An Interview with Jay Jennings – By Duane L. Martin

So
let’s start off by having you introduce yourself and give everyone a
little background info so they can get to know Jay Jennings.

I was born in North Hollywood with a Super-8 camera attached to my left
hand (since I’m a lefty) and began watching old black and white movies
on TV at a very early age. By the time I was 16, I ran the 16mm film
club in high school. Later, I went on to Columbia College Of Film and
attended The Hollywood Film Institute. After that, I started making
short films with a bunch of actor friends of mine and then started to
write short stories and ultimately full-length screenplays, all the
while, working as a production assistant on studio-made features, such
as “Basic Instinct”.

Is Loanshark your first film, or have you done some other projects in the past?

“Loanshark” is my first feature, although I’ve directed a few short films and documentaries.

What inspired you to make this film? So many people sit around
wishing they could make a film, but they never do it. What made you
finally decide to just go for it.

Since I’m a big fan of old gangster films from the 1930’s and 40’s like
“Scarface”, “The Roaring Twenties and “Little Caesar”, as well as, the
more modern gangster films such as “Mean Streets”, “Fingers” and “Death
Collector”, I decided it was about time to make my own gangster film,
but instead of trying to make it grandiose and epic like, “The
Godfather” or “Good Fellas”, I went the other direction, attempting to
tell a more intimate story about one, lone, money collector and how he
goes about collecting debts from all the deadbeats who owe him money.

What led to the decision to do the film in black and white? Was
it to give it more of a documentary / day in the life kind of a feel?

Precisely. Plus the fact, “Loanshark” pays homage to various
black and white movies of the 1960’s like “Breathless” and
“Alphaville”, two classic examples of the French New Wave which were
shot in black and white and utilized a “cinema verite/documentary”
style which I am very fond of.

While
you were going through the writing process, what were some of the
things you wanted to convey to the audience about the main character?
He really had more than one dimension to him. I mean, he wasn’t just a
thug. He actually had some people in his life he cared about outside of
his world of loansharking and violence.

“Loanshark” combines elements of “Faust”, with a dark edge to it which
is mostly found in the tragedies of a Shakespearean play. The lead
character, Teddy Greene, is a ruthless, bitter loanshark who does his
job very well. He intimidates people and roughs them up until they pay
him. The irony of it all is, he’s got a nagging ex-wife, a no-good
father, an obnoxious girlfriend, a wise-cracking uncle and an ex-con
for a friend who all seem to be hitting “him” up for money
as well. It’s a never-ending cycle of anguish, desperation and the
yearning for a better life and
that’s the paradox of it all. Teddy does what he does in the hope that
one day he can just run away from it all, but he can’t, he’s trapped in
hell and the exit is slowly closing.

There were a lot of locations in this movie. How much trouble did
you have coming up with locations and getting the scenes shot there
without the casual observers interfering?

Most of the locations were scouted way in advance to avoid casual
observers, nosey police, traffic noise or interference from outside
sources. On the other hand, we shot in many places where I “wanted”
people walking by and cars driving by, to give “Loanshark” that
realistic look.

So many people think you need thousands and thousands of dollars
to make a film, but that’s not always the case if you’re smart about
what you’re doing and learn how to improvise. What kind of a budget did
you have to work with in this film? Did you have any investors /
contributors or did you self finance it?

“Loanshark” was completely self-financed without any outside
contributions. This was the only way to ensure creative control
throughout the whole “production” and “editing” process. In the future,
I will definitely be looking for financial backing from outside
sources, but for my first feature, I had to cough-up the budget all on
my own and it took me about a year to save up the $5,000 it cost to
make “Loanshark”.

What kind of equipment (cameras, sound, etc…) did you use in the making of Loanshark?

We used a Sony mini-DV camera with a small lighting kit and sound
package. Since we shot
alot of “Loanshark” on-the-run, I needed a durable, yet simple camera
to shoot all over L.A., sometimes in tight and difficult situations.
What kinds of technical problems did you run into during production?
Were there any problems that were particularly difficult to overcome?
Not really. When you’re shooting “on-the-run” with mostly a small crew,
you’re not stuck in one place long enough for anyone, not even a cop,
to complain about what you’re doing. We were very lucky.

This film had a huge cast. Where did you find all these people?

Some of the actors were friends of mine who I wanted to showcase, while
most of the cast were picked from the 500 submissions I received after
placing a casting call in Backstage West magazine.

Did you have any problems with cast members flaking on you and backing out of the film after they had committed to doing it?

Not at all. During the interviewing and audition process, I made sure
that all the actors and actresses we cast in the film were fully
committed to this project. Once again, I was extremely lucky.

What plans do you have for the film? Any showings, film festivals, etc…?

I plan to submit “Loanshark” to a plethora of big and small film
festivals in hopes that it gets screened in front of enthusiastic
audiences that are looking for something “new” and “different”. Perhaps
down the road, outlets such as HBO, Showtime, Sundance Channel and IFC
will show interest in broadcasting it so it can reach a larger
audience. Keep your fingers crossed.

What’s next on the agenda for you? Do you have plans for another film or one actually in the works at the moment?

Currently, I’m developing my second feature based on an original
screenplay of mine entitled,
“Dream Factory”. It’s a film-within-a-film about the rise and fall of
an independent movie producer
who wheels and deals to make it to the top. It’s similar to Robert
Altman’s “The Player”, but with a touch of “Pulp Fiction” and “Swimming
With Sharks”.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone that’s about to start working on their first film?

Take a few deep breaths and then dive right in. Expect a lot of
sleepless nights, both during the shooting and editing process. Have
plenty of coffee ready on the stove. You’ll need it.
What do you like to do when you’re not making films?
I’m also a musician. I compose soundtracks and lots of instrumental
music. One never knows when you’ll need it for a film.
Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
Life’s too short to sit back and watch the world go by. Decide what you
want to do in life and make that your number one priority.

If you’d like to find out more about Loanshark, or to purchase a copy for yourself, you can visit the film’s website at http://www.loansharkmovie.com.