Jordan Galland talks to us about his first feature length film.
You recently finished filming your first feature length movie ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’. How was that experience compared to the previous film work you have done?
"Rosencrantz" was my first time collaborating with such a skilled team. The cast and crew were all hard working devoted, talents who were never afraid to put forth extra effort to make the film better. And having C Plus pictures as producing partners took the whole process to the next level. There was constant concern and exchange of ideas, and discussions on how to improve the film as we were working on it.
Working on "Rosencrantz" was similar to "Smile For The Camera (my 30 min horror / comedy short) in the way that I had tremendous support from the people I was collaborating with.
My music videos are all basically "solo" efforts. Except for one I am doing with Mike Collins who animated some wonderful sequences in "Rosencrantz."
Where did you get the idea for the story?
When I was eleven I read Dracula and decided that one day, I wanted to make a vampire film. I read everything about vampires I could get my hands on. When I was fourteen I played "Rosencrantz" in a high school version of Stoppard’s play, and became fascinated with the idea that old literature could be explored in new ways. I became
extremely drawn to the play of Hamlet in high school and college when I found all my favorite novels alluding to it: from Moby Dick, to Ulysses to Ada. One day I thought of the title "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead" and began seeing that the supernatural evil of vampires resonated within the story and language of Hamlet. I was compelled to explain these connections. The Holy Grail conspiracy was also something that intrigued me throughout my childhood, and added another exciting layer to the historical elements of my script. But then I knew I had to ground it in something personal.
So I decided to make it a surreal romantic comedy about a guy (Jake Hoffman) who is in a rut: living in his dad’s office, unemployed and still in love with a gorgeous ex-girlfriend (Devon Aoki) a would be actress, who has moved on to dating a rich older man (Ralph macchio).
Did you find that shooting a feature film was just a longer version of making a short film or where there other factors that changed the working process for you?
In many ways it is just a longer version of a short, but after two weeks of filming you realize you’re in a battle against money and time. It’s as if you have to trick the factors that make it unlikely for you to finish the film you had set out to make, and you begin alte ring elements of the script. I was constantly rewriting, but when people who had read the original script (before my frantic, mid-shooting rewrites) they did not think I had changed anything.
As writer and director of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’ how much input did you allow other members of the production crew in the making of the film?
Kubric said something like "directors are basically taste machines" meaning, you have to filter all this information and collaborative effort and the product is basically the result of your taste.
After making "Rosencrantz" that made sense to me. Mostly, I try not "defend" my decisions. If anyone working on the film has a problem with something and challenges my ideas, I might not agree with their solution, but I acknowledge that they have pointed to something that needs a fix, whether big or small. I think the act of "defending" something has to be saved for rare occasions, and only when the film is done. If you give a producer or actor a script and they point to something that doesn’t make sense, then it’s best to rework that thing, whatever it is, until everyone’s happy. Of course there are compromises too.
You shot ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’ using ‘RED’ digital cameras. Did this alter the way you planned the shooting of the project and the actual filming process from if you had used film?
Not at all.
Why did you decide to shoot the film using digital cameras?
I chose red because the budget was so small, and the red offered the diverse range I wanted to tell a story that’s a romantic comedy with some pretty dark and intricate backstory, involving Shakespeare, vamp ires and the holy grail. Every other camera we looked at which fit our budget cheapened the experience of those epic and expansive themes.
When are we going to get the chance to see ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’ in Europe?
Hopefully soon. I want an excuse to cross the pond again. Our foreign sales rep is Fabrication and they are responsible at the moment for getting it out in Europe.
Sean Lennon has worked on the soundtrack for ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead’, have you worked together before?
Yes, we wrote a lot of songs together over the last fifteen years, since we met. We share very similar taste and his musical abilities have always entranced and inspired me. He’s an extremely talented, multi-instrumentalist who would sometimes play in my old band "Dopo Yume" and he co-wrote half the songs on the last Dopo Yume record "The Secret Show". Then I co-wrote two songs with him for his last solo record "Friendly Fire." He also helped me write "Smile for the Camera" the song and the script.
Did you not want to do the soundtrack yourself?
Writing and directing was a big job. I needed someone to help me with the music and Sean really made it his own, which made the film a true collaboration. Some of my songs are in the film (vocals muted), because there were certain places that needed upbeat music that had not been intended for a vampire comedy.
That’s another element of collaboration choosing elements that were not created just for the film.
Would you like to do a film soundtrack for someone else’s movie?
Yes. In fact I have been working on music for the Niestat Bros TV show on HBO. I’ve also scored several short films, including "Coven" by Arden Wohl starring Leelee Sobieski.
Any plans for another feature film?
I’m currently developing four scripts. We’ll see which crosses the finish line first.
Who are your favourite film directors?
I love so many different films and directors, that this answer would vary depending on the day. My favourite film is the Godfather, but I did not like any Coppola films between Apocolypse now and Youth without youth. I have loved Kubric since I was ten or eleven and first saw Clockwork Orange. Woody Allen, early Kronenberg, Melville, Godard,Trouffaut, Micheal Mann, Tarantino, Tony and Ridley Scott, Todd Browning, Chaplin, Nicholas Ray, David Lynch, Clint Eastwood, Wes Anderson.
What are your favourite films?
Besides the afore mentioned (not in any order) Wild Child, True romance, Touch of Evil, Hudson Hawk, Annie Hall, Heathers, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, Harold and Maude, Thelma and Louise, White Hunter Black Heart, The Unforgiven, Monsters Inc. Galipolli, Lion in Winter.
Any plans for a new album?
Yes. Coming soon. Airbrush consists of twelve hand picked songs from a series of 30 songs all recorded in the same time period , and I have been slowly finishing the remaining songs as well as composing new ones. I think the next record will be better.
Do you see yourself concentrating on just music or film or do you intend to continue to do both?
Need to do both.
Is there anyone in the film or music industries who you would like to work?
So many people.
Randomly, I’d love to work with Lady Gaga and Lilly Allen and in the film world I’d love to work with Bruce Willis and Peter O’tool.
You combine your film making with being a successful musician, both as a solo artist and with your band ‘Dopo Yume’. How do you fit all three together?Dopo Yume is pretty much history. So that narrows it down. But basically I wake up very early and each day decide how I will divide up my time to fit maximum amount of productive hours in. Some weeks all I do is write scripts. I save my musical endeavours for those days or hours when I have completely exhausted my ability to focus on film related work.
As all three outlets would provide a different creative space for you to work in. Do you have a favourite or do you find that when working on one project that you miss the other two?
I prefer working on film. But I miss music when it’s not in my life for too long.
Do you prefer to be known as a musician or film maker?
I feel weird calling myself either one anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
Which do you find easier, writing songs or writing film scripts?
They are similar and different. Deciding what sort of thing should happen when is a cool correlation between the two. Like "should the chorus or bridge go next" or "should we introduce the villain here?" sort of stuff. But each one resonates at a different emotional frequency and I find myself needing to do both.
What music do you like to listen to?
All kinds. I love Ennio Morricone soundtracks these days. But I’ve also been enjoying the new "Yeah Yeah Yeahs" record. I still listen to ‘Enter the Wu-36 Chambers.