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SxSW 2017 Interview: A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG director Jason Headley

by Jason Whyte

"A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG is about two would-be thieves who break into a house then accidentally arm the alarm system. So now they have to break out of the house they just broke into. When they discover a housesitter they didn't know was going to be there, they have a mild hostage situation on their hands and, well, wacky hijinks ensue. Ultimately, it's about three people trapped in their own lives who end up trapped in the same house." Director Jason Headley on A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG which screens at the 2017 South By Southwest Conference.

Congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

This will be my first time at SXSW and I will be at every screening of our movie. And a lot of screenings of other movies. I don't generally care to leave the house, so this is going to be a real test of my capacity to be a normal human being. But I'm up for the challenge.

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.

I have sort of been Forrest Gumping my way through life. There are these pieces of my life that led, in a very indirect route, toward filmmaking. I got a job in the mail room of an ad agency. That eventually put me on my first set where I realized that I like this. I wrote a novel that I adapted into a screenplay and realized that I like this, too. So I kept writing scripts, making short films, all for the purpose of trying to get better. To get a sure handle on my skills and my voice.

How did this project come together for you?

The initial seed was sheer frustration. I had written a lot of scripts, some of which were even good. But no one was going to take a chance on a me until I had shown that I could make a feature film. So I set out to write a script that was very production friendly, without sacrificing anything in the way of story. I read this thing Jonathan Harris said once; "The only way to start being asked to do something you want to do is to start doing that thing on your own." So I got to it.

So while making A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG, what keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

Filmmaking uses all my skills, my whole brain, secret parts of my heart. There are puzzles to solve and questions to ask and truths to attempt to capture through exceptionally elaborate lies. I guess love is what keeps me going. The love I have for the doing of it all.

What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?

The biggest challenge, for any first-time feature filmmaker I would imagine, is getting the whole thing up and running. It takes a lot of audacity to ask people to trust you to not only get it made, but make it good. A lot of moments were rewarding, but one that stands out was the moment we got our final actor on board. It was the night before Thanksgiving, four days before we were scheduled to start shooting. If entrepreneurs could bottle and sell the sheer elation that was coursing through my bloodstream that night, they could hire Warren Buffett as their pool boy.

I am about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie!

Nathan Smith was my cinematographer and he was vital to making the whole thing work. Because the bulk of the film takes place in the same house, I wanted to make subtle shifts in the lighting to reflect the stages of the story. A baseline look, then a look that was turned up, and another that was turned down, so to speak. Nathan took this concept and really make it very thoughtful and tangible. Hopefully it's something the audience will feel more than see. Our hope is that it simply accentuates the natural contours of the story.

Oh, and we shot on the Red Epic Dragon. I liked it because it feels like it was named after the best Bruce Lee movie never made. Nathan liked it because camera stuff.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Austin?

I have an incredible fondness for Austin. I have met dear friends there, made memories I will never forget, and others I already have. So it means a lot to have our world premiere in that fine Texas town. In addition to that, I'm looking forward to getting this film in front of real human eyeballs. Complete strangers, friends, cast, and crew. No one has seen this thing. It is time to set it free.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

That is up to the people who come see it. This is a truly independent film, so we are hoping the right people want to help us distribute the film to a wide audience. In between SXSW and a wider release, we know we're playing Dallas International Film Festival in late-March/early-April, and hoping for invitations to a few other festivals along the way.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

If it's a full theater, I would love to play the Castro Theater in San Francisco. That's where I live. I love this city. And that theater has some real beauty and magic to it. You just sit there before the lights go down and bask in the perfect placement of every last detail.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive during a movie, even if it’s your own screening?

The last time I had to do this was when we were shooting our movie. On a day off, I went to see SPOTLIGHT and people on both sides of me were talking. They were a few seats away, but I could still hear them. That's how loud they were. So I had to get my ass up from this ridiculously comfy recliner seat and ask them to stop talking. That's all I did. Nothing fancy. They were simultaneously annoyed and embarrassed. But honestly, the theater is not your living room. Even if you are sitting in a magical, leather La-Z-Boy with cupholders and everything.

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?

Nobody cares if you ever make a film. No one cares about your potential. It only matters what you do. So keep doing things. Make things you love. That way if anyone else ever loves the things you make, you will know exactly why.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

The greatest is a big title. But the first thing that came to mind was PIONEER, a short film by David Lowery. I saw it at the Mill Valley Film Festival and I was so intensely moved by it.

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2017. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. 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 2017 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 10-18. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 03/08/17 12:14:15
last updated: 03/08/17 12:18:22
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