An Interview with Director Dean Garris – By Samantha Paradise

For his new flick The Session, Dean Garris was ready for a challenge. Knowing just where to turn, Garris called upon the talents of writer, Alexander Julian III. Together, the team concocted a thrilling short film about five convicted killers that discover an unexpected surprise during a routine therapy session. Last month, Rogue Cinema had the pleasure of reviewing The Session. Now, we have had the chance to get inside the brain of the man behind the movie.

Samantha Paradise (SP)- How long have you been making movies? What made you decide to be a filmmaker?

Dean Garris (DG)- Technically I have been making movies since I was a kid, when my dad brought home a VHS camcorder during the 80’s and my siblings and I would make home movies, and do skits for the camera. I got really serious with it though within the last 10 years. I have always had a love, and fascination with storytelling from a small age so movie making was a natural step for me. Some of the biggest cultural milestones I remember as a kid were watching certain movies.

SP- What/ who inspired you to make The Session?

DG- There are some filmmakers that not only tell a story in their film but use the film medium itself as a layer to tell yet another story. If you look at films like Adaptation or Dead Man, Jonze, and Jarmusch are not only telling a story within the film, but using the film itself to tell a larger story about how we tell stories, Synecdoche, New York is another example of this type of layered storytelling. That approach has always been fascinating to me so I thought The Session would give me an opportunity to try something similar.

SP- Tell me about your relationship with the writer, Alexander Julian III? Have you worked together before? Were you also involved in the writing process?

DG- Al and I had just wrapped worked together on another project, where he was acting and I was directing, and we started talking about making a short film together where he writes and I direct. He showed me a couple of scripts he had already written, but I urged him to write something more personal. Two days later he sent me the script for The Session, which is taken from his experience as a prison psychologist many years ago. I really liked the character moments in the script, and thought it would be a fun opportunity to play with the audience’s perception of how the story unfolds.

SP- What is your process for selecting a cast/crew?

DG- What I look for in an actor is an artist who can embody the character, and find real moments through their performance. I like actors that are either naturally similar to the character as written, or that can bring something new and interesting that is not on the page. Film itself is a very much a team effort so I look for cast, and crew that share that mentality. We are all making this thing happen, and we all have a stake in this project in some way.  My shoots tend to be smaller, more intimate productions so I really look for people who want to be there, and take an interest in making the project successful. You can help, and teach someone to be better at what they are doing, but it’s hard to convince someone to be more interested in something if they are not.

SP-What was your process for funding the film? Did you utilize kickstarter/indie go-go?

DG- This film was self financed by Feedback Filmworks and my production company Deano Pictures. It was a small shoot with a micro budget; since the script was pretty simple we didn’t need much to make it happen. We paid the cast and crew and shot everything in two days.

SP-If you could remake The Session, what would you do differently?

DG- That’s a loaded question for sure. Al and I had many conversation about the end of the film. I wanted the ending to be more ambiguous, leaving the audience to ponder on its meaning, whereas Al wanted the end to be as clear, and concise as possible for a mass audience. We eventually reached a compromise but I still would have preferred providing more questions than answers. Terry Gilliam once said that Hollywood likes giving the audience comforting movies that tie up all loose ends in nice little bow so the audience doesn’t have to worry about it after the credits roll, but the great filmmakers do the opposite and make the audience go home and think about the film, have discussions about it. That is what I was reaching for with The Session, something that makes the audience think about what they’ve just watched and experienced.

SP- Are there any misconceptions you think viewers could have the movie? If so, what are they?

DG- I think viewers could miss some of the clues that lead up to the ending, but hopefully that will inspire them to re-watch the film. I wanted to play a slight of hand trick with the narrative, where the audience is given all the information they need in order to know what is happening with a couple of important nuggets of info withheld until the end. This is a fun component of storytelling I love. Film is an artistic medium, so there is really no reason to tell the story straight, linear, or even reliably, as long as know where your going in the end and the audience doesn’t get bored along the way.

SP- What’s next for you?

DG- I have a couple of feature scripts I am writing at the moment, and hopefully Al and I can work together again on a new project soon. I also co-produce a couple of web series, The Super Femmes ( https://www.youtube.com/user/TheSuperFemmes ), and a travel style show with a twist that we hope to start shooting later this year. You can find more about these projects at my website, www.deanopictures.com or follow me on Facebook and Twitter. @DeanGarris.