I have always really enjoyed mockumentaries, and recently I had the chance to review a fun new documentary from actor turned film maker, Jason Croot. Mockumentaries can be a difficult genre to work with, so I asked Jason all about the process that went into creating a film that was both fun, yet natural feeling.
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DLM: Let’s start out like I always do and have you introduce yourself to everyone.
JC: Hi Duane and Rouge Cinema readers I’m Jason Croot a British Actor and film maker
DLM: You’ve mostly been an actor throughout your career so let’s start there. How did you get into acting, and growing up, was it something you always wanted to do, or was there some particular trigger or opportunity that sort of steered you off in that direction?
JC: I started acting at the age of 27, but there were a couple of things that happened before that Age. It started at the young age of 3 when I went to the pantomime with my mum It was 3 months from my 4th birthday and the actors asked the audience if it’s anyone’s birthday they can go on stage I put my hand up but my mum put it down I remember crying buckets when I could not go on there, I performed a few school nativity plays and remembered how much I really enjoyed it, 10 years went by whilst walking to math’s at school I had to walk past the stage drama group at grammar school it was not compulsory to join but I really wanted to get involved I told my friends they just laughed and teased me so I did not go for it. Then an opportunity arose to perform in front of 15 million TV audience Okay it wasn’t ideal as it was a dating game show called blind date however the feeling that I went through during the day was enough to make me realize I wanted to be an actor and that’s what I set out to do.
DLM: Who, if anyone, has influenced you the most as an actor?
JC: I admire early Pacino and De Niro because both actors had to fight to get there; I rate Max Von Sydow, Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson, Jack Lemmon, Brando, Steve McQueen & Peter Sellers. Actors these days don’t really have that hunger, passion and screen presence on screen that the actors mentioned had yes there are a few good actors out there such has Steve Buschemi, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Roberto Benigni, that are very watchable but not in the same league as there principals all these actors influenced me giving such great performances in some of their films.
DLM: Do you have a particular genre film or television that you prefer to appear in when you’re looking for new acting jobs, and are there any genres that you absolutely wouldn’t be interested in working in at all?
JC: I would take on anything that really reads well, I love comedy and I’d love to be in curb your enthusiasm I believe it’s improvised which I relish, I’m not really into sci- fi but if the script held up I would give it a go.
DLM: What are some of the roles you’ve played over the course of you career that you’re particulary proud of and that you’d like for people to check out?
JC: I have acted in over 50 films and some TV, I guess my favorite films are the neighbor a physiological short film filmed by the NYFA London 2004, The fixer a TV series filmed in 2009, and Rasputin in Le Fear, I put that in because it was a straight comedy role which I love playing, a lot of my early stuff and some clips of new stuff can be viewed on YouTube.
DLM: Ok let’s move on to your film Le Fear now. This was a first for you as both a writer and director. Let’s start with the writing aspects of it first. Was this the first time you had written a script for a film, or is this just the first time you wrote one that got produced?
JC: Le fear was the first that I wrote and directed that had been produced, I had toyed around doing some experimental shorts but they never got released.
DLM: What inspired you to write the script? Are you a fan of mockumentaries in general, or did it have more to do with experiences you’ve had working on other films and television projects? Or, was it an idea that just came to you out of the blue that you ran with?
JC: The inspiration behind le fear was my experience of working on a film set and characters and experiences I had encountered. I was walking to the supermarket one day and idea just sprung to me, I wanted to do it and that’s what I did. I Didn’t watch many mockumentries before making le fear but, I’ve not stopped watching or trying to find film within films since some good ones out there like Living in Oblivion, American movie, And God Spoke to name a few the ones that I had watched were Bowfinger and there was a few great scenes at the start of The Party which I believe was improvised and Peter Sellers was brilliant and improvised a lot of the film.
DLM: How long did the film take to write, and how does the final draft of the script compare with what we see in the finished production of the film?
JC: The whole pre-production was 2 weeks, after the walk to the super market I started writing the characters and comedy moments and some dialogue, the finished production was pretty far off the script as when I got to the location we didn’t have an office where Carlos was holding his interviews and chats with Larry so we had work around it which we did.
DLM: Were the actors given the freedom to improvise, and do you think it’s important for them to have that ability in a film like this that’s making fun of real life to give it a more natural and spontaneous feel?
JC: Yes I gave full reign to the actors if at any point I felt like changing a few things I did that, when Lucinda who plays Debbie D asked me what should I do here or should I change this I just told her nothing as I wanted her to know very little as her character was meant to be clueless I think that method worked well. I think it is very important to let the cameras role and let the actors act, I was throwing things on the spur of the moment, I think this method can really pull in some golden moments you can’t find if pre empted and scripted one example was the clapper calling his mum and singing happy birthday.
