Jo’s 19 minute neo-noir film HOTCAKES (2012) represents the first of the “Short Stack Series,” a set of short film challenges the director has identified for herself en route to making her first feature. SONUVABITCH, the second entry in the series and a comedic Western about the illusion of the American Cowboy spirit, has been cast and crewed and is now pending funding on Kickstarter.Jo holds a B.A. in Journalism from the Pennsylvania State University and hopes to someday make a documentary as an environmental and social justice advocate. Her “Cab Fare” writing entries can be followed by subscribing to her blog, by following her @Sonuvab or via the #cabfare hashtag or by adding her on Facebook.
What is the current project you are working on?
Sonuvabitch, a postmodern Western about what I consider to be the last real cowboy theme on earth -- the loss of independence with the loss of the frontier. Frank Hooey wants to be a real Old West cowboy, but he's too much of a fuck-up to pull anything off and even if he were, he can't.
Ain't that a sonuvabitch?
Why did you decide to make a trilogy?
It's about challenges. Independent filmmakers can get so pigeon-holed by cost concerns that I wanted to focus on what I felt like I really needed to learn before I made that first feature. So I chose a trilogy with shifting characters and protagonists so that the writing wouldn't become too dependent upon existing properties, but left room for development and greater understanding of costuming, set design & ensemble directing.
Where can people watch "Hotcakes"?
Vimeo. Here's the link: https://vimeo.com/42000706
What is your opinion on crowdfunding?
It's a lot of work for one person, so I recommend getting a tech savvy team who is up on their social media skills, for sure. But it's totally worth the effort, even if it means educating your team first. As a filmmaker currently based in Louisiana, this is a challenge, but not going into debt to fund a film and having a captive audience when you release outweighs those hardships, certainly. Angel investors can and will come later. For now, crowdfunding.
How has making "Hotcakes" prepared you to make "Sonuvabitch"?
This time around, I've learned to avoid the sand traps. No hiring crew members without vetting them first. No writing parts for actors who won't be dedicated or hard working enough to show up to an audition. No backbending to make a location work when there will almost certainly be a better one around the corner. You have to learn what to take on faith and what to be totalitarian about. I now fire people who aren't dedicated. The work is too hard for half-assedness and it brings the bar down on everyone else's work when others don't manage their time or lose heart. Also, while I was glad to shoot Hotcakes New Wave style, I don't think I'd ever like to shoot again without solid pre-production. It's too maddening in post.
What is the indie film scene like in Louisiana?
Too industry-dependent right now. A fair amount of us see that and get what that means, especially since the tax credit has been threatened, and we're working on making it stronger.
What is your favorite western?
I'm a fan of so many. In the modern era, probably Unforgiven. In the days of yore, probably Stagecoach or Yojimbo, if you'll count Yojimbo. I do.
What is the casting process like?
I definitely prefer to have a dedicated casting director to deal with all the confusion and personalities. I'm more of the show up on the day and decide who I like then type. I don't spend hours gazing at head shots, though I do like to look at resumes. I sort of go on my gut sense of talent, my aftertaste on their handshake and what their resumes tell me about them. We have a lot of hustlers in this town who like to splash their names everywhere but aren't necessarily team players. I'm wary of that. Louisiana is a very wild place, not unlike the Old West. With the tax credits bringing so many studio films into town, the whole place has a goldrush vibe to it. Avoiding hustlers is priority number one some days.
When & where are you choosing to release "Sonuvabitch"?
We wanted to release it over Labor Day weekend here in New Orleans and just keep showing it for weeks and months. But if we don't make the goal on Kickstarter by Sunday night, we'll have to push that back.
Is there anything you'd like to add?
Just that you're a peach for fitting me in. I know you're busy, John. Thank you for your time and attention.
Thanks for doing the interview Jo. You're a classy lady and I'd be happy to interview you again when you ready to make the conclusion to the trilogy. All The Best.