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SXSW '06 Interview: 'Jumping Off Bridges' Director Kat Candler

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Jumping Off Bridges' Pitch: Set in a tranquil, suburban neighborhood, "jumping off bridges" follows seventeen year old, Zak Nelson and his three best friends. Carefree and adventurous, together, they escape their everyday lives, until a tragic event divides their friendships and brings childhood secrets to light.

Describe your movie using the smallest number of words possible.
A seventeen-year-old boy and his three best friends struggle with the mystery behind his mother's suicide.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
It's my second time at SXSW. I was there in 2001 or 2002. I can't remember. I had a short called The Absence of Wings My favorite part of film festivals is meeting other filmmakers. I love the comraderie. The worst part ... the anxiety before a screening.

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
I wrote "artist" in my baby book when I was super little. I think I might have misspelled it too.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
I was a creative writing major at FSU. I worked in a movie theater with a bunch of the film school kids. One day they dragged me on set to be a script supervisor on a thesis film. That's the day I fell in love.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
Not so much. I'm just anxious and terrified to get it in front of audiences.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Kermit. I'm usually the ring leader.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
Not really. I was too hopped up on mocha coffee treats dancing around on set to fret about the aftermath of it all.

How did this film get rolling at the beginning? Give us a brief history from writing to production to post to just last night.
I wrote the script in 2001. Tried to get it off the ground and failed miserably. In January of 2005, I told my two business partners, Stacy Schoolfield and Lorie Marsh that I had to make another feature film or else I'd die. We spent last summer shooting jumping off bridges. My producer, Stacy, even convinced the mayor of Austin to jump off a bridge to help waive city fees. We've been in post-production since August and will wrap up the film in about two weeks, in time to hand over a print to SXSW.

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
To ask for help.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
I love Ang Lee, Gus Van Sant, Jim McKay, Lynn Ramsey, Terrence Malick ... I took the Jim McKay, Mike Leigh and Cassavetes approach to performances, trying to make them as natural and realistic as possible. I also took Elephant to my DP and Sound Designer because I love the way that film looks and feels.

What actor would you cast as a live-action Homer Simpson?
Werner Herzog.

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
Nancy Drew.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
I think all of the kids in our film are destined for greatness. They're extremely talented. On top of that, they're nice, grounded and smart.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
Bored out of my mind.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
It's always been Kate Winslet. But more recently it's been Cillian Murphy.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”
For Kenneth Turan to talk with such sweet, affection about one of my films the way he did about Our Song so many years ago.

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I secretly want them all to love me. But that's a hard lesson to learn ... that sometimes they just won't.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
Ooh, yikes. Hmmmm ... yeah, I don't know about that one.

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
I loved when in Our Song, Jim McKay had a title card that said "a film by" and then the next title card had a million names all over the screen. I think that brought tears to my eyes.

In closing, we ask you to convince the average movie-watcher to choose your film instead of the trillion other options they have. How do you do it?
By giving them free Milk Duds at the door?


jumping off bridges, starring Bryan Chafin, Glen Powell Jr., Savannah Welch, and Katie Lemon, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and be sure to check out the official jumping off bridges website.

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originally posted: 02/10/06 18:28:56
last updated: 02/28/06 18:11:28
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