DLM: Had you had any directing experience at all before this film, and how do you think you did as a director looking back on it now that it’s all over?
JC: Yes I had directed a theatre play and a couple of my own short films. I’m proud of the whole film given the budget and time restraints it went well.
DLM: What are some of the most important lessons you learned from making this film with regards to writing and directing that have helped you in the work you’ve done since then
JC: Making Le Fear taught me a lot about film making being stuck in the editing suite for the past 16 months as been tough going at times and a valuable lesson of making sure you cover stuff whilst filming.
DLM: Let’s talk about the cast now. The film had a fairly large cast. How did you go about casting for it? Did you use mostly people you had worked with before, or did you put out a casting call to find new people?
JC: Casting was a mixture between people I had worked before and some I hadn’t given we had only 2 weeks pre production and 2 days filming I had find the right actors for their characters, I had met Kyri Saphiris who plays the lead role Carlos at an audition we had to do a improvised scene together I was so impressed by his improvisation skills I secretly looked through the pile of applications on the table and got his contact details, has soon as I wrote Le Fear I contacted him he said yes.
DLM: Since you have such an extensive background in acting and because of the fact that you wrote the film and had all of these characters in your head, did you find yourself struggling in your job as director to give people some freedom to explore their characters and maybe bring some new dynamics to them that you hadn’t originally envisioned, or was that actually easier for you to sort of let go of the characters and give them that freedom because of your experiences as an actor?
JC: Actors are generally instinctive people and dropped into a situation they will go for it, so I gave the actors the freedom and it brought me some magic, I really the relationship between Gabby the makeup girl and Carlos the director the conflict was great and I just let them go with it, I have to credit each actor with their ability to find their character, Harry the sparky is just genius and cracks me up each time I watch him.
DLM: What were some of your biggest obstacles and or difficulties in getting this film made?
JC: It was really bad weather during filming and we were on a micro budget, so it was not easy my assistant director nor any runners turned up for the filming days so I had do those roles as well as catering, I did have some help for a few hours on day one from Oliver Bringinshaw he really helped me get started and there was 2 actors that helped me get a make shift office both Jason and Fred really pulled out all stops t help me. We filmed at Elstree studios the same place as Star Wars was filmed and we had a cheap deal it was about minus 2 and the actors and crew where freezing we put the heaters on the security guard came around and told us it would be 100 pounds per hour to keep it on we had to turn it off the actors were getting warm at the side of the toaster. It was a tough shoot and post production has been pretty difficult.
DLM: If you could go back now and change anything about the production, what would it be, and alternately, what are you the most proud of?
JC: I guess I would have liked to have 2 more days filming for extra bits but given the duration and the end production I’m proud of the film itself.
DLM: Are you currently sending Le Fear out to any festivals, and if so, where will it be appearing?
JC: I tried a few festivals but did not have much luck, I can put this down to a few things mainly the genre is not really that popular at a lot of festivals and I sent out DV versions the same version I sent you for a critique fortunately we have now got a HD version and this is 100 times better quality. The Film has just been picked up by R squared film’s distributor and should be out there soon.
DLM: Tell us about some of the stuff you’ve been working on since Le Fear.
JC: Le Fear has been with me since finishing filming in 2009 as the whole post production stuff is really time consuming, I’ve managed to co direct another feature film Demons and Doors in 2010 and just about to embark on another film which working title is Café, both films are improvised and both have over 50 actors in them, Demons and Doors is very interesting we have 40 actresses playing one character both are produced by Zelica Films, we had more time to do Demons than Le Fear and I had more sleep.
DLM: What are your plans for the future? Do you want to start directing more often, and do you plan on writing another film at some point?
JC: I want to continue my acting career but would be more than happy to direct many more films, writing is not my forte however I have 3 very good ideas which would be improvised films one of which is Le Fear 2, getting the investors is the next stage.
DLM: Do you have any advice for actors just starting out in the industry? Maybe some red flags to watch out for so they can avoid potentially bad situations?
JC: I would say be wary of expensive acting courses, don’t rely on anyone other than yourself, Agents are important to have but not the be all and end all of finding work, networking is very important also.
DLM: Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
JC: I would like to thank the crew of Le Fear and Demons and Doors for helping out on set. Without the crew you would not have a film. Feel free to checkout my YouTube channel magicactor11 and IMDB http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2907429 for future films.