching and definitely going to get my fix at SXSW.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?
Rope to the throat.
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?
Don't give up on your project. It's gonna suck at first. The first draft or first cut of anything is a piece of shit. But if you feel it in there, it's in there.
Be sure to follow BABYSITTER online on the official website at babysitterfilm.com or on Twitter at @babysitterfilm.
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3770
originally posted: 03/11/15 14:59:54
last updated: 03/16/15 19:44:11